Anumana in Indian Philosophy

by Sangita Chakravarty | 2016 | 48,195 words

This page relates ‘Divisions of Anumana (in Mimamsa-Vedanta Philosophy)’ 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.

(B). Divisions of Anumāna (in Mīmāṃsā-Vedānta Philosophy)

The most commonly recognized divisions of anumāna are two, viz.,

  1. svārthānumāna (the inference for oneself) and
  2. parārthānumāna (the inference for others).

In earlier philosophical literature this division of anumāna was observed by Diṅnāga, Praśastapāda and Siddhasenadivākara. In the Mīmāṃsā system, even Śabaraswāmī has not referred to this division of anumāna. Kumārila Bhaṭṭa also does not seem to have favoured the distinction of anumāna, though he does say that one who wishes to communicate to others what he knows through anumāna should first mention the pakṣa, i.e., that which is to be proved.[1] Sucaritamiśra and Umbeka are definitely opposed to the division of anumāna into svārthānumāna and parārthānumāna. [2] According to Sucaritamiśra, this division of anumāna is untenable. Nārāyaṇa, a staunch follower of Kumārila and also the author of Mānameyodaya, however, mentions these two forms of anumāna. [3] According to Dharmottara, the inference for others is of the nature of word, while the inference for oneself is of the nature of knowledge.[4]

In the Mīmāṃsā system, Śabaraswāmī admits only two other kinds of inference (anumāna) which he calls pratyakṣatodṛṣṭasambandha and sāmānyatodṛṣṭasambandha.

Śabara does not define these terms. But he illustrates them in this way:

“When the form of fire is inferred from the form of smoke then the inference is of the first kind, i.e., pratyakṣatodṛṣṭasambandha.[5] When seeing that Devadatta’s change of position is preceded by his movement, we infer the sun’s movement from its change of position in the sky, the inference is of the second kind, i.e., sāmānyatodṛṣṭasambandha.”[6]

Kumārila calls the former dṛṣṭasvalakṣaṇaviṣaya and the latter adṛṣṭasvalakṣaṇaviṣaya. Kumārila does not approve this terminology and the illustrations as given by Śabara. In the first kind of anumāna, there is the invariable concomitance between objects which are perceptible, e.g., smoke and fire. In the latter there is the invariable concomitance between a perceptible object and an imperceptible object, e.g., the motion of sun is inferred from its change of position in the sky.

There we do not find any such thing between pratyakṣatodṛṣṭa and sāmānyatodṛṣṭa. The opposite term of sāmānya is viśeṣa. The sāmānya or general and viśeṣa or particular are equally perceptible. The relation between two general things is as much as perceptible as one between two particular things. Kumārila adopts the term viśeṣatodṛṣṭa in the place of pratyakṣatodṛṣṭa. Thus, the two kinds of anumāna are viśeṣatodṛṣṭa or specifically seen and sāmānyatodṛṣṭa or generally seen which are accepted by Kumārila. The first kind of anumāna is illustrated thus:-

A man perceives a particular fire from dried cow-dung and also its particulars effect, i.e., the smoke, slightly different in colour and other aspects from other smokes. Next he goes away from the place and returning again after some time infers the same particular fire from the same particular smoke. This anumāna is based on an invariable relation between two particulars. Therefore, it is called viśeṣatodṛṣṭa anumāna.

It seems more probable that Śabara’s sāmānyatodṛṣṭa anumāna is also based on analogy. He states, as an example of pratyakṣatodṛṣṭa anumāna, that we have the cognition of fire following from the smoke. As an example of sāmānyatodṛṣṭa anumāna we have the case where finding Devadatta’s reaching another place to be preceded by his movement we remember movement on the part of the sun also. In the example of pratyakṣatodṛṣṭa, Śabara does not use the words, i.e., “finding smoke to be accompanied by fire in the hearth, as he uses in the example of sāmānyatodṛṣṭa.

The second example may be put in logical form as follows:

“Devadatta changes his position and moves.
The sun resembles Devadatta in changing its position.
Therefore, it resembles Devadatta in having movement.”

It may be now concluded that Śabara divided anumāna into deductive and analogical, and that Kumārila did not accept any anumāna which is not deductive.

According to Prabhākara, anumāna is of two kinds. He explains Śabara’s division of anumāna into pratyakṣatodṛṣṭa and sāmānyatodṛṣṭa differently. He calls these two kinds of anumāna, viz., dṛṣṭasvalakṣaṇa and adṛṣṭasvalakṣaṇa. [7] In Prabhākara’s view, this twofold division is based on a twofold division of the object of anumāna. According to Prabhākara, the probandum is sometimes one whose specific individuality is perceptible and sometimes one whose specific individuality which means svalakṣaṇa is imperceptible. But here the question arises as to how the relation of that, whose specific individuality cannot be observed with vyāpti, can be established. Prabhākara maintains that in such cases the vyāpti is generally seen, not specifically. As for example, the specific individuality of fire is perceptible whereas that of action or movement and potency (śakti) is imperceptible.

Prabhākara states that movement cannot be perceived and that what we actually perceive when a thing is in motion is the conjunction and disjunction of the thing with some other thing. For example, ‘the ground.’ Again potency is inferred in the following way:

We know that fire burns things. But sometimes under the influence of some herb it does not burn things. The visible form of fire cannot be the cause of burning. Because, though it is present when it burns things, it is not absent when it does not burn things. That is why, it is inferred that the cause of burning must be some invisible property of fire, which is present when fire burns things. This invisible property is called potency or śakti. Potency is known through presumption. Therefore, there being no imperceptible thing to be known through anumāna called adṛṣṭasvalakṣaṇa, the twofold division of anumāna suggested by Prabhākara falls to the ground.

Truly speaking, anumāna always accrues from an observed relationship, which cannot be possible unless both the terms of the relationship are perceptible.

Footnotes and references:


Ślokavārttika, Anumāna,53


Vide Bhatt, P.Govardhan., The Basic Ways of Knowing, p. 249


taccānumānam svārthāparārthābhedenāpi dvividhamāhuḥ. Mānameyodaya, p. 68


parārthānumānam śabdātmakam svārthānumānam jñānātmakam. Dharmottara, p. 88


tattu dvividhaṃ pratyakṣatodṛṣṭasambandhaṃ sāmānyatodṛṣṭasambandhaṃ ca / tatra pratyakṣatodṛṣṭasambandhaṃ yathā dhūmākṛtidarśan̄ at agnyākṛtivijñānam // Śabara Bhāṣya,p. 44


sāmānyatodṛṣṭasambandham yathā devadattasya gatipūrvikaṃ deśāntaraprāptimupalabhya āditye api gatismaraṇam. Ibid.


dvividhamanumānasya prameyam, kiñcid dṛṣṭasvalakṣaṇam, yathā bahnyādi / kiñcid ca adṛṣṭasvalakṣaṇam, yathā karmādi // Prakaraṇapañcikā, Sl 3

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