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 the pramanas: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the fourth part in the series called the “the philosophy of vallabha”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Puruṣottama says that knowledge (jñāna) is of many kinds. Of these, eternal knowledge (nitya-jñāna) is of four kinds: the essential nature of God, in which He is one with all beings and the very essence of emancipation (mokṣa); the manifestation of His great and noble qualities; His manifestation as the Vedas in the beginning of the creation; His manifestation as verbal knowledge in all know-able forms of the deity. His form as verbal knowledge manifests itself in the individuals; it is for this reason that there can be no knowledge without the association of words—even in the case of the dumb, who have no speech, there are gestures which take the place of language .This is the fifth kind of knowledge. Then there are one kind of sense-knowledge and four kinds of mental knowledge. Of mental knowledge, that which is produced by manas is called doubt (sainśaya) ; the function of manas is synthesis (saṃkalpa) and analysis (vikalpa). The function of buddhi is to produce knowledge as decision, superseding doubt, which is of an oscillatory nature. The knowledge of dreams is from ahaṃkāra (egoism) as associated with knowledge. Citta perceives the self in the state of deep dreamless sleep. There is thus the fourfold knowledge of the antaḥkaraṇa ; this and sense-knowledge and the previous five kinds of knowledge form the ten kinds of knowledge.

From another point of view

  • will (kāma),
  • conceiving (saṃkalpa),
  • doubt (vicikitsā),
  • faith (śraddhā),
  • absence of faith (aśraddhā),
  • patience (dhṛti),
  • absence of patience (adhṛti),
  • shame (hrī),
  • understanding (dhī),
  • fear (bhī),

are all manas.

Pleasure and pain also belong to it, because they are not associated with the senses. Knowledge does not stay only for three moments, but stays on until it is superseded by other objects of knowledge, and even then it remains as impression or saṃskāra. This is proved by the fact that manas can discover it in memory when it directs its attention towards it; it is because the manas is busy with other objects and it ceases to be discovered. Memory can be strengthened by proper exercise, and things can be forgotten or wrongly remembered through diverse kinds of defects; in these cases also knowledge is not destroyed, but only remains hidden through the effect of māyā.

The knowledge that is associated with the pramāṇas is the sāttvika knowledge; the sattva is associated with pramā (or right knowledge), and when it disappears there is error. Pramā is defined as uncontradicted knowledge or knowledge that is not liable to contradiction[1]. The increase of the sattva by which knowledge is produced may be due to various causes, e.g., scriptures, objects, people, country, time, birth, karma, meditation, mantras, purifications, saṃskāras. The knowledge which is primarily predominant in sattva is the notion that one universal essence is present everywhere; this knowledge alone is absolutely valid. The knowledge which is associated with rajas is not absolutely valid; it is that which we find in all our ordinary or perceptual scientific knowledge, which is liable to errors and correction. This rajas knowledge at the time of its first manifestation is indeterminate in its nature, conveying to us only the being of things. At this stage, however, we have the first application of the senses to the objects which rouse the sattva quality, and there is no association with rajas ; as such this indeterminable knowledge, though it forms the beginning of rajas knowledge, may be regarded as sāttvika. Later on, when the manas functions with the senses, we have the saṃkalpa knowledge, and regard it as rajas. The pure sensory knowledge or sensation is not regarded as inherent in the senses. The sense-operation in the first instance rouses the sattva, and therefore the knowledge produced by the application of the senses in the first instance does not convey with it any of the special qualities of the senses, visual, auditory and the like, but merely the being, which is not the specific quality of any sense, but only a revelation of the nature of sattva ; such knowledge, though roused by the senses, does not belong to them. It is by the function of the vikalpa of the manas that this knowledge as pure being assumes distinct forms in association with sense-characteristics. The application of this function is too rapid to be easily apprehended by us, and for this reason we often fail to detect the prior existence of the nirvikalpa knowledge.

In the case of determinate knowledge, whether it be simple as of a jug, or complex as of a jug on the ground, we have the same procedure of having first through the senses the indeterminate perception of the being, which by a later influence of rajas becomes associated with names and forms; it is the being given by the senses, which appears in names and forms through the influence of the antaḥkaraṇa as moved by the rajas in association with the senses. The principle followed in perception is analogous to the cosmic appearance of Brahman as manifold, in which the pure Brahman by His will and thought shows Himself as the many, though He remains one in Himself all the time; in the case of perception the senses by their first application cause an influx of sattva, resulting in the apperception of pure being, which later on becomes associated with diverse names and forms through the rajas element of the antaḥkaraṇa operating with the senses. The determinate knowledge is of two kinds: viśiṣṭa-buddhi and samūhālambana-buddhi ; the former means associated knowledge (“a man with a stick”), and the latter means knowledge as conglomeration of entities (“a stick and a book”). The knowledge of simple objects (such as a jug) is regarded as an associated knowledge. All these varied types of determinate cognitions are in reality of one type, because they all consist of the simple process of a revelation of being by the senses and an attribution of names and forms by the antaḥkaraṇa.

