top of page

Pramana: Sources of Knowledge

How do we generally learn something? What are the various sources of knowledge?

Epistemology is like the "how-to" guide for knowledge. It's all about understanding how we know things and how we can be sure that what we know is true. Imagine you're trying to figure out if it's going to rain tomorrow. You might look outside, check the weather forecast, or ask someone who knows a lot about weather. All these ways of finding out involve epistemology.

Epistemology asks questions like:

  1. What counts as knowledge? Knowing something means more than just believing it; it's about having good reasons to believe it's true.

  2. How do we acquire knowledge? We get knowledge through different methods like observation, reasoning, or listening to experts.

  3. What makes knowledge reliable? We want to make sure our knowledge is solid and not based on guesses or wrong information. So, we need to understand what makes our sources of knowledge trustworthy.

  4. Are there limits to what we can know? Some things might be beyond our ability to understand or know for sure. Epistemology explores these limits and how we deal with them.

In simple terms, epistemology is about figuring out how we know what we know, and how we can be confident that what we know is true. It's like a guidebook for thinking critically and understanding the world around us.

Diversity plays a crucial role in the epistemology of various Hindu philosophical systems, enriching their perspectives and contributing to a comprehensive understanding of reality. Hindu philosophical systems recognize multiple pramanas or means of knowledge, each emphasizing different aspects of cognition.

This diversity allows for a more nuanced understanding of how knowledge is acquired and validated. By engaging with perspectives, scholars have enriched their understanding of epistemological principles and their applications. Hindu epistemology fosters inclusivity, integration, and adaptability, enriching the philosophical landscape and promoting a comprehensive understanding of reality. It highlights the importance of embracing multiple perspectives and pathways to knowledge, reflecting the richness and complexity of human experience.

Pramanas are the various sources of knowledge.

Pratyaksha (Perception): Pratyaksha is direct perception through the senses. It's knowledge gained by directly observing or experiencing something. For example, seeing a tree, feeling the warmth of the sun, tasting food, smelling a flower, or hearing a sound are all instances of pratyaksha.

Anumana (Inference): Anumana is knowledge gained through inference or reasoning. It involves drawing conclusions based on observed facts or premises. For example, if you see smoke rising from a distance, you infer that there must be fire because smoke is usually a result of fire.

Upamana (Comparison): Upamana is knowledge gained through comparison or analogy. It's understanding something new by comparing it to something already known. For instance, if someone is told that a mango tastes like a peach, and they have previously tasted a peach, they can understand the taste of a mango through this comparison.

Shabda (Testimony): Shabda refers to knowledge gained through testimony or reliable testimony of others. It involves trusting the word of someone who is considered knowledgeable or trustworthy. For example, learning about historical events from textbooks, or understanding scientific theories based on the words of experts fall under shabda.

Arthapatti (Presumption): Arthapatti is knowledge gained through presumption or postulation. It involves assuming something to be true to explain certain observations or facts. For example, if someone sees a person regularly going to the gym and observes their muscular physique, they might presume that the person lifts weights regularly.

Anupalabdhi (Non-apprehension): Anupalabdhi is knowledge gained through non-apprehension or absence. It's knowing something by its absence.


bottom of page