Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Critical analysis of vedAnta paribhAShA
Other pramANa-s Part 3
Dr. K. Sadananda

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Part 3 - VP’s Definition of anumAna

anumAna: VP defines anumAna as the instrument of inferential knowledge, which is itself called anumiti (anumiti karaNam anumAnam). anumiti is the knowledge that follows (anu = after and miti = knowledge). I.e. it follows another knowledge, namely knowledge of some data. The knowledge that follows has to have some bearing upon the knowledge that preceded it. Hence the later knowledge is gained only because of its inherent relation to the former knowledge. If the inherent relation is not known, then the later knowledge will not take place. Hence, the later knowledge is produced as a result of the knowledge of the invariable concomitance or vyApti. The nature of the later knowledge therefore depends not only on the knowledge of the data that is perceived but also on the exact knowledge of the vyApti or the invariable concomitance. Hence the knowledge that follows, anumiti, is not an attributive objective knowledge but a knowledge that is purely based on logical deduction, which in turn is based on the knowledge of the invariable concomitance.

Invariability means the universality of the relation, implying that there is no exception to the rule. Taking the example of smoke and fire, perception of the smoke is direct objective knowledge which is attributive. I.e. the vRRitti that is formed has in its contents the attributes of the smoke, and smoke is recognized directly and immediately. I.e. it is based on pratyakSha pramANa. anumiti follows if we have knowledge of the vyApti that relates the smoke to fire. That is, wherever there is smoke there must be fire, and this is a universal, invariable concomitance or vyApti. Hence, the inferential knowledge that follows depends on the exact knowledge of this invariable concomitance.

Suppose that we conclude, based upon the vyApti, that there must be fire. Fire, in this case, is not an objective knowledge like that of the smoke. If smoke were related to dust, we could say that ‘there is dust, based on the invariable concomitance that wherever there is smoke there is dust.’ Thus, the knowledge that it is fire or dust depends on the nature of the vyApti. These examples illustrate the fact that inferential knowledge is as good as, or as valid as, the knowledge of the invariable concomitance and nothing more. The validity of inferential knowledge depends on the validity of the vyApti only. Hence vyApti or invariable concomitance forms the core of inferential knowledge.

When the perception of the smoke occurs, as we discussed earlier, a vRRitti forms based upon the perception of the attributes of the smoke. The resulting knowledge of the smoke is direct and immediate. Along with knowledge of the smoke there is immediate cognition of the knowledge ‘I know this is smoke’. Thus, ‘this is smoke’ occurs first via the vRRitti and is then followed by what is known as the apperception ‘I know this is smoke’. We mentioned that, according to Advaita, apperceptual knowledge occurs because knowledge is self revealing. I.e. we do not need another means to know that ‘I know.’ If another means were required then we would end up with an infinite regress, since the ‘knowing that I know’ would require another means of knowledge, and so on. Apperception is not inferential knowledge, but ‘self-revealing’ knowledge. VP says that, even in the case of the inferential knowledge that ‘there is fire there since I see smoke’, that inferential knowledge of the
fire is self revealing and does not depend again on another vyApti, since that would lead to infinite regress. Hence VP says that, once the inferential knowledge through vyApti is known, that inferential knowledge is self-revealing and does not depend on another concomitant relation. Similarly, the recollection of the vyApti (that wherever there is smoke there must be fire) is not based on another concomitant relation.

The vyApti is based upon previous experience of the cause-effect relationship, which is itself established by pratyakSha pramANa only. Thus, the vyApti ‘wherever there is smoke there must be fire’ is established by direct observation of the relation between smoke and fire. The knowledge of the vyApti has to be acquired from past observations. Now, when I see smoke on a distant hill, the vyApti or the concomitant relation between the smoke and fire is recalled from memory. VP says that recollection of the vyApti relating smoke and fire is not based on another vyApti or relation, since such requirement would lead again to infinite regress. Hence, it is said that a vyApti is not based on another vyApti for its operation.

We can, however, have a sequential logical deduction before inferential knowledge takes place. The vyApti chain can be of the form: A is related to B; B is related to C; C is related to D; and therefore A is related to D. Here, each one is a definite and precise relation. Ultimately, A is related to D and that vyApti involves interlinking to B and C via secondary vyApti-s or concomitant relationships, each being universally applicable, in order for doubt-free knowledge to take place. From the hetu A, in order to arrive at the sAdhya D, one has to have complete knowledge of the vyApti chain. If there is any missing link in the chain, one would not arrive at inferential knowledge of D. Ultimately, the A to D relation forms one compound-vyApti involving interlinking logical deductions, which are needed in order to arrive at the inferential knowledge of D from A.

A vyApti is not a postulation but a universal concomitant relation between two things. In addition, ambiguity in the knowledge may lead to doubt if the concomitant relation is not universal. This means that, if there are many exceptions to the relation, then the inferential knowledge will not be free from doubt. As we discussed before, doubts are different from errors. For example, if I am not sure whether the object in front of me is a rope or a snake, this is considered to be a ‘doubt’. However, if I am sure that is a snake, even though it is actually a rope, then it is an ‘error’. In the case of a doubt, the knowledge is subject to verification by the doubter. However, if one has concluded that an error is the truth, there is no desire to enquire into the real truth. In the case of the world, we have concluded that what I perceive is real and therefore the world is real in our mind. There is no desire to inquire into the absolute reality of the world. Scripture points out that our conclusion about the world is in error, which we will discuss with reference to shabda pramANa.

Coming back to the anumAna, both advaitins and naiyAyika-s agree that inference, as a means of knowledge, operates at two levels:
a) svArtha, inferring for oneself and
b) parArtha, logically deducing for others.

In inferring for oneself, he remembers the concomitant relation with what he sees, and deduces what he does not see. When he sees the smoke, he remembers that smoke cannot exist without fire, and therefore infers that there is fire, although he cannot see the fire. But when presenting these facts to others, he has to provide a formal statement of reasoning (syllogism) in order to convince them of the fact there is a fire even though they cannot see it. The syllogism involves three steps, according to advaitins while naiyAyika-s feel that five steps are required to convince others. A detailed discussion of this can be found in ‘Methods of Knowledge’ by Swami Satprakashananda of Advaita Ashrama. The direct and necessary parts consist of:
a) proposition or pratij~nA as in ‘there is fire on the hill, although we do not see’;
b) the reason (hetu) this proposition is made: ‘because we see smoke on the hill’ and
c) justification with example – vyApti with dRRiShTAnta: ‘wherever there is smoke there must be fire, as in the kitchen’.

In western logic, the vyApti is considered to be the ‘major premise’ and the current observation is called the ‘minor premise’, based on which a conclusion is made. In the example, the major promise is ‘wherever there is smoke there must be fire’; the minor premise is ‘the hill has smoke’ and the conclusion is ‘therefore the hill is on fire’. The naiyAyika-s subscribe to a five step process and the way in which they differ from Advaitins will be discussed next. VP highlights these differences.

Proceed to the next essay.


Other Essays in this Section (Other pramANa-s):
The first section in this series dealt with the pramANa of pratyakSha (perception).
01. Introduction 11. navya nyAya analysis Part 3
02. anumAna terms 12. navya nyAya analysis Part 4
03. anumAna defintion 13. navya nyAya analysis Part 5
04. Mechanism of anumAna Pt. 1  
05. Mechanism of anumAna Pt. 2  
06. mithyAtva of the Universe Pt.1  
07. mithyAtva of the Universe Pt.2  
08. Objections to inference that the universe is mithyA  
09. navya nyAya analysis Part 1  
10. navya nyAya analysis Part 2  

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