7 Types of pramana (sources of knowledge)

There are seven authority.
They are:

1) Pratyaksh Pramana (Perception)
2) Anuman Pramana (Inference based on observation)3) Upamana Pramana (Comparisons)

4) Sabdha Pramana (The Vedas-Sruti)

5) Anupalabdhi Pramana (Negation or Absence)

6) Arthapatti Pramana (Implication or Postulation)

7) Aitti Pramana (History)

1) Pratyaksh Pramana (Perception):

Pratyaksh or Perception implies direct, immediate cognition. There are two kinds of direct perception, external and internal. The ‘external’ perception implies cognition of sense objects, namely – sound, touch, form, taste and smell by our five sense organs (ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose). When the sense organs contact their respective objects then the Pratyaksh knowledge takes place. The ‘internal’ perception means the direct & immediate cognition of pain, pleasure, love, hate, anger, knowledge or ignorance of various objects etc. in & by our minds. The Acharyas elaborately reveal that in any direct perception, the awareness existing at the level of mind of the person desirous to know an object, as though flows out through his respective sense organ and envelops the available & illumined object. This awareness is thereafter presented to the knower in the mind as a thought of the object, who then ‘knows’ the object. The entire process is extremely fast and implies the involvement of both the mind and the sense organs in all direct perception. Sitting in one place the knower knows even far off objects directly, provided they come in the range of our sense organs. The immediacy of direct cognition is the intrinsic characteristic of perceptual knowledge, and does not merely depend on the organs of perception.

In all direct perception the knowledge is extremely clear but its scope is very limited. What we can directly see not only constitutes an extremely small iota of the wide spectrum of things existing in this universe, but many a times that which is directly cognized is far from truth. We have an extremely beautiful creation right in front of our eyes, but we don’t see a creator directly, but as there can’t be an effect without a cause so we have to take resort of some other valid means of knowledge to know that inevitable creator. So also regarding the internal perceptions, the thoughts are gushing through our minds, but we don’t directly see their cause, which has to be inevitably there. Moreover, we directly see a rising sun but astonishingly our deeper probes reveal that the sun never rises. Thus come the great necessity of other means of valid knowledge.

Pratyaksh is of certain importance but still it is also susceptible to error. This is what is perceived through our 5 sense organs like eyes, ears, skin, tongue and nose is understood by us. It is considerable & should not be rejected or accepted without proper & fool-proof enquiry. It is a perception.

For Example;
Ilusion at night of the rope as a snake

2) Anuman Pramana (Inference):

Literally translated the word Anuman means ‘knowing after’. It means the method by which knowledge is derived from knowledge. It is an indirect, mediate knowledge. We have knowledge of an invariable relationship between two things and on that basis while seeing one we deduce the presence the other. Thus Anuman refers to the logical process of gaining knowledge. The knowledge thus gained is called inferential knowledge or the logical deduction. The nearest word to Anuman is inference. We say it is nearest word simply because of a slight difference between the exact processes of logical deduction in Eastern thought as compared to the Western system of logical deduction.

Perception forms the basis of Anuman, but at the core of all inferential knowledge lies the knowledge of vyapti or the ‘invariable concomitance’, the invariable relationship between the two objects. We know on the basis of our perceptual knowledge that wherever there is smoke there is fire (the opposite however may not be true). Having known the invariable connection between the two we can logically deduce the presence of fire whenever we see smoke. This is Anuman. In all inferential knowledge there are definite steps to be followed. The following steps are accepted for logical deduction of knowledge by the teachers of Advaita Vedanta:

a. Perceptual evidence – We see smoke on the hill
b. Invariable concomitance – Wherever there is smoke there is fire, as seen in kitchen.
c. Conclusion – Therefore the hill has fire

Anuman is given least importance because it is susceptible to error. It is inference based on observation(s). For example, if one observes smoke coming from behind a mountain, one infers based on this observation, that there is fire behind the mountain. One may be right or wrong. It can be even a mist or cloud passing behind the mountain. So Anuman is not fool-proof but still considered as a Pramana. It comes after perception i.e. (Pratyaksh Pramana).

For Example;
Seeing the smoke at a distance comng from behind a hill and thinking there is a fire. Though there might not be fire but a fog due to winter. Moreover smoke is related to fire so we can say that there is a fire. As both are inter related to each other.

