शब्दज्ञानानुपाती वस्तुशून्यो विकल्पः॥९॥
śabda-jñānānupātī vastu-śunyo vikalpaḥ
- Imagination is mental activity relying upon language concepts and is without a real object. -CT
- An image that arises on hearing mere words without any reality as its base is verbal delusion. – SS
- Imagination consists of the usage of words that are devoid of an actual object. – EBF
anupātin—based, arises, relying, resulting
śabda– words, sound, language
jñāna– knowledge, concept, idea
śūnya—lacks, zero, without any
vastu—object, real object, science of the placement of objects
Patanjali describes imagination or conceptualization as a mental activity that is without an actual “object”, relying only on concepts in language or words. Like any other mental activity, imagination can be harmful or helpful.
I feel that using our imagination is a great way to work with our mind. It reminds me of having a cattle dog. If you keep it as a pet and take it on short walks, letting him lounge on the couch all day, the dog becomes crazy. If you put the dog to the work that it is made for, then it is happy, it is man’s best friend. This is how our minds are. If we put our mind to work, to the task it was made for, then our mind is happy and becomes a great tool for us. If we do not structure our mind, it becomes crazy, dysfunctional. Our mind needs a job and a boss, or it gets bored and confused.
Imagination is based on concepts housed in the citta. Though imagination has no basis, in reality, it still has the purpose of creating thoughts that could eventually become reality. These potential realities can be helpful or harmful.
What does imagination look like when unhealthy? Say you get a letter in the mail that says, “Your presence is needed at the law offices of Smith & Smith to attend to a private matter.” All of a sudden your mind is running wild with possibilities of what this could be about however all of these possibilities are imagination, not reality. Maybe you think, “Oh no! I am in trouble.” or “Whoo Hoo! I am rich!” Neither are true…Yet. Attaching your self to one of these thoughts is what is helpful or harmful. If you start believing that you are in trouble, you start to have an emotional and then somatic experience that reflects this, whether it is true or not. You have now started to be a container for this vibrational quality (Guṇa) and start to attract more of this quality in your experience of the manifest world. If instead you believe, “I am gonna be rich!”, then you have an emotional and somatic experience that reflects that and your vibrational quality reflects that, attracting that same quality. In this way, though it is still a mental activity, it is helpful in cultivating a Sattvic mind and eventually Nirodha.
To me, even the commentary and translation of sacred transmissions like the sacred text we are reading is a form of imagination, a helpful one, but imagination none the less. For many people, this is an error and one that could even cause aggression, but I have to speak to my own experience and understanding to be truthful. I don’t expect or even want anyone to agree, I want you to explore what is true for you. This process of studying and questioning is a key concept in the long line of Yogic Traditions, it is part of the path. Practicing high-level abstract thinking teaches us about ourselves and requires us to become rooted in our own divine revelation.
In the 3500 years since the first time the word Yoga was written, it has continually changed and evolved. The only constant in the tradition is its dynamic nature. Practiced by Buddhist, Jains, Renunciates, and Ascetics in Ancient Indian and then by Sufis, Muslims, Tibetans, and Europeans in its classical age, and now globally, Yoga has had many philosophies and many means throughout its span. It is not an unbroken tradition, but an evolutionary technology, that it constantly upgrading itself to meet the current human condition. The point is there are lots of views on cosmology, God, practice, and liberation within the tradition of Yoga, this is just Patanjali’s.
Watch for changes in the Pranayama/Meditation Section of Practice!
Guide me to that which is in my highest good. Help me to distinguish what nourishes my soul and what deteriorates my being. Lead me down the path of wisdom so that I may show up fully in each moment. Let my study be enlightening and fruitful. Allow my practice to benefit all beings. – Namaste
- Take a comfortable seat, one that feels both regal and relaxed.
- Turn your attention to your breath, closing your mouth inhale and exhale through both nostrils.
- Start to restrict the throat so that you feel the breath from the throat to the heart, and it makes and oceanic sound.
- Start to lengthen both the inhale and exhale so that they are balanced.
- Feel the sensation of the body expanding in all directions during the inhalation and the contracting sensation during the exhalation.
- Continue for 5 minutes, then allow the breath to return to normal.
- Allowing the body to breath, sit for 5 minutes. During this time allow your mind to create and your imagination to run free. If it is hard to get started think about one of the following.
- imagine yourself on fabulous vacation
- image your dream life
- image creating or building a project or piece of art.
I think this is a great practice to cultivate everyday, through out the day. When you have a routine of using your imagination, your imagination doesn’t interfere when you are using your mind for another function.
- Do I let myself imagine?
- When I do use my imagination is it harmful or helpful?
- Are my actions rooted in reality or imagination?
- What does it feel like to let my imagination run wild . Scary? Fun? A waste of time?
- Do I spend too much time using my imagination, or should I use it more?
What does this remind me of? Other stories, scriptures, or teachings.