Prof. P.T.G.Y. Sampathkumaracharyulu Professor & Head, Dept. of Nyaya, Rastriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati.. 517 507 (A.P.)

E-mail :; Mobile: 9502215682


Nyaya Sastra is otherwise famous as Pramana sastra, in the field of Philosophy, as it deals perticularlly with the treatment of the instruments of valid knowledge. The meaning and the role of Pramana is elaborately discussed in the Nyaya Philosophy by Vatsyayana in Nyayabhasya, Vacaspati in his T¡tparya¶¢k¡, and Udayana in his T¡tparyapari¿uddhi. Here in this paper I present the views of Naiyayika-s like Vatsyayana, Vacaspati Misra and Udayana, how they have refuted the views of others.



Prof. P.T.G.Y. Sampathkumaracharyulu Professor & Head, Dept. of Nyaya, Rastriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati.. 517 507 (A.P.)

E-mail :; Mobile: 9502215682


Pram¡¸a-s are the instruments of valid knowledge. They are admitted as indispensable aids by all systems of thought for the proper understanding of the objective world. They are also helpful for testing the correctness of the cognitions which have already been produced. Things are affirmed to exist or denied to exist only on the authority of the pram¡¸a-s. Cognitions have to be proved to be correct or otherwise only through pram¡¸a-s. Hence all systems of thought attach importance to the problem of pram¡¸a -s. The Nyaya system, in particular, attached greater importance to the pramana-s and hence it is well known as pram¡¸a-sastra. This is evident from the oft-quoted saying: m¡n¡dh¢n¡ m®yasiddhiÅ. Udayana gives a full treatment of this problem of the pram¡¸a-s in the T¡tparyapari¿uddhi, Ny¡yakusum¡µjali ,and Kira¸¡va½¢

The word pram¡¸a is used in this system in two senses, one is in the sense of the pram¡¸a being an instrument. The word is derived as : pram¢yate’n®n®ti Pram¡¸am – that by which anything is measured. In this sense, the word means an instrument of valid cognition. Pram¡¸a is thus used to refer to the means which gives rise to correct cognition. The verbal form pramiyate also shows that cognitions which have already risen are measured, and scrutinized by the pramana. Correctness or

1 Paper submitted to the 88th Session of Indian Philosophical Congress : conducted in Collaboration with the Dept. of Philosophy, SV University, Tirupati, 17-19 October 2014.

otherwise of the cognitions are judged by the pram¡¸a-s. With this sense of the instrument, pram¡¸a also means the s¡dhana of the cognition that is pram¡¸a produces the cognition. Thus the pram¡¸a -s play the dual role of giving rise to correct cognitions and of testing the correctness of the cognition already produced .

Samyag anubhavas¡dhanaÆ pram¡¸am. 2


The word pram¡¸a is also used in another sense. It is the abstract sense of the root itself (bh¡va-vyutpatti). In this sense, pram¡¸a is valid cognition itself (pramaiva) 3. When the former sense is intended, the result obtained by employing the pram¡¸a is getting a valid cognition. When the latter sense is intended, the results are discarding, taking or remaining indifferent towards the objective world. When a cognition rises about an object, there are four factors involved in it. They are pram¡¸a

– the instrument of valid cognition; pram¡ta – the knower, the agent who measures the object with pram¡¸a, prameya – the object cognized and pramiti the cognition itself. Among these, it is only when the pram¡¸a duly operates, others would become significant. Thus V¡tsy¡yana remarks:

arthavati ca pram¡¸e pram¡t¡ prameyaÆ pramitir ity arthavanti bhavanti. 4

V¡caspati Mi¿ra explains the word ‘arthavati’ possessing the suffix ‘matup’ in the sense of an excellence – ati¿ayana. It is only when the object is cognized with the

2 Ny¡yas¡ra, p.

3 yath¡rth¡nubhav° m¡nam (Ny¡yakusum¡µjali, 4-1); pram¡y°gavyavacchinnam pram¡¸am. (Saptapad¡rth¢, p.. 73

4 Ny¡yabh¡Àya, p. 8.

help of the pr¡m¡¸ya that the knower takes to some activity about the object which he does by obtaining the valid cognition (pramiti) of the object.

