Pramana in Yoga Meditation
QUICK EXPLANATION ON PRAMANA
Pramana = one of the five kinds of thoughts or vrittis; there are five kinds of movements in the mind-field and one of them is pramana (yogasutra 1.6)
Pramana = movements in the mind that are “right knowledge”, based on at least one of these three principles
1) direct experience
2) knowledge from the scriptures, or testimony
5 kinds of thoughts are: pramana, viparyaya, vikalpa, nidra, smriti
We want to understand the meaning of pramana, but not merely by knowing its definition; we want to be able to observe it in our daily life. Thus choose for a day or a week to be aware of this movement of mind, called pramana, as you go through activities, situations, and conversations. Observe how pramana relates to actions, thoughts, and speech. You want to find your own examples of pramana, so that you have direct knowledge of this concept of pramana.
One way to start is to catch a thought, any thought… since there are only 5 kinds of thoughts (vrittis) this thought has to be one of these five. Is this a thought of pramana, of right knowledge or not? If so; on which of the three principles of pramana can you based the state that this thought is right knowledge. It is because of direct experience (perceiving it for yourself), knowledge from the scriptures or some ones testimony, or is it based on your own inference. If it is not pramana, find out by using buddhi, which of the other four kinds of thoughts it is. An example is that it’s a correct thought that this is a screen you are looking at, no matter which devices, it has a screen. Look around in the room or space where you are sitting, see how quickly you know all the objects that are in this space. These are all pramana vrittis. An object fall of the table because of gravity, knowing this law is also pramana. To know that there is a fear for spiders, when you see one, or think about it is also pramana. Knowing how the four functions of mind work is also pramana. And eventually knowing that all these thoughts are not who I really am is also pramana.
Internal dialogue about pramana
Eventually we want to know all our incorrect perceptions (viparyaya) and expand to a view in which we see things clearly as they are, so that viparyaya is replaced by pramana vrittis. The more you are living in a state of vairagya (non-attachment), the less ragas and dveshas (and other kleshas) your mind-field has; the more you will be able to perceive things as they are, and not through colored glasses through which perception is altered. Therefore have a dialogue with your mind about the nature of perception and how it is changed by the kleshas. You can ask your mind to show you the attachments that are stored in your mind, so that you can become aware of them and un-color them. When you learn to talk to your mind, the mind will become a great friend that can help you on the path. Then the mind starts to help you to bring you towards pramana, what a joy!
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DAILY OBSERVATION AND YOGIC SELF-AWARENESS ASSESSMENT
Eventually the concept of pramana will swim around in your awareness all the time, as it becomes a part of constant self-awareness. Also, becoming aware of pramana will have the effect that you will increase your use of this word in your daily vocabulary to express yourself and you will discover how pramana relates to other concepts, processes, or insights. For example, you may come to see that pramana is related to sattva, or you find a relationship between buddhi and pramana. Eventually you will discover how all these concepts dance together and coming to know this dance will guide you towards that which is beyond all the concepts. This is because as you increase your self-awareness, you will discover that everything you can observe is not who you truly are, your true Self has nothing to do with pramana, you are the One that is able to witness all these concepts. Therefore pramana itself have to be transcended, who you really are is beyond pramana. This will increase the non-attachment towards pramana itself, while you can be in awe of the beauty of the Divine dance of Consciousness that appears to play as right knowledge, as pramana. Therefore practicing self-awareness is actually practicing not-self-awareness by which the True Self will eventually reveal itself.
Look at the self-assessment PDF (assessment-yymmdd.pdf) and a PDF that includes daily internal dialogue and daily observation (sumseven-yymmdd.pdf) on the website of www.abhyasaashram.org (when you are on this page scroll all the way down to find the downloadable PDFs) These PDFs can be used as tools to explore and expand your understanding on pramana.
