An Exploration: Development of Self through Right Knowledge

What knowledge do you use to make decisions? How do you know if your knowledge is correct? When we use incorrect or false knowledge, we make poor decisions, we judge others, and we live unconnected to our innermost wisdom and desires. We become attached and stuck in our stories, fantasies, and memories. It is easy for us to get caught in the weeds of fantasies, dialogs of memories, and misunderstandings. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is one of the foundational texts used in the study and practice of yoga and it considers how we perceive. 

The yoga sutra text is focused on establishing control of the mind. Accurate discernment of knowledge is key to the formulation of productive thoughts and decisions. It is easy to have the ego engaged. It requires more consideration, effort, and stillness to come from a place of discernment and knowing? Here is one small aspect from the Yoga Sutra. 

 Sutra 1.6, pramana-viparyaya-vikalpa-nidra-smrtayah

pramana– source of right knowledge (Sutra 1.7 perception, interference/logic, testimony)
viparayaya– error
vikalpa– imagination or fancy
nidra– sleep
smrtayah– memory 

Translated this sutra states-

(The five vrittis* are) right knowledge, error, imagination, sleep, and memory. 
*vrittis – movements of the mind

According to the sutras, we are in one of above states or its subset at any moment and we are either experiencing harmful, damaging experiences (klista) or non-detrimental (aklista) experiences. The sutras remind us that we can’t fully rely on our perception because our understanding can be shrouded with falsehoods. 

Yoga provides the student paths forward with respect to right knowledge. One ultimately must develop the ability to rest in a still and focused mind. Meditation and focus practices are most helpful to live more fully in right perception, right knowledge. 

Patanjali writes about stilling the mind and according to the Yoga Sutras this is achieved by moving through the limbs of yoga toward Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) and beyond. Withdrawing the senses allows for the practitioner to not be influenced by the external. I often talk in terms of moving to stillness and beyond the body and the senses. We move from the outside and toward the inner world where all is known and unaffected by error, memory, and fantasy. This is a big topic, and we are dipping in a toe. I hope you are just a curious as I am. 

Exploration

Join me in exploring how you perceive. Consider using a journal of your thoughts and explore how they change over 30 days. I would recommend doing this work after a meditation but it will also consider thoughts throughout the day as they arise. 

  1. Take a moment to think of a time when you have experienced the following- correct perception, wrong understanding, imagination or fantasy, sleep (absence of content), and memory (actual or dreams/fantasy). 
  2. Take a moment to consider your inner dialog, beliefs and explore your truths, your errors of perception, fantasies, you the stories you tell yourself and put out to the world. 
  3. How you can support pramana or right knowledge for your development of self. What practices help you? Think outside the box too;)

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