Yoga Sutra 1.9

 In Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutra 1.9: शब्द ज्ञाना नुपाती वस्तु शून्यो विकल्प

śabda jñānā ʻnupātī vastu-śūnyo vikalpaḥ


Thought that arises in the mind is imaginary. 

  • शब्द śabda – word
  • ज्ञान jñānā – knowledge
  • नुपाती anupātī – follows
  • वस्तु vastu – object, thing
  • शून्यो sūnya – empty
  • विकल्प vikalpaḥ – imagination

Have you ever found yourself suddenly immersed in the middle of a thought process? If so you may have wondered to yourself:

  • Just when did I begin this trail of thought? 
  • How did my thoughts lead me to this bizarre point? 
  • How did I end up thinking of this story?

Vikalpaḥ is the Sanskrit word for Imagination but it is not necessarily that our imagination is bad and that thoughts are useless figments of our imagination. I personally had a hard time with this Sutra because I love the aspect of the mind that we refer to as the imagination. I love stories, I love creating, I love the endless potential that is bound within the imagination itself. 

The key difference here between the boundless potential of the creative imagination and the droning of the uncontrollable imagination is the awareness of consciousness. 

When the thoughts are bouncing on their own from one idea to the next we may not feel as though we are in control of the thought process. At this point we have lost focus on the current reality. When we are dreaming the future into being, when we are creating our art and exploring the limits of our imagination our consciousness is present on the reality of the world while still focusing on what could possibly be. There is a stark contrast between these two aspects of the imagination. 

The challenge is to become present to the unhealthy thought processes that draw us away from being who we truly are. That causes us to dwell on the past and worry for the future. 


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