I.7 प्रत्यक्षानुमानागमाः प्रमाणानि

pratyakṣānumānāgamāḥ pramāṇāni
pratyakṣa-anumāna-āgamāḥ pramāṇāni

“Right perception is from direct observation, inference, or reliable testimony.”

Patañjali explains the sources of right perception (pramāna) and lists direct observation (pratyakṣa) first. The tradition of yoga places a high value on the practitioner’s experience, even above reason or teaching. Indeed, Patañjali’s text is considered more of a manual for practice than a philosophical treatise.

The word pratyakṣa literally  translates as bringing “the eye towards” something. (The eye is a stand-in for the all the senses.) Anumāna derives from anu-, “after,”  and (same root as pramāna), “to measure.” It is inference, a process that happens after observation; it involves interpretation, judgement based on past experience, logic. Āgama (from the verb āgam, “to come”) is knowledge from an authority or reliable source. The word is also used to refer to scripture or sacred text:  it is the knowledge that has “come” to us down through the generations.

Yoga can be understood to be a clearing of the senses of perception, as a process towards better and more accurate direct perception. In the words of William Blake,

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything
would appear to man as it is, Infinite.

….

“Whatever our senses perceive is right knowledge, provided there has been no element of delusion. Whatever we infer from our direct perception is also right knowledge, provided our reasoning is correct. The scriptures are based on the superconscious knowledge obtained by great spiritual teachers while in the state of perfect yoga. Therefore they also are right knowledge.”–commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God: the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, p. 25

“The Yoga school accepts three sources [of pramāṇa] but it is very clear that it considers pratyakṣa the highest, not just because the other pramānas depend on it, but because it is the only way of truly knowing the essential nature of an object…. Even the startling claims of omniscience that occur later in the text are relevant only as signposts of experience that the yogī will encounter on the path of Yoga, not as articles of faith.” –Edwin Bryant, The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, p. 36-38

“The practice of āsana brings intelligence to the surface of the cellular body through stretching and to the physiological body by maintaining the pose. Once awakened, intelligence can reveal its dynamic aspect, its ability to discriminate.” –commentary on I.7 by B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali

Questions:
• Continue to reflect on Patañjali’s classification of thoughts/feelings as being either afflicting or non-afflicting. Which of your thoughts—in your estimation—promote citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (the calming of the fluctuations of the consciousness). Are you aware of thoughts that take you toward avidya (ignorance)?
• Is any thought that could be classified as “true knowledge” non-afflicting?
• In your practice this week, notice the role of direct perception. Also, what is the effect of practice on sense perception?
• What inferential knowledge is important to you?
• Who are your authorities?

pratyakṣa-

noun in compound

direct observation (from prati-, “towards,” + akṣa, “eye”)

anumāna-

noun in compound

inference (from anu, “after,” +, “to measure”)

āgamāḥ

masculine noun, 1st case pl.

testimony from a reliable or authoritative source, traditional word for scripture (from āgam, “to come”)

pramāṇāni

neuter noun, 1st case pl.

right perception, true knowledge

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