In an educational lecture on possessing knowledge, Dr. Robert Svoboda describes the four pramanas of Ayurveda.
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The Four Pramanas // Pratyaksa
In Ayurveda, a pramana is a method of obtaining knowledge. There are four pramanas that Dr. Robert Svoboda describes to us: Pratyakṣa, Anumāṇa, Upamāṇa, and Śabda. Pratyaksa refers to direct perception which is often seen as the most reliable form of knowledge. What happens, then, when our perception is not accurate due to faulty senses or other inaccuracies? The rational human mind can only understand so much of reality through its organs of perception.
“No matter how accurate our perception is, it is only a teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy fragment of what there is to perceive.” – Dr. Robert Svoboda
Check out Ep. 97 of Insight Hour to learn more about Perception & Mental Formations
Anumāṇa // Inference (11:38)
Since we can’t fully experience and understand everything all of the time through our perception, another method is employed: Anumāṇa. This ayurvedic method refers to inference. Wherever there is smoke, there is fire. We do not have to perceive the fire to know that it is there. In Ayurveda, this is often used medically to infer where a symptom is coming from.
Upamāṇa // Analogy (14:37)
If you are unable to draw a direct connection and infer something, Upamāṇa can be used. Upamāṇa refers to analogy. Analogies can help us picture something that we can not perceive or infer from reality. If something in reality behaves one way, we can use that understanding and apply it to something else that behaves similarly. This is not exact, but it gives us a framework.
Śabda // Wisdom (20:01)
The final pramana is Śabda. This pramana involves seeking knowledge from a wise expert. Of course, perhaps the person you seek help from is not really an expert, you have a poor interaction, or they are only wise in one aspect of the knowledge you seek. Using a combination of all of these pramanas is the best way to ensure you have accurate information.
“If we want the transcendent wisdom of our bodies to be at its height we need to work on our bodies and minds to make them strong containers.” – Dr. Robert Svoboda