An interesting discussion is started by V¡caspati Mi¿ra on the etymology of the word pram¡¸a. If the word pram¡¸a has the formation with the suffix ‘lyut’ in the sense of the instrument, then the word pram¡¸a has nothing to convey with the instrumental case suffix. The suffix ‘tasil’, in the word pram¡¸atah (in the passage pram¡¸atorthapratipattau) of the Ny¡yabh¡Àya, cannot also convey the sense of the instrumental case. V¡caspati Mi¿ra defends the use of the word pram¡¸atah by treating the suffix ‘tasil’ as only corroborating the instrumental sense of the word pram¡¸a and thus showing that pram¡¸a is fit (or respectable) to be mentioned foremost among the other factors.

pram¡¸apratip¡dakalabdhakara¸atv¡nuv¡da¿ca pram¡k¡rak¡ntarebhy°’- bhyarhitatven¡sya vyutp¡dyatvaÆ pr¡thamyaÆ ca yuktamiti dar¿ayitum. 5

The other factors meant here are the sense-organs. Thus the word ‘pram¡¸a’ is used in both the senses. Udayana remarks here that a pram¡¸a is a K¡raka like pram¡t¡ or prameya, but the use of the term Karaka depends up on its relation with the main work namely, rise of knowledge. Since pram¡¸a has the sense of the instrument, it must come within the range of the activity of the agent and it does not fail to produce the effect. The agent and the object do not behave like the pram¡¸a. Hence pram¡¸a is most efficient among the agent, object and cognition.

tadan®na k¡rak¡ntar® carit¡rthasya h®tutvam®va k¡ra¸atvamiti kara¸alakÀa¸aÆ dar¿ayat¡ kart¤vy¡p¡rag°caraÅ kara¸amityapi kara¸alakÀa¸aÆ s£citam. 6


5 T¡tparyapari¿uddhi, p. 141.

Hence V¡caspati Mi¿ra wrote:

upalabdhi-s¡dhanam iti v¤ddh¡Å 7

Udayana remarks on this that pram¡¸a is the direct means for the cognition, while pram¡t¡ and prameya are so only indirectly8.

Uddyotakara offers an alternative explanation for the importance attached to the pramana is s¡dhakatama, while pram¡t¡ and prameya are not. He offers seven interpretations for the use of the superlative suffix ‘tamap’ in the word s¡dhakatama.

  1. Valid knowledge will not rise certainly when there is the knower and the object but will certainly do so when the pram¡¸a operates. This is the excellence present in the pram¡¸a and not present in the pram¡ta and prameya. This shows, according to Udayana that by ‘ s¡dhakatama is meant non-inconclusion with the result for that which operates.

tadan®na vy¡p¡ravataÅ phal¡vyabhic¡ritvaÆ s¡dhakatamatvamiti dar¿itam .9


  1. One who has  pram¡¸a understands   or cognises. He does so, when the

pram¡¸a is available and does not when it is not available.


  1. The resulting cognition does not rise even when the agent and the object are present because of the absence of the pram¡¸a. V¡caspati Mi¿ra remarks that this is the negative way of presenting the case under No: 2.
  2. Just as the effect cloth is produced after the last contact between the threads takes place, even so, the cognition is produced after the pram¡¸a operates. That is,

6 T¡tparyapari¿uddhi, P. 186

7 T¡tparya¶¢k¡, p. 14

8 T¡tparyapari¿uddhi, p. 188.

9 T¡tparyapari¿uddhi, P. 191.

the agent and the object may have been in existence. It is the operation of the pram¡¸a that takes place just befre the production of the cognition. In other words,  the pram¡¸a-s operation comes after those of the agent and the object. Udayana remarks: atr¡pi k¡rak¡ntar®bhy° caramavy¡p¡raÆ kara¸amiti lakÀa¸am. 10

  1. The excellence of the pram¡¸a consists in the cognition taking its rise after the function of the pram¡¸a.

atr¡pi anantaraphalaÆ kara¸amiti lakÀa¸am, vikalpasamuccay¡bh¡v¡t. c°vadh¡ra¸®. asmin pakÀ® sa ®v¡ti¿aya ityarthaÅ 11

