Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
Nyaya is also called Tarka-sastra and its author is Gautama. Its main
purpose is to establish by reasoning that the Karta or Creator of all
world is Parameswara. Indeed, it seeks to prove the existence of Isvara
through inference. Reasoning thus has a major place in Nyaya.
Logic or reasoning is of course indispensable to any study. The Vedas
make a statement and Mimamsa determines its meaning.
Though we have faith in the Vedas, doubts arise in our minds regarding
the meaning of scriptural passages. If these doubts are cleared through
reasoning the message of the Vedas will be affirmed. When we construct
the marriage pandal we test the strength of the bamboo or timber posts
by trying to shake them. In the same way we must subject truths to
proper tests so as to confirm them. All logical reasoning must be
but it must be firmly rooted in authority. Also, arguments must not be
a carping character, stemming from the urge to be merely contrary.
When Sankara was about to depart from this world his disciples
requested him for a brief upadesa. It was then that he imparted his
succinct teaching in the form of five stanzas which go by the name of
Upadesa-Pancaka or Sopana-Pancaka. "Dustarkat suviramyatam -
Srutimatastarko'nusandhiyatam", is a line from it. It means that you
give up the habit captious arguments and that in dealing with a question
you must employ proper reasoning, duly respecting the views of the
Without reason to guide us it is like roaming aimlesssly in the forest.
reason must be founded on authority. Nyaya finds the meaning of Vedic
passages in this manner.
Kanada too created a Nyaya sastra: it is called Vaisesika. One object is
distinguished from another on the basis of the special characteristics
"particularities" of the two. The name "Vaisesika" is derived from the
that it inquires into such particularities. There is a good deal of
this Nyaya sastra. Atmic matters like the individual self, the cosmos,
Isvara, moksa or liberation are examined (in Vaisesika "moksa" is known
by the name of "apavarga").
The Nyaya inquiry into truth is through the four pramanas or instruments
of knowledge of "pratyaksa", "anumana", "upamana" and "sabda".
Pratyaksa is direct perception, what is perceived by the eyes and the
and so on. It is anumana or inference that is central to Nyaya. What is
anumana? We see smoke rising from the summit of a distant mountain:
we notice only the smoke, not the fire, which is concealed by the rock
perhaps. But even if we do not see the fire we may infer that the forest
has caught fire. This is anumana. Here the fire is called "sadhya" and
means by which we infer its presence is "sadhana", "linga" or "hetu".
In our Vedantic system we must reflect upon the teaching imparted by
our guru. This is manana and it means going over an idea (in this case
instruction received from the teacher) again and again in the mind,
making use of our own ability to reason. Here anumana is of help. Is it
through inference that we are able to know things that cannot otherwise
be perceived? The individual self and the Paramatman are not directly
perceived by our senses. Nor do we know the liberation of senses. Nor do
we know the nature of liberation or how to attain it. We have to know
such things by inference. Knowing an object on the basis of another
known object is anumana. When we hear the roar of the thunder we
know, by inference, that there are clouds [that the sky is overcast]
By performing Vedic works [let us take it] we have become pure within.
We have also found a good teacher and we have faith in his instruction.
But, if we happen to hear something different from what he tell us,
doubts naturally arise in our minds. These doubts have to be cleared;
they must be discussed and a decision arrived at. Here we must have
recourse to a pramana (source or instrument of knowledge) like anumana
or inference. Both Nyaya and Vaisesika conduct inquiries based on