From another point of view the determinate knowledge can be of five kinds:

  1. saṃśaya (doubt),
  2. viparyāsa (error),
  3. niścaya (right knowledge),
  4. smṛti (memory),
  5. svapna (dream).

Doubt is defined as the apprehension of two or more opposite attributes or characters in the same object (ekasmin dharmiṇi viruddha-nānā-koty-avagāhi jñānaṃ saṃśayam). Error is defined as the apprehension of external objects other than those with which the senses are in contact. Niścaya means right apprehension of objects; such an apprehension must be distinguished from memory, because apprehension (anubhava) always means the intuition of an object, while memory is purely internal though produced by a previous apprehension. Such a right knowledge can be perception, inference, verbal knowledge, and analogy (upamiti, which arises through the senses associated with a knowledge of similarity: sādṛśyādi-sahakṛtendriyārtha-saṃsargajanya).

This right knowledge can be of two kinds: perception (pratyakṣa) and that which is not perception (parokṣa). Perception arises from a real contact of the sense and its objects (indriyārtha-sat-samprayoga-janyaṃ jñānam)[2]. Memory (smṛti) is defined as knowledge which is produced neither by sleep nor by external objects, but by past impressions, which consist of the subtle existence of previous apprehensions. Dream-experiences are special creations, and should therefore be distinguished from the world of things of ordinary experience; they are out of and through māyā by God. This is indeed different from the view of Madhva; for according to him the dream-appearances are without any stuff and should not be regarded as creations; they are mere illusions produced by thought. The dream-appearances being creations according to Vallabha, their knowledge is also to be regarded as real. Dreamless sleep is a special class of dream-experience in which the self manifests itself (tatra ātma-sphuraṇaṃtu svata eva). Reflection (as synthesis or analysis, or by the methods of agreement and difference, or as mental doubt, or meditation) is included within memory. Shame, fear (hrī, bhī), etc., are the functions of egoism and not cognitive states. Recognition is regarded as right knowledge (niścaya). In the case of firm knowledge growing out of habit the impressions of past knowledge act as a determinant (sahakāri), and in the case of recognition memory acts as a determinant[3]. Recognition is thus regarded as due to memory rather than past impressions. The reason for this preference is that, even though there may be an operation of past impressions, the function of memory is a direct aid to it. Recognition is distinguished from memory in this, that, while the latter is produced directly from past impressions, the former is produced in association with the present perception, directly through the operation of memory, and indirectly through the operation of past impressions.

The distinction between right knowledge and error consists in the fact that the latter contains somewhat more than the former; thus, in the case of conch-shell-silver, right knowledge consists in the perception of conch-shell, but false knowledge consists in the further attribution of silver to it; this additional element constitutes error[4]. There may be cases which are partly correct and partly false and in these knowledge may be called right or false according as there is or is not a preponderance of right knowledge. Upon this criterion of Puruṣottama painting, art creations and impersonations in dramatic perceptions have a preponderance of right knowledge, as they produce through imitation such pleasures as would have been produced by the actual objects which they have imitated.

Puruṣottama makes a distinction between karaṇa (the instrumental) and kāraṇa (the cause). Karaṇa is a unique agent, associated with a dynamic agent with reference to the effects that are to be produced (vyāpāravad asādhāraṇam ); kāraṇa is that seat of power which may produce appearance and disappearance of forms (i āvirbhāva-śaktyādhāratvaṃ kāraṇatvam). That which produces particular forms, or works for the disappearance of certain forms, is regarded as corresponding causes; hence the power which can make the effects of a material cause manifest for our operation is regarded as the āvirbhāva-kāraṇa of that effect. Āvirbhāva, “manifestation of appearances,” is that aspect of things by which or in terms of which they may be experienced or may be operated upon, and its negation is “disappearance” (tirobhāva)[5]. These powers of manifestation and disappearance belong primarily to God, and secondarily to objects with which He has associated them in specific ways. The Naiyāyika definition of cause as invariable unconditional antecedent of the effect is regarded as invalid, inasmuch as it involves a mutual dependence. Invariable antecedence to an effect involves the notion of causality and the notion of causality involves invariable antecedence; so unconditionality involves the notion of causality and causality involves unconditionality.

