3 Kinds of knowing – the practical tool needed

3 reliable means to knowledge

Pratyaksa anumana agamah pramanani (1.7)

Of the five ways of knowledge (pramana) or “proofs”, there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge 1) direct perception (pratyakṣa (प्रत्यक्ष)) 2) reasoning/inference (anumāṇa (अनुमान)) and 3) authority/validation (śabda (शब्द))


Namo namaha.

Have you ever had an experience of realising something related to any aspect of your inner journey and wondered to yourself “Is this really trueAm I imagining this or is this a true Yogic concept?”  What did you come to question? 1) Do you know? 2) How do you come to know? Or 3) How do you know you know?   Yoga offers us a practical tool to answer our questions.

In our lives, not just in Yoga, whenever we have an experience of any kind, we tend to dismiss it as inauthentic unless we can have it validated by an external source of some kind, be that a knowledgeable teacher we can ask or perhaps from a book we’ve read by a trusted author. The insight itself makes complete sense to us but is it true?  “Am I allowed to come up with my own insights and accept them as fact?”.  “Can I accept calling them “truths”?”.  “Can I trust myself?”  Strangely enough, we do not have any issues holding back trust in others only in ourselves, thus maintaining a double standard.  This is not fair.  We need to trust our ability to generate our own insights acquired through direct personal experience and deem them worthy of calling them a truth.  We seem to only value knowledge acquired from reputable external sources more highly than our own.

There are different types of knowledge. There is knowledge through the senses (indriyas), through the intellect (buddhi), reasoning through personal contact, hearing, imagination, and memories.  If we want to realize the real nature of ourselves, we cannot depend solely on knowledge from these sources.  That we need a different kind of knowledge altogether.  We must employ a process using discrimination through correct seeing (viveka).

It might surprise you to know that the Yogis did not always agree with one another.  They fought vigorously amongst themselves to defend their unique beliefs.  Often arguing and disagreeing with each other over who’s insights were accurate and whose were “B.S.”.  Eventually they concluded that Yoga cannot be learned exclusively by being passed on through simple instruction from one person to the next, by being blindly accepted by the eager student. They realised that Yoga must be experienced directly by the student himself if he is to truly understand the teaching.   Discourse teachings alone should not be accepted as the sole source of knowledge.  Thus they considered experiential knowledge, direct experience, to be the best, most accurate, most reliable method of knowledge acquisition. Yogic knowledge was passed on directly from teacher to student with the caveat

Do not blindly believe what I am telling you.  You must test it yourself to see if it is true.  Do not rely on my sole instruction alone as proof that what I am telling you is true.  Seek experience, not mere belief”.

They gave us three ways we can come to know that our experience, our personal knowledge is accurate – is truth.  When we have all three, we can say 1) we know, 2) we know how we came to know and 3) we know that we know.

First is direct experience.  The Yogis tell us we should not believe what we hear but should seek direct experience.  This is when we read, see, or hear about something and get to experience it for ourselves. It is firsthand knowledge. You will know when you are doing it because it involves all the 5 senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste).  It is something we do on our own.

Second is reasonableness.  You want that experience to now be understood in the light of your own inference or reasoning.  This is your use of logic and “common sense”.  You come to say, “It seems reasonable to me”.  You take what you learned about and now manipulate it around inside your mind until it makes clear and logical sense to you, you wrap your head around it.

Third is validation.  You seek approval through some respected outside authority or source.  You could look it up in a commentary and see if it agrees with your finding, you could discuss it with your teacher in a class or in a workshop, you can find it on the internet on a website, in an online course you are studying or even from a creator in a YouTube video.  The idea is that you get it from a reliable and trusted external source who has firsthand knowledge   It must come from someone else to be validated.

Often, we have some experience on our spiritual journey but have no understanding of what has happened.  This can be very frustrating and leave you wandering around, feeling lost for a very long time.  If your experience were to be understood and validated, it could be integrated and used as a steppingstone to more advanced spiritual insights.  On the other hand, if you have only logical reasoning, but no direct experience or validation, it can lead to mere intellectualizing.  If you only have the authoritative knowledge, without personal understanding or experience, it can lead to cold memorization, such as can happen in academia or blind faith religion.

For the sincere seeker, direct experience, reasoning, and validation are all three sought after together in relation to the inner journey, and in such a way that there is a convergence of the three. When you can get these three to meet, meaning that experience, reasoning, and authoritative validation all agree with one another, then you know, and you know how you come to know and that you know that you know in regard to any particular aspect of your inner journey.  This is a very useful tool for us to use on our inner journey.  I call it vishesha viveka-khyatih (special discriminative cognition) and reference to it is found in sutra 2.26:

viveka khyatih aviplava hana upayah

Clear, distinct, unimpaired, discriminative knowledge is the means of liberation from this alliance.


This tool comes from Samkhya, an enumerationist philosophy whose epistemology accepts three of six pramanas (‘proofs’) as the only reliable means of gaining knowledge. These include pratyakṣa (‘perception‘), anumāṇa (‘inference‘) and śabda (āptavacana, meaning, ‘word/testimony of reliable sources’)

Having access to any tool makes life much easier to live. This tool is both very simple and practical and can be applied to any area of your life. Use it wisely and you will start to make great leaps in your sadhana.


Four Chapters on Freedom: Commentary of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali YPT 2000 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/629012.Four_Chapters_on_Freedom by Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Living the Yoga Sutras: Practical Translations and Discussions https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/swami-jnaneshvara-bharati/living-the-yoga-sutras/paperback/product-1yzknzpv.html by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati https://swamij.com/

Thank you for joining me on this journey to freedom.

Love, light and blessings to you all.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.


© 2020 A Yoga Mindset. All Rights reserved.

Image result for om symbol

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s