ŚABDAJNĀNĀNUPĀTĪ VASTU ŚŪNYO VIKALPAH.
An image that arises on hearing mere words without any reality [as its basis] is verbal delusion.
Heaven and hell come to mind. Angels in white robes rest on cloud beds and play harps while fork-tailed devils jeer at the damned in a fiery pit for eternity. And although we have no way of confirming such a tale, many of us conduct our lives as though that were the reality that waits for us after death. So that’s verbal delusion. Someone has told us something based on no reality that we can see, and our minds have run wild with it.
Other instances of this vritti might come up in the middle of an argument. Suppose my husband says something I don’t like. I can grab hold of that statement and launch a whole domestic dispute about his choice of words — we’ll call that Road A — or I can try to figure out what he really meant. That’s Road B, which almost always works out better, but it takes practice to do that and not fly off the handle.
The vrittis are pretty straightforward stuff, once you know what they are, but that doesn’t change the fact that they continue to affect us. We spiritual types talk a big game about being “here and now,” practicing presence and awareness, but that doesn’t mean we never fall victim to our own chaotic minds. Next week, we’ll discuss the last vritti (one that might surprise you) and then we’ll move on to ways to control the vrittis rather than being controlled by them.
Just a reminder … My main source for these translations of the sutras is The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
translated by Sri Swama Satchidananda. If you’re enjoying reading about the sutras from my perspective, I think you’ll find his commentary on them extraordinary.