Sutra I.7 – Chapter I, Sutra 7

प्रत्यक्षानुमानागमाः प्रमाणानि ॥

pratyakṣa-anumāna-āgamāḥ pramāṇāni

Correct perception/knowledge/understanding (pramāṇāni) can be gained through: (1) direct experience through the senses (pratyakṣa); (2) inference or deduction (anumāna); and (3) reliable sources (āgamāḥ).

PRACTICAL LIVING     The previous sutra explained that the mind is composed out of 5 different activities. This sutra goes more in depth into one of them: pramana or correct understanding. Pramana, according to Patanjali can be experienced through 3 different ways. Ideally, our understanding would be backed up by those 3 methods. Remember the milk ads of a famous person with a white mustache? Let’s take that as an example. If I were a producer of the advertisement and handed a glass of milk to Richard Gere and saw him drink the milk, that would be pramana: I experienced the event directly with my eyes (pratyaksa). If, however, I was just flipping through a magazine and saw Richard Gere in this advertisement, I might infer (anumana) that he drinks milk since his mustache is white (I am using another activity – smrti/memory to remember that this will happen when someone drinks milk). Looking more attentively I may question whether that was real milk since it looks thicker and whiter than milk. But I have no direct perception and I cannot infer. Fortunately, I can either use a reliable source on the internet to answer my question, or call my friend who produced that advertisement (agamah). Everything we understand in our lives has been obtained through one or more of those ways. On a deeper level, fear can also be understood through those 3 different ways: (1) we may be confronted by an intimidating person (pratyaksa); (2) we may deduce that someone is scary since they behaved similarly to a scary person I knew in the past (anumana); and (3) my yoga teacher/psychologist tells me that this person should be avoided since they have heard of many scary experienced with this individual (agamah).

IN THE YOGA WORLD    Yoga is the journey of pramana – seeing things clearly without our clouded lense. Traditionally, a Yoga teacher (or acharya – someone who has walked the road before you) is a reliable source who can help you see things clearly by studying important ancient texts such as the Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads or other renowned texts. As we become more aware of our behaviors, words and thought patterns (samskaras), we begin to see from a new angle. This new angle may bring us some pramana – the ability to see something in a clearer way. Fundamentally, Yoga talks about lack of pramana in our perception of ourselves. In summary, we think we are bodies that think and move. Patanjali, however, says that we are that and more. Samadhi – the ultimate and purest experience – requires pure pramana – an understanding through direct experience that there is something deeper than our bodies, thoughts and emotions. The Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali is a text dedicated to directing us towards pramana!


I have not known this person personally – but through inference (anumana) and reliable sources (agamah) I know this man was extraordinary. T. Krishnamacharya dedicated his almost 101 years to studying the human being through Yoga, Ayurveda, Logic, Grammar and more. Stories talk about his ability to understand how traditional rules had to be bent in these times in order to keep Yoga alive (he taught Vedic chanting to women, foreigners and separated Hinduism from the science of Yoga). I am deeply grateful for the great efforts this man took so that millions of people nowadays could benefit from these profound teachings!

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 incorrect understanding/vipraryaya in depth next week!

50 thoughts on “Sutra I.7 – Chapter I, Sutra 7

  1. since started teacher training, I have noticed I have definitely begun to see things ‘differently’. Im much more calm, less judgmental, and tend to see the bigger picture in confrontations between others and help mend the two sides.
    I like that Yoga is constantly evolving bc that means every teacher can put some of themselves into their practice and transform Yoga for our future generations.
    Like you said, bc of Krishnamacharya women are now able to practice 🙂

    when we are focused on the bigger picture, the smaller stuff really doesnt seem to matter and evolves for the greater good…
    if that makes sense.

    • Christina, thanks for sharing your changes. That is what we are slowly aiming to do. There is an important aspect which is that the changes tend to be slow…so we definitely need patience and determination 🙂

  2. Happy Birthday T Krischnamachayra! What a beautiful day to be celebrating you in relation to this sutra. I feel pramana today after a weekend of yoga study and practice. I am clear in self awareness and connected within. Through my acharya I am experiencing Krischnamacharya’s beautful teachings through inference anumana and agamah. Its such a gift to be a part of this lineage!

