6 Schools | 1. The Nyāya


The Nyāya


The Nyāya or Hindu logic was founded by Gautama Rishi, who is also known by the names Akṣapāda and Dīrghatapas.

The Nyāya and the Vaiśeṣika are analytic types of philosophy:

The word ‘Nyāya’ signifies ‘going into a subject’ i.e., investigating it analytically. In this sense of analysis, the word Nyāya is exactly opposed to Sānkhya, synthesis.

The Nyāya is sometimes called Tarka-Vidyā or the Science of Debate, Vāda-Vidyā or the science of Discussion. Tarka is the special feature of the Nyāya.

The Nyāya is not merely formal logic, but a complete epistemology. Ordinary people think that the Nyāya is chiefly concerned with logic. Logic is merely a part or a single topic.

The purpose of the Nyāya is a critical examination of the objects of knowledge by means of the canons of logical proof. The Nyāya system deals critically with metaphysical problems. It contains discussions on psychology, logic, metaphysics and theology.

The Nyāya – A Method of Philosophical enquiry

The Nyāya is intended to furnish a correct method of philosophical enquiry into all the objects and subjects of human knowledge, including the process of reasoning and laws of thought. The evidence of the senses is submitted to a critical enquiry.

The Nyāya gives a description of the mechanism of knowledge in detail.

The Nyāya and the Vaiśeṣika explore the significance of time, space, cause, matter, mind, soul and knowledge for experience, and give the results in the form of a theory of the universe.

The Nyāya and the Vaiśeṣika are regarded as parts of one whole. The Vaiśeṣika is a supplement to the Nyāya. They are allied systems. They both believe in a Personal God, a plurality of souls and an atomic universe. Further, they use many arguments in common.

The Nyāya is the basis of all Sanskrit philosophical studies. It is an introduction to all systematic philosophy. It is the preliminary course for a student of philosophy. You cannot understand the Brahma-Sutras of Śrī Vyāsa without a knowledge of the Nyasa.

A study of the Nyasa develops the power of reasoning or arguing. It renders the intellect sharp and subtle. You cannot make Vedāntic enquiry without a sharp and subtle intellect.

The Kaṭhopanishad says:

“It (the Ātman or the Self) is beheld by subtle seers through their sharp and subtle intellect”

The Nyāya Sutra by Gautama is the first work on Nyāya philosophy. This is the most famous book of the school.

Numerous commentaries have been written on this book by various authors, viz., Nyāya-Bhāshya by Vātsyāyana, Nyāyalankara by Srikantha, Nyāya-Manjari by Jayanta, Nyāya- Bodhinī by Govardhana, Nyāya-Vārttika-Tātparya-Tika by Vācaspati Misra etc.


All knowledge implies four conditions:

1. The subject or the Pramāda, the cognizer
2. The object or the Prameya
3. The resulting state of cognition or the Pramiti
4. The means of knowledge or the Pramāṇa

Prameya, or the objects of which, right knowledge is to be obtained, are twelve, i.e.

1. Soul (Ātman)
2. Body (Śarīra)
3. Senses (Iṅdriyas)
4. Objects of senses (Artha)
5. Intellect (Buddhi)
6. Mind (Manas)
7. Activity (Pravritti)
8. Fault (Doṣa)
9. Transmigration (Pratyabhāva)
10. Fruit (Phala)
11. Pain (Duhkha)
12. Salvation (Apavarga)

The Pramāṇas or the means of right knowledge are 4:

1. Perception (Pratyakṣa),
2. Inference (Anumāna),
3. Comparison (Upamāna), and
4. Word or verbal testimony (Śabda) are

Śabda or verbal testimony includes Vedic revelation.
Pratyakṣa is perception by the senses.

God, Self and Universe


The Nyāya says that the actions of man produce their fruits, called Adriṣṭa, under the control of God. God supervises the work of Adriṣṭa. The intelligent principle of Adriṣṭa, which governs the fate of man, acts under the direction of God.

God does not alter the course of Adriṣṭa, but renders possible its operations.
God is the bestower of the fruits of actions of human beings.
God is a Special Soul endowed with omnipotence and omniscience, by which He guides and regulates the world.

God is a Personal Being. He is free from Mithyā-Jñāna (false knowledge), Adharma (demerit), and Pramāda (carelessness). He has Jñāna (knowledge), Ichchā (desire) and Prayatna (volitional effort).

God is One, Creator, who is endowed with Nitya Jñāna (eternal knowledge) and Ichchā-Kriya (desire-action) as his Guṇas (attributes). He is Vibhu (all-pervading).

The Soul

The soul is a real being. It is an eternal entity. Desire, aversion, volition, pleasure, pain, intelligence and cognition are its qualities or marks. The object of the notion of ‘I’ is the soul.

