Anumana in Indian Philosophy

by Sangita Chakravarty | 2016 | 48,195 words

This page relates ‘Vedic schools (1): The Nyaya-Vaisheshika’ of the study on the concept of Anumana (inference) in the Vedic schools of Indian Philosophy. Anumana usually represents the most authentic means of valid knowledge. This paper discusses the traditional philosophical systems such as Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta.

Vedic schools (1): The Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika

The Nyāya philosophy has been held in great reverence for quite a long time past. The great sage Gautama is the founder of the Nyāya system. He is also known as Gotama or Akṣapāda. Nyāya is based on argumentation and suggestive of the system which is predominantly intellectual. It is analytical, logical and epistemological. The Nyāya serves as an introduction to all systematic philosophy.[1] This system is also called Tarkaśāstra or Tarkavidyā or science of reasoning. In common parlance, the word Nyāya signifies right or justice. The Nyāyaśāstra is, therefore called the science of right judgement or true reasoning. It is derived from the root ni.

The term Nyāya literally means that by means of which the mind is led to a conclusion.[2] It means logic or reasoning,[3] implying that means by which the desired meaning is brought out clearly. It is also called Tarkaśāstra or Tarkavidyā; Hetuvidyā or Hetuśāstra, the science of causes; Pramāṇaśāstra or the science of logic and correct knowledge. According to the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, Nyāya means Vākovākya, or Vādavidyā or the science of debate.[4] The Nyāya is also called ānvīkṣikī or the science of critical study, or the science of inquiry.[5] Kautilya opines that ānvīkṣikī has ever been revered as the lamp of all sciences, the resource of all actions and the shelter of all virtues. It serves as an introduction to all systematic philosophy.[6] Manu also uses ānvīkṣikī as an equivalent for ātmavidyā.[7]

Nyāya is a system of atomistic pluralism and logical realism. It is primarily concerned with the conditions of correct thinking and means of acquiring a true knowledge of reality which is classified under sixteen topics. It is allied to the Vaiśeṣika system which is regarded as samānatantra or similar philosophy. The Nyāya system is known to have developed logic and epistemology. There are two schools of Nyāya system. One is called Prācīna Nyāya (old) and the other is called Navya Nyāya (new).

Gotama or Gautama or Akṣapāda was the founder of the Nyāya philosophy. The earliest literature of the old school is the Nyāyasūtra of Gautama. It consists of five chapters. Each of them is divided into two sections which give us an idea of the metaphysical and logical doctrines of the Nyāya philosophy. Vātsyāyana’s Nyāyabhāṣya is the most important commentary on the Nyāyasūtra. Uddyotakara (600 A.D.) wrote Nyāyavārttika on Nyāyabhāṣya. Other prominant works of the Nyāya philosophy include Jayanta’s Nyāyamañjarī (1000 A.D.), Vācaspati Miśra’s Nyāyavārttikatātparyaṭīkā on Nyāyavārttika, Dharmakīrti’s Nyāyabindu, Dharmottara’s Nyāyabinduṭīkā, Udayana’s Nyāyavārttikatātparyapariśuddhi (1050 A.D.), Nyāyapariśiṣṭa, Probodhasiddhi or Bodhasiddhi, Ātmatattvaviveka, Nyāyakusumāñjali, Kiraṇāvalī and Lakṣaṇāvalī (906 Śaka, 984 A.D.). Udayana’s Kusumāñjali is the first systematic work of the theism of the Nyāya. He belongs to the tenth century A.D. In this way, the development of the Sūtra philosophy of Gautama is called the ancient school of Nyāya or Prācīna-Nyāya.

