The Concept of Sharira as Prameya

by Elizabeth T. Jones | 2019 | 42,971 words

This page relates ‘Nyaya philosophy’ of the study on the concept of Sharira as Prameya Based on Nyaya (shastra), which represents one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy. Nyaya philosophy basically represents the “science of reasoning” and primarily deals with epistemology and logic. Sharira (“body”) refers to one of the twelve Prameyas (“objects of valid knowledge”), as defined in the Nyayashastra literature.

The Nyāya philosophy

The theistic way of thinking, though spread in six separate systems of philosophy, almost all of them depend on the Nyāya way to solve many of their problems. Śaṃkarācārya, the greatest philosopher ever born, tries to prove many of his theories in the Brahmasūtrabhāṣya, depending on various types of Nyāya. The same is the case with other philosophers. Nyāya was first known in the name of ‘Ānvīkṣikī’. Thinking over what already seen is Ānvīkṣikī. Scholars are of opinion that the Nyāya way of thinking was prevalent in India even in the Vedic period. But it had no specific form as is seen today in its metaphysical nature of science. The great sage Gautama succeeded in bringing out all these thoughts under a single roof. Dr. Satīṣcandra Vidya Bhūṣaṇa, in his renowned work, ‘A History of Indian Logic’ sees this Gautama as identical with one Akṣapāda Gautama.[1] He lived in 550 BC. At that time, Nyāya was known in the name Ānvīkṣiki. Later name ‘Nyāya’ was ascribed to this system at the time of Medhātithi Gautama; He seeks ‘Medhātitheh Nyāya Śāstram’ which appeared in later works[2] in support of his theory. But all scholars do not agree with this statement of Dr. Satiṣcandra Vidya Bhuṣana. According to them, Akṣapāda Gautama and Medhātithi Gautama are not two different persons but one[3].

There is a popular bit of poem which embodies the greatness of Ānvīkṣiki or Nyāya.

pradīpaḥ sarvavidyānām upāyaḥ sarva karmaṇām
āśrayaḥ sarvadharmāṇām śāśvdānvīkṣikī mata

Nyāyaśāstra enlightens the path of knowledge. The philosophy itself acts as an instrument to operate all actions. This philosophy is the support for all other ways of thoughts. This is Ānvīkṣikī. These four lines clearly bring out the real greatness of Ānvīkṣikī.

There is another debate regarding the antiquity of Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika. The sixteen categories mentioned in the Nyāya sutras make it the solid support to Kaṇada’s Vaiśeṣika darśana which accepts only six to seven categories. Unlike that of Nyāya, the aim of Vaiśeṣika is more wide spread and they are not ready to close their book with the categorical discussion. They seem to have more modern thoughts and they discussed in the most modern way while they speak about sound, light and even matter. But the Nyāya philosophy is seen confined to a limited way of thinking. And this also can be taken as a reason to think of this science earlier than Vaiśeṣika.

In the ‘History of Indian Logic’, the author sees the Nyāya sūtras as treating four distinct subjects. They are 1.The Art of Debate (Tarka), 2.The Means of Valid knowledge (Pramāṇa), 3.The doctrine of syllogism (Avayava) and 4.Examination of contemporaneous philosophical doctrines (Anyamata parīkṣa). The Tarka Śāstra, while attaining the name of Gautama vidya, treat with the first two subjects. The third and fourth subjects are said to be introduced in the system at a later period.

Almost all the systems of philosophy are seen developed according to the Pramāṇa which they accept to attain right knowledge. There are eight Pramāṇas or means of right knowledge as 1. Pratyakṣa (Perception), 2. Anumāna (Inference), 3. Upamāna (Comparison), 4. Śabda (Speech), 5. Arthāpatti(Assumption or Postulation), 6. Anupalabdhi(Non Apprehension), 7. Sambhava (Probability) and 8. Aitīhya(Tradition). Among these eight means of knowledge, Naiyāyikas accept only four[5]. At the same time, they do not question the authenticity of the other four means of knowledge. They include the later means of knowledge under the first four of them. Among the four means of valid knowledge the second one, Anumāna is considered the most powerful to derive the real knowledge. One reason for this is that the intellect has a great role in Anumāna. In Pratyakṣa, Anumāna, Upamāna and Śabda knowledge is derived with the help of visible objects. But Anumāna is the only exception since the past and future also can be tested by this means of knowledge.

