Nyaya Darshana (न्यायदर्शनम्)

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Nyaya Darshana (Samskrit : न्यायदर्शनम्) is one of the most important darshana shastras from ancient times. The word Nyaya signifies going into a subject, i.e., investigating it analytically. In this sense of analysis, the word Nyaya is exactly opposed to Sankhya, synthesis. The Nyaya is sometimes called Tarka-Vidya or the Science of Debate, Vada-Vidya or the Science of Discussion. Tarka is the special feature of the Nyaya. Nyaya is not merely formal logic, but a complete epistemology (a theory of knowledge).[1]

परिचयः || Introduction

To understand the vaidika dharma, knowledge of Nyaya is extremely important. Manu, the first law giver, explains that the principles of Dharma can be understood by systematic reasoning of Shrutis (श्रुत्यनुगामी तर्क). Nyaya throws light on all subjects, explains all karmas and thus is the foundation for all dharmas. Due to the wide ranging applicability of its principles, Nyaya is universally popular.[2] The distinguishing feature of Nyaya is its belief in the utility of analysis and in the reliability of reason, and systematically defending its standpoint against rival views. Some salient siddhantas of Nyaya include[3]

  • Belief in the independent existence of the external world, i.e., the world is real.
  • Nyaya maintains that the nature of Ultimate Reality is many and thus is described as Pluralistic in view.

Founder - Gautama Maharshi

Maharshi Gautama (गौतमः) was the founder of the Nyaya system of philosophy. Nyaya Sutra (न्यायसूत्राणि) by Gautama is the first work on Nyaya Darsana and is composed of five adhyayas and each adhyaya is divided into two Ahnikas (आह्निकः).

न्यायशास्त्रवाङ्मयम् ॥ Nyaya Literature

Nyayasutra (न्यायसूत्रम्) by Maharshi Akshapada Gautama is the primary text of the Nyaya Darshana. As many as 12 bhashyas (commentaries) have been written on these sutras by various scholars of Nyaya shastra. The bhashyas and the bhashyakaras of the Nyayasutra are enumerated below.[4]

Bhashya (भाष्यम् । Commentary) Bhashyakara (भाष्यकारः । Commentator)
Nyaya Bhashya (न्यायभाष्यम्) Vatsyayana (वात्स्यायनः)
Nyaya Vartika (न्यायवार्तिकः) Udyotakara (उद्योतकरः)
Nyaya Vartika Tatparya Tika (न्यायवार्तिकतात्पर्यटीका) Vachaspati Mishra (वाचस्पतिमिश्रः)
Nyaya Vartika Tatparya Tika Parishuddhi (न्यायवार्तिकतात्पर्यटीकापरिशुद्धिः) Udayanacharya (उदयनाचार्यः)
Nyaya Nibandha Prakasha (न्यायनिबन्धप्रकाशः) Vardhamana (वर्धमानः)
Nyayalankara (न्यायालङ्कारः) Shrikantha (श्रीकण्ठः)
Nyaya Vrtti (न्यायवृत्तिः) Abhayatilaka Upadhyaya (अभयतिलकः उपाध्यायः)
Nyaya Sutroddhara (न्यायसूत्रोद्धारः) Vachaspati Mishra (वाचस्पतिमिश्रः)
Nyaya Rahasya (न्यायरहस्यम्) Ramabhadra (रामभद्रः)
Nyaya Siddhanta Mala (न्यायसिद्धान्तमाला) Jayrama (जयरामः)
Nyaya Sutra Vrtti (न्यायसूत्रवृत्तिः) Vishvanatha Siddhantapanchanana (विश्वनाथसिद्धान्तपञ्चाननः)
Nyaya Samkshepa (न्यायसंक्षेपः) Govinda Sanna (गोविन्दसन्ना)

Other commentaries include

  • Nyaya Manjari (न्यायमञ्जरी) by Jayanta (जयन्तः)
  • Nyaya Bodhini (न्यायबोधिनी) by Govardhana (गोवर्धनः)

Nyaya Siddhantam - Core Concepts

The purpose of Nyaya is critical examination of the objects of knowledge by means of the canons of logical proof. The Nyaya system deals critically with metaphysical problems. It contains discussions on psychology, logic, metaphysics and theology. The Nyaya 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 Nyaya gives a description of the mechanism of knowledge in detail.[1]

Nyaya 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. A study of the Nyaya Darsana develops the power of reasoning or arguing.[1]

Discussion of Certain Metaphysical Concepts under Nyaya Darsana[1]

1. Knowledge[1]

Knowledge implies four conditions:

  1. The subject or the Pramata, the cogniser
  2. The object or the Prameya (प्रमेय)
  3. The resulting state of cognition or Pramiti
  4. The means of knowledge or the Pramana

The Prameya, or the objects of which right knowledge to be obtained, are twelve, viz.,

The Pramanas or the means of right knowledge are:

  1. Perception (Pratyaksha)
  2. Inference (Anumana)
  3. Comparison (Upamana)
  4. Word, or verbal testimony (Sabda)

Sabda, or verbal testimony, includes Vedic revelation. Pratyaksha is perception by the senses.