  3. I have always been drawn to the idea of seeing things just as they are, without assumptions, judgements, and blind associations…rediscovering the obvious and returning to the things themselves. However, clear seeing takes a very dedicated and deliberate practice. I think in the past I have intellectualized this idea and am only now just beginning to explore and experience it as a state of being. Studying yoga has certainly been drawing me into a more calm and peaceful view of myself, the world, and others.

  4. The path to seeing things clearly seems as if it would take a lifetime to achieve. I don’t believe that anyone can just start to see things clearly just like that. I think that someone’s perception of something will always be there if it is “learned” early and was a repetitive thing. On the journey to seeing things “clearly”, in the beginning this perception will most likely still be there but you become more aware of it and react differently than you used to. Over time, you become more and more aware and maybe finally one day the perception could be changed or retaught.

    • Yes Daniel, Yoga agrees with you. Though in essence we are all the same, we have different backgrounds, personalities and mental and emotional states so some things will be easier for some, others not so much. It is a dimmer switch that lightens with awareness and time…

  5. The Journey to seeing clearly has been very tough for me. Just when I think my mind is changing and starting to see a little more clearer than before, I come up with negative thoughts. It has been a huge challenge to train my mind to think differently and less ashimsa. However, I have notice that I can catch myself when negative thought arise and this never happened before. Part of clearing the mind is realizing when its starting to get cloudy and change from there. As time goes on, hopefully layers of the cloud will start disappearing.

    • We have a lot to be aware of and change, so yes, it takes time, acceptance of where we are and a sense of humor to be able to laugh at ourselves 🙂 We sometimes forget it should be a fun journey too!

  6. The concept of pramana really resonates with me as it relates to how we see ourselves as an entity. Lately, I’ve been grappling with the concept of my “true nature” or purusa. On an intellectual level, I know that I must be more than a body and a mind that work in harmony to make my life possible (and sometimes in disharmony to make my life a challenge, haha) However, I aspire to know this on an experiential level. Whether that be through yoga, or other facets of my life. I am devoting myself to experiencing (pratyaksa), inferring (anumana), and learning from agamah until I can reach a more sustained state of pramana.

  7. My mother raised me with a very strong openness to people. She always tried to switch the situation around with every person I would judge. “That homeless man, have you any idea the struggle he’s been through? The mean girl in school, have you any idea what she goes through in her home life?” etc. I have tried to live my life as she does in a non-judgmental way, so much so, that I (ironically) have noticed I end up judging people who rudely judge! The guy talking smack about a girl he doesn’t even know… I think to myself, “How dare he?! What a $%^&*! he is!” I experienced this feeling consistently with an old roommate. She judged everyone and everything and nothing was to her standards. I snapped on her one day and said things I shouldn’t have said, “Has it ever occurred to you that maybe YOU’RE the crazy one? Have you ever thought that maybe that person is right and your wrong?” I was out of place to say these things because I was judging her judgments. I try to control myself these days, but I still really struggle with the thoughts. Any advice guys?

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  9. For a long time I have thought of what we commonly call “truth” as relative truth. We see what we see, interpret what we interpret, and hear what we hear as individuals and thus, our truths differ, which is not so bad when we are able to practice tolerance. However, it seems to me that pramana and purusa both are beyond relativity. In TT the other week, David mentioned that once you know you’re in it (referring to samadhi) you’re out of it… I’m thinking and wondering if this might be the case with pramana and purusa as well. Something like when we think we know the truth, we no longer do for this moment.

  10. The concept of pranama is very important in daily life. When circumstances arise that are full of conflict I find it best to look at the situation from multiple perspectives. If I am in an argument with a friend, I take stock of all of my feelings and reasons for feeling a certain way, even acknowledging if I feel a certain way for now reason. I then try to do the same thing but place myself in my friend’s thoughts. I have found by doing this, I can be on the path the clearer thought, less clouded by rash judgements and emotions and more objective. It isn’t always easy, but I think I am eventually able to come to a clearer resolution this way.

