The Yoga Tutor

5 Modes of Perception

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 266 ]

Five Modes of Perception in Yoga Drishthi

In order to overcome the problem of perception, one must gain awareness at the mental level of what causes improper perception. In yoga, we point out five principle conditions which affect the mind's perception.
  1. Viparyaya
  2. Pramana
  3. Smriti
  4. Vikalpa
  5. Nidra
Viparyaya is wrong knowledge or an incorrect perception or cognition -- the simple mistaking one thing for another. These are tricks of the mind, either via the senses or via prejudices or biases that prevent one from seeing things as they truly are.

There is the classic story of the man who mistook the rope for a snake. Though he was probably stricken with a brief moment of fright, he was probably more fortunate then the man who mistook the snake for a rope! Non-the-less, these types of misperceptions can lead to great misunderstandings and unnecessary troubles.

For instance, one may interpret a word uttered by another as an insult, when in fact they merely misheard what was actually said and/or inferred an entirely different meaning from that which was intended. Relationships have been strained, business dealing hampered, and wars started as a result of viparyaya.

This becomes a profoundly important consideration as one embarks along the yogic path. One must accurately perceive all of the many new and often unfamiliar ideas, concepts and notions that they will invariably encounter in yoga, and be careful not to simply jump to conclusions or judgments. One must refrain from instantly assigning preconceived ideas to their "new-found ideas" in yoga, which may be inaccurate assumptions to make.

Pramana means "proof" or "authority" and it represents that which leads to right knowledge, the awareness of things as they really are. It is considered that there are three primary means of proof for knowing the truth.
  • Direct perception
  • Logical inference
  • Legitimate comparison
For instance, while sitting on my porch during a storm, I see a tree get struck by lightning at the far end of the property. If I am a meteorologist and a weather expert, then there is no need for speculation. I have a clear and sound understanding of the power of lightning. Hence, I know without a doubt what has caused the charred and splintered remains of the tree. This is direct perception.

However, if I was a young child who has never seen lightening before, all that I would know is that the tree became charred and splintered after a bright flash of light and a loud "BOOM!"

Yoga, as an experiential science, relies on first cultivating the proper understanding of the nature of everything, and then, through direct experience, coming to 'know' the truth of it...


NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

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