Cause is of two kinds: identity (tādātmya, also called samavāyi), and instrument. This identity however involves the notion of identity-in-difference, in which difference appears as a mode of the identity which is to be regarded as the essence of causality. Puruṣottama discards the notion of substance and quality, which is explained on the basis of the relation of samavāya, and in which substance is regarded as the cause of quality; a quality is only an appearance simultaneous with the substance, and the latter cannot be regarded as the cause of the former. The concept of material cause (upādāna-kāraṇa) is of two kinds: unchanging (e.g., the earth unchanging, in jugs, etc.), and changing (e.g., knowledge appearing as a function of the mind, the instrumental cause). The contact of parts or movement involved in the material cause is not regarded as a separate cause, as it is by the Naiyāyika, but is regarded as a part of the material cause.

The nature of concomitance that determines the nature of a hetu is of two kinds: anvaya and vyatireka. Anvaya means agreement in presence of an element such that to its sole presence (in the midst of many irrelevant elements or conditions present with it) the effect is due[6]. Vyatireka means the negation of that element which involves the negation of the effect, i.e., that element which does not exist if the effect is absent (kāryātirekeṇānavasthānam). The causal movement (vyāpāra) is that which exists as a link between the cause and the effect; thus sense-object contact has for its dynamic cause the movement of the senses. In the case of God’s will no dynamic movement is regarded necessary for the production of the world.

The pratyakṣa pramāṇa, the means of perceptual experience, is defined as the sense-faculties corresponding to the different kinds of perception. There are thus six pramāṇas, viz., visual, tactual, gustatory, auditory, olfactory and mental; as opposed to the monistic Vedāntic view of Śaṅkara, manas is regarded here as a sense-faculty. All faculties are regarded as being atomic in their nature. The visual organ can perceive colours only when there is a “manifested colour” (udbhūta-rūpavattva); the atoms of ghosts are not visible because they have no manifested colour. So for perception of all sense-qualities by the corresponding senses we have to admit that the sense-qualities, of touch, of smell, etc., must be manifested in order to be perceived.

In agreement with the monistic Vedānta of Śaṅkara tamas (darkness) is regarded here as a separate category and not as the mere negation of light. Negation itself is regarded as the positive existence of the locus in which the negation appears with specific reference to the appearance or disappearance of the negated object. Thus in the case of negation-precedent-to-production (prāg-abhāva) of a jug, the simple material cause which will be helpful to the production or the appearance of the jug is regarded as the negative-precedent-to-production of the jug. In the case of negation of destruction (dhvaṃsābhāvā) the cause is helpful to the disappearance of the jug, and is thus associated with the special quality that is regarded as the negation of destruction. The concept of negation is thus included in the conception of the cause; negation is thus a specific mode of samavāyi kāraṇa and therefore identical with it.

Regarding the manner in which visual cognitions of things are possible, the Sāṃkhya and Vedānta uphold the subsistence of a vṛtti (vṛtti means mental state). When after looking at a thing we shut our eyes, there is an after-image of the object. This after-image cannot belong to the object itself, because our eyes are shut; it must itself belong to the ahaṃkāra or the buddhi. It is supposed by the Sāṃkhya and the Vedānta that this vṛtti goes to external objects near and far and thereby produces a relation between the buddhi and the object. It may naturally be objected that this vṛtti is not a substance and therefore cannot travel far and wide. The Sāṃkhya and the Vedānta reply again that, since such travelling is proved by the facts of perception, we have to admit it; there is no rule that only existing substances should be able to travel and that in the absence of substance there should be no travelling. The Naiyāyikas, however, think that certain rays emanate from the eye and go to the object, sense-contact is thereby produced in association with the manas and ātman, and the result is sense-cognition; they therefore do not admit the existence of a separate vṛtti. Puruṣottama, however, admits the vṛtti, but not in the same way as the Vedāntists and the Sāṃkhya; according to him this vṛtti is a state of the buddhi which has been roused through the category of time and has manifested a preponderance of sattva quality. Time is hereby admitted as a category existing in the buddhi and not in the senses as it is in the Vedānta of Śaṅkara (explained by Dharmarājā-dhvarīndra in the Vedānta-paribhāṣā). According to him time does not possess any colour, but can yet be perceived by the visual organs. But according to Puruṣottama time is a determinant of the buddhi and is the agent responsible, along with other accessories, for mental illumination; he says further that rays from the object penetrate the eye-ball and produce there certain impressions which remain even when the rays are cut off by the shutting of the eye. These retinal impressions are accessory to the production of illumination in the buddhi as the manifestation of sattva-guṇa[7]. Vṛtti is thus a condition of buddhi.