  • While an agent is a general cause with reference to all cognitions and the object is quite a general one with reference to all agents, the pram¡¸a is an extraoridinary cause (as¡dh¡ra¸ak¡ra¸a). Therefore it is prominent and hence it is caled ‘S¡dhakatamatva’. atr¡pi pram¡vivakÀitaj¡tibh®davyapad®¿ayuktaÆ pram¡¸amiti lakÀa¸am.12
  1. Though the agent, object and pram¡¸a are causes for the rise of the cognition, yet it is only the pram¡¸a that can qualify the contact between the soul and mind. The agent and the object cannot do so. On this Udayana remarks:

atr¡pi vivakÀitapram¡j¡tibh®daupayikatv®na pramityasamav¡yik¡ra¸a- vi¿®ÀakaÆ pram¡¸amiti lakÀa¸amiti. 13

Udayana summarizes all these interpretations in a K¡rik¡:

svar£p¡t k¡ryataÅ karturarv¡k pr¡k kart¤k¡ryay°Å.


10 T¡tparyapari¿uddhi, P. 193


11 T¡tparyapari¿uddhi, P. 193.

12 T¡tparyapari¿uddhi, P. 193

13 T¡tparyapari¿uddhi, P. 193

pram¡j¡t®Å pram¡h®tuvi¿®À¡nm¡nalakÀa¸am.. 14

The distinction between a prameya and a pram¡¸a is that while the former is the object of a cognition, the latter is the instrument (nimitta) of the cognition.15

While defining pram¡¸a, V¡caspati Mi¿ra refers to the views of the Bhatta Mimansaka-s, Sautrantika and Vaibhasika schools of Buddhism and Naiyayika-s. Uddyotakara refers only to that of the Bhatta Mimamsakas. Udayana’s exposition of the Tatparyatika is very helpful in understanding the views of the above mentioned schools. The Mimamsakas hold pram¡¸a as that which apprehends an object not grasped before. Udayana remarks : apramit® viÀay® vy¡priyam¡¸amindriy¡dikaÆ pram¡¸amiti m¢m¡Æsak¡Å. 16

Udayana refutes this definition. When subsequent cognitions are produced, it must be admitted that they are produced by some causes which must be non-different from those which produced the first cognition. These causes could not be prevented from functioning and producing cognitions. If the first cognition is valid, the subsequent ones also must be valid.  Pram¡¸a behaves alike in the first moment and subsequent

,moments as well.  When a subsequent cognition rises, it is not found to produce, for

the knower, a result which is unexpected and different from that produced by the first cognition. Whatever be the number of cognitions that rise about an object, no change is found to have been produced in them when the same object is cognised after it is cognized first. It is absurd to treat the same object as not cognized before in the first instance (anadhigata) and as cognized in the subsequent instances (adhigata). The knower may possess the desire to know the object in the next moment. Pram¡¸a cannot become ineffective for the knower during those moments. Even if the knower has no such desire, pram¡¸a would still be as effectual as before. Since water is not drunk, it will not lose its capacity to quench thirst.   The operation of a pram¡¸a in


14 T¡tparyapari¿iddhi, p. 194.

15 Nyayavartika-tika, p. 203

16 T¡tparyapari¿iddhi p. 152.

subsequent cases could not be declared fruitless, as its operation otherwise depends on this efficiency and not on the will of the agent. If this is not admitted, it must also be admitted that the heat produced by the fire must be held imperceptible due to the absence of the will of the agent17. If a cognition could be invalid on the ground of its having been produced in subsequent moments, then the first cognition too may be declared invalid, the subsequent cognitions alone being treated as valid. As cognitions, they are alike and hence their validity or invalidity does not depend on this. Besides,  this definition of pram¡¸a, as recognized by the Mimamsaka-s will not be applicable to external categories which will be cognized at least in the next birth.

nityapadarth®Àv anadhigatatvaÆ n¡ma n¡sty®va. 18


Nyayabhasya of Vatsyayana Nyayayavartika of Udyotakara

Nyayavartika-tatparyatika of Vacaspati Misra Tatparyatika-parisuddhi of Udayanacharya Nyayakusumanjali of Udayana.

Saptapadarthi of Sivaditya.

17 The cognition about Moon, star and others may not be desired by a man and as such would cease to be valid (Tatparyatika . p. 15.)

18 T¡tparyaparisuddhi, P. 169)