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Yoga Sutra I.8

Yoga Sutra 1.8 Patanjali

विपर्ययो मिथ्याज्ञानमतद्रूपप्रतिष्ठम् ॥८॥

viparyayo mithyājñānamatadrūpapratiṣṭham ॥8॥

Misconception is false knowledge which is not based on its own form.

When introducing the sources of Pramana, Yoga Sura 1.7, defines this first Vritti of Pramana as that which may be translated as right knowledge or knowledge related to facts. Contrary to Pramana or right knowledge, Yoga Sutra 1.8, speaks of Viparyaya, the second vritti as wrong knowledge or unsound thinking.

  • viparyayah: wrong knowledge, erroneous impression, misconception, mistake, misperception, illusion, contrary
  • mithyā: false, illusory
  • jñānam: knowledge, conception
  • atat: not its own, not factual
  • rūpa: form, an actual thing, real, nature
  • pratiṣṭham: based a standpoint, resting-place, ground, base, foundation, prop, stay, support, occupying, possessing

Viparyaya is the misperception that arises when you accept the unreal as real. It occurs when you mistake one thing for another thus referring to thought constructs that contain completely false information or wrong knowledge. 

In Viparyaya, you are experiencing an illusion where you cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is unreal. If you closely study the object in consideration, you will realise that the real form of this false conception does not match its mistaken identity. As such, the object of Pramana is real while the object of its illusory cognition, Viparyaya, is its complete opposite where our mental image of the object does not correspond to the object itself. 

You will notice that the cognition of the object here is unreal and faulty and hence when we retain that incorrect understanding, our knowledge about it also turns faulty. It could be that the information relayed by the senses is incomplete, the logic is inaccurate, irrelevant information is added, or our memory does not contain facts pertinent to the object perceived, resulting in the storage of mental impressions that do not equal the actual fact and then we treat these untrue observations as true knowledge.

This Viparyaya, or mismatch between the object and our understanding of it can be cleared by keeping our mind steady and following the orderly process of inference. Without mental equanimity, we are easily side-tracked and tend to jump to conclusions. Our minds, thrown into an uncontrolled chain reaction of subconscious impressions, desires, fears, and biases, fall prey to misperception.

In order for us to control our mental fluctuations, Viparyaya is one vritti that we have to work on decreasing. Rather than moving away from reality or going around the truth or drawing conclusions about an occurrence, we have to inculcate a steady mental focus, to peel away the veils of misconceptions and reveal the true object.

So, whatever you hear and see, first ascertain the fact.