In the illusory perception of conch-shell-silver it is supposed that by the power of rajas the impressions of silver experienced before are projected on to the object of perception, and by tamas the nature of conch-shell as such is obscured; in this manner a conch-shell is perceived as silver.

The indeterminate knowledge arises at that stage in which the buddhi functions at the first moment of sense-operation; and it becomes determinate when in association with the sense-faculty there is modification in the buddhi as vṛtti. Though with the rise of one vṛtti a previous one disappears, it still persists in the form of impression (saṃskāra) ; when these saṃskāras are later roused by specific causes or conditions, we have memory.

The intuition of God is not, however, produced by the ordinary method of perception only by God’s grace, which is the seed of bhakti in all, can His nature be intuited; in the individual this grace manifests itself as devotion[8].

Inference (anumāna) as a pramāṇa is defined as instrument by which influential knowledge is attained; in other words, inference is the knowledge which is derived through the mediation of other knowledge, a process which is, of course, affected by the knowledge of concomitance (vyāpti-jñāna). Vyāpti means the unconditioned existence of hetu in the sādhya, i.e., where there is a hetu, there is a sādhya, and wherever there is absence of sādhya, there is absence of hetu; hetu is that by which one proceeds to carry on an inference, and sādhya is affirmation or denial. Following the Sāṃkhya-pravacana-sūtra Puruṣottama says that, when there is an unconditional existence of one quality or character in another, there may be either a mutual or a one-sided concomitance between them; when the circle of the hetu coincides with the circle of the sādhya, we have samavyāpti, and when the circle of the hetu falls within the circle of the sādhya, there is viṣama-vyāpti[9].

Puruṣottama does not admit the kevalānvayi form of inference; for in the Brahman there is the absence of the sādhya. The objection that such a definition will not hold good in the case of inference (where no negative existences are available), namely, that it is knowledge because it is definable, is invalid; for the Brahman is neither know-able nor definable. Even when an object is knowable in one form, it may be not knowable in another form. So even in the aforesaid inference negative instances are available; therefore the kevalānvayi form of inference, where it is supposed that concomitance is to be determined only by agreement, cannot be accepted[10].

When the co-existence of the hetu with the sādhya is seen in one instance or in many, it rouses the part-impressions and though in the memory of them necessary co-existence, and, following that, the hetu determines the sādhya. When we see in the kitchen the coexistence of fire and smoke, the necessary co-existence of the smoke with the fire is known; then later on, when smoke is seen in the hill and the co-existence of the smoke with the fire is remembered, the smoke determines the existence of the fire: this right knowledge is called anumiti. It is the liṅga that is the cause of the anumiti.

Two kinds of anumāna are admitted by Puruṣottama, viz.,

  1. kevala-vyatireki, where positive instances are not available and the concomitance is only through negation,
  2. and anvaya-vyatireki, where the concomitance is known through the joint method of agreement and difference.

Five propositions are generally admitted for convincing others by inference; these are

  1. pratijñā,
  2. hetu,
  3. udāharaṇa,
  4. upanaya,
  5. and nigamana.

Thus “the hill is fiery” is the pratijñā, “because it is smoky” is the hetu, “as in the case in the kitchen” is the udāharaṇa, “whatever is smoky is fiery and whatever is not so is not so” is the upanaya, “therefore the smoke now visible is also associated with fire” is nigamana. But these need not be regarded as separate propositions; they are parts of one synthetic proposition[11].

But Puruṣottama in reality prefers these three, viz.,

  1. pratijñā,
  2. hetu
  3. and dṛṣṭānta.

Puruṣottama does not admit either upamāna or anupalabdhi as separate pramāṇas. Upamāṇa is the pramāṇa by which a previous knowledge of similarity between two objects of which one is known enables one to know the other when one sees it; thus a man who does not know a buffalo, but is told that it is similar in appearance to the cow, sees the buffalo in the forest and knows it to be a buffalo. The sight of it makes him remember that a buffalo is an animal which is similar in appearance to the cow, and thus he knows it is a buffalo. Here perception as helped by memory of similarity is the cause of the new apprehension of the animal as a buffalo; what is called upamāna thus falls within perception.

Puruṣottama also admits arthāpatti, or implication, as separate pramāṇūy in the manner of Pārthasārathimiśra. This arthāpatti is to be distinguished from inference. A specific case of it may be illustrated by the example in which one assumes the existence of someone outside the house when he is not found inside; the knowledge of the absence of a living person from the house is not connected with the knowledge of the same man’s presence outside the house as cause and effect, and yet they are simultaneous. It is by the assumption of the living individual outside the house that his non-existence in the house can be understood; the complex notion of life and non-existence in the house induces the notion of his existence outside the house. It is the inherent contradiction that leads us from the known fact to the unknown, and as such it is regarded as a separate pramāṇa.

