I know that Charuvakas only accept Pratyaksha.

Dvaithis and Vishishtadvaithis accept Pratyaksha, Anumana and Agama(Shabdha). But I was kind of surprised to know that Advaithis accept all the six pramanas. This is quite surprising as we consider world as maya, and everything in world is maya.

How can we take even Anumana as a pramana. Why are we not taking only pratyaksha as the right pramana like Charuvakas? All the other pramanas are built upon on Anumana.

This question is especially asked in the light of David Hume's Problem of Induction, which is a well known and accepted problem in philosophy world-wide. How does an Advaiti deal with the Problem of Induction as it was already raised by the Charuvakas, and Advaitis must have had some answer to it.

How does Shri Adi Shankaracharya or any Advaiti establish anumana as pramana?

  • Please explain what's exactly wrong with anuman praman and why it shouldn't it be a praman so we can provide an answer.
    – Lokesh
    Mar 6, 2019 at 7:54
  • @Lokesh Because of Problem of Induction, That is why I linked a whole wikipedia article why Anumana is wrong, you could go through that, but here I'll give a small excerpt
    – user13262
    Mar 7, 2019 at 8:03
  • @Lokesh from the article "The Cārvāka, a materialist and skeptic school of Indian philosophy, used the problem of induction to point out the flaws in using inference as a way to gain valid knowledge. They held that since inference needed an invariable connection between the middle term and the predicate, and further, that since there was no way to establish this invariable connection, that the efficacy of inference as a means of valid knowledge could never be stated."
    – user13262
    Mar 7, 2019 at 8:04
  • @Lokesh my question is Shri Adi Shankaracharya has refuted the Charuvaka school and also his own school advocated Jagathmithyathva, so I am curious how exactly did he establish Anumana as a valid pramana. As this world wide philosophical problem, with still no answer
    – user13262
    Mar 7, 2019 at 8:06

3 Answers 3


Swami Atmananda clarifies this as:

The teachers of Advaita Vedanta philosophy have gone into the aspect of the process of knowledge in great detail, and have enumerated ‘six’ pramanas. Which pramana has to be resorted to & also when, is decided by the situation and the nature of object concerned. These six means of knowledge are Pratyaksha (Perception), Anumana (Inference), Upamana (Comparison), Arthapatti (Postulation), Anupalabdhi (Non-apprehension), and Sabda (Verbal Testimony). These are the six valid means of knowledge available to us, and we consciously or unconsciously use them too in our day to day life to ‘know’ various things which come our way.

It is extremely important for us to understand each of these pramanas properly, so that we dont start using the wrong means to know a particular kind of object. This is specially so when we are inquisitive to know the Self, the Atman, which is the ultimate, transcendental, infinite, non-dual truth referred to as the Brahman in the Upanishads. Proper understanding of Pramanas not only facilitates channelising of our energy properly but also culminates in the attainment & fulfillment of the objective.

  1. Pratyaksha : Pratyaksha 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 Pratyaksha 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.

  1. Anumana : Literally translated the word anumana means ‘knowing after’. It means the method by which knowledge is derived from another 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 anumana refers to the logical process of gaining knowledge. The knowledge thus gained is called inferential knowledge or the logical deduction.

Perception forms the basis of anumana, 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 anumana.

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

  1. Upamana : The Mimamsakas & 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.

Upamana is a distinct means of knowledge, and cannot be clubbed under anumana, because we cannot have a universal proposition that a thing is similar to whatever is similar to it. Such a knowledge cannot be gained without the observation of the two similar things together.

  1. Arthapatti : This means postulation, supposition or presumption of a fact. Arthapatti can either be from what is seen or from what is heard. The use of this method in Vedanta is in assuming rightly the implications of Upanishadic statements.

  2. Anupalabdhi : The Advaitins believe Anupalabdhi to be a separate independent pramana. It literally means non-apprehension. Non-existence of a thing is apprehended by its non-perception.

  3. Sabda : Sabda pramana is verbal testimony. It is also called ‘apta-vakyas’ (statement of a trust-worthy person’, and agama (authentic word).

