Mindbodybrew is ultimately about providing a space for written reflection at every step along the yoga path. We hope that by sharing assignments from our Teacher Trainees, we can expand their deep investigation into community-wide dialogue. The following is a piece written by one of our newest, current trainees, Tara Lynch, regarding one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Knowledge is based on direct perception, valid inference, and testimony
How do we, in 2014, determine what makes a person “knowledgeable”? Is it by the collection of abbreviations that succeed our last names? The number of followers we have on a social media site? By the words we expel, or the riveting confidence with which we tell stories, or the things that interest us? Or is it by our popularity - the number of people who affirm the ideas of a particular individual, which can now be conveniently researched on the Internet? The immediacy of the Internet provides somewhat of a misleading sense of comfort and trustworthiness. Why and how does confirmation from the World Wide Web merit our trust? Perhaps the tendency to trust is gone about wrong these days. I don’t mean to imply that the Internet is evil; in fact, it can be incredibly useful. The point is that despite its countless sources of information, the Internet is not knowledgeable. Claiming to have knowledge about something should result from experiencing and re-experiencing. As Patanjali wrote, “Knowledge is based on direct perception, valid inference, and testimony”.
Perhaps consider the difference between being book smart and having life experience; the latter results in more solidified knowledge. I remember researching the King’s Palace in Thailand before I went this summer, reading up on the history and skimming through far too many pictures. I thought I had a good idea of what to expect, I already knew how it looked thanks to the exposing nature of the Internet. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the way I would feel once in the setting I had so fully researched. I remember wandering into a garden, veering slightly from the direction of the tour and feeling like everything stopped. The buzzing of the hot, muggy tropical climate filled with chatter from a sea of tourists completely stopped in this garden. It demanded reverence even though I had no idea what I had wandered into. The tour guide came to join me not long after and informed me that I was standing in an area that used to be forbidden to visitors, as it held the ashes of the King’s family members from hundreds of years ago. This gem that I wandered across was far more moving than any image or story I had read of previously. Direct perception, then, is that first, simplest step towards knowledge.
Discovering and understanding something for oneself is far more rewarding than feeding on information from a secondary source. When I came home and told my friends about my visit to the palace, I did not immediately think about the gold and jade that decorated the scene ground to sky, the precious stones that caught the sun’s light from every angle, nor the delicate trance-inducing art and architecture that bound the whole landscape. Those thoughts came later and felt more detached. In fact, those details felt less truthful because I had seen them before. What stood out the most was the unexpected garden that I had discovered on my own. Discovering (my direct perception), receiving information from the tour guide (the valid inference), and retelling my friends of the experience (testimony) made me feel more knowledgeable than the writings and images ever could have. Experiencing everything you want to know may not be reasonable, but taking pride in what you do and having an appetite for learning is what I find to be most rewarding.