  11. Recently, I’ve unknowingly been seeking clarity on certain life circumstances through āgamāḥ. I’ve talked and talked and talked to family members and friends who have been through similar situations asking for their experience with it. I’ve struggled with seeing the correct understanding due to my clouded lenses…a constant question of “why” resonates in my mind and heart at the moment. However, no matter who I talk to or posts I read on Rebelle Society the answer continues to be the same…it will take time but it will get better…once you let it go, everything will begin to present itself to you. And no matter how different the situation for each person, the response is always the same…it will get better and you’ll see it all clearly soon, just believe or have faith that everything is flowing the way it’s supposed too.

  12. I like to think about this approach not only for obtaining clear perception, but also for problem-solving. I’ve found that I prefer gaining clarity through my own experiences (“real” life – pratyakasa), but in work and in life, I’ve also found that this isn’t always possible (or a good idea). By using input from others (reliable sources – agamah) as well as using logic to deduce or infer (anumana) what may be the “best” solution, I’m able to make better decisions by using as much information as possible from as many reliable sources as possible. I like this framing, because it represents a more holistic, open view of the situation.

  13. I recently achieved clarity through āgamāḥ (or a reliable source). I felt irritable all day and kept picking on my fiance for things that normally wouldn’t matter or he would do himself. Eventually, he turned to me and said, “What’s really bothering you?” Until then, it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be something else. We were able to talk it out and once I had dealt with it (and achieved more self-awareness), I felt so much better. It was very helpful to have a friend that recognized when my frustration was coming from something I’d internalized and someone to help me see more clearly.

  14. “As we become more aware of our behaviors, words and thought patterns (samskaras), we begin to see from a new angle. This new angle may bring us some pramana…Yoga talks about lack of pramana in our perception of ourselves.“ I think this sutrais really interesting and makes me think of all the incorrect perceptions we have of ourselves. Because we are so quick to identify and attach ourselves to roles (daughter, student, employee, etc.) we often develop misperceptions of who we really are and lose pramana as a result. However, if we can learn to perceive ourselves from a perspective outside of those roles, things seem lighter and we can be more accepting of ourselves and who we are. This sutra brings to ming this quote “The essence of love is perception, therefore, the essence of self love is self perception.”. I think that this is why yoga is so powerful – it brings you to self perception and ultimately self love. I know personally that before yoga I had a very distorted and unhealthy perception of myself, but yoga has helped me grow my self perception and, in turn, appreciation and love for myself “as I am”.

  15. Moving to a different country has been a big source of increased understanding for me. I faced questioning the unquestionable many times, from cooking to social interaction, to deep down value systems. Many times I incorrect understanding and judging “derailed” me or made me unhappy, as much as correct understanding made me happy with a fulfilling sensation of grasping something that “made sense”. It is a great pleasure of mine to feel that things “make sense”.

  16. The path toward a true and clear perception (pramanani) will most certainly take an entire lifetime for me, perhaps the first step is acknowledging our own limitations in order to walk the path. This might sounds trite or vapid but this sutra reminded me of a scene in the movie The Matrix. Here is Neo, our unsung hero on his own journey of self-discovery, meeting the oracle, the one who will tell him only what he needs to hear, and while he is waiting for her to talk to him, a young boy (some of the “awakened” prodigies the oracle has found) is seemingly bending a spoon with his mind. Neo is completely amazed and asks him how he does it and the boy replies “don’t think about bending the spoon, that is impossible, instead think that there is no spoon, so you are bending yourself.” With this, Neo concentrates and realizes the “secret” to the impossible is changing ourselves first, he gently bends the spoon.
    How does this relate? Neo figured out, even for a slight second, clear perception. In this fantastical world the physical isn’t real, in fact all the physical things are a gigantic misrepresentation/misperception of what machines assume humans would want. To boil it down to something less confusing, we at times can be those machines, we build gigantic misperceptions of who we are, what the world around us is like and we walk through life in this fog of confusion, which usually ends in pain. Through this 3 step process we can slowly start to knock down this walls of delusion and start learning truth that is rooted in clear knowledge (pramana) and perhaps remove those obstacles and realize there is no spoon, we only need to bend ourselves.

