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Yoga Sutra

Samadhi Pada

Sutra 1.9
शब्दज्ञानानुपाती वस्तुशून्यो विकल्पः
śabda-jñāna-anupātī vastu-śūnyo vikalpaḥ

Vikalpa is the knowledge through hearing devoid of the object in reality.

shabda = sound, 
jnana = knowledge
anupati = follows
vastu = object
soonya = without, devoid
vikalpah = fictitious perception

Vikalpa is a fictitious modification of the mind. The mind construes a meaning about an object that is not a reality. In the days of Patanjali, messages conveyed only through sound. There were no other means for conveyance of messages. Hence he uses the word sound. Now we may interpret it as the conveyance of words.


What is the difference between Viparyaya and Vikalpa? Viparyaya is the wrong idea about an existing object whereas Vikalpa is a fictitious idea about an object that does not exist at all. Assuming a rope as a snake is Viparyaya and the fear of a snake that is not around is Vikalpa. Viparyaya is the wrong knowledge where the right knowledge is hidden and the right knowledge can be obtained by taking apart the veil on that. But Vikalpa is the complete projection of the mind and there is no right knowledge hidden in the background.

Commentary by Sage Vyasha

Fancy is based on the knowledge conveyed in words, but there is no object

This cannot be included either in Pramana (right notion) or in Viparyaya (misconception). Though there is no corresponding reality, it is accepted as a fact by the power of the words. For example the assertion that Intelligence is the form of spirit. If Spirit is intelligence alone, then what would it be named? What would qualify it? Only when there is nomination or qualification, it becomes a function, e.g. "Chitra's cow". Similarly, the Spirit having all objective properties alienated from it, is devoid of action. " Bana sits, will sit and sat". Here in the absence of motion, only the root is signified (as there is no actiion involved, sitting is deemed as an action though it is not). Again "Spirit has the property of non-production". It implies the negation of production and there could not be any such property for the Spirit. Here the qualification is a fancied one, on which the said usage is based.

Commentary by Swami Vivekananda

Verbal delusion follows from words having no (corresponding) reality.

There is another class of Vrttis called Vikalpa. A word is uttered, and we do not wait to consider its meaning; we jump to a conclusion immediately. It is the sign of weakness of the Chitta. Now you can understand the theory of restraint. The weaker the man the less he has of restraint. Consider yourselves always in that way. When you are going to be angry or miserable, reason it out, how it is that some news that has come to you is throwing your mind into Vrttis.

Commentary by Sri Osho


Imagination is just through words, verbal structures. You create a thing – it is not there, it is not a reality. But you create it through your mental images. And you can create it to such an extent that you yourself become deceived by it and you think it is real. This happens in hypnosis. Hypnotize a person and say anything; he conjures up the image, and that image becomes real. You can do it. You are doing it in many ways.

One of the most famous American actresses, Greta Garbo, has written a memoir. She was an ordinary girl, just a homely, ordinary girl, very poor, and working in a barbershop just for few annas, and she would put soap on the customers’ faces. For three years she was doing that.

One day one American film director was there in that barbershop, and she was putting soap on his face, and just the way Americans are – he may not have even meant it – he simply looked in the mirror, the reflection of the girl, and said, ”How beautiful!” And Greta Garbo was born that very moment!

She writes: suddenly she became different; she had never thought herself beautiful; she couldn’t conceive of it. And she has never heard anybody saying that she was beautiful. For the first time, she also looked in the mirror and the face was different – this man has made her beautiful. And the whole life changed. She followed the man and became one of the most famous film actresses. 

What happened? Just a hypnosis, a hypnosis through a word ”beautiful” – worked. It works; it becomes chemical. Everybody believes something about himself. That belief becomes reality because that belief starts working on you. Imagination is a force, but it is a conjured-up force, imagined force. You can use it and you can be used by it. If you can use it, it will be helpful, but if you are used to it, it is fatal, it is dangerous.

Imagination can become madness at any moment; imagination can be helpful if, through it, you create a situation for your inner growth and crystallization. But it is through words, a conjured-up thing. For human beings, words, language, verbal
constructions have become so significant that nothing is more significant now. If suddenly someone says, ”Fire!” the word ”fire will change you immediately. There may be no fire, you will stop listening to me. There will be no effort to stop; suddenly you will stop listening to me, you will start running here and there. The word ”fire” has taken imagination.

And you are influenced by words that way. The people in the advertisement business know what words to use to conjure up images. Through those words they catch you, they capture the whole market. There are many such words. They go on changing with the fashions.

