What is Pramāṇa?

In yoga, pramāṇa means right knowledge, a correct understanding of reality that can be acquired in one of three ways: sense perception (pratyakṣa), logic (anumāna), and verbal testimony (āgamaḥ or śabda) as the sources for the acquisition of valid knowledge. 

In his Yoga-sūtras, Patañjali categorizes pramāna as one of five possible movements of the mind that bind a person to material consciousness. This implies that pramāna can direct us to the boundary of intellectual comprehension but that we need something else to cross into the realm of liberation from material consciousness. A closer look at each source of knowledge within the category of right knowledge will reveal how pramāna directs us to what else is needed.

The first source of knowledge is sense perception. This is ironic because unless we question the ability of our mind and senses to deliver accurate information about reality, especially the reality of who and what we really are, then we won’t feel the need to practice yoga. When we question what our mind and senses tell us about reality we turn to yoga as a technology to purify our instruments of perception and gain a more accurate picture of reality.

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