1.7 Correct knowledge is direct, inferred or proven as factual
Of these five, there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge 1) perception, 2) inference, and 3) testimony or verbal communication from others who have knowledge.
Correct perception may be acquired directly, by correct analysis or by correct reference.
So this is talking about 1.6, about how there are five types of thoughts, and the first one is correct knowledge. The first way of obtaining correct knowledge (by which I mean knowledge which is true) is through direct perception. Iyengar states that initially our perceptions should be checked with logic and then to see if it corresponds with traditional wisdom. He also says that practicing yoga asanas, brings intelligence to the surface, which then sharpens our ability to discriminate between our perceptions. I suppose this happens through being more aware of the body during asana practice, through being conscious of the balances and imbalances throughout the body, this in turn allows for the quietening of the mind.
I like the way that this sutra seems to value direct experience over hearing something, even if it is from an expert. This fits with my own personal view of the world, which is largely influenced by Zen Buddhism. I like the way in Zen that there are few things to ‘believe’, if any, it is all to do with your own direct experience. I struggle when belief systems or religions require people to ‘believe’ things, to take them at face value, rather than to experience things for themselves and then make their own minds up. I suppose these religions could be said to be forming the ‘testimony of experts’ part of this sutra, but it seems to me that these three ways of forming correct knowledge should fit together, rather than just follow something in blind faith without any direct experience or reasoning. True knowledge should fit with your direct experience, your reasoning and what experts say.
1.6 They are caused by correct knowledge, illusion, delusion, sleep and memory.
The five varieties of thought patterns to witness are:
fantasy or imagination
the object of void-ness that is deep sleep
recollection or memory
They are correct perception, incorrect perception, imagination, sleep and memory.
Here Patanjali lists the five types of thoughts we can have:
- correct knowledge / perception
- incorrect knowledge / perception
- imagination / fantasy / daydreams
This implies that there are only these five kinds of thoughts, and no others. We can always reduce a particular type of thought into one of these five categories. For example, if I think that I have brown eyes, that is ‘incorrect’ as my eyes are actually blue. There are some deep epistemological issues which arise here. The category I have the most trouble with is that of ‘sleep’. At first, I assumed this to mean thoughts we have whilst dreaming, but Iyengar describes it more of the state of emptiness we experience whilst asleep. I suppose that depends on which cycle of sleep we are in. Patanjali is clearly referring to dreamless sleep, that void of mental inactivity, which I can accept as being a mental state.
I suppose I also have a little trouble with the idea of correct and incorrect knowledge / perception. I’m sure there are objective facts out there in the world somewhere, but most of our experience of the world is tempered by our senses. For instance, my short-sightedness does not allow me to see things as they really are, or the fact that dogs can hear things that we humans cannot. The thing I am struggling with here is the concept of there being an objectively right or wrong perception of the world. I guess I’ll just have to sit with this for now and see what else Patanjali says about this in sutras to come.