Having known these ‘pramanas’, when a qualified ‘pramata’ (knower) takes resort of these and turns his focus to ‘prameya’ (object of knowledge) then ‘prama’ or valid knowledge is instantaneously brought about. The knowledge brought about by any valid means of knowledge is alone valid knowledge, it does not & can not depend on verification by other means, because the other means have no reach to that. The right knowledge does have some definite indications and thus validity of a means is confirmed by the perception of those indications in the pramata. So instead of wasting ones time trying to see a form by our nose we should rather open our eyes and fulfill our aspiration. This alone is the objective of understanding the various means & methods of knowledge at our disposal.

Theabove makes the role of 'Anumana' clear as an'pramana'.

Reference : http://www.vmission.org.in/vedanta/articles/pramanas.htm

Regarding Advaita, Satya and Mithya:

Advaita is true only in the paramarthika stage. We normally are mistaken by the world 'Jagat mithya'. The word 'Jagat' literally means something which is ever-changing.It comes from the root 'gam' which means movement. 'Mithya' here just does NOT mean false. It means :that which is not eternal or is ever-existing'. (Reference : Vivekanander Vedanta-Chinta, Dinesh Chandra Bhattacharya, RMIC).

We get both pleasure and pain because we are deluded by Maya. To cross the ocean of Maya, we need Brahma-Jnana or the knowledge of the never changing eternal truth Which is one with our True Self.To attain that knowledge, we first need'Chitta-suddhi' according to Sri Adi Sankaracharya.For Chitta-Suddhi, we need 'Nishkama-Karma' and 'Ishwara-Upasana'.So long as one has the sense of 'I' and 'My', he has to go on doing good works prescribed by the holy scriptures. So karma is essential to realise 'Advaita' in life.(Reference: Jnani-Guru, Paramahansa Nigamananda Saraswati, Sarasvata Math).

So long as we are ignorant of our True Self, we are Jivatmas. We have basically three bodies- Gross or Sthula,Subtle or Sukshma and Karana or Causal. The subtle body comprises of subtle karmendriyas and subtle jnanendriyas and manas. The causal body is caused by the ignorance that identifies the Self with these gross and subtle bodies. It is the causal body and the subtle body which together are together called Jivatma.This Jivatma dies and is born again and again so long as the true knowledge of the real Self is not obtained. The knowledge of the self destroys the mind which is root of all our ignorance. Being one with our True Self ends our endless journey between births and deaths.

(Reference:Jnani-Guru, Paramahansa Nigamananda,Sarasvata Math).

  • 1
    Please avoid such long answers which are a copy-paste of content found elsewhere. Such answers are better mentioned as comments. Please check: hinduism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/253/… and hinduism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1354/… Mar 5, 2019 at 19:18
  • You should also add explanations and not just copy-paste. Please see the second link in the comment. Mar 5, 2019 at 19:23
  • The second part is also a copy-paste. I thought so based on the formatting. Is it your own content? Mar 5, 2019 at 19:26
  • Then can you change the formatting? This makes it look like an exact regurgitation. Mar 5, 2019 at 19:29
  • You can do it. Also, the first half should also have the answerer's explanation as per the link since it forms the bulk of the question and the answer. Or a reformat if it's your own words Mar 5, 2019 at 19:33

Objection 1: This question is especially asked in the light of David Hume's Problem of Induction, which is a well known and accepted problem in philosophy world-wide. How does an Advaiti deal with the Problem of Induction as it was already raised by the Charuvakas, and Advaitis must have had some answer to it.

There are two types of reasoning. First is inductive reasoning and second is deductive.

Inductive reasoning is a method of reasoning in which the premises are viewed as supplying some evidence for the truth of the conclusion, this is in contrast to deductive reasoning. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is certain, the truth of the conclusion of an inductive argument may be probable, based upon the evidence given.

Source - Wikipedia

Example of inductive reasoning:

Smoke always arises from fire, therefore if there is smoke, there has to be fire.

A -> B, therefore B -> A (not always true)

Example of deductive reasoning:

Smoke always arises from fire, therefore if there is no smoke there is no fire.

