Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chapter 1, Sutra 7

sutra 1.7

pratyaksanuman agamah pramanani

The sources of right knowledge are direct perception, inference, and authoritative testimony

When I first started studying the Yoga Sutras the words right knowledge made me suspicious. I figured I'd had enough religious training in my youth to know that I did not want to know what right knowledge was.
The Adolescent Alice within said "Who's to tell me what right knowledge is? Any one else in here but me? Nope. Then I'm the only one who knows what I know that I know that I am knowing..." Her voice trails off into confusion.
The sutras state that right knowledge is not an inherited set of behaviors or rules to live by. Right knowledge is gained through direct perception and experience.
"Yes, Alice, it does
seem you are driving the bus," says Sri Patanjali wearily. "But, do you know where you're going?"
"Yeah, sure," Adolescent Alice says, but it's pretty clear she has no idea.

So how do we know that we know? Patanjali begins with sense perceptions—seeing, hearing, touching even intuition. Though it gets more complex. How do we know that what we are perceiving isn't just relative—colored by our past experience?
"Well, it is," says Patanjali. "The whole picture is colored by the goggles you happen to be wearing in this life."
"I'm not wearing goggles."
"It's a metaphor dummy."
"Oh." Adolescent Alice is getting nervous. "I knew that."
"Through Yoga, the goggles get cleaner. Right now your googles are pretty muddy.
"My goggles are not fuckin muddy," Adolescent Alice likes to swear.
"What you know is known through perception, but what is perception. What is perceiving?"
Adolescent Alice replies, "
I perceive! And since I am the Perceiver, I am in Right Knowledge." She's satisfied, though she's not sure what she just said.
Patanjali sighs. "Alice, your knowledge is arrived at though means other than your senses. You also can know through inference. "
Inference is too big a word for Adolescent Alice. She thinks it's something like a reference, of which she's sure she'll not get a good one.
"Inference is for squares," she says.
"Inference is the faculty of discrimination," says Patanjali, lighting a cigarette.
"Discrimination is WRONG! DOWN WITH DISCRIMINATION!" Adolescent Alice pumps her fist in the air.
"Discrimination, dummy, is the faculty of the mind that tells you when you see smoke there may be a fire."
"It might be a cloud," Adolescent Alice retorts.
"It might be," Patanjali stubbs out his cigarette. "But when you hear sirens and then see a red truck you might infer—fire. Fire is hot. Fire burns. Fire can kill. Run for your life!!" Patanjali has jumped up and waving his arms and shouting. "
That is discrimination." He suddenly sits down. "Discrimination is when someone tries to sell you pair of used socks as new even though you can see they're old and stinky. That is discrimination." He rearranges the folds of his robes.
"You don't have to yell." Adolescent Alice wants to ask Sri Patanjali to borrow a smoke, but she's kind of scared of him.
"But, inference is often informed by ignorance."
Patanjali is making her nervous. There seems to be a lot of hoops to jump through to arrive a "right knowledge." It's probably too hard.
"How do you know if you've arrived at right knowledge anyway?" Asks Alice. "Who determines the right way?"
"Remember how we talked about kleshta?"
"Um...refresh my memory."
"Kleshtakleshta. From the sutra 1.4. You know. Kleshta!" He's irritated with Adolescent Alice.
"Noooo. I don't know, Sri Patanjali."
"Kleshtakleshta how Patanjali explains experiences as beneficial or not. When you have an experience that points you in the direction of the Divine, you are on the way to right knowledge. That's what you have senses for. To find the way home."
"Uh, I am home."
"Metaphor, dummy."
Patanjali softens. "You might also find a good teacher, or a borrow a good book with a map to show you." He says. "Here's a pretty good one." He casually tosses Adolescent Alice a little paper back book called
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. "This ones good too," He whips a Bible from his robes. "And they say these are good too, though I haven't read them all." He tosses out a Koran, Bhagavad Gita and "Mastering The Art of French Cooking." Alice doesn't pick up any of them .
"I don't like authority."
"I know," says Patanjali becoming kinder. "All those guru types out there," he sighs, "they wreck the whole deal." He lights another cigarette. "But, there are some truly enlightened masters too."
"Can I have a cigarette?"
"Sure." Patanjali even lights if for her.
"I can't see really trusting anything or anyone but myself," she says a little defiantly, but she really means it.
"Well, ultimately," Patanjali blows a smoke ring. "
You are the only one who can decide if the knowledge you've attained is the right knowledge."
"I knew that," Adolescent Alice says. She blows a smoke ring too.
"I knew you knew that." They smoke in silence together.

Have you ever thought about how you know what you know?

Do you care about how you know what you know?

Take one thing you feel totally and utterly sure about and examine why you are totally and utterly sure about it.

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