Yoga Sutra 1.8-1.9

Translation and Commentary

May 25, 2013    BY Pandit Rajmani Tigunait


False understanding is mistaking something for something else.
Download 1.8 Audio Recitation
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD

viparyaya = vi + paryaya
vi contrary; perversive
paryaya complete knowledge; information; cognition

Thus viparyaya refers to thought constructs that contain completely false information or knowledge.

mithyā false
jñānam knowledge

atadrūpapratiṣhṭham = a + tad + rūpa + pratiṣhṭham
a not
tad that
rūpa form
pratiṣhṭham established, residing in, located in

Atadrūpapratiṣhṭham is knowledge that is not associated with its source, knowledge that does not correspond to its original form or state.


Imagination is that which, due to the usage of words, appears to have content but in reality is devoid of any content.
Download 1.9 Audio Recitaton
Audio Recitation by D.C. Rao, PhD

śhabda word
jñāna knowledge
anupātī that which follows
vastu content, substance
śhūnyaḥ devoid; nonexistent
vikalpaḥ imagination, fiction

Of ropes, snakes, & horned rabbits

Some thoughts don’t jibe with reality, and others have no real basis at all. Patanjali clarifies the distinction between incorrect thoughts and the modifications of the mind called vikalpa.

There is a subtle difference between false understanding and imagination. The mind creates false understanding by first throwing a blanket of confusion over correct understanding. When correct knowledge is no longer in view, the mind superimposes that which is totally contrary to correct understanding.

Remove the blanket of confusion and the correct knowledge is there.

False understanding is the product of a twofold process: negation and projection. In order to see a rope as a snake, first you negate the rope; then you project a snake in its place. This is what is known in the scriptures as avidyā. But deep down this false understanding, or avidyā, still has its source in correct understanding. Remove the blanket of confusion and the correct knowledge is there. In the light of this correct knowledge, false knowledge vanishes. Remove the subtle veil of confusion, see the rope, and the snake vanishes.

Imagination, on the other hand, is purely a projection of the mind. It has no connection with reality. The idea that the moon is made of green cheese is an example. Those with weak, unstable minds waste their time and energy brooding on thought constructs that are either false or imaginary.

The goal of yoga is to understand the value of preserving mental energy and using it for discovering the inner dimensions of life. But before an aspirant can begin this inner journey, the mind has to be made one-pointed and vigilant. That is why overcoming the disturbing and distracting tendencies of the mind is the first step in the practice of yoga. When you are no longer disturbed by your own judgmental thoughts, sensory input, false cognition, and imaginings, you can use your inner resources for higher spiritual achievement.

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, Pandit Tigunait is the successor of Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Lecturing and teaching worldwide for more than a quarter of a century, he is the author of fourteen books, including his recently-released The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, and his autobiography Touched by Fire: The Ongoing Journey of a Spiritual Seeker. Pandit Tigunait holds two doctorates: one in Sanskrit from the University of Allahabad in India, and another in Oriental Studies from the... Read more>>