Yoga Sutra 1.7
Yoga Sutra 1.7:
pratyakṣā ʻnumānā ʻgamāḥ pramāṇāni
(prat-yak-sha nu-mān-ah gāma-ha prah-mān-ani)
Valid knowledge is direct perception (pratyaksha), verifiable deduction (anumānā) and the word of one who has already reached the goal (agama).
- प्रत्यक्ष pratyakṣā – direct experience through the mind or senses
- नुमाना anumānā – inferring, drawing conclusions
- गमा agamāḥ – tradition or teacher
- प्रमाणानि pramāṇāni – right perception or right knowledge
In the previous Sutra commentary we alluded to the difficulties surrounding the concept of Truth. We believe it is important in this day and age to point out this challenge. Who gets to say what is True? To take it a step further, What would you do to protect the Truth?
Historically, we see many figures in roles of power making decisions based on their ideal of the Truth. We can easily agree that not all of the decisions in history were based on factual Truth. So how does Yoga tackle the Truth?
In order to understand Pramana we must remember that the world around us presents itself through different levels of energy. The economically driven energetic level of the Newspapers, Politics, Magazine Articles, Social Media, Opinion Pieces, etc, is a one level in which we might fruitlessly search for the Truth. With each politician or author convincing us they hold the ultimate ‘Truth’ of the matter. This type of ‘Truth,’ found at the level of convincing others, is going to be extremely difficult to sift through.
Perhaps it would be easiest to start at the top. In Yoga, we believe that every concept that is manifested in the physical world is coming from the spiritual level first and then filters down into the physical world. To the Yogi, the ultimate Truth is that we are a part of Brahma (Universal Consciousness) and therefore we are all connected. Each action I take will consequently affect every other being. Truth must originate from this level of understanding the union that exists between all beings. Pramana may then mean the truth of “knowing our Truest Self.”
The Yoga Sutras offer the practitioner more guidelines to understanding the Truth:
- प्रत्यक्ष pratyakṣā – Direct Perception – In direct perception you know something is True because you have directly experienced it. For example, when my daughter was about two years old she liked to help cook. She would pull up a step stool so that she could see the stove and help cook. For a few months we told her not to touch the electric stove or the frying pan because it would burn her. But not having the experience of being burned my daughter was either intrigued or just didn’t understand my meaning and one day reached out and purposely touched the hot stove or pan.
- नुमाना anumānā – Inferring or Drawing a Conclusion – After that experience she then knew for herself what it meant to be burned. So now if she sees a pot on the electric stove she knows it’s hot even if she does not see the heat or the fire.
- गमा agamāḥ – Tradition or Teacher – Ever since my daughter burned herself on the stove the first time, if I say “watch out thats hot” my daughter reacts quickly. I personally have had a lot of experience with hot things in my life but my daughter was too young to really understand what it meant to Trust what someone says even if you do not understand what they really mean. This brings us to the third way in which we discern the Truth. The word of someone we trust or a tradition or sacred text. You may not have thought of energy in the body until someone mentioned it, you may not have had the idea of the soul until someone mentioned it, you may not have had an idea of what is right or wrong until someone mentioned it. Sometimes we need those who have experience to enlighten us to something we might otherwise look over. It is important that if the agamāḥ is a person it is someone that you really trust and that only has good intention for you.
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