ANUMAANA AND SHABDAPRAMAANA
Inference and Verbal Testimony
Anirban Dash, Ph.D.
PRAMAANA - A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
Most of the philosophical systems consider the problem of language as the parts of their epistemological concern, otherwise known as pramaaNa shaastra. While analyzing the concept of pramaa, early grammarians and philosophers categorized different methods or means of knowledge called pramaaNa. Thus, pramaaNa is that, by which something is measured i.e. known: (pramiyate jNaayate anena iti prmaaNam). Three pramaaNas are accepted by grammarians
THREE METHODS OF ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE
There are three methods of acquiring knowledge [iii].
- We ordinarily acquire the knowledge, when our sense organs come in contact with the external world. This is called direct perception or PratyakSa pramaaNa.
- In every day life, we also get knowledge of things with which our senses are not in contact. Even though we do not see the fire, we can infer its presence when we see smoke. This is inference, which is otherwise known as anumaana [iv].
- Another way of acquiring knowledge is word, that is, shabda pramaaNa. This is the speech of a reliable person, which tells us about an event, and from that speech only we get the knowledge of that event. This is called shabda pramaaNa or verbal understanding.
A VARIETY OF SCHOOLS AND A VARIETY OF METHODS OF ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE
Of course, there is no homogenous view regarding the number of such valid methods of knowledge. The Saamkhya and Yoga schools of Indian philosophy accept three pramaaNas: PratyakSa, anumaana and shabda. [v] The Prabhaakara school of PUrva MImaamsaa defines five pramaaNas; PratyakSa, anumaana, upamaana shabda, arthaapati, but the BhaaTTa school accepts one more in addition to the above, namely, abhaava. [vi] The same six pramaaNas are also stated by Vedaanta. On the other hand, Caarvaak and Bauddha have accepted only one.
PATANJALI AND BHARTRHARI ON PRAMAANAS
PataNjali accepts three pramaaNas in his MahaabhaaSya. [vii] He mentions that PratyakSa, which is the substratum of anumaana, is not always reliable [viii]. Bhartrhari, in his commentary, MahaabhaaSya DIpikaa on MahaabhaaSya., accepts also three pramaaNas. Following the foot steps of PataNjali, he states that, direct perception is judged as liable to be erroneous, and at times inference is seen as superior to perception, But shabda or Aagama which consists of the revealed (shruti) and remembered (Smrti) scripture, is the strongest pramaaNa.
THE EFFICIENCY OF INFERENCE AND SCRIPTURES
A. Reason versus Faith
The efficiency of both inference and scriptures has been the issue debated by the scholars for a long time. In spite of the change in the form of arguments and proofs, the fundamental point of this tussle, whether to favor reason or faith is still unchanged.
At the time of Bhartrhari, Indian metaphysics was divided into orthodox (those who accepted the authority of Veda), and heterodox (those, who rejected authority of Veda) school. The former included the Saamkhya, Yoga, Nyaaya, VaisheSika and Vedaanta, whereas the later included Jaina, Buddhist, and Caarvaaka. In other terms orthodox group was in favor of faith, whereas the latter in favor of reason.
B. Bhartrhari's Argument in Favor of Aagama
It is true that Bhartrhari nowhere declares PratyakSa and anumaana to be unacceptable or always unreliable, but he always argues for the acceptance of Aagama, which he treats equal to direct perception.
Verses from 30 to 42 of Bk. make his stand clear in this regard. Among the grammarians, Bhartrhari is chiefly concerned with establishing the authority of grammar. It can be authority only if it gives valid knowledge about something, and it is in this connection that Bhartrhari was led to make some observations on valid knowledge, and how it arises.
LIMITATIONS OF PRATYAKSA AND ANUMAANA
According to Bhartrhari, all methods function as the means to acquire valid knowledge, but they all have some limitations. Bhartrhari recognizes the usefulness of inference and reasoning in every day life. He points out that even the direct perception would be incomplete without the help of inference. In this world we cannot see the whole of a thing. We can only see some of it and infer the rest. What we see is enough to bring the universal of the object to the mind and it is that which is directly perceived .8
REASONING IS CLOSELY CONNECTED WITH THE POWER OF THE WORDS
It is also with the help of inference and reasoning that we understand the full meaning of words. The meaning of the Vedas would not be understood without their help. That kind of reasoning is the eye of those who can not see the truth otherwise. It never goes against the fundamental teaching of Veda because its only purpose is to grasp that fundamental teaching9. It is easy to see that such reasoning is closely connected with the power of the words themselves. In fact, its purpose is to determine the exact scope of the words. Context and other such considerations do not transcend the innate power of words. When such reasoning leads to particular conclusion, the power of words must be deemed to have led to it. 10
AGAMA: THE ONLY SOURCE OF KNOWING DHARMA AND ADHARMA
To begin with, there are certain matters like dharma and adharma, which are beyond the scope of human intelligence. Dharma can be known only through Aagama, scripture11. To know the dharma and adharma means to know which act will lead to which invisible fruits. Only the scripture can tell us that.12 Human intelligence is unreliable even with regard to visible objects; then, there is no question about the invisible objects. In the world, objects are constantly under the effective influence of all sorts of factors. Their changes depend on time, place, and associations. One can therefore never be sure of them through inference. 13 Human beings also differ greatly in their power of reasoning. What is established, after great deal of labor, by one thinker, is upset by a clever one.14
PRACTICE, INVISIBLE FORCE AND INSIGHT: THE THREE SPECIAL MEANS OF ACQUIRING THE KNOWLEDGE
1. Practice (Abhyaasa)
The knowledge such as distinguishing between different diamonds and coins, etc. can not be obtained through the famous means of cognition, i.e. perception, inference and scripture. One could know them through the intuition (practice.15).
2. Invisible Force (AdrSTa)
Adrsta is an invisible force generated by one's own deeds in the previous birth. It determines many things in one's present life. Among them, it is the power to confer special knowledge on some. The example given in the vrtti in this context is that of the power of demon and sprit, which enables them to enter into bodies of others and to make themselves invisible. It might be said that it is a case of the invisible force resulting in power to do things and not in a special knowledge, which is the result of the previous birth (adrSTa).16
According to Bhartrhari, there are persons, other than the experts who are credited with a special insight into things, which other person can not see. They are persons whose impurities have been burnt away by tapas and whose cognition is free from all types of limitations. They alone can see the past, present and future. Their vision is divine. They can see things, which are beyond our senses and our mind.17
SCRIPTURE AND POPULAR TRADITION: THE ONLY MEDIUM OF KNOWLEDGE FOR COMMON MAN
The direct perception of sages is, however, far from the ability of common man and at the same time the intricacies of inference are also beyond their reach. Yet, if a person has strong faith in those sages, then he even starts thinking their perception just as his own. Thus, even those matters which could be only be perceived by sages could also be comprehended by the common man through the medium of scripture.
"How can one, who does not question the authority of such persons any more than his own experience and has, therefore, taken his stand on direct vision, be set aside by others (who follow reasoning)". 18
Authenticity of this type of congenial or natural knowledge is proved even by the fact that for the sake of the knowledge of 'sin'19 and 'good,' even the most ignorant and illiterate man does not require any help from one or the other scripture. By tradition, he learns it in an automatic way. Thus, popular tradition which has its roots in scriptures can not be defeated by mere dry logic.20 Those who take recourse to mere logic even in such situations, where the object of knowledge is beyond its purview, their fall is certain - just like a blind man running on the uneven path.21
Thus the key for the successful application of inference lies in the fact that, it should be in conformity with the scripture and the popular tradition, or, in other terms, inference has no role to play in matters that are beyond its reach.
PramaaNa is that, by which something is measured, that is, known. Grammarians accept three types of pramaaNas, namely, PratyakSa, anumaana and shabda. Direct perception is judged as liable to be erroneous, and at times inference is seen as superior to perception, But shabda or Aagama, which consists of the revealed (shruti) and remembered (Smrti) scripture, is the strongest pramaaNa. Bhartrhari recognizes the usefulness of inference and reasoning in every day life. └gama is the only source of knowing what is dharma and adharma. Scripture and popular tradition are the only medium of knowledge for ordinary men. Such knowledge of ordinary men can never be defeated by mere dry logic. Those who take recourse to mere logic even in such situations, where the object of knowledge is beyond its purview, their fall is certain. Thus the key for the successful application of inference lies in the fact that it should be in conformity with the scripture and the popular tradition.
[iii] Bhartrhari, K.A.S. Iyer, Deccan college , p.84
[iv] 'anumitikaraNam anumaanam , TS
[v] Saamkhyakaarikaa: 4, SaamkhyasUtra 1:88 and YogasUtras 1:7
[vi] Ganganatha Jha, PUrva-MImaamsaa in its sources , p. 80
[vii] Vide: MahaabhaaSya. on P. 1.2.64
[viii] bhavati vai pratyakSaadapyanumaanabalIyastvam | tad yathaa alaatacakram PratyakSam drshyatenumaacca gamyate naitadastIti || MahaabhaaSya. On P. 3.2.124
8 durlabham kasyacilloke sarvaavayavadarshanam |
kaishcitvavayavairdrSTairarthaH krtsno'numIyate || Vk. 156||
9 vedashaastraavirodhI ca tarkashcakSurapashyataam |
rUpamaatraaddhi vaakyaarthaH kevalam naatitiSThati || Bk. 151||
10 shabdaanaameva saa shaktistarko yaH purUSaashrayaH || Bk. 153||
11 na caagamaadrte dharmastarkeNa vyavatiSThate ||Bk.30||
12 adrSTaarthaanaam ca karmaNaam phalaniyame svabhaavasamvid Aagamapratibaddhaa | Vrtti on Bk. 30||
13 avasthaadeshakaalaanaam bhedaad bhinnaasu shaktiSu |
bhaavaanaamanumaanena prasiddhiratidurlabhaa || Bk. 32||
nirjNaatashakterdravyasya taam taamarthakriyaam prati |
vishiSTadravyasambandhe saa shaktiH pratibadhyate || Bk.33||
14 yatnenaanumito'pyarthaH kushaliranumaatrbhiH |
abhiyuktatarairanyairanyathaivopapaadyate || Bk. 34||
15 pareSaamasamaakhyeyamabhyaasaadeva jaayate |
maNirUpyaadivijNaanam tadvidaam naanumaanikam || Bk. 35||
16 PratyakSamanumaanam ca vyatikramya vyavasthitaaH | pitrrakSaHpishaacaanaam karmajaa eva siddhayaH || Bk. 36||
17 aavirbhUtaprakaashaanaamanupaplutacetasaam |
atItaanaagatajNaanam pratyakSaanna vishiSyate || Bk. 37||
atIndriyaanasamvedyaan pashyantyaarSeNa cakSusaa |
ye bhaavaan vacanam teSaam naanumaanena baadhyate || Bk.38||
18. yo yasya svamiva jNaanam darshanam naabhisha╔kate || Bk. 39||
19 idam puNyamidam paapamityetasmin padadvaye |
aacaaN▒aalam manuSyaaNaamalpam shaastraprayojanam || Bk. 40||
20 caitanyamiva yashcaayamavicchedena vartate |
AagamastamupaasIno hetuvaadairna baadhyate || Bk. 41||
21 hastasparshaadivaandhena viSame pathi dhaavataa |
anumaanapradhaanena vinipaato na durlabhaH || Bk. 42||
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Anirban Dash, Ph.D.