Patanjali Yoga Sutra I.8 Incorrect Cognition

This article explains Patanjali Yoga Sutra I.8 and elaborates upon incorrect cognition.

Incorrect cognition is false knowledge, not recognizing and not knowing a thing as it is due to the coloring of the mind patterns. You have memories about your child, who is a now teenager, but in your mind, you have a picture of this innocent child. This is incorrect cognition, and it leads you to treat a teenager as though he were a little child because you are emotional attached to these memories and emotions from Chitta. The identity of a parent is struggling to come to terms with the fact that this role is no longer important in the life of the child.

Fears and Incorrect Cognition

Most fears are based on incorrect cognition. You may have a fear that is not rooted in reality. A lot of people are scared of small spiders, bees or insects. Most of these are quite harmless, still we are so afraid of them that we panic when we see a spider or a bee. This is incorrect cognition. The traditional example given is that of a rope in the dark. We mistake the rope in the dark to be a snake, because the fears in the mind turn this rope into a scary snake. The moment you turn on the light, you see it is only a rope and may be you start laughing about it. The same happens with the spider, bee or any other harmless insect when you face your fear. You realize, that it such a small little thing and you may just start laughing about it. The process of transforming an incorrect cognition into correct cognition by merely observing and allowing it to uncolor is the foundation of systematic meditation leading to Individual Consciousness. 

Incorrect Cognition in Relationships

You see this in relationships for instance with a business acquaintance you trusted. But eventually you find out that he was cheating you. You did not recognize that person for what he was. That was incorrect cognition. Finally recognizing that the person cannot be trusted is correct cognition. You discover your incorrect cognition only after you have corrected yourself.

Incorrect Cognition and Meditation

The purpose of meditation is to turn incorrect cognition into correct cognition. You need a sharp Buddhi to uncolor your thoughts, but because there are so many colored thoughts, it is difficult to have a sharp Buddhi. How do we break that cycle? One of the ways to do that, is to get help from a teacher of a meditative tradition. If you want to be good at math, you would learn math from good math teacher, but a lot of people are afraid of gurus or teachers, because they feel that they're giving away their independence or that these teachers have some ulterior motives. So we prefer to read books and websites and to do our own research and experimentation and that keeps us stuck for years or even decades. Some of the experiences may be negative. If are about to use a knife, and some one tells you: “Be careful with the knife!” Now you know it is dangerous but as you continue to experiment cautiously with it, you discover that the knife is also useful to defend yourself or for something as simple as cutting vegetables. Similarly, in the process of meditation, you may initially use the testimony of a teacher, so that eventually you acquire correct cognition through direct perception and inference.