By Shankar Bharadwaj Khandavalli and Jammalamadaka Suryanarayana
Sometimes transliterated as: Nyāyaḥ, Nyāya, Nyaaya
Nyāya is one of the prominent branches of learning in the Indian knowledge system. It primarily deals with logic and it is one of the most widely applied subjects across the Vedic, Tantric, Bauddha and Jaina traditions. It is considered to be one of the five ‘Vidyā sthānas’ or abodes of learning, one of the six canonical schools of philosophy (Darśana) and also a sub limb (Upaṅga) in the body of Vedic learning.
Nyāya deals with the structure of knowing, learning and debating. Thus as a subject, it is component to all the schools of formal knowledge in some form. To different degrees, many principles of Nyāya are agreed upon by all schools, such as ascertaining the knowable, validating sources of learning, ascertaining the validity of an argument, setting terms of debate and determining the outcome of a debate. Nyāya is not prevalent as an independent school of philosophy at present, but its influence can be seen in the most extant traditions. Nyāya along with mimāmsā plays a prominent role in many areas like jurisprudence.
Indian theory of knowledge can be described into two metaphors. The first one is of a tree whose root is the Veda and various areas of learning are denoted as the trunk, branches and leaves.
angāni vēdāścatvārō mīmāmsā nyāyavistaraḥ |
purāṇaṃ dharmaśāstraṃ ca vidyāhyētāścaturdaśa || āyurvēdō dhanurvēdō gāndharvaścētyanukramāt |
The other metaphor is of a human body, whose limbs (aṅga) and sub-limbs (upānga) are various areas of learning. Darśanas enunciate the worldviews and outlines the philosophy of life that results in fulfilment and happiness.
Nyāya is the discipline of logic, which provides methods for an inquiry into the nature of world and knowledge, means of learning and validation. It systematizes knowledge into (a)the knowable, (b)means and methods for knowing and (c)procedures for ascertaining and validating knowledge. The founder of the Nyāya system was Gautama also called as Gotama, who is frequently referred to in the literature as Akṣapāda and Dīrghatapas. Before Gautama, the principles of the nyāya existed as an unsorted body of philosophical thoughts in different types of literature. Gautama codified these generally accepted principles of time into ‘Nyāya Sutram’ or ‘Nyāya Darśnam’ where he introduced the philosophy of Nyāya. He elaborated where ever needed.
As Nyāya is a traditional philosophy there are some unique concepts introduced to understand the world in a very logical way. Even though Goutama divided everything into sixteen, but a special focus was there on the means, structure and debate of the knowledge i.e pramāṇaṃ and vādaḥ. According to this philosophy, the world should be understood in its true form to liberate an individual from suffering. To know the true sense of anything, one needs to understand the process of knowing the accurate knowledge and its types. Thus epistemology or the study of pramāṇa got a prominent place in the Nyāya sutras. In fact, in the list of the sixteen elements[] stated in Nyāya sutram, 'pramāṇa'[] stands first.
Nyāya is also widely known as Vāda Śāstra as it deals with the concepts of debate. When one understands some principals, at one point in time, one may encounter a difference of opinion. When the difference is very fundamental, there arises the need for a debate. As one wants to seek the truth one must know the structure of the debate. Thus Nyāya elaborated the structure of debate and also its types.
Nyāya Darśnam can be categorized into two schools Prāchīna Nyāya and Navya Nyāya. They are:
Prāchīna Nyāya - A collection of five books which are called ‘Pancha Granthī’, these are considered to be the authentic source of ‘Prāchīna Nyāya’. These were a series of commentary on the previous work, which complemented and elaborated the priors work. They are:
- Nyāya Sutram of Gotama
- Nyāya Bhashyam of Vātsāyana
- Nyāya Vārtikam of Udyōtakāra
- Tātparya Tīkā of Vāchaspati Miśrā
- Tātparya Tīkā Pariśudhi of Udayanāchārya.
Navya Nyāya - Gangēśōpādhyāya’s ‘Tatvachintāmaṇi is considered to be the pioneering work of navya nyaya which began the new era in ‘Nyāya philosophy’. By this time the concepts which were previously dealt with separately in ‘Nyāya’ and ‘Vaiṣeṣka’ philosophies came together. This system was later termed as ‘Navya Nyāya’ or ‘Tarka Śāstram’. ‘Dīdhiti’ of Raghunātha Śrōmaṇi is considered to be the best commentary on ‘Tatvachintāmaṇi’. ‘Dīdhiti’ had the famous three commentaries ‘Māthurī’, ‘Jāgadīśī’ and ‘Gādādharī’ on it.