2. God[1]

Nyaya Darsana says that the actions of man produce their fruits, called Adrishta, under the control of God. God supervises the work of Adrishta. God does not alter the course of Adrishta but renders its operation possible. 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 world. God is a Personal Being. He is free from Mithya-Jnana (false knowledge), Adharma (demerit), and Pramada (carelessness). He has Jnana (knowledge), Ichcha (desire) and Prayatna (volitional effort). God is One, Creator, who is endowed with Nitya Jnana (eternal knowledge) and Ichha-Kriya (desire-action) as His Gunas (attributes). He is Vibhu (all-pervading).

3. The Soul[1]

The soul is a real being. It is an eternal entity. Desire, aversion, volition, pleasure, pain, intelligence and cognition are its qualities. 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 both the eyes are 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.

4. The Universe[1]

The universe is a composite of eternal, unalterable, causeless atoms, and it exists independently of our thoughts. The universe is the modification of the atoms (Paramanus) of the physical elements: Earth (Prithvi), Water (Apas), Fire (Tejas) and Air (Vayu). The Nyaya Darsana admits nine objects (Dravyas), viz., Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether, Time, Space (Quarters), Mind and the Self (Atman).  

5. Cause of Bondage and the Means to Emancipation[1]

Misapprehension (Mithya-Jnana), faults (Dosha), activity (Pravritti), birth (Janma) and pain (Duhkha) constitute the world. False notion or false knowledge is at the root of all misery and pain. From Mithya-Jnana or false notion comes the fault of like and dislike (Raga-Dvesha); from Raga-Devesha proceeds Karma or action—virtuous or vicious—which forces a man to pass through repeated births for the sake of its reward or punishment. From these births proceed misery and pain. It is the aim of philosophy to eradicate the false notion or Mithya-Jnana which is at the root of all miseries and pains. On the successive annihilation of misapprehension, faults, activity, birth and pain, there follows release (Apavarga).  

6. The Sixteen Categories[1]

One can remove misapprehension or false knowledge and attain supreme felicity by the true knowledge of the sixteen categories. The sixteen categories are: means of right knowledge (Pramana), object of right knowledge (Prameya), doubt (Samsaya), purpose (Prayojana), familiar instance (Drishtanta), established tenet (Siddhanta), members (Avayava), argumentation (Tarka), ascertainment (Nirnaya), discussion (Vada) wrangling (Jalpa), cavil (Vitanda), fallacy (Hetvabhasa), quibble (Chala), futility (Jati), and occasion for rebuke (Nigraha-sthana).  

There is, first, the state of Samsaya or doubt about the point to be discussed. Next comes the Prayojana or motive for discussing it. Next follows a Drishtanta or example Which leads to the Siddhanta 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 Nirnaya or ascertainment of the true state of the case. A further Vada or controversy takes place, which leads to Jalpa or mere wrangling. This is followed by Vitanda or cavilling, Hetvabhasa or fallacious reasoning, and Nigraha-sthana, the putting an end to all discussions by a demonstration of the objector's incapacity for argument.  

When one attains the true knowledge, his faults viz. affection (Raga), aversion (Dvesha) 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. One must put an end to the chain which begins with misapprehension or false knowledge and ends with pain. If false knowledge vanishes, faults disappear. If faults vanish, one is freed from activity and consequent transmigration and pains.  

Transmigration, which consists of 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 an end to the body, and consequently to pleasure and pain.  

7. The State of Apavarga or Release[1]

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 twenty-one kinds of pain or Duhkha is liberation (Moksha). In the state of release, there is no connection of mind with the Atman. The Atman 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 Naiyayikas is a state of painless, and passionless existence.  

Similarities Between Nyaya and Vaiseshika[1]

The Nyaya and the Vaiseshika are analytic types of philosophy. The Nyaya and the Vaiseshika 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 Nyaya and the Vaiseshika are regarded as parts of one whole. The Vaiseshika is a supplement to the Nyaya. 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.[1]

वैशेषिकः || Vaiseshika Darsana

साङ्ख्यः || Samkhya (Kapila Muni)

योगः || Yoga (Maharishi Patanjali)

पूर्वमीमांसा || Poorva Mimamsa (Jaimini)

उत्तरमीमांसा || Uttara Mimamsa or वेदान्त || Vedanta (Badrayana or Vyasa)

प्रमाणप्रमेयसंशयप्रयोजनदृष्टान्तसिद्धान्तावयवतर्कनिर्णयवादजल्पवितण्डाहेत्वाभासच्छलजातिनिग्रहस्थानानाम्तत्त्वज्ञानात्निःश्रेयसाधिगमः ।।१।{पदार्थोद्देशसूत्रम्}

दुःखजन्मप्रवृत्तिदोषमिथ्याज्ञानानां उत्तरोत्तरापाये तदनन्तरा पायातपवर्गः।।२।। {पदार्थोद्देशसूत्रम्}


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Swami Sivananda, All About Hinduism, Page 190-196
  2. Pt. Baldev Upadhyaya (1966) Bharatiya Darshana. Varanasi : Sharada Mandir
  3. M. Hiriyanna, (1949) The Essentials of Indian Philosophy. London : George Allen and Unwin Ltd.
  4. Satis Chandra Vidyabhusana (1921), A History of Indian Logic, Calcutta University.