Pāṇini derives the word Nyāya[6] from the root ‘’ which means ‘to lead’. Dr. Satiṣcandra Vidyā Bhuṣana, depending on this, says that Nyāya, in the sense of logic, was not used before Pāṇini. But all scholars do not agree with this statement of Vidya Bhuṣana. Among the commentaries available to Nyāya śāstra, Vātsyāyana’s Nyāya Bhāṣya is considered the most dependable. According to, Vātsyāyana, Nyāya is the science of reasoning. Jayantha Bhaṭṭa also interprets Ānvīkṣikī as a science of reasoning. Nyāya sūtra is primarily concerned with epistemology and logic. Secondarily it deals with psychology, ethics and theology. It tries to study about the world, souls and even God with the help of the four Pramāṇas. This Śāstra is mentioned in Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and Manusamhita. All the sixteen categories mentioned in this Śāstra come under the first two, Pramāṇa and Prameya. Even then, the other fourteen categories are included to attain a special place for this science distinct from the philosophy of Vedānta which was very popular at that time.[7]

Origin and Development

Generally there is a belief that all systems of Indian philosophy originated from the Vedas. In that way, it is believed that the logical way of thinking prevailed during the Vedic period. Vedic literature has a great importance for the study of history of philosophy, religion, law, psychology, ethics, language and social life in ancient India. It was the principal form of the development of the spiritual culture of the people of India. It is divided in to four groups the samhitas, the brāhmaṇas, the āraṇyakas and upaniṣads. Upaniṣads are the fountain head of all Indian philosophy.

The upaniṣads deals with the soul and its destiny constituted a very important branch of study called ātmavidya. It was at a later stage called ānvīkṣikī. Ānvīkṣikī treated of two subjects the soul and the theory of reasons. It was mainly concerned with the soul; Ānvīkṣikī was developed in to philosophy called darśana. Darśana literally signifies seeing to see our soul. Six darśanas, Nyāya is one of the orthodox systems of Indian philosophy.

Ānvīkṣikī is known as several names that Hetuvidya, Tarkavidya, Vādavidya, Nyāyavidya, Nyāya śāstra etc., Nyāya was one of the various names of Ānvīkṣikī it was designated its logical aspect. The first stage of logic was generally designated as Ānvīkṣikī, Hetuśāstra or Tarkavidya. The second stage it was Nyāya Bhāṣya widely known as Nyāya śāstra. The word Nyāya signifies right or justice. So Nyāya śāstra is known as the science of right judgment or true reasoning. Technically the word Nyāya signifies a syllogism. Ānvīkṣikī, called Nyāyaśāstra. The word Nyāya actually signified a syllogism is evident from an observation quoted by Vātsyāyana that Nyāya functions neither with regard to things unknown nor with regard to things that are definitely known, but it functions only with regard to things that are doubtful. Vātsyāyana defines Nyāya as an examination of objects by evidences. Viśvanātha explains Nyāyasvarūpa as the essential form of a syllogism which consists of its five parts pratinja, hetu, udāharaṇa, upanaya and nigamana. In sarvadarśana saṃgraha Mādavacarya understand by the term Nyāya as inference. In this view Nyāya śāstra as the science of inference for the sake of others. It gives more importance to anumāna. Diṅgnāga 500 AD mentions the five parts of a syllogism as Nyāyāvayavya. This is known as Nyāyavākya. So Nyāyavākya is also known as anumānavākya. Ancient devices of research methodology described by the Nyāya way in terms of its syllogism- pratinja, hetu, udāharaṇa, upanaya and nigamana.

Footnotes and references:


A History of Indian Logic, P. 48


Ibid, p.17


Ibid, p, 49


Kaudilya’s, Arthaśāstra, ed.V. Narain. 1.2.7, p.12


pratyakṣānumānopamaśabdah pramāṇani, Nyāya Darśana, 1.1.3,, p. 11


A History of Indian Logic, p. 40


Nyāya Bhāṣya, p. 5

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