It can be said that ‘Prāchīna Nyāya’ dealt with all the original concepts which ‘Āstika Darśana'(asti īśwaraḥ iti matiryasay' - one who believes in the existence of īśwara and veda.)’ needs. Whereas ‘Navya Nyāya’ mainly dealt with only the topics which are useful in a debate.
Nyāya as a Darśana
Nyāya is considered to be the one amongst the six canonical Indian philosophies or worldviews along with Vaiśeśika, Sānkhya, Yoga, Mimāmsā and Vedānta. On inquiring about the difference between a normal book and a Darśana, one knows the characteristics of a Darśana. Every Darśana is expected to present its view on the world(saṅsāra) and suggest a permanent solution for the problem faced by all.
Nyaya is identifying sources and causes of suffering (duhkha) and it prescribes a theory for liberation from it. To establish its theory, it has to define certain terms and change the perception of the seeker. In this process, a detailed discussion on the means of knowledge(epistemology), which distinguishes the truth from false becomes a critical inquiry, argumentation etc.
According to Indian literature, there are four puruśārthas[] or motives for men. The fourth puruśārtha is considered to be eternal(nitya). The state of ultimate happiness and lack of suffering is a state where there is no birth or death for a being. And every darśana aims at it as a final goal. Goutama describes that final liberation from suffering as moksha, thus the ultimate goal of life. According to him, the world is a chain of consequences starting with illusion, which eventually ends with suffering. It has to be broken in order to attain liberation from suffering.
According to the text, misapprehension/illusion(ajnāna) leads to distorted views(doṣa) that leads to activity(karma), which in turn leads to rebirth(janma). This whole cycle ultimately leads to suffering duhkha. To break this chain Goutama prescribes an antidote to each member.
Duḥkha- janma-pravṛtti-dōṣa-mithyājñānānāṃ uttarōttarāpāyē tadanantarāpāyādapavargaḥ
Tattvajñāna or the true knowledge obstruct mithyājñāna or misapprehension. As illusion is the root cause of all activity like dōṣa, pāpaṃ, puṇyaṃ, removal of illusion will undo all of them. When there is no dōṣa there is no pravṛtti or cause of birth. When there is no pravṛtti there is no cause for janma or birth. When there is no birth there will be no duḥkha or sorrow. So according to nyāya sūtraṃ, tattvajñāna of the sixteen elements(Goutama divides the world into sixteen elements.)[] would successively eliminate sorrow.
Elements of Nyāya
The elements of Nyāya include identification of the right knowledge(pramā), validation(prāmāṇyaṃ), verifying explanations(nirdhāraṇaṃ), methods to establish an argument(nyāya prayōgaḥ) and means to identify a valid argument from invalid(hētvabhāsa nirūpaṇam). The term nyāya in Sanskrit signifies detailing the subject with an analytical investigation of it through the process of logical reasoning. It can be explained in the following verse:
Nīyatē prāpyatē vivakṣitārthasiḍih anēna iti 'nyāyah'
Vatsyāyana, the classic commentator on the Nyāya-Sūtra, defines it as a critical examination of the objects of knowledge by the means of logical proof. Nyāya is also called as 'Tarka-vidyā'(It means the science of reasoning.) or 'Vāda-vidya'(It means the science of argument.)
Nyāya is also accounted as 'Pramāṇa Śāstra(epistemology)[]. 'Pramā' means true knowledge and the means to it is called 'Pramāṇam'.
To understand the nature of the world, Goutama accepted four valid means, four types of pramāṇa, to obtain the correct knowledge. They are:
- Perception - Pratyakṣa: It literally means eye(which we use to see and know), but metaphorically it is applied to any all sence organs. It can be divided into six according to the number of the senses. The cognition resulted because of the relation between an object and a sense organ
. This phenomena is called as perception/ pratyakṣa. This perception is of two kinds.
indriyārtha sannikarṣōtpannaṃ jñanaṃ pratyakṣam
(i)Direct perception(laukika pratyaksha) - Seeing a table and knowing that 'there is a table' is an example of direct relation. (ii)Indirect perception(alaukika pratyaksha) - Seeing a perfume bottle and knowing that 'it has aroma', without opening its lid, is an example of indirect relation.
