Anumana in Indian Philosophy

by Sangita Chakravarty | 2016 | 48,195 words

This page relates ‘Classification of knowledge (1): Valid Knowledge’ 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.

Classification of knowledge (1): Valid Knowledge

Knowledge is the revelation of the objective world to a subject. It is a subjective phenomenon representing the world of reality. In Indian epistemology, the theory of knowledge deals with two peculiar terms. They are jñāna and pramā. All kinds of knowledge are called jñāna. But when reality reveals true knowledge, then it is called pramā, and when reality reveals false knowledge, that it is called apramā.

It has already been stated that the word ‘pramā’ is used to mean only valid knowledge (yathārthajñāna) which is different from invalid knowledge (ayathārthajñāna)[1] . In Indian philosophical system, all the philosophical thinkers put forward divergent views on the nature of valid knowledge (yathārthajñāna). Prof. D.M. Datta seems perfectly right in his observation that pramā is generally defined as a cognition having the two fold characteristics of truth and novelty (abādhitatva or yathārthatva and anadhigatatva), and that as regards the first characteristic–truth–all schools of Indian philosophy are unanimous.[2] But on the second characteristic there is a difference of opinion. It is, however, to be seen that even those who hold truth as an essential criterion of knowledge differ amongst themselves regarding the meaning of truth. Different systems of Indian philosophy put forword different views regarding the nature of valid knowledge which have been discussed in the following.

The Nyāya view of valid knowledge:

According to the Naiyāyikas, pramā is a definite and assured knowledge of an object which is true and presentational in character. In their view, the validity of knowledge consists of the objectivity or the faithfulness of the knowledge towards the object. In the Nyāyasūtra of Gautama, we do not find any definition of pramāṇa. He simply states the four means of knowledge. Vātsyāyana defines valid knowledge as the cognition of an object or in other words, pramāṇa is connected with artha (object), because the success of activity depends on the establishment if the artha by means of pramāṇa. [3] Valid knowledge excludes all kinds of non-valid knowledge, such as memory, doubt, error, hypothetical argument etc. Memory is excluded because it depends on the previous experience and not in the present one. In the view of Jayanta Bhaṭṭa, the author of Nyāyamañjarī, valid knowledge is an apprehension of an object which is definite (asaṃdigdha) and non-erroneous (avyabhicārī). [4]

Gaṅgeśa, the founder of the Navya Nyāya, mentions that pramā is that which informs us of the existence of something in a place where it really exists.[5] According to Udayana, valid knowledge (pramā) is the right apprehension of an object. It apprehends[6] its objects in its real nature and not as contrary to it. Annambhaṭṭa, the author of existence of something as it is.[7] Like Annambhaṭṭa, Keśavamiśra, the author of Tarkabhāṣā also mentions that pramā is used to mean only valid experience,[8] i.e., an apprehension which accords with the true character of the object or thing apprehended. Here, pramā is defined as the right apprehension of an object. According to him, pramā is caused by valid instrument of cognition such as perception.[9] Hence, according to Nyāya, the truth of knowledge consists in its correspondence to facts.

The Vaiśeṣika view of valid knowledge:

The Vaiśeṣika system agrees with the Nyāya system in its doctrines of valid knowledge (pramā) and its extrinsic validity and invalidity. Praśastapāda in his commentary on the Vaiśeṣikasūtra nowhere defines valid knowledge, but he distinguishes between vidyā and avidyā. Vidyā includes perception, inference, ārsa and memory, while avidyā includes doubt, illusion, indefinite cognition and dream. According to Śrīdhara, vidyā is a firm, uncontradicted and definite cognition.[10] It is meant that vidyā is valid knowledge and avidyā is invalid knowledge and that memory is valid knowledge. For Śivāditya, valid knowledge (pramā) is the experience of the real nature of things.[11] Similar view is adopted by Viśvanātha. The Vaiśeṣikas accept past and as already known.[12] In this respect he appears to be influenced by the Nyāya view. But if his view is accepted as a correct interpretation of the bhāṣya of Praśastapāda, then it is practically identical with the Bhāṭṭa view of valid knowledge as a definite, true and new cognition.

