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Is What You “Know” True? – Part 1

Is What You “Know” True? – Part 1

Lately I’ve been arguing that yoga and politics do mix, and talking about current events in the realm of politics. One way yoga pertains to current politics is in the area of truth. How can we know the knowledge we acquire is true, and not false or deceptive?

In the main text which lays out yogic philosophy, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it is stated that there are three ways to acquire accurate knowledge.

“I.7. The three ways of acquiring valid knowledge are direct perception, inference as the result of observation, and learning from others who are knowledgeable.”
-The Science of Self-Realization (translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali) by Roy Eugene Davis

These three ways may sound obvious, but there is more than meets the eye here. Let’s dissect them a bit.

1. Direct Perception

We all are familiar with sayings like “I’ll know it when I see it”, but do we really know things when we see them? Can we be certain that our sense perceptions are accurate? Are we able to take in information through our senses without automatic filtration by our mind?

A Goggle search on “how reliable are our senses” brings up numerous posts and articles on the subject, and a Google Scholar search on “eyewitness testimony accuracy” brings up many studies, all documenting the issues involved in recalling, with accuracy, what we’ve experienced. In order for us to operate in a complex world what we are consciously aware of has to be limited to what is (we believe) important. What is important varies by person and by situation, and it’s far too easy to become caught up in the thoughts generated by our minds due to external stimulation compared to simply observing and making note of the things occurring around us. Even if we’re able to calmly witness our surroundings, it’s impossible to consciously take note of every detail no matter how clear our ability to perceive.

To cultivate a more direct perception, one that is free of constant evaluation, judgement or daydreaming, the practice of meditation is of prime importance. The silent space we find in seated meditation allows for space, as we travel through the real world, between events and our reaction, which in turn empowers us to respond in a more conscious way, and enables us to take in information as accurately as possible.

In the next post I’ll discuss the second way to acquire accurate information, inference.

May we all be open and receptive to our highest good,

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