Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 9

शब्दज्ञानानुपाती वस्तुशून्योविकल्पः ॥९॥

śabda-jñāna-anupātī vastu-śūnyaḥ vikalpaḥ ||9||

Imagination is knowledge following words empty of substance.

śabda - words, sound, languagejñāna - knowing; knowledge; higher knowledgeanupātin - followingvastu - any really existing or abiding substance or essence, thing, objectśūnya - emptyvikalpa - false notion, fancy, imagination; mental occupation

Commentaries and Reflections

Commentary by T Krishnamacharya:

Vikalpa is a particular kind of Citta Vṛtti in which understanding
arises from the spoken word. Is this kind of understanding valid or not?
Patañjali, in the definitive Mahābhāṣya commentary on Saṃskṛta grammar,
states that the essence of the spoken word is not separate from the fact
or object it refers to. Objects themselves cannot express their various aspects;
only Śabda can present them to us. Śabda can convey nuances
of meaning that only a special faculty of the mind can grasp.
Such an ability to comprehend is not given to everyone.
The essence of this Sūtra is that Vikalpa is the mental activity by
which what is spoken is understood to mean what it represents,
even when the actual thing is not present.
Thus when we hear the word Sarpa we know it means snake
even though there is no snake present at the moment.”

Commentary by TKV Desikachar:

“The biggest obstacle to meditation is Vikalpa,
the ability of the mind to fabricate in spite of reality.
Through Vikalpa, the mind fabricates thoughts of no essence,
no substance; and since meditation is, for most of us,
the play of the mind, Vikalpa is the greatest obstacle.”

Commentary by Paul Harvey:

“Imagination is knowledge that comes from words empty of substance.”

“In Sūtra 1.9 Patañjali defines Vikalpa as an
understanding arising from the spoken word.
How do we discern whether Vikalpa is actually what arises
from the spoken word from what was said to us, or what
arises from the spoken word in how what was said is heard?
In other words how to discern if there is any difference
between what is said to us and what we imagine we hear?”

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Inspirational Quote

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere....” Carl Sagan