How do we Know something?
How do we know something? And how do we know something for sure? These two things are definitely different. For example, we know that oranges are sweet, but to know for sure whether or not the orange lying on that table is sweet or not, we would have to take a bite ourselves. So knowledge which we hold to be true, we can’t really say if it is true or not until we test it ourselves. This is the method of direct perception.
But then direct perception too can be deceiving - for example, if we were to touch an iron bar at -100°C, we would not be able to tell whether it was burning hot or ice cold. We also know that we are subject to auditory and optical illusions, due to the limitations of our sense organs.
Science too, can only explain the ‘reality’ of things upto an extent and based upon certain assumptions. Rational science which is intellectual in nature though, is far better than blind, instinctive ignorance as to cause and effect. But are instinct and intellect the only two ways of learning?
Is there a way of learning that is not blinded by instinct or limited by the intellect? Does a method exist, that is reliable and practical, by which we may gain a way of learning without limitations?
The answers to the above are no, yes and yes, in that order.
In Yoga Psychology, learning happens only when the object is internalized within the subject. The object that exists on the outside is seen within, experienced within, outside all reference frames. In other words, all experience is of the nature of epiphany. Only when we achieve the epiphany, is the learning through experience complete.
Learning and experience are the same, but we tend to see them differently. For example, we learn yoga asanas-this is the first step, then we perfect them-this is the second step, and finally we have the inner experience of the asana-this, is the third step, and lastly, through this inner experience we are able to transmit these asanas in a profound and easy manner to others, skilfuly knowing how to help different body types, as each body is unique. This is the final learning experience of the asana.
This internal experience or internal learning of a thing that is externally learned is true in every field of knowledge or endeavour. The quality of the internal learning or internal experience determines the real learning level.
There are two types of Learning that are accepted as ‘true’ in Yoga:
Pramana, or Right Knowledge can be acquired through a) direct perception/ Pratyaksha [Samskrtam.] , b) inference/ Anumana or c) competent proof/Agama . This is the method used by the more intelligent amongst us, to reach conclusions in all situations where we are in control of our instinctive emotions, with as little prejudice or delusions as possible. This makes us rational beings, capable of forming an efficient and practical society.
Prajna, or Radiant All-Knowingness can be acquired through stilling of the normal thought processes within each one of us. The gateway to constant-intuition, the Prajna practices of Yoga are the most treasured methods for achieving the Fourth state of consciousness, called Turiya. In this Fourth state, the other three-Waking dreaming and deep sleep are experienced simultaneously, coalesced together.
Let us break that down a bit and see if we can understand this idea. Yoga offers a 4 step process for achieving the constant-intuitive Prajna state:
Smarana-The 1st Level
The first stage in Learning according to Yoga is Smarana, the Hearing. Why hearing and not seeing or reading, or feeling or touching?
Because even when we feel or touch or smell,etc, we only cognize when we have named/ nama the thing. The naming comes from the word/ shabda, and so in the beginning is the word.
From the name comes the meaning/ artha, and then when we cognize the meaning we know the form/ rupa.
For example, we are led, with our eyes closed, to a vase with a flower in it. We are asked to bend forward and smell. We do so and while smelling, our mind registers a word, a name/ nama –‘jasmine’. Immediately in our mind appears the image/ rupa, the jasmine flower.
Would we be able to even experience the smell without simultaneously naming/ categorizing it? Again, when we open our eyes and see, for example, we immediately register the seen objects as ‘boy’, ‘girl’, ‘tree’, ‘rock’, etc. Is our mind capable of perceiving any of these above objects without the naming of them? Without categorizing? Yoga answers, Yes, we are capable and if we are to see Yogically, to experience, without naming or categorising, what we experience is the epiphany of object within-subject. Without the naming of the object or the experience, all objects and experience become one Unity, and this experiential Unity is the Non-dual state called Advaita in Yoga.
Our mind is constantly searching for meaning, behind all experience. And without this meaning, the mind considers the experience meaningless or empty. And meaning comes from the naming.
This word, and name with which we give meaning to all our experiences, is ‘heard’ or cognized within. This is the Hearing called Smarana.
In Smarana, it is of crucial importance that we get the name right, in order to get the right meaning of the situation we are in.
So, for example, we take the case of a child who needs or seeks love and we term it attention seeking instead. By wrongly terming the child attention-seeking, instead of love seeking, we misunderstand the situation and instead of giving that child more love, we would think it right to give the child less attention in order to condition the child to proper behavior.
Another example is when we call our political representatives our leaders, whereas in fact, they are our followers and our representatives. At least that’s the way its supposed to work in a democracy. But if media starts calling our politicians as leaders and we start believing that term, then we will move towards fascism and autocracy. The signs of that happening can already be seen now, in the rigorous new electronic surveillance on the masses accompanied by gargantuan income inequalities in the most ‘developed’ and democratic countries of the world.
In Part II we will cover the second of the 4 step Epiphanic Yogic process of Learning, being the Intellectual level.