The validity of Anumana (inference) in Nyaya system

by Babu C. D | 2018 | 44,340 words

This thesis is called: The validity of Anumana (inference) in Nyaya system. It tries to establish the validity of Anumana through citing its application either consciously or unconsciously in every sphere of human life. Anumana in Nyaya system is the knowledge of any object not by direct observation but by means of the knowledge of a liṅga or sign ...

Chapter 2.1 - Pramanas in Sankhya Philosophy

Sankhya—one of the ancient systems of Indian Philosophy belongs to ‘astika’ schools. It is regarded as the most accurate system of philosophy. The word Sankhya is derived from the root ‘khya’ (jnana) prefixed by ‘sam’ meaning ‘number and ‘right knowledge.’ The school specifies the number and nature of the ultimate constituents of the universe and thereby imparts knowledge of reality. Mahabharata states that the Sankhya and Yoga are very ancient.[1] Generally Sankhya means numbers like one, two, three etc….. In shastra, sankhya is used for counting of tattvas. Thus, the word Sankhya is used in the sense of thinking and counting.[2] Thinking may be denoted by twenty five principles which include nature, the great one, egoism, five intellectual organs, five organs of actions, mind, five qualities, five gross elements and purusha (soul). Bhagavad-Gita used the word in the sense of perfect knowledge. Hence, Sankhya can be called a system of perfect knowledge. Kapila the great, is the founder of this school of thought.

Sankhya is a dualistic philosophy that believes in the coexistent and interdependent realities, Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha is ever pure, wise and free but it becomes a subject of pain and pleasure when it identifies itself with Prakrti. It is neither body nor senses nor brain nor mind (manas) nor ego (ahamkara) nor intellect (buddhi). It is not a substance which possesses the quality of consciousness. It is the indubitable real, the postulate of knowledge, and all doubles and denials pre-suppose its existence. It is called nistraigunya, udasina, akarita, kevala, madhyastha, sakshi, drashta, shadaprakashasvarupa, and Jnata. Prakriti on the other hand is the material cause of the universe and is composed of three gunas -sattva, rajas and tamas that correspond to light, activity and inertia respectively. The state in which the gunas are in equilibrium is called Prakriti but when disturbed, the state is called Vikriti. Disturbance in the equilibrium of Prakriti produces the material world, including the mind, which is supposed to be the finest form of material energy. Prakriti alone is the final source of this world of objects which is implicitly and potentially contained in its bosom. As a philosophy of ‘number’, it might have influenced the Pythagorean philosophy. Sankhya thus maintains a clear cut dualism between purusha and prakriti and further maintain the plurality of the purushas. The system is predominantly intellect and theoretical. According to Sankhya right knowledge means the knowledge of separation of the purusha from the prakrti.[3]

Sankhya philosophy is the mother of mathematics and is considered as the basis of Eastern philosophy.[4] It believes in Satkarya Vada. All the material effects are the modifications (parinama) of prakriti. The Original Sankhya was monistic and theistic. But the classical Sankhya, perhaps under the influence of Materialism, Jainism and Early Buddhism, became atheistic. It believes in the authority of the Vedas and does not try to prove the nonexistence of God.[5] Instead, it resumes to the study of Prakriti and Purusha which it considers enough to explain the universe.

The Sankhya concept of pramana differs from all other schools. Ishvara Krishna uses the term pramana in his Sankhya karika but does not give any explanation. Yet, it could be inferred that for him pramana meant ascertainment of an object which is nothing but a characteristic function of buddhi.

Pramana is defined by the Sankhya-shastra as the determination of an object which is not previously cognised by either of the two. Vacaspati Mishra also accepts pramana as the means of valid knowledge and describes it as a modification of buddhi (buddhivritti) the object of which is not doubtful, contradictory and the like. [6]

According to Shivanarayana Shastry, senses are the means of prama (real knowledge) in the form of the operation of buddhi (intellect). It is the apprehension of purusha and is prama in the form of the knowledge of an object.

Vijnanabhikshu defines pramana as the vritti or buddhi and prama as the reflection of buddhi having the form of the object absorbed in purusha. He argues that the knowledge as located in purusha is right because in Sankhya the operation of organs is to serve the purpose of Purusha.

The Sankhyas hold that both truth and error are intrinsic. This is grounded on the view that an effect pre-exists in its cause (Satkaryavada). They hold that nothing can be destroyed just as nothing can be produced. Validity and invalidity according to them belong to knowledge itself. Novelty, reality of object, and definiteness are the characteristics of valid knowledge. Sankhya recognizes Perception (pratyaksha), Inference (anumana) and Verbal testimony (Shabda or agama) as the three means of knowledge. [7]

Perception (Pratyaksha):

Perception is the knowledge produced by the contact of a sense organ with an object. The term consists of two parts, prati which means before or near or related and ‘aksha’ meaning ‘eye’. It is the first and foremost of all the pramanas. It is the primary and fundamental of all the sources of valid knowledge and it is the most powerful means of valid knowledge because it gives a direct or immediate knowledge of reality of an object and there is the root of all other pramanas. Both Astika and Nastika schools accept pratyaksha as a source of valid knowledge.

