6 different means of knowledge explained in Vedanta
~ (Understandings from the Webinar series of Chinmaya International Foundation on Panchadasi)
Vedanta gives 6 different means by which knowledge is gained.
- Pratyaksha – Direct perception. Things that we directly perceive come under pratyaksha. E.g. Things we see, hear, taste, touch, feel or even the thoughts because we directly perceive them in our mind.
- Anumaana – Inference. Even though we might not see fire, from smoke we infer that there is fire. This type of gaining knowledge through inference is called Anumaana.
- Upamaana – Knowledge gained through similarity. E.g. A person is going to a forest. His friend warns him that there are bisons in the forest. If you see one, immediately run away. But this person has not seen a bison. So his friend explains to him that it is huge and looks like a cow. Now when the person goes to the forest and he see a similar creature, he understands that it’s a bison. Even though he has not seen a bison before (pratyaksha) nor has he inferred this knowledge (through anumaana), he has gained the knowledge through similarity, and this process is called Upamaana.
- Arthaapatti – Postulation. E.g. Devadatta is a fat healthy person. But no one has seen Devadatta eating during day time. So one can infer that he would be eating at night definitely otherwise he cannot stay so healthy without eating at all. Here, one postulates to explain what one has cognised. This method of knowledge is called Arthaapatti.
- Anupalabdhi – Non-comprehension. E.g. Someone asks a person to checck if Devadatta is there in the hall. He goes, checks and finds outs that Devadatta is not there. He comes back to say that Devadatta is not there. In this case, he has not seen Devadatta, but he has gained the knowledge that Devadatta is not there because of the absence. This process is called Anupalabdhi.
- Shabda – a trustworthy word/source. We know that the Alps and Andes exist even though all of us have not gone to there. That is because we have learnt about it through our geography textbooks. Such type of gaining knowledge through a trustworthy source is called Shabda.
There is nothing in this world that cannot be cognised by any of the above six. Any type of knowledge gained will come under one or more of the above categories.