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 3.5 - Buddhist views on Inference

Buddhism emphasized reasoning and tried to formulate concepts of truth and error by defining the means of valid knowledge. Their theory of causation which states that if cause exists, a result should also invariably occur; attained prominence in the pure logical doctrine. Dinnaga and Dharmakirti were the prominent proponents of the logic in Buddhism.

Logicians in Buddhism classify right knowledge into two: Pratyaksha (perception) and Anumana (inference) [1] According to them perception points out a definite object which is localized in time and space. (Desakalakara niyatam). Dinnaga says that perception is denoted in particular and it is knowledge of non-constructive. For Dharmakiriti perception is Kalpanapodham abhrantam pratyksham.[2] Perceptive knowledge is that which is free from imagination and all sorts of errors.

They classify Perception into four:

  1. caused of five senses (indriyajanyam),
  2. caused by mind (manovijnanam)
  3. self-consciousness (atmasamvedanam),
  4. the knowledge of a contemplative saint (Yogijnanam).

Inference according to Vasubhandhu is the knowledge of an object that emerges from knowing another object which is inseparably connected to it. Dinnaga separates the definition of inference from syllogism through the terms svarthanumana and pararthanumana.

While defining Inference, Dinnaga states that ‘the knowledge of an object is derived through reason (hetu) or mark. Dharmakirti says that ‘svarthanumana is a knowledge which is produced through a reason bearing three fold aspects and which refers to an object to be inferred.’ [3]

According to him Inference consists of (i) necessary connection between two concepts and being in the inference of the so connected to a point instant (kshana) of objective reality. There are three kinds of middle terms that show the connection of what it depicts to the major term, i.e., nonperception, identity and effect.

Non-perception (an upalabdhi) is knowledge of non-existence in general sense. There is no Jar since it is not seen in spite of the conditions of perception are fully satisfied.

It is of eleven types;

  1. Svabhavanulabdhi,
  2. Karyanupalabdhi,
  3. Vyapakanupalabdhi,
  4. Svabhava-viruddhopalabdhi,
  5. Viruddha karyopalabdhi,
  6. Viruddha vyaptopalabdhi,
  7. Karyaviruddhoplalabdhi,
  8. Vyapakaviruddhoplalabdhi,
  9. Karanupalabdhi,
  10. Karana virudha karyoplalabdhi and
  11. Karana viruddha karyopalabdhi.[4]

Non perception affirms non-existence or non-cognition. This knowledge assists to understand the essence of knowledge exclusively by perception. Identity (svabhava) refers to the reason for deducing a property when the subject alone has an existence of its own. For example, this is a tree because it is an Asoka. Karya (effect) is the relation between cause and the result defined. For Buddhists it exists only for point instants (kshana). A type of experience is followed by another.

Inference for the sake of others (pararthanumana) in the view of Dharmakirti is a sort of communication formed of three logical marks (middle term). These logical marks or trirupulingam also known as vyapti and its logical connections are with Svabhava (identity), Karya (effect) and anupalabdhi (non-perception) It is not a direct source of valid knowledge but it infers three aspects of middle term. It is of two types a) homogeneous (sadharmyavat) and heterogeneous (vaidharmyavat) [5]

As against the Nyaya concept of five member syllogism, Dinnaga and Dharmakirti accept only two as (i) a general rule and (ii) applicable to a particular individual. The former indicates an indispensable connection or interrelation between hetu and sadhya, whereas the latter takes a common rule to the specific one. Thus refutation is based on their considering thesis, application and conclusion as separate entities of syllogism.

Dinnaga speaks of four kinds of fallacies common on the thesis. They are;

a) Pratyakshanirakritah: that which is beyond the reach of ears, will have no inclusion in perception. According to this, if a sound is not heard, it means it does not exist as an object of verbal cognition.

b) Anumananirakritah: that which is contradicted by inference. Some say that sound is eternal. Dinnaga refutes it by the inference as a pot is non-eternal because it is a product.

c) Pratitinirakritah: denial of some conception on the ground of experience.

d) Shabdanirakritah: the thesis contradicted by one’s statement as Inference is not a source of valid knowledge.[6]

According to the Buddhists, svalakshana is the only reality while samanyalakshana is but a mental set up and hence unreal. Perception is capable of revealing an object only because it is produced through the efficiency of the object. And such a thing alone can be an object of perception as is able to attribute its own form (pratibhasa akara) to the piece of cognition. But a samanyalakshana which is totally incapable of producing an action in respect of an object (arthakriiya) can never do so. It can be done only by a svalakshana which is essentially real. A thing is essentially real only when it is characterized by the capability of producing an action in respect of that object. It is to be admitted therefore that a svalakshana alone is cognized by Perception. On the other hand, a svalakshana can never be cognized by Inference which results from the ascertainment of an invariable relation between two entities, which is established through either identity or causation. Such a relation however cannot be established between two svalakshana; it can subsist only between two samanyalakshana. But samanyalakshana is nothing but an object of mental set up originating from a less stream of ideation (vasana).

Here arises a doubt as to how an Inference be considered a pramana. The Buddhist answers by saying that Inference though not directly derived and in no way differs from mental set up or a sense of illusion (bhranta),[7] definitely it leads to objective reality indirectly which is confined to the object itself.

Footnotes and references:


Dharmakirti, Nyayabandhu, (Nyayabindu) Ch. 1.1. p. 4.


Nyayabindu1-4, p.19


Nyayabindu II. 2.3. p.40


Dr. K.K. Ambikadevi, The principles and techniques of Buddhist logic. p. 16.


ibid, p. 24


ibid. p. 29


Stcherbatsky, Buddhist logic, 1, p.239

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