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Is What You “Know” True? – Part 3

Is What You “Know” True? – Part 3

3. Learning From Others Who Are Knowledgeable

In the past two posts (Part 1 and Part 2.), we’ve been exploring the three ways we can acquire valid knowledge according to the Yoga Sutras.

Let’s finish this exploration with the third and final way to acquire valid knowledge with one note. It’s a practice in older texts like the Yoga Sutras, when listing items, to do so in order of importance. Based on that we can conclude that the previous two methods are more important than this final method.

In other words, direct perception is the best method of acquiring valid knowledge, followed by inference from observation, and then learning from others. In fact we cannot infer without information coming in from some outside source first, and it is through sense perception that we acquire information from others, knowledgable or otherwise. So Accurate knowledge must follow this path.

The prerequisite for acquiring accurate knowledge from others is that they themselves are knowledgeable. How can we know whether someone is knowledgeable?

The main ways to do this involve the previous two methods of acquiring knowledge. Through direct perception we can compare what someone is proclaiming to be true. Do we see evidence backing up the claims of this knowledgeable person? Is there information from other sources which substantiate what this this person says? By verifying through other sources and using discernment we can infer whether a person is knowledgeable and has reasoning ability that is trustworthy.

(This is applicable to the topic of true or fake news. What is the source? Do they have an agenda? How do they characterize different groups, or do they simply report details of events? Do they report similar actions by two different groups in the same way? Is this information verifiable through other sources?)

To this point we can look over the vast number of Eastern philosophical teachers (Yogis and Buddhists mainly) who have come to the West over the past century, and see that often charisma melded with a certain level of knowledge, bringing many followers to these teachers. Unfortunately quite a few of them turned out to be all too human, abusing their closer followers and dominating rather than enlightening.

My own personal experience has been that I’ve bounced from one teacher to another. Learning a certain amount from the works of one guru and either through learning of their failings, or finding another teacher whose work spoke to me more, moving on.

The main point here, I believe, is that different people are knowledgeable in different areas. No one is perfect, but those who strive to be a better person, who reflect humility and a desire to learn, are worth learning from because they thirst for knowledge, not a desire to dominate.

And as a general rule regarding knowledge, I’ve found it useful to always ask questions about what I “know”. Being certain about something closes off the possibility of new information entering our mind. Hopefully these posts have inspired reflection in what you believe and a longing for learning that is, I believe, the basis of inspired action.

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

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