Book 1, Sutra 8: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“WRONG THOUGHTS (VIPARYAYA) OCCUR WHEN AN IDEA ABOUT SOMETHING DOESN’T MATCH WHAT THE OBJECT ACTUALLY IS.”
The most common examples of “viparyaya” are cases of mistaken identity. For example, if we see a rope in a darkly lit place and think that it is a snake, our mind is filled with “viparyaya.” When a group of blind men, after touching an elephant, each come up with a different answer as to what they were touching, they experienced “viparyaya.” When a rope is burnt, it often retains the appearance that it is still whole and usable. Seeing a burnt rope and thinking that we have a rope with which we can tie up our dog is also a case of “viparyaya.” In all cases, the object we are cognizing is not what we think it is and so, it is wrong knowledge or misconception.
It is interesting to keep in mind that in this sutra, Patanjali is listing another type of “knowing,” all of which must be let go of in the practice of Yoga. Yoga as he stated earlier describes a mind that doesn’t change in the process of knowing or not knowing things. The yogic mind is somehow always the same. But the important point here is that Patanjali is describing all the different types of thoughts that the Yogic mind is unconnected with. It’s not that the Yogic mind is connected with right thoughts or knowledge (pramana) and disconnected with wrong or false knowledge (viparyaya), rather it is disconnected or unaffected by both equally. This tells us that he is describing a very uncommon, hard to imagine even, state of mind.