Vikalpa in Yoga Meditation
QUICK EXPLANATION ON VIKALPA
Vikalpa = one of the five kinds of thoughts or vrittis; there are five kinds of movements in the mind-field and one of them is vikalpa (yogasutra 1.6)
Vikalpa = movements in the mind that are “fantasies or imaginations”
5 kinds of thoughts are: pramana, viparyaya, vikalpa, nidra, smriti
We want to understand the meaning of vikalpa, but not merely by knowing its definition; we want to be able to observe it in our daily life. Thus choose for a day or a week to be aware of this movement of mind, called vikalpa, as you go through activities, situations, and conversations. Observe how vikalpa relates to actions, thoughts, and speech. You want to find your own examples of vikalpa, so that you have direct knowledge of this concept of vikalpa.
One way to start is to catch a thought, any thought… since there are only 5 kinds of thoughts, five kinds of vrittis, this thought has to be one of these five. Is this thought an imagination or fantasy (vikalpa)? If it is not vikalpa; then find out by using buddhi, which of the other four kinds of thoughts it is. Examples of vikalpa are day dreaming, fantasizing about a future event, making little theater shows in your mind on situations from the past thinking how they should have happened, or thinking of a pink elephant which doesn’t exist.
Internal dialogue about vikalpa
Ask your mind; why do we run away into fantasies and imaginations? Have a dialogue with your mind: is this is useful or not? Ask your mind; where will these fantasies lead us to? Thus one way to increase your awareness to vikalpa is to literally ask to mind to help you understand vikalpa. Why do we fantasies, what will it bring and also how can we deal with it. Mind can we be aware of vikalpa, and can you help me reduce drifting into fantasies and imagination?
When you learn to talk to your mind, the mind will become a great friend that can help you on the path. Then the mind starts to help you to overcome unnecessary vikalpa, isn’t that a delight!
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DAILY OBSERVATION AND YOGIC SELF-AWARENESS ASSESSMENT
Eventually the concept of vikalpa will swim around in your awareness all the time, as it becomes a part of constant self-awareness. Also, becoming aware of vikalpa will have the effect that you will increase your use of this word in your daily vocabulary to express yourself and you will discover how vikalpa relates to other concepts, processes, or insights. For example, you may come to see that vikalpa is related to tamas, or you find a relationship between avidya and vikalpa, vikshipta or even kshipta. Eventually you will discover how all these concepts dance together and coming to know this dance will guide you towards that which is beyond all the concepts. This is because as you increase your self-awareness, you will discover that everything you can observe is not who you truly are, your true Self has nothing to do with vikalpa, you are the One that is able to witness all these concepts. Therefore vikalpa itself have to be transcended, who you really are is beyond vikalpa. This will increase the non-attachment towards vikalpa itself, while you can be in awe of the beauty of the Divine dance of Consciousness that appears to play as fantasies and imagination, as vikalpa. Therefore practicing self-awareness is actually practicing not-self-awareness by which the True Self will eventually reveal itself.
Look at the self-assessment PDF (assessment-yymmdd.pdf) and a PDF that includes daily internal dialogue and daily observation (sumseven-yymmdd.pdf) on the website of www.abhyasaashram.org (when you are on this page scroll all the way down to find the downloadable PDFs) These PDFs can be used as tools to explore and expand your understanding on vikalpa.
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MORE ON VIKALPA
Vikalpa is not all bad
Vikalpa is not only “bad”, because it is also the source of creativity. When you use vikalpa consciously at moments in which you want to be creative is very useful! To design something new, to express yourself in a creative way through dance, art, and music, to find a solution for a problem are all expamples of “useful” vikalpa. You will have to learn to discern for yourself when these vrittis are useful or not-useful. They can be expressed too much, but suppression of creativity can also create obstacles. It is everyone’s own responsibility to deal with vikalpa. Conscious vikalpa is something we want to cultivate at the right moments to live a creative inspired live.
Smriti or vikalpa
What we see as smriti, as memories, we could also be seen as vikalpa, as fantasies. Because a memory (smriti) has nothing to do with who we really are, we are the Self, pure Consciousness, Atman. So it is fair to argue that anything remembered could also be a vikalpa. Any memory has the coloring of avidya and asmita therefore you think that this memory has something to do with me and the world I am living in, which is all but a play of maya, therefore it is all vikalpa. But to not lose the beautiful practical application of these five vrittis, it is useful to know when something came for the memory bank, when something is a memory; this is called smriti. And when something is an imagination; this is called vikalpa. TO discern between thw two in your daily life, in your movements of the mind, is a useful because they each have their function.