The Navya-Nyāya or the modern school of Indian philosophy begins with the epoch-making Tattvacintāmaṇi of Gaṅgeśa Upādhyāya of Mithila about 1200 A.D. The Tattvacintāmaṇi is regarded as the standard and classical work of the modern school of Nyāya. Gaṅgeśa did not favour equivocation and aimed at creating a ground for precise and scientific thinking. His Tattvacintāmaṇi deals with perception, inference, comparison and testimony. The eminent logicians of the Navya-Nyāya system are–

Vāsudeva, Mathurānātha, Jagadiśa, Raghunātha, Godādhara and Vardhamāna. Vardhamāna (1250 A.D.), son of Gaṅgeśa, penned several commentaries, viz., Nyāyakusumāñjaliprakāśa on Nyāyakusumāñjali and Nyāyanibandhaprakāśa on Nyāyavārttikatātparyapariśuddhi. Again the Tattvacintāmaṇivyākhyā of Vasudeva Sārvabhauma may be treated as the first great work of the Navya-Nyāya system. Jayadeva wrote a commentary on Gaṅgeśa’s Tattvacintāmaṇi, which is called Āloka. Rucidatta Miśra (1300 A.D.) wrote Prakāśa on Tattvacintāmaṇi and Makaranda on Nyāyakusumāñjaliprakāśa. Haridāsa Bhattāchārya (1500 A.D.) penned a short commentary on Nyāyakusumāñjali. Jagadīśa Tarkālaṅkāra (1700 A.D.) wrote Jagadīśi and Gadādhara (1700 A.D.) wrote Vivṛti on Dīdhiti. Dīdhiti was written by Raghunātha Śiromaṇi (1600 A.D.).

The whole philosophy of Nyāya may be conveniently divided into four parts, viz.,

  1. the theory of knowledge,
  2. the theory of physical world,
  3. the theory of individual self and its liberation, and
  4. the theory of God.

The Nyāya deals with sixteen topics,viz.,

  1. the instrument of valid knowledge (pramāṇa);
  2. the objects of valid knowledge (prameya);
  3. doubt (saṃśaya);
  4. motive (prayojana);
  5. an example (dṛṣṭānta);
  6. a tenant (siddhānta);
  7. the members (avayava);
  8. hypothetical reasoning (tarka);
  9. ascertainment (nirṇaya);
  10. discussion (vāda);
  11. wrangle (jalpa);
  12. cavil (vitaṇḍā);
  13. faulty reasons (hetvābhāsa);
  14. quibble (chala);
  15. futility (jāti);
  16. ground of defeat (nigrahasthāna).

The methodology of the Nyāya system consists of enunciation, definition, and examination which are known as Uddeśa, Lakṣaṇa and Parīkṣā respectively . In this way, the Nyāya system of Indian philosophy shares a unique interest in Indian literature, especially because of its long history and the fundamental character of its discussion. Enunciation is a statement of a subject in a general way. It comprises division (vibhāga) which is the enunciation of its different kinds. A definition explicitly states the general characters of an object by which it is distinguished from other homogenous and heterogenous objects. Divisions and definition help each other and facilitate examination. A definition must not be too narrow or too wide. If the individuals belonging to two classes overlap one another, there is cross division (jātisaṃkara) which is fallacious.[8] Enunciation, division and definition are the basis of examination which consists in proving one’s view and refuting rival view about the nature of an object. The dialectic method of an object is employed in examination of a subject.

