A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 4

Indian Pluralism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1949 | 186,278 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of perception (pratyaksha): a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the first part in the series called the “madhva logic”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 1 - Perception (pratyakṣa)

Pramāna has already been defined as true correspondence with objects, and it has also been mentioned that it is divided into two kinds, kevala-pramāṇa and anu-pramāṇa. Kevala-pramāṇa is that by which direct and immediate intuition of objects of cognition is made; in fact it is both the intuitive process and the intuition. Four kinds of such direct intuition are admitted in the Madhva school of thought, viz., God’s intuition, intuition of His consort Lakṣmī, intuition of sages (Yogins), intuition of ordinary persons[1]. God’s intuition is always correct, independent (svatantram), beginningless and eternal, perfectly clear and has its scope or field everywhere (sarvārtha-viṣayakam). Lakṣmī’s intuition is dependent on Īśvara and inferior in clearness to His knowledge; it is equally beginningless, eternal, and correct, and has for its object everything except the entire extent of God Himself.

The specially efficient knowledge attained by yoga is that which belongs to Yogins: these are of three kinds. The first is of those straight sages (ṛju-yogin) who deserve Brahmahood. Excepting that this kind knows Īśvara and Lakṣmī only partially, it knows everything; this knowledge increases with the increase of yoga, until mukti is attained. These sages know of God more than other individual souls can do. Next to these comes the knowledge of Gods (tāttvika-yogi-jñānaṃ)\ it is inferior in scope to the knowledge of Yogins. Next comes the knowledge of ordinary persons, and of these also there are three classes in a descending order of merit; first, those that deserve liberation, secondly those that suffer rebirth, thirdly those who are in a still lower state of existence. Pramāṇa as intuition (kevala) is to be distinguished from anu-pramāṇa, as means of such intuition, which may be of three kinds, perception, inference, and testimony of the scriptures (āgama). The contact of any faultless sense-organ with a faultless object. Objects become faulty through excessive remoteness, excessive nearness, excessive smallness, intervening obstruction, being mixed up with things similar to them, being manifested, and being similar to other things (sādṛśya). Cognitive senses are of two kinds, the intuitive faculty of the cognitive agent which is identical with himself, and the ordinary cognitive senses of smell, taste, eye, touch, ear and manas; by the power of the intuitive faculty are perceived the self and its qualities, ignorance, manas and its faculties, and all sense-knowledge, pleasure, pain, etc., time and space[2]. The visual organ is supposed to perceive large objects having colour, and manas is the superintendent of all sense-organs and the faculty of memory. The faults of manas, in consequence of which errors are committed, are the passions and attachments, and those of the other senses are diseases like jaundice, etc., and the distracting influence of intervening medium, such as glass, etc. The ordinary cognitive senses produce the states of manas. The sense-organs are like so many instruments which have contact with the objects of cognition. The intuitive faculty also by virtue of its functions (existing as identical with itself and yet separately by virtue of viśeṣa) may be considered to be in contact. The verdict of intuitive faculty need not necessarily always be objectively valid, though it is always capable of correctly intuiting the contents of sense-observations. In God and Yogins it is both subjectivity and objectivity in agreement with facts; in ordinary persons it may or may not in any particular case be in agreement with the objective parts, or, in other words, its contents may or may not correspond to objective facts, but it is always correct in intuiting what is brought to it by the senses[3].

Jaya-tīrtha dispenses with the necessity of sixfold contact as advocated by the followers of the Nyāya[4]. This has to be so, because the samavāya relation is not admitted in the system of Madhva, nor is it admitted that there is any difference between things and their qualities (guṇa-guṇy-abheda). Sense-contact therefore takes place according to Jaya-tīrtha as one event; on the one hand, because there is no difference between qualities and things, on the other because the self and its qualities are directly perceived by the intuitive entity and there is no necessity of admitting the contact of manas, and hence no need to admit a sixfold contact as is proposed by the followers of the Nyāya.

Again, we know that the Nyāya draws a distinction between indeterminate (nirvikalpa) and determinate (savikalpa) knowledge; according to this system, indeterminate knowledge means the simple cognition of the object in itself without any of the eightfold conceptual determinations

  1. as regards substance-concept (dravya-vikalpo yathā daṇḍī), as “the possessor of a stick,”
  2. as regards quality-concept (guṇa-vikalpo yathā śuklaḥ), as “white”,
  3. as regards action-concept (kriyā-vikalpo yathā gacchati), as “he goes”,
  4. as regards class-concept (jāti-vikalpo yathā gauḥ), as “cow”,
  5. as regards ultimately distinguishing characteristic (viśeṣa-vikalpo yathā viśiṣṭaḥ paratnāṇuḥ), as “the atoms have ultimate characteristics by virtue of which the sages can distinguish one atom from another”,
  6. as regards the concept of relation of inseparable inherence (samavāya-vikalpo yathā paṭa-samavāyavantās tantavaḥ), as “the threads in a piece of cloth”,
  7. as regards the concept of name (nāma-vikalpo yathā Devadatta), as “the man Devadatta”,
  8. as regards the concept of negation (abhāva-vikalpo yathā ghaṭā-bhāvavad bhū-talam), as in “there is no jug on the ground”.

But Jaya-tīrtha says that none of these distinctions between determinate and indeterminate perceptions can be accepted, as they are based on the assumption of the two categories of specific ultimate characteristics (viśeṣa) and the relation of inseparable inherence (samavāya), both of which are invalid. The name of a percept is also known by memory operating at a later moment, and the negation of an entity is known to depend on the memory of the entity itself. Though not all these concepts are produced at the first moment of perception, yet, since some of the concepts, such as substance, quality, action, etc., are grasped at the first moment of perception, there is no reason to suppose the existence of indeterminate perception (nirvikalpa pratyakṣa). All perception is determinate. The Nyāya view that the feeling of usefulness of an object or of its being undesirable is the result of perception is not correct: for these are obtained by inference[5]. When a man avoids a thorn, it is because of his past experience that he judges that it would cause him pain; when he turns to something which is desirable, it is from the inference of the experience of it as having felt desirable in the past.

Footnotes and references:


īśvara-jñānaṃ lakṣmī-jñānaṃ yogi-jñānaṃ ayogi-jñānaṃ ceti.
p. 16.


indriya-śabdena jñānendriyaṃ gṛhyate, tad dvi-vidhaṃ, pramātṛ-svarūpaṃ prākṛtaṃ ca tatra svarūpendriyaṃ sākṣīty ucyate; tasya viṣaya ātma-svarūpaṃ tad-dharmaḥ avidyā-manas-tad-vṛttayaḥ bāhyendriya-jñāna-sukhādayaḥ kālavyā-kṛtākāśaś ca.
p. 22.


Ibid. p. 26.


See A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. I (first edition), p. 334.


Nyāya-mañjarī, pp. 67-71.

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