Anumana in Indian Philosophy

by Sangita Chakravarty | 2016 | 48,195 words

This page relates ‘Sources of 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.

(D). Sources of valid knowledge

Indian philosophy is not dogmatic and uncritical. Every system of philosophy is based on epistemology or theory of knowledge. Different systems of Indian philosophy are not unanimous regarding the nature and number of the sources of valid knowledge (pramāṇa).

In the system of Cārvāka , there is only one pramāṇa, that is perception (pratyakṣa).[1] The Bauddha recognizes perception (pratyakṣa) and inference (anumāna) as a means of valid knowledge. The Vaiśeṣika also holds the same view. The Nyāya recognizes perception (pratyakṣa), inference (anumāna), comparison (upamāna), and verbal testimony (śabda) as the sources of valid knowledge. The Sāṃkhya system recognizes perception (pratyakṣa), inference (anumāna) and verbal testimony (śabda) as the sources of valid knowledge. The Prābhākara Mīmāṃsakas add one more pramāṇa called postulation (arthāpatti) with the above four. Kumārila and the Advaitins recognize the above five with the addition of non-apprehension (anupalabdhi) as the sources of valid knowledge. The Paurāṇikas admit the above six with the addition of sambhava and aitiḥya. These sources discuss the nature, object and grounds of valid knowledge.

Pratyakṣa (Perception):

In the field of epistemological investigation, pratyakṣa preceds all other sources of valid knowledge. It is the knowledge which is produced by the intercourse of an object with a sense organ, undefinable, determinate and in harmony with its object. Pratyakṣa gives a direct knowledge of reality. It is the immediate knowledge of a present object through a sense organ. The superiority of perception over other sources of knowledge consists in that it gives a first hand and detailed information about reality. The term pratyakṣa consists of two parts, viz.; prati and akṣi. Here, prati means near or before and akṣi means eye. Therefore, pratyakṣa means that instrument which gives rise to direct valid cognition. That alone is called direct valid perception which arises through the sense organs[2] .

Anumāna (Inference):

Indian philosophers have attached much importance to anumāna chiefly because it is accepted as a valid source of knowledge by all the systems except Cārvāka. Anumāna serves as the most authentic source of knowledge of supra-sensuous objects. In brief, anumāna implies knowledge of some object not in contact with cognitive organs through some fact which is directly perceived and is definitely known to be invariably associated with the object inferred. Subjumptive reflection of the reason is called inference (anumāna). The derivative meaning of anumāna is that through which something is inferred.[3] Anumāna depends on previous knowledge.

Śabda (Verbal Testimony):

Śabda is an important source of valid knowledge. Śabda depends upon anumāna in so far as the meaning of a word is known through anumāna. The utterance of a trustworthy person (āpta) constitutes verbal testimony[4] . Again, it depends upon employment of words and understanding their meanings. Knowledge arises through words. Śabda is expressed in a sentence which is a combination of words conveying a meaning. Its comprehensibility depends upon certain conditions. Firstly, a sentence consists of words which imply one another, that is called ākāṅkṣā. Secondly, a sentence consists of words which have fitness for one another, that is called yogyatā. Thirdly, a sentence consists of words which are in close proximity to one another, that is called meaning of the words of which they are made up.

Upamāna (Comparison):

Upamāna is the means of knowing an unknown object through its resemblance with another well-known object. Knowledge through comparison (upamāna) is gained by the similarity of one thing to a known thing as in the case of a cow, when such similarity is based on the recollection of an assertion made by some person who is aware of such similarity.[5] It means the knowledge of similarity is generated by upamāna, e.g., like a wild cow with a known object like a cow. In the Nyāyasūtra, Gautama defines upamāna as the knowledge of similarity of an unknown object with a well-known object.[6] The knowledge is like this–the perceived wild cow is like the remembered cow (gosadṛśo gavayaḥ).

Upamāna contains the following factors–

  1. the perception of an unfamiliar object which was not perceived before;
  2. the indirect knowledge of its resemblance with a familiar object;
  3. the perception of resemblance of the unfamiliar object with the well-known object;
  4. the recollection of the verbal statement of the reliable person;
  5. the knowledge of the relation between a name and the unfamiliar object which is perceived.

Arthāpatti (Postulation):

Arthāpatti or postulation is regarded as an independent source of valid knowledge accepted by the Mīmāṃsā school. Arthāpatti or presumption is the assumption of an unperceived object without which consistency among perceived facts cannot be reconciled.[7] If we know that Devadatta is alive, and perceive that he is absent from his house, we cannot reconcile his being alive with his non-existence in his house, unless we assume his existence outside his house. The assumption of this unperceived fact which reconciles two apparently inconsistent well-known facts is presumption. This is called arthāpatti or postulation or implication.

Anupalabdhi (Non-Apprehension):

Anupalabdhi or non-apprehension is an independent source of valid knowledge. It is defined as the absence of any means of valid knowledge which cognizes the non-existence of an object, which is not present to a sense organ[8] . The non-existence of a thing (e.g. there is no jug in this room) cannot be perceived by the senses, for there is nothing with which the senses could come into contact in order to perceive its non-existence. Non-existence is known by non-apprehension. It can never be known by perception.

Thus, the objective of the study, in general, is to examine the concept of Mīmāṃsā-Vedānta systems of Indian philosophy. Again, the specific objective of the study shall be to examine the nature and function of anumāna, its kinds, and fallacy as interpretated by the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika, the Sāṁkhya-Yoga and the Mīmāṁsā-Vedānta systems of Indian philosophy.

Footnotes and references:


pratyakṣamekaṃ cārvākā kaṇādasugatau punaḥ anumānāñca taccātha sāṃkhyā śabdañcate api nyāyaikadeśino’pyevamupamānāñca kecanārthāpattyā sahaitani catyavāryāha prabhākarāḥ, abhāva ṣaṣṭhānyetāni bhāṭṭa vedāntinastathā sambhavaitiḥyayuktāni aṣṭau paurānikāḥ jaguḥ // Tārkikarakṣā, p. 56


sākṣātkāri pramākaraṇam pratyakṣam, sāksātkāriṇī ca pramā saivocchyate ye indriyajā. Tarkabhāṣā, 20


liṅgaparāmarśo anumānam. yena hi anumīyate tadanumānam. Ibid., 34


āptavākyam śabdaḥ. Ibid., 59


atideśavākyārtha smaraṇasahakṛtam gosādṛṣyaviśiṣṭa piṇḍajñānamupamānam. Ibid.,58


prasiddhasādharmyāt sādhyasādhanam upamānam. Nyāyasūtra, i. 1. 6


arthāpattiḥ dṛṣṭaḥ śruto vā’rtho anyathā nopapadyate ityarthakalpanā. ŚBh, p. 110 Cf: vinā kalpanayārthena dṛṣṭena anupapannatam nayatā adṛṣṭamartham yā sa arthāpattistu kalpanā. Prakaraṇapañcikā,1, p. 272


abhāvaḥ pramāṇābhāvaḥ nāsti—ityasārthasyasannikṛṣṭasya, ŚBh, p. 118, as quoted in Sinha, J.N., Indian Philosophy, vol-I, p. 817

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