A -> B, therefore ~B -> ~A (always true)

(NOTE: ~B means not B)

Notice that in first example, what we arrived at is not 100 % certain but the result we arrive at second example is 100 % certain.

So, the problem you mentioned only affects the anuman praman done inductively not deductively. And as far as Advaita goes, it doesn't accept inductive anuman praman because if it did Shankracharya wouldn't have stated that Atman exist even though there is nothing like it to which we can compare it. On the other hand deductive anuman praman is used extensively in Advaita. For example,

Premise : Sat (Real object) can never give rise to Asat (Unreal object)

Conclusion : Brahman (sat) is not the cause of world (asat).

(This is clearly deductive reasoning.)

From the standpoint of the Ultimate Reality, things can, in no way, enter into causal relation. How? An unreal cannot be the cause of another unreal. An1 unreal entity such as the horns of a hare, which may be said to be the cause of another unreal entity such as a castle in the air, has no existence whatsoever. Similarly,1 an object like a jar, which is perceived and which is the effect of an unreal object like the horns of the hare, is never existent. In3 like manner, a jar which is perceived and which is the effect of another jar that also is perceived to exist, is, in itself, non-existent. And4 lastly, how is existence possible of a real object as the cause of an unreal one? No other causal relation is possible nor can be conceived of. Hence men of knowledge find that the causal relation between any objects whatsoever is not capable of being proved.

(Mandukya 4.10)

Objection2: Dvaithis and Vishishtadvaithis accept Pratyaksha, Anumana and Agama(Shabdha). But I was kind of surprised to know that Advaithis accept all the six pramanas. This is quite surprising as we consider world as maya, and everything in world is maya.

In Advaita, Atman is called aprameya (that which cannot be known by any praman). The 6 types of praman you see accepted by Advaita is only to prove that world is unreal, and Atman is attribute-less.

अन्तवन्त इमे देहा नित्यस्योक्ताः शरीरिणः।

अनाशिनोऽप्रमेयस्य तस्माद्युध्यस्व भारत।।2.18।।

(Gita 2.18)

Excerpt from Shankra's commentary on 2.18

Therefore, in order that this contingency may not arise, it is said, 'Of the everlasting, indestructible'. Aprameyasya, of the indeterminable, means 'of that which cannot be determined by such means of knowledge as direct perception etc.'

Objection: Is it not that the Self is determined by the scriptures, and before that through direct perception etc.?

Vedantin: No, because the Self is self-evident. For, (only) when the Self stands predetermined as the knower, there is a search for a means of knolwedge by the knower. Indeed, it is not that without first determining oneself as, 'I am such', one takes up the task of determining an object of knowledge. For what is called the 'self' does not remain unknown to anyone. But the scripture is the final authority [when the Vedic text establishes Brahman as the innermost Self, all the distinctions such as knower, known and the means of knowledge become sublated. Thus it is reasonable that the Vedic text should be the final authority. Besides, its authority is derived from its being faultless in as much as it has not originated from any human being.]: By way of merely negating superimposition of alities that do not belong to the Self, it attains authoritativeness with regard to the Self, but not by virtue of making some unknown thing known. There is an Upanisadic text in support of this: '৷৷.the Brahman that is immediate and direct, the Self that is within all' (Br. 3.4.1).

  • This is such a great answer, it even follows the traditional style. I agree that deduction is inevitable but induction is probabilistic. And thanks for the clarification of the Advaitins only use deductive reasoning.
    – user13262
    Mar 7, 2019 at 12:07
  • My main problem is in our tradition when people are using anumana they are using both deduction and induction simultaneously, and mean both simultaneously. The thing with deductive reasoning is that it can only establish mathematical facts, it cannot say a single thing about the external word, look at the classic example you have used, Smoke always arises from fire, therefore if there is no smoke there is no fire. This is wrong, as how do we know that Smoke always arises from fire?. You cannot apply Anumana to external world, the moment you apply it, it inevitably becomes inductive
    – user13262
    Mar 7, 2019 at 12:13

Vedanta Paribhasha (Definition of Vedanta) authored by Dharmarajah ,puts forth the concepts of six pramanas in the standpoint of Advaita Vedanta.This work provides sufficient logical analysis.

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