For these few years, ”new” is the word. So everything, if you look in the advertisements, is ”new” – ”new” Lux Soap. ”Lux Soap” won’t do. The ”new” appeals immediately. Everybody is for the new; everybody is searching for the new, something new because everybody is bored with the old. So anything new has appeal. That may not be better than the old, maybe worse, but just the word ”new” opens vistas in the mind.


These words and their influence have to be understood deeply. For a person who is in search of the truth, he must be aware of the influence of words. Politicians, advertisement people, they are using words and they can create, through words, such imagination that you can even put your life – you can throw your life just for words.

What are these: ”nation”, ”the national flag” – just words! ”Hinduism” – you can say, ”Hinduism is in danger,” and suddenly many people are ready to do something or even to die. Just few words.

Our nation is insulted. What is ”our nation”? Just words. A flag is nothing but a piece of cloth, but a whole nation can die for the flag because someone has insulted the flag, lowered it. What nonsense goes on in this world because of words! Words are dangerous. They have deep sources of influence within you. They trigger something in you, and you can be captured.

Imagination has to be understood, Patanjali says because on the path of meditation words will have to be dropped so that influence by others can be dropped. Remember, words are taught by others; you are not born with words. They are taught to you and through words many prejudices. Through words religion, through words myths – everything is fed. Word is the medium, the vehicle of culture, society, information.

You cannot excite animals to fight for a nation. You cannot excite because they don’t know what ”nation” is. That’s why there are no wars in the animal kingdom. There are no wars, no flags, no temples, no mosques. And if animals can look at us, they are bound to think that man has some obsession with words because wars going on around it; millions are killed just because of words.

Someone is a Jew, ”Kill him – just the word ”Jew”. Change the label, he becomes a Christian, and then there is no need to kill. But he is not ready to change the label. He will say, ”I will like to be killed but I cannot change my label. I am a Jew.” He is also adamant; others are also adamant. But just words.

Jean-Paul Sartre has written his autobiography and he has given it the title, ”Words”. It is beautiful because as far as mind is concerned the whole autobiography of any mind consists of words and nothing else. And Patanjali says that one has to be aware of this because, on the path of meditation, words have to be left behind. Nations, religions, scriptures, languages, they have to be left behind and man has to become innocent, free of words. When you are free of words there will be no imagination, and when there is no imagination you can face the truth. Otherwise, you will go on creating.

If you come to meet God, you must meet him without any words. If you have some words, he may not fit and suit your idea. Because if a Hindu thinks he has one thousand hands, and if God comes only with two hands, a Hindu, he will reject: ”You are not a God at all. Only with two hands? God has a thousand hands. Show me your other hands. Only then I can believe you.” 


It happened: One of the most beautiful persons of this past century was Sai Baba of Shirdi. He had a friend and a follower. Sai Baba was a Mohammedan. Or no one knows whether he was a Mohammedan or a Hindu, but he lived in a mosque, so it was believed he was a Mohammedan.

And a Hindu follower was there, who loved, respected, has much faith in Sai Baba. Every day he will come for his darshan, and without seeing him he will not go. Sometimes it will happen that for the whole day he will have to wait, but without seeing he will not go, and he will not take food unless he has seen Sai Baba. Once it happened. The whole day passed, there were many gatherings and much crowd – he couldn’t enter. When everybody has gone, just in the night he touched the feet. 

Sai Baba said to him, ”Why you unnecessarily wait? There is no need to see me here, I can come there. And drop this from tomorrow. Now I will do. Before you take your food you will see me every day.”

The disciple was very happy. So the next day he was waiting and waiting; nothing happened. Many things happened really, but nothing happened according to his conception. By the evening he was very angry. He has not taken the food, and Sai Baba has not appeared so he went again. He said, ”You promise and you don’t fulfil?”

Sai Baba said, ”But I appeared thrice, not even once. First time I came, I was a beggar and you said to me, ’Move away! Don’t come here!’ The second time I came I was an old woman, and you just won’t look at me; you closed your eyes-because the disciple had the habit of not seeing women; he was practising not seeing women, so he closed the eyes. Sai Baba said, ”I had come, but what do you expect? Should I enter your eyes, closed eyes? I was standing there, but you closed the eyes. The moment you saw me, you closed the eyes. The third time I reached as a dog, and you won’t allow me in. With a stick, you were standing in the door.”

And these three things had happened. And these things have been happening to the whole humanity. The divine comes in many forms, but you have a prejudice; you have a pre-formulated conception; you cannot see. He must appear according to you, and he never appears according to you. And he will never appear according to you. You cannot be the rule for him and you cannot put any conditions. When all imagination falls, only then truth appears. Otherwise, imagination goes on making conditions and truth cannot appear. Only in a naked mind, in a nude, empty mind, the truth appears, because you cannot distort it.

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