- Inference - Anumāna : It is a means of knowledge, knowledge through reasoning. On seeing the smoke coming out from a mountain one could infer that the mountain has fire. In the process of inferring, it is essential to know the invariable relation between the object and the reason i.e., the relation between fire and smoke is very essential. Generally, a debate takes place where the subject is not proved or accepted by both the parties. It has to be proved by good reasoning.
pratyakṣa parikalitaṃ apyarthaṃ anumānēna bubhutsantē tarkarasikāḥ 
(Means that one who enjoys logic tries to infer everything even it can be known by sense organs) So the Nyāya scholars like, gangēśōpādhyāya and vācaspati miśrā gave a prominent position for inference in their literature according to its importance in a debate.
- Comparison - Upamāna : The valid means to acquire knowledge by comparison or establish a relation between a word and meaning. When a word is known and not the meaning, the knowledge of similarity helps to establish their relation. For example, when a person does not know the meaning of the word 'gavaya'(wild cow).
Step 1: He knows from a forester that "Gavaya is similar to cow".
Step 2: He goes to the forest and sees an animal similar to cow and remembers the sentence of the forester.
Step 3: Then an analogical cognition or upamitiḥ arises such as "This(Here this refers to the animal.) is the referent of the word gavaya.
- Source for verbal cognition - Śabda : It is nothing but a meaningful word. This is referred to all the authentic literature like (a)veda, vedanga etc and (b)all the sentences we use to communicate with others. These sentences become a valid source of knowledge until the listener believes in the speaker, unlike veda, vedanga etc., which are considered to be valid always. It delivers a meaning according to its relation with the meaning. This relation may be direct/śaktiḥ or indirect/lakṣaṇā. A word possessing a valid relation could be a means of knowledge.
Vāda means debate and Śāstra means a traditional treatise. A treatise which deals with debate in detail is Vāda Śāstra. The methodology of debate followed by all the Indian traditions is originated in Nyāya. Goutama has given utmost importance to introduce and elaborate the 'art of debate' in his work. Out of sixteen elements which are described in his Nyāya sutram, around seven elements are directly related to debate.
A debate is an exchange of verbal statements between at least two opponents. It is done to achieve different results like establishing the truth, winning an opponent, misleading an opponent etc. As per the Nyāya tradition, components which are useful in a debate are hypothetical reasoning/tarkaḥ (Tarkaḥ is a method of attaining correct knowledge about an uncertain thing by showing faults in all the contrary ideas.), discussion/vādaḥ (Vādaḥ is a sincere dialogue in which one adopts the truth in the end.), polemic/jalpaḥ(Jalpaḥ is a verbal interaction done only to be victorious, it is not for the truth.), cavil/vitaṇḍā(Vitaṇḍā is a type of debate where the arguer has no desire to establish his position, but his only interest is to distract the opposition.), casuistry/chalaṃ, futile rejoinder/jāti and clinchers/nigraha sthānaṃ. All these topics are discussed categorically.
Causation in Nyāya
Causation is an important component of every darśana. The world is an effect, and its cause is explained differently by each darśana. There are multiple models explaining the causation of universe - (a) Āraṃbha vāda according to which the universe is created (b) Satkāryavādaḥ according to which universe is eternal in seed form and the phenomenal world comes into existence as a transformation of the material cause. Nyāya along with Vaiśēṣika upholds Āraṃbha vāda.
kriyā, vibhāgaḥ, pūrvadēśa saṃyōga nāśaḥ, uttara dēśa saṃyōgaḥ, drvyōtpattiḥ
According to Nyāya, inactive atoms(paramāṇu) exist prior to creation and are the material cause (upādāna kāraṇaṃ) of the universe and are inactive before creation. The formal and efficient cause of universe is the will īśwara, which causes action in the atoms. Active atoms combine, giving rise to new objects and complex matter. In this sequence, atoms combine to gradually become all the world that is experienced. The object which is going to take birth does not exist before actually taking birth. It is always totally different from the cause.
Āraṃbha means beginning/effect. As Nyāya accords separate existence to an effect from cause, its causation theory is called āraṃbhavādaḥ. It is also called astkāryavādaḥ, meaning the object created does not exist before its creation. This is different from Sānkhya's satkārya vādaḥ according to which an object prior to its creation exists in the form of its cause. In ārambha vāda, prior to its creation there is no sat or an essential existence of the world, and it is coming into existence as a result of the act of creation.
In a debate, presenting your argument in a systematic way is very important. It should precisely establish an argument without any flaw and redundancy. For this Nyāyasutra introduces a syllogism which consists of five components:
- ‘Pratigyā’ / Pratijyā : It is the proposition or the statement that is going to be inferred or statement of the thesis. Ex: Parvatō vanhimān Mountain is on fire. Here smoke is only seen not the fire, but writer wants to prove the fire which is not seen.
