February 29, 2020

Sutra 1.7-1.8: Experience Seeker

Samadhi Pada: Yoga of Being in the Now

    1.7 Pratyaksanumanagamah pramanani
    1.8 Viparyayo mithyajnanam atadrupa pratistham
    • pratyaksa = that which is directly seen
    • anumana = inference/deduction
    • agamah = learning from reliable source/testimony
    • pramanani = accurate/right knowledge

    • viparyayo = misconception/illusion
    • mithya = false
    • jnanam = idea
    • atadrupa = not its true form
    • pratistham = occupying/based on

In my yoga journey, the teachers who have influenced and inspired me the most are those who share their knowledge but encourage me to take what they have passed on, test it out for myself, have the experience and then come to my own conclusions. They tend to see themselves not so much as an authoritiy, but more like a vessel for the teachings. I continually strive to take these example to heart in my own quest to experience yoga and life which is why these next two sutras have me excited. In a nutshell, sutra 1.7 is about finding YOUR truth through YOUR experience, and sutra 1.8 cautions us about the possibility of not seeing this truth clearly because of stories brought in by the mind.

Remember the last sutras (1.5 &1.6) which gave us a list of how we could categorize our thoughts? Sutra 1.7 and 1.8 are the first two categories on the list: right knowledge and misconception. The first category of our thoughts (right knowledge or direct perception) gives us another list in sutra 1.7. This sutra says that we can discover our OWN truth by having our own experiences. According to this sutra there are 3 ways we can know the truth of right knowledge
  1. direct experience
  2. inference or proof
  3. validation or learning from a reliable source
Let's look at these three ways through an example of a forest fire. With direct experience, if we are driving by, we'll actually see the flames, smell the smoke, and feel the heat. With inference we'll have an indirect experience that could involve standing on our deck, looking off into the distance, seeing smoke rising out of the forest and deducing there is a fire. With a reliable source, we see on the local news that the crew is at the scene of a forest fire. Gaining right knowledge through experience with these three different ways may seem simple enough, but we have become used to seeing things through different filters that obstruct our clarity. Sutra 1.8 warns us about this.

Sutra 1.8 deals with the second category of the mind which is misconception. Though we may go out and have experiences, we have to continue to do work to find our OWN truth in our experiences. Our mind is very good at coming up with stories that "colour" the truth which is where misconceptions come in. The previous three ways of coming to right knowledge are great and valid on their own, but can still lead to misconceptions. For example, new experiences without validation can cause confusion. Inferences without direct experience can be clouded by judgments, preconceived notions, regret, unresolved issues, etc. What we think are reliable sources may actually turn out not to be. On their own these three ways of finding right knowledge can lead us to truth, but if we can get the three to converge and corroborate each other it provides more support for clarity and less opportunity for misconceptions.

I see these sutras as telling us to go out and "try the things" Seeking out and having our own new experiences is what needs to come first. Only then can we sort through the mind to discover what is real and valid and true for us. So, my challenge for you this week is to go out there, have experiences and try new things. You know what you don't know, but also know you don't know what you don't know. Have fun!  

Sutra 1.7 Direct perception, proof and validation are right knowledge.
Sutra 1.8  Misconception is based on false mental constructs. 

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