- The sources of right knowledge are direct knowledge, indirect knowledge, and testimony. -CT
- The sources of right knowledge are direct perception, inference, and scriptural testimony. – SS
- Right knowledge consists of sense perception, logic, and verbal testimony. – EBF
pramāṇa—knowledge, right knowledge, right view, epistemology
pratyakṣa—direct knowledge, sense perception, direct perception
anumāna—indirect knowledge, inference, logic
Patanjali describes several ways for evaluating Pramāṇa, right knowledge. The first of these is pratyakṣa, direct knowledge, understood as our own contact with something through one or more of our senses (seeing, smelling, touching, hearing, and tasting). When you experience something, then you have no doubt about it. In Sāṃkhya, sense perception is considered the highest form of right knowledge, and all other forms of knowledge depend upon it. Another way to think of this is to consider direct knowledge as the most refined way to evaluate our own experience. The next form of evaluation is anumāna, inference or indirect knowledge. If you see smoke then you assume there is a fire. This type of evaluation requires us to use logic, we have to rely on our citta, the heart-mind field of consciousness, to interpret what we are experiencing. When citta is involved sometimes our knowledge is skewed. citta includes our individual constructs that are influenced by where we live, what time in history we live, our social class and race, our parents and our communities. The final form of evolution described by Patanjali is āgama, verbal testimony. Testimony is often referred to as sacred text because they are assumed to be the words of sages and saints. I think that we can include science and other sources of knowledge in this category as long as they are the testimony of reliable sources.
When we are young we must rely on the testimony of our parent and our teachers. As we grow we start to use our own logic to make inferences about our experience. At some point, we develop enough confidence to start relying on our own wisdom.
What is true? Is the truth always the same, is there a Divine truth. Some think that the truth is always the same. That the vehicle, the means of delivery, is the only thing that changes. That religions, lineages, rituals, and language change like a person changes clothes, but that like the person remains the same so does the truth. Does this reduce religion and spirituality in a disrespectful way or can there be only one Divine Truth?
To Patanjali Yoga is the nirodha, cessation, of the vṛttis, activity in the mind, so eventually, we have to let go of all knowledge to experience Yoga. If we try to restrain the mind before it is ready it becomes even more elusive and hard to tame. However, as we start to sort through our thoughts, discriminating between the ones that are kliṣṭa, harmful and akliṣṭa, hurtful, we have the opportunity to let go of a few a time. Slowly reducing the amount of activity that our manas, mind, is comfortable with.
Whether knowledge is valid or not ultimately we have to find our own peace. Our Yoga practice requires that we evaluate our thoughts, we determine if they harmful or helpful and then expects us to weed out the harmful ones through steady diligent practice. If what you are thinking or believing doesn’t make you feel good, maybe you should discard that thought for one that makes you feel better. This doesn’t mean that we bypass our thoughts in a delusional way, but that we become intimately familiar with them. The process of forming a relationship with your thoughts makes you more pliable. Just like when making your body more flexible, it is not always comfortable, but it still makes you feel better, in the end, so does this inner work make the mind uncomfortable but happier in the end.
In many traditions having the right view is vital to the path. In Yogic and Tantric traditions it is thought that ascetic practices enhance or emphasize one’s view. Modern Postural Yoga is a good example of this. Practitioners who have focused on asana for years without evaluating their own minds, studying texts, or refine their view are often not more peaceful, loving, or powerful people. They may even seem more insecure and more afraid or more whatever they were when they started.
All views have their place and it is not our place as Yogin-s to judge the views of others. We have no obligation to forcefully assert our own views, however superior we may feel they are, or to correct others when we see a view that we feel is inferior to our own. Everyone’s path is their own. As we expand our own understanding it is important to transmute it into compassion for where we have been and for those still there. We have to be careful to not identify with our own knowledge, letting it pad our egos, but rather to use it as a tool to support other in their own path. As Trungpa Rinpoche suggests, the best method for supporting others is having the confidence that they too will find their way.
Watch for changes in the Pranayama/Meditation Section of Practice!
Guide me to that which is in my highest good. Help me to distinguish what nourishes my soul and what deteriorates my being. Lead me down the path of wisdom so that I may show up fully in each moment. Let my study be enlightening and fruitful. Allow my practice to benefit all beings. – Namaste
- Take a comfortable seat, one that feels both regal and relaxed.
- Turn your attention to your breath, closing your mouth inhale and exhale through both nostrils.
- Start to restrict the throat so that you feel the breath from the throat to the heart, and it makes and oceanic sound.
- Start to lengthen both the inhale and exhale so that they are balanced.
- Feel the sensation of the body expanding in all directions during the inhalation and the contracting sensation during the exhalation.
- Continue for 5 minutes, then allow the breath to return to normal.
- Allowing the body to breath, sit for 5 minutes and watch your thoughts. Make no effort to control your mind. Make no evaluation about your thoughts. Be kind to yourself! Do not identify with whatever happens.
- Reflect on the nature of your thoughts. Are they harmful are they helpful?
- What sources constitute valid knowledge?
- Where do my beliefs, intuitions, and faith come into my epistemology?
- What does it mean to be intellectually responsible?
- What type of thoughts do I find when I watch my thoughts, kliṣṭa or akliṣṭa.
What does this remind me of? Other stories, scriptures, or teachings.