Patanjali Yoga Sutra — pratyakṣānumānāgamāḥ pramāṇāni||1.7|| प्रत्यक्षानुमानागमाः प्रमाणानि ||पतञ्जलि योग सूत्राः १.७||
Right knowledge or perception could be:
1. Direct (through one’s own dependable senses)
2. Supposition (logical/reasonable inference or deduction)
3. Scriptures (induction).
Patañjali says the right knowledge could be sourced from any one of the following three:
pratyakṣa: Direct perception is the one which is obtained through five “Intellect driven” sense organs (Pañcendriyas). It is not reported by anybody but experienced personally through one’s own senses (Example, one may say “I saw it through my own eyes; I heard it through my own ears, etc). Thus, it is first-hand information obtained. Buddhi, which is the discriminating faculty of antaḥkaraṇa, should propel our sense perception, so that sense organs could perceive in the right way and the end results are rationally comparable with standard established facts.
anumāna: “Inference or Deduction”: When we see smoke beyond a mountain, we deduce/infer that there must be fire; without fire, there cannot be smoke. Yes, we have not actually seen the fire. But with the help of our knowledge base, we have inferred that as the smoke is visible, there must be fire. Similarly, if the river water is muddy, we infer that there must be rain upstream. In this case also, we have not seen the rain. But the muddy water of the river makes us infer that there must be rain upstream.
Another way of understanding anumāna is the knowledge we get through experiments. Here, we keep on accumulating our experiences (Data) obtained through experiments, data collected from a wide variety of population, etc., and we then sort out data, apply statistical or mathematical tools, eliminate extraneous or irrelevant ones and come to a logical conclusion. However, here the danger is that we cannot be foolproof as some extraneous factors might affect our data collection and analysis and we may go wrong in our conclusions. Hence, the deduction method is dependable provided all extraneous factors are sensibly considered and all relevant factors (which are significant) are taken into account for our conclusion.
āgama: Scriptural Testimony or knowledge through Induction: Here, some Supreme Authorities (Bhagavad Gītā, Vedas, Upaniṣads by God himself or by superconscious seers/yogis like āyurveda by Charaka Maharṣi, Brahma sūtrās by Vyāsa Maharṣi, Yoga sūtrās by Patañjali, Bhakti sūtrās by Nārada Maharṣi) have given eternal principles (or knowledge) and being time tested and well established, we use them without doubting them. In these cases, the end results can be verified to be ever true, as some Supreme Authority has given such knowledge and hence this source of knowledge is above pratyakṣa and anumāna.
Bhagavān, being immortal, declares that He has imparted the science (and art) of Yoga to the world through Solar dynasty kings (also called Raghu vaṃśa. śrīrām is one of the kings in this lineage). Hence the science of Yoga imparted by the Lord is the best example for ‘āgama’.
इमं विवस्वते योगः प्रोक्तवानहमव्ययम्।
विवस्वान्मनवे प्राह मनुरिक्ष्वाकवेऽब्रवीत् ||गीता ४.०१||
imaṁ vivasvate yogaḥ proktavānahamavyayam.
vivasvānmanave prāha manurikṣvākave’bravīt ||Gītā 4.01||
At the beginning of the Yuga (Kalpa), I imparted (handed down) this indestructible science of Yoga to Vivasvān (Sun God), Vivasvān imparted to his son Manu and Manu imparted to his son ikṣvāku. (Thus, Bhagavān is the first Guru and the heritage of imparting Yogavidya started from Him and Sun God is the first yoga student).
Thus, being time tested, ‘Science of Yoga’ (Brahmavidya) given by Bhagavān is ages old. It is for the upliftment and liberation of men with all kinds of bondages of prakṛti (sattva, rajas and tamas) and giving escape velocity to mankind in all ages. Such an eternal science was once again revealed to Arjuna during kurukṣetra war in Dvāparayuga by Bhagavān.