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!