  17. Well, how do I go after Stephanie’s comment response above! This sutra made me think of all of the “acharyas” I have had in my life and it makes me feel grateful that they have helped guide me through hard times in my life. I am blessed to have such supportive parents, a wonderful career mentor and an amazing yoga teacher! They have all helped me achieve pramana in some way. And for that I am forever grateful. I hope one day I can be an acharya for someone and guide them closer to pranmana. I guess that is the reason I want to be a yoga teacher 🙂

  18. Seeing things with a clear and unclouded mind is sometimes a struggle for me. I tend to hold on to the past, weather it be a bad experience at a restaurant or an argument I had with my boy friend. Because of these experiences I have trouble seeing those same situations without that clouded mind of the past. Yoga has helped me to move forward and simply let go. I am able to have pranmana of situations in my life and it is refreshing to be able to see clearly and have that correct understanding of the present instead of dwelling on the past.

  19. Have you ever experienced a situation with a friend and then listened to them retell the story later on only to realize that their memory of the experience was much different than yours? Sometimes life feels like a giant game of “telephone”, it truly amazes me sometimes the many different ways people can perceive a situation. If the ways in which we are able to find clarity are through our own experience, deduction/inference, and reliable sources, it is no wonder that we are stumbling through the cloudiness much of the time. It seems the more I am able to shift my perspective outside of myself, take time to reflect upon all angles of a situation and even if possible obtain advice the better sense of clarity I receive.

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  21. The amazing thing about yoga is the connections it reveals between people. I am connected to everyone in Teacher Training by one man, T. Krishnamacharya. When I look through the pictures of him in Heart of Yoga, the book authored by his son, this connection is palpable. I wonder if a hundred years ago Krishnamacharya could have anticipated that his action of reviving the ancient practice of yoga would expand so far as to touch a Western working woman in the 21st century. Talk about the ripple effect. I am grateful that Krishnamacharya established the legacy he did because it is one of the reasons we are studying yoga as we know it today, which in turn is helping me to build the life I want. Jai guru!

  22. Studying this sutra reminds me of how I’ve learned at different stages of life. We all perceive through our senses and hopefully over time we will improve upon our perceptions with the help from family, friends, and mentors.

  23. I like thinking about how pramanani is comprised of those three components not just for positive things or thoughts, but how fear and other negative events or emotions can be correctly understood with a balance of experience, deduction and expertise. I think that, sometimes, we can lean on one of these three points more than the others, so both positively and negatively, our understanding can be a bit askew. By reminding myself of the balance between the three, I can continue to strive for awareness to land somewhere in the middle.

  24. I feel very connected to the power of inference. Whether it’s a work or social event, I trust myself to read the energy of a situation, infer what’s going on, and make the best of it! It’s empowering in that sense 🙂

    Inferred fear comes hand-in-hand with this. Whether it’s anumana or agamah, I have shied away from activities to stay in my comfort zone. The lovely Kate in our TT said Day 1 that she tackles scary thing head on… and THAT is inspiring! With small steps and a big smile, I’m learning to let go of that anumana, and just try something new. They say “You’ll never know until you try”, and I am trying that pratyaska!

  25. As i studied in grad school a long while go, i remembered i had to write papers to submit to journals and i had to find references of the latest arts in the field to compare and contrast with. It was quite a memorable process: i had to find certain classic papers that are taken as gospels (as if they are always correct due to the fact the that authors are famous lead experts in the field). And in fact that a lot of times, the data obtained by other authors and even me (trying to replicate certain experiments) showed that the trends are consistent and the data are quite valid. Thus, true perception may be gained via research study, experimentation, comparison or contrast of known facts (or data) resulting a solid building block for further development. It’s analogous to the saying: dont judge a book by its cover; you really need to dig in through and study what’s it about and even study on it’s references or how it is referred to. In fact these days, if we buy certain things online, dont we need to read the feedbacks/reviews first to see weather a product is good or not…

  26. I find more comfort in experiencing things for myself (pratyaksa) to gain a better understanding, but am aware that isn’t always the case in some areas of growth. I always try to see past the “clouds” or my clouds and find truth.

