Book 1, Sutra 7: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
“CORRECT THOUGHTS, ‘PRAMANA,’ COME FROM EITHER YOUR OWN DIRECT AND ACCURATE PERCEPTION, ACCURATE LOGICAL INFERENCE (REASONING) OR THE TESTIMONY OF A TRUSTWORTHY SOURCE.”
Patanjali gives us three different ways that we can arrive at holding a factual, accurate thought in our mind. Remember that even a factual, correct thought can cause us pain or pleasure depending on our current emotions. The thought, ‘Joe So and So has died,’ for instance, may be a fact (pramana) that can cause us tremendous pain if Joe was our father and can cause us joy, perhaps, if Joe was our foremost business competitor. Remember also, that even a factual thought, a pramana, is part of the fluctuations of the mind that must subside in our journey towards yoga, as Patanjali states in the earlier sutra #2.
“Anumana” is the Sanskrt word for logical reasoning in this sutra and it covers all of not only philosophy but also mathematics. Mathematics is, in essence, the science of pure reasoning (adding, subtracting, dividing) not as much with ideas but with symbolic representations of ideas (numbers). And as the modern physics shows so clearly, mathematics has produced some of the most advanced thinking in the past 70 years or more. Even earlier than that, scientists used math to infer the fact that there were more planets beyond Saturn that we couldn’t see. Moreover, scientists used math to infer the existence of elements (that we weren’t aware of yet) from mathematical “holes” in the table of elements.
It is interesting to note that the word “pramana” describes the state of having a true or factual thought but it doesn’t indicate how much confidence we have in that thought. We may read something from a trustworthy source, something from the teachings of Jesus perhaps, that is a fact of life, but we may not have much confidence in it. It is a pramana, a fact, but we may have doubts about whether it is or not. We may even share it with others as if it was a fact but deep inside we may not be so sure. Pramana therefore describes a thought that is actually correct whether or not we are aware that it is correct.
Much of mathematics involves inference that will not be accepted as fact until it has gone through quite extensive testing. Only after many years of experimentation do we realize whether the thought was factual or fancy. Similarly, in our personal lives, we may hold a “pramana” that we use to guide our decisions and only after many years of using this “pramana” do we realize whether it has steered us astray or has been an accurate reference point in order to make decisions. Only experience tells us whether something is a “pramana” or not but Patanjali states that whether we know about a thought’s accuracy or not, it’s truth or lack thereof is independent and solid.
Posted on October 25, 2015, in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Uncategorized and tagged fact, inference, mathematics, philosophy, pramana, scriptural faith, thoughts, yoga. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.