Pramana

(Compiled from my posts on FB)

“Pramana” is an important aspect of every individual. Pramana literally means proof, an important facet between science and superstition. However most of us may not be even aware that “Pramana” means ‘ways by which knowledge is gained’ and is more of obtaining accurate and valid knowledge, …. it is not necessarily a proof! The ‘means to knowledge’ is of 6 forms – Pratyaksha(Perception), Anumana(Inference), Upamana(Comparison), Arthapatti(Postulation or presumption), Anupalabdhi(Non-existence), and Sabda(Verbal testimony)

Pratyaksha(Perception)

A very interesting area 🙂 Everything is a perception, including our very own existence!!! I perceive that I am sitting on a chair in a room alone. If the room is dark then I can only feel the chair in which I am sitting, I may not be able to perceive anything else; however the moment there is light I am aware of the light bulb and many other objects around!!! Similarly perception can be internal and external. The external is linked to our 5 senses. When any of the senses come in contact with their respective objects, there is awareness and knowledge. Internal (mind) can be attributed to things like pain, pleasure, anger, hate, knowledge/ignorance of an object, etc. In every direct perception when a person is seeking awareness of an object in his mind, the urge kind off flows/emerges out through the sense organs and kind of forms an invisible envelope around the available lit up object(in the presence of light). This gets presented as a thought creation in the mind of the knower, who then identifies the object!!! The combined process of the mind & sense organs must be happening extremely fast. The sun rises and sets every day, now, isn’t that a perception, after all we know that in reality the sun is always there…… Hmm, so it means there is a requirement to validate (every) knowledge by other means too….

Anumana(Inference)

The dictionary states that inference means a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning. Well inference is a close definition or translation of Anumana, simply because the western thought process is different from the west. The best example for anumana is smoke and fire. Both are related to each other, with smoke we can be sure that there is fire, not necessarily the other way. This means that perception is kind of the basis or foundation for anumana. Let’s take an example to understand this. I see smoke coming from the room – evidence by perception. Wherever there is smoke fire will be there – concomitance*. So I can conclude that there is fire in the room. So Anumana is deduction from what is seen or partial perception.

*concomitance – the fact of existing or occurring together with something else.

Upamana(Comparison)

I will like to know what a ‘Gaur’ is, so I ask a forest guide. He tells me the gaur is like the cow. For me I am familiar with the cow, ie I have sufficient knowledge of a cow. However we need to understand that a gaur also called as Indian Bison, the largest existing bovine(cattle family) is not exactly similar looking to the domestic cow. So it is more like seeing one object and recalling another, very often used in day to day life(e.g. He looks exactly like his father). So whenever I see a gaur I will be able to recognize. This knowledge(Upamana) has been gained as I was told by an authoritative person(forest guide), hence it is a valid knowledge.

Arthapatti(Postulation or presumption)

Postulation, or postulate literally means to suggest say a theory or idea which would form the basis of starting a discussion. Presumption means a belief that something is true although it has not been proved. Both of these are slowly diminishing or vanishing in today’s education system. We have been forced to believe that what has not been proven is not true, science or superstition! Hence this is why I firmly believe that we need to strive to gain knowledge and not education. Now if we consider the human body we are made to believe that there are different parts of the body that functions kind of independently, not in isolation and that the brain kind of coordinates everything. This is what we have learnt from science, however our traditional learning knows that it is not so, is made up of Pancha Bhoota. So for Science this concept of Pancha Bhoota can be Arthapatti. There is another popular example of Arthapatti which I read – ‘there is a person who does not have food, or let’s say that no one has seen him having food. We know that a person cannot be healthy without food, but then this person is healthy and looks like a well-fed person. So this person must be having food in the night.’

Anupalabdhi(Non-existence)

How can non-existence be a means to knowledge would be the primary question in everyone’s mind. We generally force ignore or give little importance to something that is non-existent. Sometimes non-existence is a reason for anxiety or fear of something un-pleasant to come. At times non-existence is can be information or knowledge to larger issues that may be forthcoming. Now if I look at anupalabdhi a little more deeper, I can say that it is what I do not perceive. So I can say that everything is either existing or non-existing, present or absent, positive or negative. In the last example of positive or negative, it is important to understand that it is how our senses(pacha indriya) perceive an object. For e.g. let us assume that there is a banana kept on the table. Looking at the banana my senses can perceive that it is a banana. At a closer look I can also determine if the banana is ripe and if it is edible. If it is over ripe then my senses tell me that it is not edible.

Sabda(Verbal testimony)

Verbal testimony, is an experience that we go through every day. I can state that when it comes to a particular issue or fact, each person could have a different opinion, however we also know that only a competent person possessing knowledge can impart accurate knowledge about the issue or fact. Such ‘knowledge’ needs no verification, unless of course there is doubt about its reliability. This is so true because if I were to wait for confirmation or every verbal testimony, then the bulk of my knowledge will have to be regarded as baseless! In this regard we find a stark difference in the thought process of Western and Indian philosophy. In India majority of our philosopher’s recognize’ verbal testimony’ as valid and an independent means of knowledge, whereas only a few Western philosopher’s accept this concept.

An understanding of ‘Verbal testimony’ cannot be complete without an underlying knowledge that a combination of words can only be called a sentence when it complies to four factors; namely akanksa (expectancy), yogyata (consistency), asatti (contiguity) and tatparyajnanam (significance or knowledge of purpose).

Verbal testimony – Sabda, an independent means of knowledge.

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