  27. I think having correct perception, knowledge, and understanding is very difficult. I think there are many times when you think you have them and you are actually mistaken. I feel most of the time I end up trying to make inferences and my judgment is slightly clouded by other influences. Therefore, it is really hard for me to know if I truly understand what I should be at the time.

    I think it is difficult to also find a reliable source. I find there are a few people in my life that I think are very reliable. That being said, they could also have their judgment clouded and turn out not to be as reliable as I thought (even though they are trying to be).

    I believe gaining understanding through direct experiences is the most I come to really grasping something. I realize this is not always possible, but I think that is why we should try to experience as much as we can and share our experiences and teachings with others as well.

  28. I tend to hold onto past hurts. I struggle with people who have hurt me in the past or situations. When I have to be in a situations with those people, I tend to be very guarded and imagine the worst case scenario. I am becoming more aware of the work it takes to achieve parmana.

  29. The best example for this would be in birth work. Birth in this country is viewed as this really scary event by way of stories from friends and family and socially through media and entertainment. By using reliable sources (books, classes and birth coaches) you gain regain affirmations and tools to better assist in the event of birth. Otherwise the fear aspect of this thinking will hinder the process.

  30. My granddaughter and I went to the zoo, she is 2. She LOVES the snakes. I hate even looking at them. She wants to hold them and pet them. I realized that I hate snakes because my mom hates snakes. My granddaughter has no preconception of a snake. I realized that this is just one simple “thought” that I have been taught. I have never had an encounter with a snake, but hated and feared them anyway.

  31. I am best able to relate to this sutra in the way the 3 points of comprehension can actually lead to miscomprehension- gossip and hearsay. Relating it to the stories that fly around my work, ‘Pat’ may tell me a story she heard from ‘Adam’ (1- she did not observe herself) that ‘Laura’ was being lazy and not answering any phone calls (2- which i have no memories to reference of this being her normal behavior). I do remember hearing other unlikely stories from ‘Pat’ before (3- not a reliable source) so that tells me this also may be a false story. If I don’t stop and consider these 3 points and make my own decision about the truthfulness of the story and repeated it to someone else it would just go on and on. People can be so eager for juicy gossip that it’s easy to forget to think and accurately comprehend the truth of the situation. Maybe ‘Laura’ lost her voice and was told not to bother answering the phone!

  32. After starting Teacher Training I feel more aware in the way that I react to certain situations or people. It has helped me understand why others and myself may act the way we do and try not to take things personally as it may have nothing to do with me directly. I realize that we each have our own issues that we may be working on or not, because some are not even aware of them yet to know how they are affecting others, like I was or am at times. Getting frustrated or upset with others may be something that started within me, because most of the time my frustration grows from internalizing and not doing anything about the situation. I have slowly been getting better at being more expressive with people about how I feel and not internalize things so much, so that we have a better understanding of each other.
    Without yoga, I would still be clouded and would have taken they way people act more personally and gotten directly upset with them, when they may have their own issues they may not even be aware of like me at times. ☺

    I am grateful to our acharya and T Krishnamacharya’s dedication to these teachings, I feel blessed to benefit from these teachings and looking forward to grow with more understanding of myself and other beings and helping others do the same.

  33. As I’ve become older, I’ve relied less and less on other people’s perceptions of individuals and more and more on my own direct perception (pratyaksa). I’ve found that becoming an adult while living in a city like Chicago, one meets dozens of people everyday. It is important to not infer (anumana) character judgment on others before having a direct personal experience -in most cases. This, however, would not apply to serial killers- as I would GLADLY take other people’s opinion on them before meeting them on my own!

    I am so grateful for the teachers I’ve learned from during this Yoga training. They have helped shape me in a way no one else could- including myself. Although my mirror can get very clouded at times, it is becoming clearer and clearer everyday- more and more pramana is absorbed each time I go to a yoga class, speak with a seasoned instructor, or read about the teachings of Krishnamacharya. The only other activity that I feel gives me this is learning about the universe- reading Carl Sagan books, learning about about our place in outer space and how magical and lucky being alive really is.