The Sāṃkhya-Yoga view of valid knowledge:

According to Sāṃkhya philosophy, Puruṣa is intelligent but inactive. When buddhi conceives the reflection of Puruṣa and the form of the object is revealed, then this revelation is termed as pramā. The Sāṃkhyatattvakaumudī of Vācaspati Miśra gives the definition of valid knowledge as the function of the citta which apprehends an object which is undoubted, real and unknown.[13] He further gives an alternate definition of pramā as apprehension (bodha) of Puruṣa which forms the result of pramāṇa. [14] In the Sāṃkhyasūtra, Kapila defines valid knowledge as determination (paricchitti) of an [15] object which is not previously cognized. Īśvarakṛṣṇa simply mentions that pramāṇa is that which brings about the cognition of objects.[16] According to Vijñānabhikṣu, pramā or valid knowledge is the reflection of buddhi having the form of object into Puruṣa. [17] In his view, whenever the Puruṣa is spoken of as having valid cognition, the modification of budhhi is pramāṇa. But when the buddhi is held as the one that cognizes, it is the sense, object, contact, etc. that constitute pramāṇa. [18] Valid knowledge (pramā) has correspondence to its object in the sense in which a true copy has it to its original.

The Vedānta view of valid knowledge:

In the Vedānta system, the validity of knowledge consists of non-contradictoriness. According to this system, valid knowledge (pramā) is that knowledge which is an object that is not already known and which is not contradicted.[19] This definition of valid knowledge is given by Dharmarājādhvarīndra. According to the Vedānta system, all empirical knowledge is true only so long as the ultimate truth is not realized. The Viśiṣṭādvaita school of Uttara Mīmāṃsā holds that the validity of knowledge consists in both the faithfulness to the object and prompting to the fruitful activity.[20] Again, the Dvaita Vedānta,[21] the Dvaitādvaita Vedānta[22] and the Śuddhādvaita Vedānta[23] also accept the conformity of knowledge to the object as a mark of valid knowledge.[24] Both the Vedāntins and the Bhāṭṭa Mīmāṃsakas mention avādhitatva or non-contradiction as a mark of valid knowledge. In the view of Dharmarājādhvarīndra, the term avādhita means non-contradicted during the transmigratory state.[25] According to the Vedāntins, all empirical cognitions are true only so long as the ultimate truth, the identity of all existence is not realized.

The Prābhākara view of valid knowledge:

According to the Prābhākara school of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā, all knowledge are valid. Prabhākara’s definition of valid knowledge is the same as that of the later Naiyāyikas. But Prabhākara does not include the term yathārtha in the definition.

Śālikanātha, a commentator of Prābhākara school, gives the definition of valid knowledge as—

“Valid knowledge is experienced, and it is something different from memory which is the name of that cognition which arises from the impression left by some previous experience.”[26]

In a continuous perfection the later cognitions arising from sense objects intercourse like the first cognition, are different from memory, and hence they are valid. Recognition too is valid because it is not produced solely from impression. It is an experience aided by impression. Memory is not valid, because it depends on a former experience. Memory does not determine an object independently. Kumārila agrees with Prabhākara as to the nature of valid knowledge which is in the nature of apprehension (bodha) and can be set aside by its disagreement with the real nature of its object.[27]

The Bhāṭṭa view of valid knowledge:

Knowledge may be true or false, valid or invalid. The Bhāṭṭa Mīmāṃsakas define valid knowledge as the knowledge of an unknown real object.[28] According to Kumārila, valid knowledge is a firm or assured cognition of objects which does not stand in need of confirmation by other cognition.[29] According to Pārthasārathi Miśra, valid knowledge is the knowledge which represents the real nature of an object, which was not apprehended already, and which is not contradicted by a sublating knowledge.[30]

According to Pārthasārathi Miśra, there are three distinctive features of valid knowledge, viz.,

  1. its object is not remembered as having been previously known;
  2. it confirms to the real nature of its object and
  3. there is a feeling of conviction regarding its conformity or agreement with the real object.