No cognition or recollection is possible without a soul:

The eye cannot see objects and the ear cannot hear sounds without a soul. There should be an agent to use the instruments (senses). That agent is the soul.

After an object is seen, even if the eyes are both destroyed, the knowledge that ‘I have seen’ remains. This knowledge is not a quality of either the objects or the senses.

The mind is not the soul. It is only an instrument of the soul, by means of which it thinks.

The self is the subject. The soul exists even when the body perishes, the senses are cut off and the mind is controlled. There are infinite numbers of souls.

The Universe

The universe is a composite of eternal, unalterable, causeless atoms which exists independently of our thoughts.

The universe is the modification of the atoms (Paramāṇus) of the physical elements:
Earth (Prithvī), Water (Apas), Fire (Tejas), and Air (Vāyu).

The Nyāya admits 9 (primary) objects (Dravyas), viz.,
Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether, Space (Quarters), Time, Mind and the Self (Ātman).

The Cause of Bondage and the Means to Emancipation

One can remove misapprehension or false knowledge and attain supreme felicity by the true knowledge of the 16 categories. The sixteen categories are:

1. means of right knowledge (Pramāṇa),  2. object of right knowledge (Prameya),
3. doubt (Saṁśaya), 4. purpose (Prayojana), 5. familiar instance (Dṛṣṭānta),
6. established tenet (Siddhāṅta), 7. members (Avyayaḥ), 8. argumentation (Tarka),
9. ascertainment (Nirṇaya), 10. discussion (Vāda), 11. wrangling (Jalpa), 12. cavil (Vitaṇḍā),
13. fallacy (Hetvābhāsa), 14.quibble (Chala), 15. futility (Jāti), and 16. occasion for rebuke (Nigraha-sthana).

There is, first, the state of Saṁśaya or doubt about the point to be discussed.

Next comes the Prayojana or motive for discussing it.

Next follows a Dṛṣṭānta or example which leads to the Siddhāṅta or established conclusion.

Then comes the objector with his Avayava or argument, split up into five members.

Next follows the Tarka or refutation, and the Nirṇaya or ascertainment of the true state of the case.

A further Vāda or controversy takes place, which leads to Jalpa or mere wrangling. This is followed by Vitaṇḍā or cavilling, Hetvābhāsa or fallacious reasoning, and Nigraha-Sthana, the putting an end to all discussion by a demonstration of the objector’s incapacity for argument.

When one attains the true knowledge, his faults, viz., affection (Rāga), aversion (Dveṣa) and stupidity (Moha) vanish:

Aversion includes anger, envy, malice and hatred.

Attachment includes lust, greed, avidity and covetousness.

Stupidity includes suspicion, conceit, carelessness and misapprehension. Stupidity generates dislike and attachment.

You must put an end to the chain, which begins with misapprehension or false knowledge and ends with pain, if you wish to attain release.

If false knowledge vanishes, faults will disappear. If faults vanish, one is freed from activity and consequent transmigration and pains.

Transmigration which consists in the soul’s leaving one body and taking another, is the cause of its undergoing pleasure and pain.

A soul which is no longer subject to transmigration is freed from all pains. The soul attains release as soon as there is end to the body, and consequently to pleasure and pain.

The State of Apavarga or Release

Apavarga, or release, is absolute deliverance from pain. It is freedom from pain. It is cessation of pain.

It is not the enjoyment of positive pleasure. It is not annihilation of the self. It is destruction of bondage. Release from the 21 kinds of pain or Duhkha is liberation (Moksha).

In the state of release, there is no connection of mind with the Ātman:

The Ātman is destitute of desire, effort, merit, demerit, hatred, mental impressions, etc., in the state of liberation, as, then, there is no mind.

The liberation (Moksha) of the Naiyāyikas is a word without meaning. It is a state of painless, passionless existence, like that of a stone without sensation and interest.

To Sum Up

This world has begun by a combination of atoms. It has Saṁyoga (conjunction) and Viyoga (Disassociation).

The cause of the world is the Paramāṇus (atoms) and the nine Dravyas (materials), including Īśvara (God).

Īśvara has Nitya-Jñāna (eternal knowledge) who has also Ichchā-Kriya (desire-action) as Guṇas (qualities). He is Vibhu (all-pervading).

Jīva (individual soul) is doer and enjoyer. He has several attributes. Jīvas are endless. The cause for bondage is ignorance (Ajñāna).

Twenty one kinds of pain constitute bondage.

Moksha is destruction of all kinds of pain. Knowledge of the Ātman (Soul), as is distinct from others, is Moksha-Sādhana (austerity for emancipation).

Gautama advocates Arambhavada and Aniyata-khyāti (theory of the production of a new effect from every cause and of realistic epistemology).