Pramana, vikalpa, and viparyaya can all happen at the same time
When you look at an object and you perceive its characteristics, you can judge which object is it. If you look at a doll, you know it is a doll, it is right knowledge (pramana). At the same time it’s easy to also see that it is merely a piece of plastic and fabric. Depending on how you look at it you can say it is pramana (it is a doll), or you can say it is viparyaya, as it is nothing but plastic and you superimpose on it that it is a doll. Or seeing a doll in this piece of plastic is merely vikalpa, you imagine it to be a doll. Another example; this is a a screen you are looking at, right? This is right knowledge, called pramana. But if you start to understand that all of the manifestation is a dance of shakti, or the illusion of maya, then you can fairly say that anything that can be observed is vikalpa or viparyaya. Because to think it is a screen is not correct, it is shakti, maya, or the dance of leela! Therefore it depends on how you look at a vritti, and realize that by changing your point of view it can be pramana, vikalpa, or viparyaya. But again to not lose the beautiful practical application of these five vrittis, it is useful to know that when something is perceived correctly, it is called pramana. And that when something is imagination or incorrectly perceived, this is called vikalpa or viparyaya.
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YOGASUTRAS ON VIKALPA
1.6 The five varieties of thought patterns to witness are: 1) knowing correctly (pramana), 2) incorrect knowing (viparyaya), 3) fantasy or imagination (vikalpa), 4) the object of void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra), and 5) recollection or memory (smriti).
pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smritayah
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1.9 Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) is a thought pattern that has verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no such object or reality in existence.
shabda jnana anupati vastu shunyah vikalpah
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1.42 One type of such an engrossment (samapattih) is one in which there is a mixture of three things, a word or name going with the object, the meaning or identity of that object, and the knowledge associated with that object; this engrossment is known as savitarka samapattih (associated with gross objects).
tatra shabda artha jnana vikalpah sankirna savitarka samapattih
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SWAMI RAMA ON VIKALPA
”Distorted knowledge is viparyaya. Many people do not understand the difference between viparyaya and fantasy. You know what a snake looks like. If you see a rope in the darkness and take it to be a snake, that is viparyaya. viparyaya is that knowledge that is based on some substance, though it is not right knowledge. Fantasy is entirely different. Fantasy is the creation of a crazy mind.
There is very little difference between fancy and fantasy. Fancy is imagination. Imagination is having an image within. If I have a small harp and a chain, I can imagine a bigger harp that is more melodious. Imagination cannot be called fantasy. You cannot condemn all imagination because imagination can be creative too. What is the difference between imagination and fantasy? How do you fantasize things? I am very much angry with the Lord of Gods. What shall I do? How can I fight? I have no means. I met a woman who is barren. I went to the son of that barren woman and asked him to fight on my behalf and he got ready. Then I picked up the bow and arrows made out of donkey’s horns and I handed them over to him. He flew far away, crossed all the levels of the sky and galaxies, and went to the Lord of all gods. He killed him and then came back to me. This is all fantasy. There cannot be a son of a barren woman. There cannot be horns of a donkey, so you cannot make a bow and arrow out of donkey’s horns. When the son was not born out of the barren woman, how could he fly and kill? This is called to fantasize. Fantasy is purely a creation of mind. This is not related to anything.
You should not allow your mind to flow toward fantasy. If your mind goes on fantasizing everything, then your mind will form that habit. Fancy and fantasy are two products of an idle mind. I don’t have time to fantasize. I can do that better than you, but I don’t have time. I have to do so much work that I wonder if I am able to complete it. I cannot take rest or eat because I have to do it. If you make a schedule for your life, you won’t have time to fantasize. Just as young boys and girl fantasize, so also in old age the mind becomes preoccupied with fantasies. These are vrittis of the mind and they are not helpful. Sleep and memory can also be injurious if you do not have control over them.”
~ Samadhi pg. 143
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SWAMI JNANESHVARA ON VIKALPA
Read the whole article “Witnessing” on www.swamij.com
A single thought arises, and the mind goes off into a fantasy about that single thought, creating a whole train of thoughts. We might simply note that, “Mind is starting to fantasize”. (Vikalpa)
We might be experiencing some thought process, thinking about some person, or witnessing some thoughts at meditation time. Suddenly, we get a flash of insight that our thinking or opinions were wrong (Vikalpa). Our incorrect perception (Vikalpa) is replaced with more correct perception (pramana).