I.6 प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतयः

“They are right perception, wrong perception, imagination, sleep, and memory.”

Patañjali lists the five types of vṛtti. Pramāna, right perception, comes from the root verb , “to measure.” Pra-, a prefix that can mean “in front of” or “forth,” carries with it a sense of auspiciousness. This is observation or knowledge that is accurate. Viparyaya, wrong perception, has a literal meaning, in contrast, of  going around the object of perception, missing it, as it were (vi-, “away,” + pari-, “around,” + i, “to go”). Patañjali’s characterization of vṛtti as harmful or not-harmful carries through from the previous sūtra with an implication that there is a benefit to seeing accurately, and an essentially afflicting aspect to coming to wrong conclusions. Vikalpa is imagination or conceptualization, neither right nor wrong, not necessarily harmful, often beneficial (as in the case of great art), certainly a vital part of how we process our experience.  Nidrā, sleep, is considered by Patañjali to be in its own way an activity of citta, as is smṛti, memory. These two also may be considered to have harmful and not-harmful aspects.

“For a clear understanding of the reactive urges of the mind it is essential that one comprehends the activity of the total mind…. These five regions of mental activity cover the whole range of the mind’s operations, the conscious as well as the sub-conscious.”–commentary by Rohit Mehta, Yoga, The Art of Integration, p. 14

• In your daily life, observe and consider the categories of mind activity that Patañjali describes. Would you say that these categories overlap?
• What is an example, for you, of right perception and an action coming from right perception?
• What is an incident in which you acted under an illusion or wrong assumption?
• Do you tend toward abstract thought? How does imagination benefit you? Do you spent a lot of time fantasizing?
• Do you sleep soundly? What is the state of your mind before sleep? after sleep?
• Does memory support your yoga practice? Can memory be an obstacle in practice?


neuter noun in compound

right perception, true knowledge (from pra-, a prefix that means “forth” and carries with it a sense of auspiciousness, + -, “to measure”)


masculine noun in compound

wrong perception, error, misapprehension (vi-, “away,” + pari-, “around,” + i, “to go”)


masculine noun in compound

imagination, conceptualization (from vi-, “apart,” + kḷp, “to make,” “to bring about”)


feminine noun in compound

sleep (from ni,  “under”+ drā, “to sleep”)


feminine noun, 1st case plural

memory (from smṛ, “to remember”)

2 thoughts on “I.6 प्रमाणविपर्ययविकल्पनिद्रास्मृतयः

  1. I still struggle a bit with the right/wrong perception paradigm. Though I get it–and it is important not to overthink it (which I might be doing) I think that right perception is kind of an illusion. Maybe there really isn’t such a thing. All perception is tremendously conditioned and complex. ALL OF IT. That is why, when it comes to the mind among other things, we need other people, perspectives, and also (at times) the rigor of empirical scientific inquiry. Now most scientists would quibble with the word mind and prefer to say brain–or maybe be ok with consciousness, though it too lacks a satisfying definition. But mind (in my mind, and I am diverging from the buddhi, manas, ahamkara model) includes the embodied brain and the nervous system in it’s entirety and goes further by looking at these processes as something greater than the things themselves.

    If we are attempting to come closer to this mysterious thing called right perception, assuming there is such a thing–isn’t yoga philosophy possibly just another form of conditioning that colors, slants and indeed obscures perception in the yogic version of what right perception is?

  2. I am with Carrie in that right perception is a tricky concept, and all influences help to continually define what feels to be right perception. Also, yoga is a form of conditioning, a form which leads one to states of awareness beyond the mind and intellect. I think most neuroscientists today consider the mind to be separate from the brain and to exist within (and maybe even around?) the body itself. The mysterious domains of somatic psychology and mindfulness practices are just beginning to be studied scientifically and I think will lead us, as a society, to a greater right perception about who we are.

    Memory is helpful for the path of yoga in that it is good to remember from class and prior practice from how to engage the muscles of the legs and body in tadasana and then re-do those actions standing and inverted poses. Although memory can be an obstacle if while doing yoga asana I think of events and feelings from the past. It is also an obstacle if, from memory of extending my knee in padmasana I mechanistically do that same extension today, without sensing in to see if my body is prepared for that extension.

    I definitely tend towards abstract thought – I am a good thinker in all ways, some which are helpful and some which are not. And yes, I think the categories of thought do overlap. My favorite un-helpful thoughts are “if only” thoughts, with fantasizing and memory combined. Over fantasizing can be an obstacle to the path, since it is mostly anxiety or grandiosity about the future. Although I don’t think it is part of yoga to fantasize, I think it can be helpful to imagine good future events, scenarios, and perfected asanas.

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