Misperception (viparyayo) is information we believe is accurate until the actual nature (rupa) of the object/situation is revealed (if it is ever revealed to us). It is misperceiving or seeing incorrectly.
PRACTICAL LIVING We are constantly receiving information and processing it. During this fast and often subconscious process, information/knowledge (jnanam) gets warped. This may happen due to: (1) poor sensory perception (I see a stick and think it’s a snake); (2) failed logic (I saw a snake on this path 2 years ago so there must be a snake today as well); and (3) information from an unreliable source (a friend who is not wearing his glasses tells me there is a snake). Misperception/viparyayo is considered to be the most frequent activity of the mind. When interpreting other people’s words and actions, we are continuously judging and frequently misperceiving or misunderstanding others’ intentions. The error may be recognized later or never at all. Viparyayo is intimately connected to two other activities of the mind: memory and imagination. The aim of Yoga practice is to recognize and control the causes of misapprehension.
A recent and vivid example I experienced of viparyayo happened yesterday while on a road trip. While driving, I heard on the local radio (somewhere in Tennessee) that the town had caught some people making and selling methamphetamines. However, two people were still on the run: one of them was a woman. Seven hours later and two states south I stop at a hotel at 10pm. After (what I perceived) was an awkward analysis of my person, the desk person informed me they were full (even though I had called 10 minutes before and was told they had rooms). The second hotel welcomed me, but in the middle of checking in, the desk person nervously excused herself and later returned to finish the check-in process. Once I was in my room, I received a phone call asking me if everything was okay. My memory went back to the drug dealers on the run. My imagination went wild: I looked at myself in the mirror to analyze whether I could look like a woman on the run…maybe…Reflecting back, I was tired after 12 hours of driving and likely misinterpreted many of the people I came in contact with. My fear of cops bursting into the room in the middle of the night did not happen! Misperception + Memory + Imagination = Wild & Crazy Thoughts.
IN THE YOGA WORLD Viparyayo can lead to suffering. Sometimes, however, not knowing the truth or not perceiving reality can be a blessing. Ultimately though, the goal is to heighten our awareness, noticing the colored lense that prevents us from seeing things just as they are, and experience pramana (correct understanding). On a deeper level, we experience viparyayo when we over-identify with our bodies, thoughts, values and emotions. According to Samkhya (read description), the school of thought that Yoga is based on, it is crucial to understand that we are indeed bodies that think and feel, AND who have a true essence illuminating everything else. Viparyayo leads us to incorrectly identify only with our bodies and minds leading to conflict: racial, religious, political (i.e. my tribe believes in something “more correct” than yours). According to Samkhya, deep down, we are all exactly the same. If we could all see that (pramana), the world would be more joyful!
Papu is a man who has always been there for me whenever I was in crisis (i.e. in a state of viparyayo). He has a powerful ability to listen and humbly offer his straightforward and simple perspective. Simplicity is key at those times since viparyayo is intimately connected to imagination and complication when he receives panicky phone calls. A man with a humongous heart and immense generosity, I am deeply thankful to life for this amazing human being! In this week of Thanksgiving, it is with huge amounts of love that I thank Papu for being there either personally or on skype whenever I’ve needed him! Love you PapaBear!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and we will look at imagination/vikalpa next week!