Yoga Sutra 1.8

 In Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutra 1.8


विपर्यय  मिथ्याज्ञान मत द्रूप प्रतिष्ठम् 

viparyayo mithyā-jñānam atadrūpa pratiṣṭhaṁ

(vip-ar-yai-yoh mit-yah gyan-am ah-tha-drupa prati-sh-tam)


Wrong knowledge occurs when cognition is not in agreement with the substance of reality. 


  • विपर्यय viparyaya – Wrong Knowledge, perception
  • मिथ्याज्ञान mithyā-jñāna – false-knowledge 
  • मत atat – not
  • द्रूप rūpe – form, figure
  • प्रतिष्ठम् pratiṣṭhaṁ – rooted or established foundation 


Now that we have brought some light to the concept of Pramana, true or correct knowledge, we are introduced to the concept of Viparyaya wrong knowledge. Wrong Knowledge has its own stages that we can observe and discuss. 


On a very basic level wrong knowledge leads us down the wrong path. In a long mathematical equation, one wrong answer at the beginning of the equation will throw off the entire answer. You may not even know the mistake was made until the final results are already present. 


Have you ever given an incorrect answer in a classroom? While you might not have been ridiculed by others, you may have ridiculed yourself for giving a wrong answer. I have even found myself answering a completely different question than the one asked. The energy of being wrong just doesn’t feel good. Why is that?


Remember in Yoga we have the recognition that concepts begin in the spiritual realm and filter their way down into the physical. For the Yogi, the ultimate form of wrong knowledge is to not know the True Self and to identify solely with the mind and the physical, material, and impermanent world. Once we find a disconnect with this Yogic truth, once we believe that we are no more than our experience in the physical realm and lose the understanding that each aspect of life is interconnected, then we feel the heaviness that can exist in the physical world. Wrong Knowledge does not make us or others feel good. 


I’d like to give two examples, one example does not feel as impactful as the other. 


In our first example of wrong knowledge, you are preparing to go on a camping trip with your friends. You spend days planning your trip and packing. The bus is leaving at 7:30 am the next morning so you set your alarm for 6:30 am. You show up at 7:15 a.m. and no one is there. You missed the bus. How bummed or let down do we feel at that moment? The shock of all that planning turned to dust. It turns out there was a typo in one of the group messages and that the bus was meant to leave at 7:00 a.m. The information you received was not correct. 


Hopefully, you have some yoga practices that you turn to, and remember to go with the flow. Perhaps if you clear your mind and take a moment you can either find another way to make it or simply change your plans. Either way, that one small detail of wrong knowledge disrupted lots of opportunities where there was correct knowledge present. You knew where to meet, where you were going, what you needed to pack and just one detail threw the whole trip out of alignment. 


Our second example takes place in a fictional village. Imagine for a moment that we are living together in a village and due to some natural obstacles (mountains, lakes, etc.) we are fairly isolated from our nearest village. One day I arrived back to our village in a frenzy. “Our neighbors are preparing for war!” I exclaim. “How do you know?” ask the villagers. “Because I was hunting over the mountain and I saw the next village preparing for war. They had their war drums blaring, their warriors were painted and they were reenacting scenes from war. They must be preparing to attack us. Sound the alarm!” 


While I may believe that I am experiencing Pratyakṣā (Direct Perception) of the events unfolding in front of me. There is still a chance that I am solely practicing Anumānā (inferring, drawing conclusions from previous experiences.) 


If I am known as the “boy who cried wolf” and always returned to the village with some hair-brained scheme or thought, the rest of the villagers may ignore what I am saying. But what if I am in a position of authority? What if others believe me to be an Agama (knowledgeable teacher.) It is very possible that my perception and belief of what is true could cause an actual war. 


While wrong knowledge may not always lead us down a road to war there are countless times in history where wars have either been accidentally started because of wrong knowledge or wrong knowledge was purposely placed in front of innocent people to gain support for war or gain support for anything. Historically, there are very few things that link people together like a group bonding together for what they believe is right under the guise of an outside threat or war. 


Wrong Knowledge is also the incorrect belief that others are out to get us because they are different. Wrong knowledge is one energy/tool that the unrighteous use to gain control, maintain power, and make themselves seem more relevant. Unfortunately, not everyone has everyone else’s best interest in mind. In this day and age, it can be very difficult to sift through the information that is being given to us to discern knowledge from falsehood.


Wrong Knowledge will therefor lead us away from the Yogic Path and is considered a Vrtiti that is “Painful.”

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