- ‘Hētu’/ Hētu : It is the statement consisting the ground of the inference. Ex: Dhūmāt It denotes the action because of smoke.
- ‘Udāharaṇa’/ Udāharaṇam : The sentence of example which demonstrates the invariable relationship between the reason and the claim to be inferred or the statement setting forth an illustration is called as an Udāharaṇa. Ex: Yō Yō Dhūmavān Sa Vanhimān, Yathā Mahānasah Whichever place consists of smoke also consists of fire. Because fire is the reason behind the smoke(Fire and smoke are having a cause-effect relationship.), it also signifies the kitchen in the older times.
- ‘Upanaya’ / Upanaya: It is the statement showing that the subject of the inference has the ground of the inference which is invariably related to the thing that is sought to be established. Ex: Tathā chāyam Such is this mountain.
- ‘Nigamanam’/ Nigamana: It is the conclusion or the sentence which confirms the claim or the statement that the subject of the inference has the thing that is sought to be established as it has the ground of the inference. Ex: Tasmāt tathā Therefore this mountain possesses fire.
These five members are called ‘Panchāvayava ’. In a formal debate, an argument with all these five members is considered to be complete. So using these five techniques to prove the merit of their cause can be called as ‘Nyāya’. Since ‘Nyāya’ has a predominant place in ‘Gōtama’s’ work it is called ‘Nyāya Darśanam’ or ‘Nyāya Sūtram’.
In general, an exchange of dialogue is called kathā(Pūrvōttara vākya samdarbhaḥ exchange of dialogues). When it is used in a systematic way to know the truth its called vādaḥ. When the arguer has no desire to establish his position, but his only interest is to distract the opposition its called vitaṇḍā. When the only intention is to win its called jalpaḥ. Generally, one tends to commit flaws while presenting an argument. But to establish the correct principles/ sidhāntaḥ one must be aware of them. To identify the flaws of others and not to commit any is also important. Nyāya explains the types of flaws in the hētvābhāsāḥ section. Hence to equip us with the potentiality in argumentation and to find flaws in others argumentation, Gotama took a very prominent portion of his book Nyāya sutram.
Nyāya in Life
As a darshana(way of life) nyaya is not extant but nyaya concepts prevalent in Indian culture and found in various forms including regional idioms. Today we may not find many people getting trained in the traditional Nyāya system. But we always find the traditional Nyāya concepts in the Indian culture. These concepts got absorbed by the culture and regional languages according to their merits. Some of the concepts got adapted by the different traditional systems like sāmkhyā, vēdāntaḥ, mīmāmsā etc. Knowingly or unknowingly any logical statement follows some principles of Nyāya.
Nyaya became a synonym of logic because of its logical praxis. Nyāyaprayōgaḥ(elaborated above) became a guideline for a systematic dialogue. For instance, even in a household, it is a common practice to say you are doing vitanda(when a person does not follow logic ) because vitanda is known to common man as an undesirable and unfruitful way of argument. Yuktis(techniques) in argument came to be known as nyaya. For instance 'Pradhāna malla nibarhana nyāya', 'pangvandha nyāya','sthālī pulāka nyāya' are techies for conveying similarities.
Pradhāna malla nibarhana nyāya : The word malla means a wrestler. If a wrestler, who came from another place defeats the most victorious and important wrestler of any region he is considered victorious over the other wrestlers also. In the same way in any argument, if the most important idea or logic of a side is proved wrong then all the other ideas or logics that side is considered to be useless.
pangvandha nyāya: This idiom is a famous logic used in sānkhya drśanaṃ. Here 'pangu' means a person without legs, 'andha' means blind. The pangu cannot walk and an andha cannot see. If these both want to accomplish a task like a normal human, then they have to co-operate. The person without legs should climb upon the shoulders of the blind and complete the task. In the same way sankhya describes that 'prakṛti and puruṣa' accomplish the task by co-operating to each other.
- ↑ śivapurāṇaṃ 7.1,1.25-26
- ↑ śabdakalpadṛma(sanskrit encyclopedia)
- ↑ 1.1.2 Nyāya sūtraṃ
- ↑ nyāyakōśaḥ, published by, chaukhamba surabharati prakashan, varanasi, 2015, p:446
- ↑ tarkasaṃgrahaḥ, published by vavilla ramaswamy and sons, chennai, 1960, p:23
- ↑ tatvacintāmaṇiḥ, anumānakhaṇḍaḥ
- ↑ tarkasaṃgraha dīpikā