In this way, novelty, freedom from doubt, and truth are the three essential marks of valid knowledge. Kumārila recognizes the intrinsic validity (svataḥ prāmāṇya) and extrinsic invalidity (parataḥ aprāmāṇya) of knowledge. The validity of knowledge arises from the essential nature of its causes untainted by defeats, and is known by the knowledge itself. The practical side of knowledge cannot be neglected when we consider its epistemological worth.

Footnotes and references:


tadvati tatprakāroko’nubhabo yathārthaḥ, tadabhāvavati tatprakāroko’nubhabo ayathārthaḥ. Tarkasaṃgraha, pp. 20, 21


Datta, D.M, The Six Ways of Knowing, p. 20


Nyāyabhāṣya, i. 1. 2


avyabhicārinimasandigdhamarthopalabdhim vidadhāti. Nyāyamañjarī, I-20


yatra yadasti tatra tasyānubhavaḥ pramā. Tattvacintāmaṇi, Vol.I, p. 401


mitiḥ samyak paricchittiḥ samicīno’unbhavaḥ pramā. Nyāyakusumāñjali, iv. 5. p. 25


tadvati tatprakārako’nubhavo yathārthaḥ saiva prametyucyate. Tarkasaṃgraha, p. 19


yathārthānubhavaḥ pramā. Tarkabhāṣā, 5


yathārtho’visamvādī sā ca pratyakṣādibhiḥ pramāṇairjanyate. Ibid., p. 218


niḥsandigdhavādhitādhyāvasāyātmikā pratītirvidyā. Nyāyakandalī, p. 169


tatvānubhavaḥ pramā. Saptapadārthī, p. 101


Nyāyakandalī, p. 257


taccāsandigdhavīparitānadhigataviṡaya cittavṛttiḥ. Sāṃkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṃkhyakārikā, k. 5


vodhāśca pauruṣeyaḥ phalam pramā. Ibid.


dvayorekatarasya vā’pyasannikṛṣṭārtha paricchittiḥ pramā tatsādhakatamam yat tat trividham pramāṇam. Sāṃkhyasūtra, 1. 87


prameyasiddhiḥ pramāṇāddhi. Sāṃkhyakārikā, p. 4


Sāṃkhya Pravacanabhāṣya on Sāṃkhyasūtra,1. 87


atra yadi pramārupam phalam puruṣaniṣṭhā mātramuccyate, tadā buddhivṛttirevapramāṇam, yadi ca buddhiniṣṭhā mātram ucchyate tadendriyasannikarṣādireva pramāṇam. Ibid.


pramāttvamanadhigatāvādhitaviṣayajñānattvam, Vedāntaparibhāṣā, p. 19


Vide Biswas, Mukta., Sāṃkhya-Yoga Epistemology, p. 61


yathārtha jñānam pramā. Pramāṇa Prakaraṇa, p. 9


yathārthajñānam pramā, tadvati tatprakārakattvam yathārthattvam, Śrutyāntakalpavallī, p. 91


niścaya yathārthānubhava, ayameva prameti vyavahṛyate yathārthyam cārthānativartittvam, Pramāṇa Prakaraṇa, p. 18


Vide Biswas, Mukta., Sāṃkhya Yoga Epistemology, p. 62


tathā ca avādhitapadena saṃsāradaśāyāmavādhitattvam vivakṣitam, Vedāntaparibhāṣā, p. 6


anubhutiḥ pramāṇam sā smṛteranya smṛtiḥ punaḥ / pūrvavijñānasaṃskāramātrajam jñānamucyate // Prakaraṇapañcikā, p. 127


arthānyathatvāhetutthā doṣajñānād apodyate, Ślokavārttika, 2. 53


pramā ca jñātā-tattvārthajñānam, Mānameyodaya, p. 2


tasmāt dṛḍham yadutpannam nāpi samvādamṛcchati / jñānāntarena vijñānam tatpramāṇam pratīyatām // Ślokavārttika, 2. 80


bādhaka-jñāna-rahitam agṛhitāgrāhi jñānam pramāṇam. yathārtham agṛhitāgrāhi pramāṇam, Śāstradīpikā, p. 45

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