Sankhyakarika of Ishvara Krishna uses the term drista in the place of pratyaksha. Drista is defined as a determinate knowledge in respect of every individual object. There is no reference to sense-object contact here. The term in Sankhya shastra denotes only a small portion of immediate experience. The experience of inner phenomena remains outside the range of the definition of pratyaksha. Vacaspati interpreting the definition of Ishvara Krishna states that perception is a modification of the mind which gives definite cognition of objects affected by the sense-object contact.[8] According to him, through intellect (buddhi), ego (ahamkara), mind (manas) and the senses an external object is apprehended by the subject. Sankhya-Yoga accepts two kinds of perception viz., normal (laukika) and abnormal (alaukika). The former requires a particular process in sense object contact with the respective senseorgan. Vacaspati refers to Yogic perception as an abnormal kind of perception. Nirvikalpaka and Savikalpaka are two stages of perception according to Sankhya School. They refer to indeterminate perception as the immediate, pure and simple cognition of an object. [9]

Sankhya strongly advocates the interaction between sense and object. They also insist that the function of every sense-organ or in other words, the sense-organ itself moves to the object cognised.

Inference (Anumana):

Inference (anumana) is considered as a distinct means of knowledge by all systems of Indian philosophy except Carvakas. Anumana literally means such knowledge that follows some other knowledge. The term is derived from ‘anu’ followed by the root ‘ma’ with the suffix ‘lyut’. Mana means an apprehension or a way of apprehension of an object and the prefix anu denotes after. It is considered as a process of arriving at truth not by direct observation but by means of the knowledge of vyapti (invariable concomitance) or a universal relation between two things. Ishvara Krishna defines inference as the knowledge which is preceded by the knowledge (linga) of the sign and the signate (lingi) or the middle term (vyapaka).[10] Vacaspati Mishra explains it saying that linga means pervaded (vyapya) and lingi means pervasive (Vyapaka).[11] The Sankhyakarika speaks of three kinds of anumana which is propounded by Gautama viz., Purvavat, Sheshavat and Samanyatodrishta.[12] Purvavat is that in which an effect is inferred from its cause. For example from the rise of cloud it is inferred that it will rain. Sheshavat is that in which the cause is inferred from its effect. Inferring rain from a newly formed flood in the river during the return trip of a native is the example. The Samanyatodrista is the third type of inference caused of the occurrence of something at regular intervals. Example of this type of inference is the movement occurred due to the regular observance of stars at times different locations on the sky. [13]

Verbal testimony authoritative statement (shruti) of a reliable person (apta) is another source of valid knowledge. The Sankhya does not recognize testimony as an independent source of valid knowledge because it depends upon perception and inference. Valid testimony is a true revelation and is considered as aptavacana by Sankhya proponents. According to them, the Vedas are aptas. They are revelations of supersensible realities, which are beyond one’s perception and inference. They are the outcomes of inspiration and not composed by any person. The Vedic testimony is self-evident and it has no one behind it for its production. Its authority is in no way depends upon the true knowledge of any person who could know its contents. The Vedas definitely have an intrinsic power of revealing truth.[14]

For Sankhyas, knowledge is a mode of buddhi (intellect); purusha (soul) is immutable and consciousness is a property of buddhi (whereas prakriti is the evolvent of these). Knowledge is a matter of buddhi which changes according to the outward form of object. [15] The Sankhya sutra defines pramana as that which is most conducive to the prama which is again defined as the determination of an object which is not previously cognized by either of the two.[16]

Footnotes and references:


(AK) I.V.3


Mukta Biswas, Sankhya Yoga Epistemology. p.7.




Sanjeev Nayyar. Six systems of Indian Philosophy. 2012.


Ajitha T.S. Indian Philosophy-Vedic School, Calicut University, 2008, p.44.


Mukata Biswas, Sankhya Yoga Epistemology, p.66


Sankhya pravacana bhashya, i-89


Sankhya karika, 5


Jadunath Sinha, Indian philosophy, Vol.2, p.61



Sankhya Karika (Sankhyakarika) -5.


- Sankha Tattva Kaumudi (Sankhya Tattvakaumudi) -5.




Sankhyakarika, 5.


Sankhya pravacan abhashya, v.51


Sankhya Yoga Epistemology, p.46


Sankhyasutra 1-87.

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