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MORE ON PRAMANA
If we start to understand the difference between the five kinds of vrittis and are able to recognize them while they are active, we can easily see that pramana is the most useful to cultivate. Vikalpa can also useful when we want to be creative, but only if we are aware of it, not done unconsciously as in day dreaming, this is not useful. A good recall of memories (smriti) when it comes to working-knowledge is also useful, provided that these memories are based or pramana or right perception and knowledge. nidra should be brought under your control, meaning you should be in this state not too long, nor too short. Gradually with practice a yogi is able to more frequently sleep consciously, being in the state of yoga nidra, then ‘normal’ nidra is not needed so much. Viparyaya is the one we want to replace with pramana, so that our observations, perceptions, and knowledge is correct and not ‘wrong’ as in misinterpreted, misidentified, incorrect perceptions.
Pramama, vikalpa, or viparyaya can all happen at the same time
When you look at an object and you perceive its characteristics, you can judge which object is it. If you look at a doll, you know it is a doll; this is right knowledge (pramana). At the same time it’s easy to also see that it is merely a piece of plastic and fabric. Depending on how you look at it you can say it is pramana (it is a doll), or you can say it is viparyaya, as it is nothing but plastic and you superimpose on it that it is a doll. Or seeing the doll in the plastic is merely vikalpa, you imagine it to be a doll. Another example; this is a screen you are looking at, right? This is right knowledge, called pramana. But if you start to understand that all of the manifestation is a dance of shakti, or the illusion of maya, then you can fairly say that anything that can be observed is vikalpa or viparyaya. Because to think it is a screen is not correct, it is shakti, maya, or the dance of leela! Therefore it depends on how you look at a vritti, and realize that by changing your point of view it can be pramana, vikalpa, or viparyaya. But to not lose the beautiful practical application of these five vrittis, it is useful to know when something is perceived correctly, and thus is called pramana. And when something is an imagination or incorrectly perceived, and thus is called vikalpa or viparyaya.
Eventually you see that also pramana has to go
To do nirodhah to all the vrittis, means you also have to let go of pramana itself. To go from avidya to vidya, pramana has to go too, as these correct perceptions or right knowledge are still based on movements of the mind. And to realize the Self you will have to go beyond the mind.
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YOGASUTRAS ON PRAMANA
1.6 The five varieties of thought patterns to witness are: 1) knowing correctly (pramana), 2) incorrect knowing (viparyaya), 3) fantasy or imagination (vikalpa), 4) the object of void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra), and 5) recollection or memory (smriti).
pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smritayah
read more on www.swamij.com
1.7 Of these five, there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge (pramana): 1) perception, 2) inference, and 3) testimony or verbal communication from others who have knowledge.
pratyaksha anumana agamah pramanani
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SWAMI RAMA ON PRAMANA
”Right knowledge is that knowledge that helps you to dispel the darkness of ignorance. Right knowledge is that knowledge which helps you to know things as they are, in their totality. Here is another definition: If you only know a part of mind, that is not right knowledge because you do not know mind in its totality. So, right knowledge means “knowing mind in its totality.”
Right knowledge is called pramana because it is based on facts. That which stands with the help of evidence is called pramana. There are three kinds of pramanas; direct experience; knowledge from the scriptures, or testimony; and inference. If smoke is visible far away in the mountains, you can assume that there is fire because smoke is one of the evidences of fire. If you know with the help of one of these three pramanas or evidences, that is right knowledge.
How can you gain right knowledge of anything? When you directly experience or perceive something and that is confirmed by the authorities of the scriptures, that is called pramana. In the mundane world, right knowledge is that knowledge which is supported by one of three evidences. Direct evidence: I see that this is a blackboard. I do not need to read the scriptures to help me in knowing that this is a blackboard because I perceive it directly. There is no hindrance in my perception so I can say it is right knowledge. If I cannot prove that this is a blackboard, if I am still doubtful, of if you are confusing me by telling me that this is not a blackboard, then I will study that part of the scriptures that will help me to know that this is a blackboard. I will also look for the symptoms. After collecting all the evidence, I know that this is a blackboard. This is called right knowledge.”
~ Samadhi pg. 141
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SWAMI JNANESHVARA ON PRAMANA
Read the whole article “Witnessing” on www.swamij.com
Yoga deals with pramana/correct knowing: Yoga really deals with the first kind of thought, that of Pramana, or seeing correctly. In a sense, we could ignore the other four. However, it is useful to know about, and to observe the other four, so that we can intentionally focus on training the mind to see clearly. It is this correct knowledge that is the key to advancement on the spiritual journey.