Yoga Sutras: Sutra 1.9:
Fantasy or Imagination (vikalpa)
YOGA SUTRA 1.9: Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) is a thought pattern
that has verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no
such object or reality in existence.
(shabda jnana anupati vastu shunyah vikalpah)
SHABDA = word, sound, verbal expression
JNANA = by knowledge, knowing
ANUPATI = following, in sequence, depending upon
VASTU = a reality, real object, existent
SHUNYAH = devoid, without, empty
VIKALPAH= imagination, verbal misconception or delusion, fantasy,
THERE IS NO PERCEPTIBLE REALITY: Our minds are often thinking and
creating chains of words and images. Often this process leads to
thoughts or impressions that have no actual reality. The two kinds of
thoughts discussed in the past two sutras both related to realities,
whether seen clearly (1.7) or not clearly (1.8). However, vikalpa has
no such corresponding reality, whether seen clearly or not.
CLASSIC EXAMPLE: A classic examples that the Yogis use is that of the
horns of a rabbit. A rabbit does not have horns, although it can
easily be conceptualized. The thought and the image are there, but
there is no corresponding reality.
WITH OBJECTS AND PEOPLE: It seems to be a habit of the human mind to
form all sorts of fantasy ideas in relation to objects and people. I
might fantasize having this or that object, doing or saying something
with some person, or creating in my mind field both the objects and
the people. For example, wiith the real objects and people in my
world, I might even create the fantasy idea that these are mine. The
mental impressions of the objects and people might be real (1.7) or
misperceived (1.8), but the impressions related to the concept mine
are complete fantasy, or vikalpa.
LIVING IN THE FUTURE: Often we speak of a thought process, which is
one of living in the future. The mind is really taking the current
thoughts, rearranging them this or that way, and then fantasizing
some new combination as being the future, even though that fantasy is
occurring in the present moment.
VIKALPA AND AVIDYA: It is useful to reflect on the relationship
between this fantasy process of mind and the four forms of ignorance
(avidya) that are described in sutra 2.5.
CREATIVITY: While we are talking about how to deal with the thought
patterns of the mind (1.2) so as to attain Self-realization (1.3), it
is important to note that these mental processes are not bad in the
context of life and the world. The same fantasy or vikalpa that
clouds over our true Self is also the creative mind that finds
solutions to problems in the external world or at our personality
level of being. It is even the vikalpa that creates the helpful
lifestyle and environment in which we live so as to be able to do our
THE SUBTLER EXAMPLES: Eventually, as meditation deepens, we come to
see ever more clearly that virtually our whole perception of external
and internal reality is vikalpa, a product of imagination. Notice
that even the root of the word imagination is image; countless images
are produced, stored, and then arise. Even the subtleties of the five
elements (earth, water, fire, air, space), the cognitive and active
senses (indriyas), and the four functions of mind are products of
this process of vikalpa. This is the process of subtle discrimination
in the later sutras.