Puruṣottama thinks that in some cases where knowledge is due to the accessory influence of memory its validity is not spontaneous, but is to be derived only through corroborative sources, whereas there may be other cases where knowledge may be self-valid.

Footnotes and references:


a-bādhita-jñānatvaṃ bādha-yogya-vyatiriktatvaṃ vā tal-lakṣaṇam.
p. 6.


Prasthānaratnākara, p. 20.


abhyāsa-janye dṛḍha-pratīti-rūpe jñāne yathā pūrvāmibhava-saṃskāraḥ sahakārī tathā pratyabhijñāyāṃ smṛtiḥ sahakāriṇī, viśeṣaṇatāvacchedaka-prakāraka-niścayārthaṃ tasyā avaśyam apekṣaṇāt. ato yatha’nugrāhakāntara-praveśe’pi yathārthānubhavatvānapāyād abhyāsajñānaṃ niścaya-rūpaṃ tathā smṛtyā viṣayeṇa ca pūrva-sthita-jñānasyoddīpanāt pratyabhijñā’pi iti jñeyam.
P. 25.


bhrama-pramā-samūhālambanaṃ tu, eka-deśa-vikṛtam ananyavad bhavatīti nyāyena bhramādhikye viparyāsa eva. pramādhikye ca niścayaḥ.


upādānasya kāryaṃ yā vyavahāra-gocaraṃ karoti sā śaktir āvirbhāvikā. āvirbhāvaśca vyavahāra-yogyatvam. tirobhāvaśca tadayogyatvam.
p. 26.


Tatra sva-sva-vyāpyetara-yāvat-kāraṇa-sattve yat-sattve avaśyaṃ yat-sattvam anvayaḥ.
p. 32.


ukta-sannikarṣa-janyam api savikalpakam jñānaṃ cākṣuṣāḍi-bhedena buddi-vṛttyā janyata iti vṛttir vicāryate. tatra netra-nimīlane kṛte bahir-dṛṣṭa-padārthasyeva kaścidākāro netrāntarbhāsate. sa ākāro na bāḥya-vastunaḥ. āśrayam atiḥāya tatra tasyāśakya-vacanatvāt. ataḥ sa āntarasyaiva kasyacana bhavitum arhatīti....

yā buddhi-vṛttiḥ saṃskārādhānādyarthaṃ janyata ity ucyate sā vṛttir buddher na tattvāntaraṃ nāpy antaḥkaraṇa-pariṇāmāntaram. kintu buddhi-tattvasya kāla-kṣubdha-sattvādi-guṇa-kṛto’vasthā-viśeṣa eva. na ca tasyāvasthā-viśeṣatve nirgamābhāvena viṣayāsaṃsargāt tad-ākārakatvaṃ vṛtter durghaṭatvam iti śaṅkyam . māyā-guṇasya rajasaścañcalatvena vikṣepakatvena ca darpaṇe mukhasyeva netra-golake’pi bāhya-viṣayākāra-samarpaṇa-tad-ākārasya sughaṭatvāt. sa evaṃ māyika ākāro nayana-kiraṇeṣu netra-mudraṇe pratyāvṛtteṣu golakāntar anubhūyate.
pp. 123—5.


varaṇaṃ cānugrahaḥ. sa ca dharmāntaram eva, na tu pḥalāditsā. yasyā-nugraham icchāmītivākyāt. sa ca bhakti-bīja-bhūtaḥ. ato bhaktyā mām abhijānāti, bhaktyā tvananyayā śakyaḥ bhaktyā’ham ekayā grāhya ity ādiṣu na virodhaḥ.
p. 137.


niyata-dharma-sāhitye ubhayor ekatarasya vā vyāptir iti. ubhayoḥ sama-vyāptikayoḥ kṛtakatvānityatvādi-rūpayorekatarasya viṣama-vyāptikasya dhūmāder niyata-dharma-sāhitye a-vyabhicarita-dharma-rūpe sāmānādhikaraṇye vyāptiḥ.
pp. 139—40.


sanatrāpi kenacid rūpeṇa jñeyatvādi-sattve’pi rūpāntareṇa tad-abhāvasya sarvajanīnatvāc ca kevalānvayi-sādhyakānumānasyaivābhāvāt.
p. 141.


Ibid. p. 143

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