3) Upamana Pramana (Analogy):

The Mimansakas & Advaitins define Upamana as the process by which the knowledge of A’s similarity to B is gained from the perception of B’s similarity to A, which has been seen elsewhere. This methodology is seen as distinct from mere inference, and is thus accepted as a valid mediate method of knowledge. Thus by Upamana he gains the knowledge of his cow’s similarity to the gavaya from the perception of the gavaya’s similarity to his cow (with reference to example.Upamana is a distinct means of knowledge, and cannot be clubbed under Anuman, because we cannot have a universal proposition that a thing is similar to whatever is similar to it. Such knowledge cannot be gained without the observation of the two similar things together. The Advaitins use this method of knowledge by comparison & similarity to logically communicate the nature of Brahman and various other things. Brahman is said to be resplendent as the sun. By perceiving the luminosity of the sun, the seeker can appreciate the terms like the self-luminosity of Brahman.For example,
A person who has seen his cow at home goes to a forest and sees a wild cow but without dewlap. The person sees the similarity ‘This cow is like my cow’, and on this basis also concludes the opposite to be equally true, that ‘My cow is like this cow’.

4) Sabdha Pramana (Verbal Testimony):

Sabdha Pramana is verbal testimony. It is also called ‘apta-vakyas’ (statement of a trust-worthy person’, and agama (authentic word). A verbal statement, uttered or written, is man’s most potent instrument for transmitting knowledge. We learn mostly by means of words. An oral or written message is a universal mode of communication. We constantly get various information, direction & knowledge through words. Right from school days to this moment we use words as a valid & effective means of bringing about awareness of things, ideas or emotions. Books, magazines, newspaper, letters, conversations, chats, radio, TV, movies, songs etc. etc. All use or depend on words. We cannot do without verbal testimony.A verbal statement conveying valid knowledge must have an authentic source which must be free from defects. Only a competent person possessed of knowledge can impart accurate knowledge. Such knowledge needs no verification, unless of course there is doubt about its reliability. If all that we know from verbal testimony were to await confirmation, then the bulk of human knowledge would have to be regarded as baseless. Among the Western philosophers only a few recognize verbal testimony as a valid & independent means of knowledge, but a majority of Indian philosophers do. Those who do not accept it as an independent method of knowledge do realize its great role but simply club it along with other means like inference etc. The process of verbal knowledge cannot be clubbed with inference because it does not involve any knowledge of invariable concomitance as is the case in inference. So it is a category by itself. It is interesting and also worthwhile to go into the exact process of derivation of meaning from a sentence. At times there is substantive-adjective relationship between the subject & predicate of the sentence and at times there may not be such a relationship, but a non-relational entity could form their locus. Such understanding becomes important when it comes to derivation of meaning form sentences like ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ (That thou art). Lot of work has been done in regards to derivation of meaning of a sentence, especially by the Mimamsakas. Only that combination of words is called a sentence when four factors are taken care of. They are expectancy (akanksa), consistency (yogyata), contiguity (asatti), and knowledge of the purport (tatparya-jnanam). Understanding of all this facilitates us to understand why verbal testimony is an independent means of knowledge very different from inference etc.For Example;
Veda, Bhagvad Gita, Brahma sutra etc…

5) Anuplabdhi Pramana (Negation or Absence): 

Anupalabdhi is a proof of knowledge from negation or absence of a thing. Since Brahman is everywhere present and nowhere absent, this proof does not deserve consideration.

For Example;
In a college, Mr. A has not attended any lecture today. So it must mean that he went to watch a movie.

6) Arthapatti Pramana (Implication/ Postulation):

It is of two kinds – Pratyaksha based on the perception of an object and Shruti based on hearing. This kind of proof is a mixed proof by perception and inference. But Brahman is not one whose knowledge can be got either by perception or inference, or by the combination of both.

For Example;
Mr. A, who is alive, but is not in his house. The very knowledge of his being out of his house is based on perception. We, ourselves look for him in the house, but we do not see him, so we conclude that since he is alive and is not inside the house, he must be somewhere outside his house.

7) Aitti Pramana (History):

It is the Itihas (History). The culture of scripture continued for more than 40 Years becomes History. From Aitti derived to Itihas means history. It is the Itihas (Aittiyaha) Pramana.

For Example;
Vishnu purana etc……………….

One thought on “7 Types of pramana (sources of knowledge)

  1. Pingback: 7 pramanas | sathvishayam

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