Darshanas & Pramanas?

Authors : Shivashankar Rao & Rami Sivan


Authors : Shivashankar Rao
Date: 7/29/2019
Bangalore, India

Though the word “darshana” means “seeing”,In a technical sense, it indicates the systems of philosophy. Indian philosophical systems are called darshanas since they claim to have been based on “seeing “or experiencing” the final truths. The broad grouping of these darshanas could be- Astika darshanas and nAstika darshanas. Those who accept the authority of the vedas are Astika and those who do not accept vedas are nAstika.

The Astika darshanas are six in number-Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Meemamsa and Vedanta.

The nAstikas are – Charvaka, Jaina and Bouddha darshanas.

The Astika darshanas (we are concerned with) represent the pramanas or valid sources of knowledge and the prameyas or things to be known through them. Darshanas generally deal with four topics- Existence and nature of Brahman or Eshwara or God, Nature of Jeeva or the individual soul, creation of Jagat or the world, Moksha or liberation and the disciplines that lead to it. The Nyaya darshana has laid the foundation for the science of Indian Logic. Hence it is called Nyayavidya or tarkashastra. Nyayasootras of Gouthama is the basic text of this system. This is supposed to be the first among the darshanas.

Vaisheshika darshana (after KanAda or Ulooka) is considered as an extension of Nyayadarshana as it recognises seven “padarthas”(what is denoted by words). These categories of realities are divided into two classes- Bhava and abhava- positive and existent realities and those which denote negative facts (see vaisheshika sootras). The Sankhya darshana (of Kapila) accepts only three pramanas or valid source of knowledge. – Pratyaksha, Anumana and Shabda.

The Yogadarshana of Patanjali is heavily oriented towards Saadhana or spiritual practice. It accepts three fundamental relities- Eshwara, Purushas (individual souls) and Prakriti. Meemamsa darshana also called poorva meemaamsa aims at giving a methodology of interpretation to understand vedic injunctions regarding rituals. This has developed an elaborate epistemology which has been accepted by the Vedanta darshana also. Meemamsa darshana tries to reconcile the various vedic texts that seem to give different directions with regard to the same ritual system.

The Vedanta darshana on the other hand tries to make out a coherent philosophy of Brahman from the apparently conflicting statements in the Upanishads. This deals with the end portions of the vedas (upanishads) and contain the essence of the same. The system is based on the three canonical works- Prasthanatraya.


What are Pramanas?

Nov 18th, 2020


A Pramana is one which measures. It is also a valid means of knowledge. The Darshanas (six of them in Hindu philosophy) accept some of the means of knowledge upon which further theories are developed.

They are the following:

1. Pratyaksha (direct or immediate perception).

2. Anumaana (inference).

3. Upamaana (comparison).

4. Shabhda (verbal testimony).

5. Arthaapatti (postulation or presumption).

6. Anupalabdi (non perception).

The Pratyaksha Pramaana has two stages- Nirvikalpa Pratyaksha and Savikalpa Pratyaksha.

There will be a general awareness of the sense object as soon as the sense organ comes into its contact (Nirvikalpa Pratyaksha).

When the details are noted in the light of the past experience, it leads to Savikalpa Pramaana.

When we see a sign connected to the original, it gives us the indirect knowledge (as in the case of a smoke inferring that there is a fire), it is Anumaana Pramaana.

By comparison of the new object with the earlier seen object, Upamaana Pramaana is established.

Words of a reliable person (Apta vaakya) or the authority of a vedic injunction could be considered as Shabda Pramaana.

This can be either pourushEya or ApaourushEya.

When an unperceived fact alone can explain an anomaly satisfactorily, a postulation or presumption becomes necessary(Arthaapatti). This knowledge is distinctive since it cannot be got by any other means.

Anupalabdi or non perception gives immediate cognition of the non existence of an object.( The object which was seen earlier is not there and so, its non existence is recognised).


MIMĀMSA is Vedic Hermeneutics

Authors : Rami Sivan
Date: Jan 23rd, 2020

Hermeneutics is the study of theories of the interpretation and understanding of texts, particularly Sacred texts. A hermeneutic is defined as a specific system or methodology for interpretation of texts and in this case specifically Vedic texts.

A Mimamsaka is a person who specialises in hermeneutics.

Exegesis is the application, it involves an extensive and critical interpretation of a sacred text using an hermeneutic. The word exegesis means “to draw the meaning out of” a given text.

Traditional exegesis requires the following: —

  1. Analysis of significant words in the text in regard to translation [1]
  2. Examination of the general historical and cultural context of the passage.
  3. Confirmation of the limits of the specific passage.
  4. Examination of the context of the passage within the whole text itself.

Hindu hermeneutics is based on the methodology propounded by the school of Mīmāmsa founded by the Sage Jaimini.

The term Mīmāṃsa is derived from the Sanskrit root “man” — “to think, consider, examine, or investigate.” Here the term, etymologically means:— “desire to cogitate” and is used to signify a thorough consideration, examination, or investigation of the meaning of Vedic Texts.

Mīmāṃsa is “rational enquiry” which “attempts at rational conclusions”.

Kumarila one of the founders of the Mīmāṁsa called it “a conglomeration of arguments” (yukti-kalāpa), for interpreting the Vedic injunction regarding yajña.

The original scope of Mīmāṁsa was the nature and structure of the Vedic yajña. Once the yajñas became redundant the rules and methodology of Mīmāṁsa was applied to all other texts such as the Upaṇiṣads, Dharma Shastras, Puranas, Itihasas etc.

Mīmāṁsa is therefore an essential pre-requisite for the study of Vedānta which is known as Uttara (“Latter”) Mīmāṁsa. Vedānta is based on texts i.e. Upaṇiṣads and Gītā and therefore a thorough knowledge of the rules of interpretation is compulsory in order to understand them properly.

It is important to note that every attempt at translation also involves an interpretation. The translator tries to understand the text and then to make it intelligible to others using metaphors and images the readers can understand.