1.7 प्रत्यक्षानुमानागमः प्रमाणानि
pratyakṣa – direct (sense) perception; anumāna – inference, logic; agamāḥ – scriptural testimony, authoritative texts, words of authoritative teachers, Rishis, & guru; pramāṇāni – (are the) sources of comprehension, correct understanding:
The sources of correct understanding are direct perception, inference and the words (written or spoken) of authorities.
1.7 pratyakṣānumānāgamāḥ pramāṇāni
The sources of correct understanding are direct perception, inference and words (written or spoken) by authorities.
So here we see the English synonyms for each of the Sanskrit words in this śloka or sutra. I think all of them are relatively easy to follow; I just want to make mention of ‘agamāḥ’, which is authoritative testimony, and in the ancient Vedic culture, since the very beginnings these authorities were considered …well loosely termed, a scriptural authority or written spiritual texts, and words of the great saintly teachers – the rishi’s, and genuine or bona fide guru. So this is the first of the five vṛttis mentioned by Patañjali, and it is called ‘pramāṇāni’, or the different methods of obtaining accurate information about reality.
How one perceives and correctly understands reality is dealt with in great detail in the sāṅkya-yoga system. We will just touch on it here for a moment. The originator of sāṅkya-yoga is the great Kapiladeva. Something that has been mentioned to me by my spiritual teachers …my guru…was that, in reality there were two Kapila’s. There was the Kapiladeva, who in the most ancient of times was considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and he spoke to his mother Devahūti, the sāṅkya philosophy. Then a considerable time after that – still in ancient times for us – there was another proponent of sāṅkya who also had the name Kapila, and what he did was codify many of these teachings in a sāṅkya text. And sometimes there is a bit of confusion between these two personalities.
Vyāsa, the commentator, or the earliest known commentator that we have on Patañjali’s Yoga Sutra, he concludes his commentary by stating that this is the commentary of sāṅkya-yoga, as that is propounded…. on the yoga philosophy propounded by Patañjali. So, we understand that not all of the principles that were presented by the second Kapila, are completely in line with older Vedic authority and Vedic teachings. So for that reason, we don’t necessarily accept all of Vyāsa’s commentary as being what Patañjali actually meant. For myself and others and in such lineages, we understand that the commentary must align with Vedic authority – ‘agamāḥ’.
So direct sense perception is one of the items being mentioned here, and here it is referencing of course to the ordinary senses, but there has to be this understanding and appreciation about the sense of limitations, or the limitations placed on the senses. It is true that our five senses can indicate to us some reality as opposed to a fantasy, but we also understand that there are limitations to this perception in terms of whether we are really perceiving the ultimate spiritual reality. Our eyes we understand, are very limited and one must be gifted with spiritual vision, which is what the quest for spiritual realization is all about, in order to truly see things as they are.
So while the direct perception of things gives us a sense of what is real, or apparently real to us that… things of substance, is probably a better way to put it… in this world, we understand there is a limitation, and the same thing also applies for the use of logic – here called ‘anumāna’.
We can learn that, for instance by the process of deductive logic, how heat can burn, simply by observing someone else. For instance, if I see a young child or someone accidentally touching like a candle…a flame on a candle… and they burn their finger, then I can deduct from that whenever I see this thing that’s emitting heat and light called fire, that it is capable of burning. I can also extend that logic to anything that is emitting or giving off enough heat, that if I get too close to it I can also be burned. So, this is the use of deductive logic or anumana. It however does have its limitations… as we will speak about that in a minute.
‘Agamāḥ’ – this term, ‘an authority’, is …in the common sense we could use it… for instance as a professor in a university, if I want to study some subject, and I approach somebody that has that knowledge already, then they can impart that to me and I can derive, or come to a correct understanding on a particular subject. But it should be understood that the authoritative speaker does not ‘create’ agamah, but whatever is being presented is considered agamah if it is actual truth, and therefore the person speaking it can be considered an authority. So if a teacher is wrong in what they are saying or presenting, then that is not agamah. It’s not just a blind acceptance of authority based upon external things; it’s based upon their ability to speak and to pass on that which is truth. In the Vedic teachings of agamāḥ, or testimony, their…the way they presented it is even a much higher principle.
Our senses are limited, and therefore cannot show that there is no reality beyond the limits of our perception, if you understand that. I mean if I can only see a distance of just, for example… you know of five miles or five kilometers, and then everything is gone from my vision. You know…I can probably see further than that, but just for example, if anything exists beyond the limits of what I can see, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist; it just means that I have limited central perception.
Vedic pramāṇa distinguishes between logic and testimonial authority. The word ‘śabda’ – ‘śabda’ means sound; literally means sound, but the ‘śabda’ that is cited as authoritative Vedic testimony is known by the term ‘śabda-brahman’. ‘Śabda Brahman’ or spiritual sound, is considered the ultimate authority, so it is in a category by itself, distinct from logic or anumāna, and pratyakṣa, or direct perception. Spiritual sound, as opposed to ordinary sound, is also known as what’s called ‘svataḥ-pramāṇa.’ And that means its authority is self-evident; it does not derive its authority from another pramāṇa. But this is a quite deep subject… I didn’t want to get too deeply into it, but just wanted to mention it here.