The Vaiśeṣika system is of greater antiquity than the Nyāya . These two systems of philosophy have been held in great reverence for a very long time past. The study of certain Upaniṣads like the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad and the Kaṭhopaniṣad give strong impression that these logical thoughts occurred to the minds of the Vedic seers also. The great sage Kaṇāda or Kaṇabhuk is the founder of this system. He is also known as–Uluka, Kāśyapa or Kaṇabhakṣa. The word Vaiśeṣika is derived from the word viśeṣa which means particularity or distinguishing feature or distinction. Therefore, the Vaiśeṣika philosophy is pluralistic realism which emphasizes that diversity is the soul of this Universe. The category of viśeṣa is dealt with at length in this system and is regarded as the essence of things. The other six categories are—dravya (substance); guṇa (quality); karma (activity); sāmānya (generality); samavāya (inherence); and abhāva (non-existence). The first systematic work of this system is the Vaiśeṣikasūtra. Praśastapāda wrote Padārthadharmasaṃgraha, which is called a bhāṣya or commentary on the Vaiśeṣikasūtra of Kaṇāda. This treatise has been well acclaimed for its independent nature. Praśastapāda, who was preceded by Vātsyāyana, was much influenced by the Nyāya system. Bharadvājavṛtti and Rāvaṇabhāṣya are two commentaries written on the Vaiśeṣikasūtra, but their availability is not ascertained. Other commentaries which are written on Praśastapāda’s work include Vyomaśekhara’s Vyomavatī; Śrīdhara’s Nyāyakandalī; Udayana’s Kiraṇāvalī and Śrīvatsa’s Līlāvatī which are treated as valuable compendium of the Vaiśeṣika system. Again Śaṃkaramiśra’s Upaskāra and Udayana’s Lakṣaṇāvalī are also two most valuable works on the Vaiśeṣika system. The Vaiśeṣika was later merged with the Nyāya system. This is evident in the classic works of Śivāditya’s Saptapadārthī, Annambhaṭṭa’s Tarkasaṃgraha, and Viśvanātha’s Bhāṣāpariccheda. The philosophy that emerged after the Vaiśeṣika system being allied to the Nyāya system is regarded as samānatantra or similar philosophy. Both the Nyāya and the Vaiśeṣika systems of Indian philosophy establish the existence of Ātmā with the help of inference,[9] and that is called anumāna. According to them, bondage is due to ignorance of reality. The false knowledge is the root cause of bondage of the world. They share common ideas with the other systems of Indian philosophy, e.g., the world is full of suffering and a little pleasure serves to intensify the force of sorrow. To get rid of bondage, the soul must stop actions. Liberation comes through knowledge. That is liberation which is absolute cessation of all pain. Liberation is the cessation of all life, all consciousness, all bliss, together with all pain and all qualities. It is the qualityless, indeterminate, pure nature of the individual soul as pure substance devoid of all qualities. Though the Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika are allied to each other yet they differ in some points as well. The Vaiśeṣika system recognizes seven categories, while the Nyāya system recognizes sixteen categories.[10] The Nyāya categories are logical categories; on the other hand, Vaiśeṣika categories are mainly object of knowledge. The Vaiśeṣika develops metaphysics and ontology while the Nyāya develops logic and epistemology. The Vaiśeṣika system recognizes only two sources of valid knowledge, viz., perception (pratyakṣa) and inference (anumāna). On the other hand, the Nyāya system recognizes four means of valid knowledge, viz., perception (pratyakṣa), inference (anumāna), comparison (upamāna) and verbal testimony (śabda). As a whole, it may be said that the Vaiśeṣika system is conducive to the study of all systems.[11]

Footnotes and references:


Vide Radhakrishnan, S., Indian Philosophy, vol-ii.,p. 32


nīyate anena iti nyāyaḥ. Ibid.,p. 43


nīyate vivakṣito arthaḥ yeneti nyāyaḥ. Tarkabhāṣā, p. 3


Chāndogya Upaniṣad, VII. 1. 2


pratyakṣāgamābhyāmīkṣitasya ānvīkṣaṇamanvīkṣā tayā pravartate iti ānvīkṣikī nyāyavidyā. Nyāyabhāṣya on Nyāyasūtra, i. 1. 1


pradipaḥ sarvavidyānāmupāyaḥ sarva karmānām āśrayaḥ sarvadharmāṇām sasvadānvīkṣikī matā. Arthaśāstra, i. 2


traividyebhyastrayīm vidyād daṇḍanītiñca sasvatim /
ānvīkṣikiñcātmā vidyām vartārambhamśca lokataḥ // Manusmṛti, 7. 43


Vide Sinha, J. N., Indian Philosophy, vol-1., p. 483


iccādveṣaprayatnasukhadukhajñānānyātmano liṅgam. Nyāyasūtra, i. 1. 10 Cf: ātmatvabhisambandhādātmā prasādhako’numīyate. Praśastapāda Bhāṣya, p. 360


pramāṇa prameya saṃśaya…tatvajñānānnisśreyasādhigamaḥ. Nyāyasūtra, i. 1. 1


kaṇādam pāṇiniyañca sarvaśāstropakārakam, as quoted in A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, p. 17

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