  34. Sometimes I can get caught up in my own drama. In making inferences from the past, I have found myself lugging my past around with me. Stepping back to gain some perspective, reading a book, or talking to friends or relationship experts has taught me so much. While I believe that we have all the answers inside ourselves, having some outside perspective often helps to uncover the correct perception.

  35. It’s amazing to see when there are few people who are in the same situation but having totally different experiences. It all is based on their personal experience of pratyaksa and anumana. I try to be open and understand everybody since our experiences are so different. Practicing pramana thought me not to jump to conclusions, be more observant and patient.

  36. I trust my senses. I feel confident saying most people do (perhaps to a fault). I think, more importantly, we as a society need to learn from our elders (or reliable sources). While they are often wrong and old fashioned (and gasp! human), they have walked the path before, and there is certainly something to be learned from them. For me personally, it would be my skills in deduction that should be constantly checked. As long as I know I am operating from that particular function, I can better judge the overall accuracy of a decision or conclusion I draw from a situation.

  37. I like to be very decisive and strategic. When friends asked why I’m studying to become a yoga teacher I said “I want to deepen my practice and hopefully it helps me mellow out!” I want to mellow out, I need to mellow out, I need to change the way I look at things (pramana), However, as I read this Sutra I am reminded of how my mind constantly develops plans on how I can get there. If I read the Yoga Sutras, practice yoga 2 times a week and meditate – boom I’ll be good to go. I know it sounds silly to approach yoga like this, but sometimes I can’t help myself. In my mind, 1+2 always = 3. Not with yoga, just because I read the sutras and practice yoga, doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll mellow out and get anywhere close to pramana. I need to just let it all go and enjoy the journey – not focus on the end goal.

  38. This sutra reminds me of the importance of recognizing the many different ways I am absorbing my yoga knowledge. Sometimes I focus too much on the knowledge that I must gain from learning Yoga philosophy from a book. I liken this type of learning to the direct observation and purposeful studying of the object. However, I can also learn through inference of feeling the effect of Yoga on my body and mind. There is an inherent knowledge/truth that we can all access within ourselves if we train ourselves to learn from our body and the experiences Yoga brings. And, if I become lost or confused trying to make sense of what I am inferring, I can rest assured knowing that there are reliable teachers I can use to guide me. All three ways of learning will be important to incorporate throughout my teacher training journey.

  39. Who can be our reliable source if we don’t have a guru or yoga teacher to depend on? How can I try to develop pramana if the reliability of a source is almost always in question? What constitutes reliability? This sutra is tough for me because I know that I want to see things more clearly and not look at myself through a distorted lens that societal pressure has helped to create, but this is not easily done.

  40. I trust my senses yes. That is the direct experience of the event. We gat into trouble when the brain starts to process or question it. Yoga is helpful in keeping the experience simple. Do not add or bring in other irrelevant experiences to something. It is what creates drama. In psychology it is called generalization, for example the story of the little boy who was bitten by a white rabbit when trying to pet it. It became that he was afraid of all things soft and white because he was not able to limit the experience to that one event. The brain over generalizes at times to protect us, but sometimes it limits us to a traumatic experience. Teachers and reliable sources help us to weed out the experience from the present circumstance. We get our clarity to help us understand when a memory is interfering with our experience and when it is helpful or not.

  41. I find this sutra so interesting because it speaks of not only gaining knowledge and perception, but also developing and understanding fear. Through various experiences, we develop what we know and also what we are afraid of. We learn to avoid certain situations and form ideas in our mind of what is fearful to us. While I believe it is important to gain knowledge and to form your own view of the word, I also find importance in challenging your own view as well as challenging your fears. Try to understand what made you scared of a particular person or situation, and see if that can possibly be changed to learn from a possibly scary situation in a proactive way rather than avoiding it. At the same time, it is natural for people to have fears, and each person has a unique set of fears based on either their direct experience (pratyaksa), inferences (anumana), or reliable sources (agamah). It can be hard to challenge things that become so embedded in who we are, but it can also be uplifting to release some of those previously held fears and open yourself to new experiences.

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