From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Vikalpa literally means ‘doubt,’ ‘choice’.

The word Vikalpa has several senses. It's different inference as per varied theories is as follows:

  • When manas or the mind is defined as that part of the antahkaraṇa[1] which is responsible for saṇkalpa and vikalpa, the word vikalpa stands for doubt.
  • In a more technical sense, it stands for an alternative or an option.
  • If a Vedic passage declares that one can offer sacrifice with vrīhi[2] or yava,[3] it is a vikalpa that gives a choice to the sacrificer.
  • The dharmaśāstras give many vikalpas or alternatives in the performance of certain rituals.[4]
  • The Yogasutras[5] uses the word vikalpa to indicate that wave of the mind which arises after hearing a word, even though there is no corresponding real object outside. For instance, when we hear the word “Rāhu’s head,” the idea of a head that arises in the mind is a vikalpa because Rāhu[6] has only a head and no other parts of the body.


  1. Antahkaraṇa means inner organ.
  2. Vrīhi means rice.
  3. Yava means barley.
  4. Manusmṛti 3.267
  5. Yogasutras 1.9
  6. Rāhu is the planet.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore