As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school, which bases its tenets on the doctrines laid out in the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa that summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. (You can read the Brahma Sutras here.) I'm interested in the epistemology of the Vedanta school.

Now Narayana Bhattar was a mathematician, philosopher, and poet who is most famous for the Narayaneeyam, a poem summarizing the Srimad Bhagavatam. But he also wrote a work on the Purva Mimamsa school, the Manemyodaya. In this excerpt from the Manameyodaya, Narayana Bhattar discusses the Pramanas or means of valid knowledge accepted by different schools of Indian philosophy:

Perception and inference, similarly authority and analogy, presumption and negation - these are the six means of valid knowledge for those who think like us. Charvakas speak of one; the Buddhists and the Vaisheshikas speak of two; Bhasarvajna and the Samkhyas speak of three; Udayana and others speak of four; the followers of Prabhakara speak of five; we and those well-versed in Vedanta speak of six; the Pauranikas, however, speak of eight, adding inclusion and tradition.

enter image description here

I'm interested in the part in bold. The "we" refers to the followers of the Purva Mimamsa philosopher Kumarila Bhatta. Narayana Bhattar is saying that the Vedanta school accepts the same six Pramanas that Kumarila Bhatta does: Pratyaksha or perception, Anumana or inference, Shabda or authority, Upamana or analogy, Arthapatti or presumption, and Anupalabdhi or negation.

Now within the Vedanta school, there are numerous philosophies, including Adi Shankaracharya's philosophy of Advaita, Ramanujacharya's philosophy of Visistadvaita, Madhvacharya's philosophy of Dvaita, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's philosophy of Achintya Bheda Abheda, Nimbarkacharya's philosophy of Dvaitadvaita, and Vallabhacharya's philosophy of Shuddhadvaita. My question is, do all these Vedantic philosophies agree on this list of six Pramanas? Or do different Vedantic philosophies believe in different numbers of Pramanas?

If different Vedantic philosophies do differ on this, then the figure of six Pramanas would probably be for Advaita, since I've heard that Narayana Bhattar may have been an Advaitin.

1 Answer 1


Most Vedantic philosophies other than Advaita agree on the number of Pramanas. As I suspected, Advaita accepts the same six Pramanas as Kumarila Bhatta; here's what the 17th century Advaita philosopher Dharmaraja Adhavindra says in this excerpt from his Vedanta Paribhasha:

Those means of knowledge are six in number, their divisions being perception, inference, comparison, verbal testimony, presumption and non-apprehension.

I also found out from this forum post that this is summarized in an Advaita saying "Vyavahare Bhattanayah", which means that from the relative perspective, Advaitins agree with Kumarila Bhatta.

But apart from Advaitins, most if not all other members of the Vedanta school agree on the number of Pramanas. Specifically, they agree with the Samkhya school's view that there are three Pramanas: Pratyaksha or perception, Anumana or inference, and Shabda or scriptural testimony. Let me go through various Vedantic philosophies one by one.

  1. Visistadvaita: Here's what the 17th century Sri Vaishnava Acharya Srinivasadasa says in this excerpt from his Yatindra Mata Dipika:

    The Pramanas or the Means of knowledge are three:- Pratyaksha or Perception, Anumana or Inference, and Shabda or word.

  2. Dvaita: Here's what the 14th century Dvaita philosopher Chalari Sheshacharya says in this excerpt from his Pramana Chandrika:

    Anupramana is of three kinds, viz., perception, inference and authoritative communication.

  3. Achintya Bhedabheda: Here's what the 18th century Gaudiya Vaishnaava Acharya Baladeva Vidyabhushana says in this chapter of his Prameya Ratnavali:

    Direct Perception, logic and Vedic revelation are three sources of actual knowledge.

  4. Dvaitadvaita: Here's what Surendranath Dasgupta says in this section of his book "A History of Indian Philosophy" about the followers of Nimbarkacharya, the chief exponent of Dvaitadvaita:

    The followers of Nimbārka admit only three [pramāṇas] (perception, inference and testimony).

  • 1
    Do you mean except Advaita, all other vedantic philosophy agree on three number of Pramanas?
    – Pandya
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 1:05
  • 1
    @Pandya Yeah, that's what I mean. Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 2:36
  • @KeshavSrinivasan is the Yatindra Mata Dipika similair to Nyaya sutras for Vishistadvaita as in does it expound right means to rationalize and a methadology for arguements.
    – Haridasa
    Commented Jan 20 at 13:35
  • What about Śuddhādvaitins, Bhāskara & Bhartṛprapañca?
    – Bingming
    Commented Mar 7 at 18:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .