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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Six Philosophies > Nine Tenets of Vedanta > The prameya-shloka

The prameya-shloka

The shloka that lays out the nine prameya-s is


shrIman-madhva-mate hariH parataraH satyaM jagat.h tattvato |

bhedo jIvagaNAH hareranucharAH nIchochcha bhAvaN^gatAH |

muktirnaijasukhAnubhUtiramalAbhaktishcha tatsAdhanam.h |

hyaxAditrayaM pramANamakhilAmnAyaikavedyo hariH ||


This may be split as:


shrIman.h madhva-mate In Shriman Madhva's doctrine


1> hariH parataraH Hari (Vishnu) is Supreme

2> satyaM jagat.h The world is true (real)

3> tattvataH bhedaH The differences are real

4> jIvagaNAH hareH anucharAH The classes of souls are cohorts of


5> nIchochcha bhAvaN^gatAH And reach different ultimate states

6> muktiH naija-sukha-anubhUtiH mukti (liberation) is the experience

of the joy of one's own nature

7> amalA-bhaktiH-cha tat.h sAdhanaM That is achieved by flawless

devotion and [correct


8> axAditrayaM hi pramANaM pratyaksha observation), etc., are

indeed the sources of knowledge

9> akhila-AmnAya-eka-vedyo hariH Hari alone is praised in all the




I. The first prameya is:


hariH parataraH Hari (Vishnu) is Supreme


But there really is a lot more complexity than just the simple statement that Vishnu is Supreme. Notice, in particular, that the statement is "hariH parataraH," rather than "hariH paraH" or "hariH paramaH."


`parataraH' can be interpreted in several ways -- for instance:

that the indicated (Vishnu) is Superior even to the exalted, i.e., that there is a gradation among entities other than Vishnu, and He is completely above even the highest among them.

that Vishnu is Superior even to those who have reached liberation; that is to say, it is not the case that Vishnu is superior to oneself while one is in the world but one has the same status as Him after attaining liberation (or that one merges with Him upon liberation). He continues to be Superior even after liberation.

that Vishnu is incomparably Superior in all respects, with respect to oneself and others; He is not just Superior by a slight margin, but is comprehensively so in every possible respect.

How so? As Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha says:


nArAyaNAya paripUrNa guNArNavAya

vishvodaya sthitilayonniyati pradAya |

j~nAnapradAya vibudhAsurasaukhya duHkha

satkAraNAya vitatAya namonamaste |


NaaraayaNa, who is an ocean of complete virtues; Who causes the rise, sustenance, and fall of the universe; Who gives knowledge, and joy and suffering respectively to the good and the evil; Who is a Benevolent Cause, and is completely beyond comprehension: Him, I salute over and over.


Thus, in all these respects, Vishnu (NaaraayaNa) is completely beyond oneself and others.


Authorities in support of these are many. For instance, the Bhagavad Gita, chapter fifteen, says:


dvAvimau purushhau loke xarashchAxara eva cha |

xaraH sarvANi bhUtAni kUtastho.axara uchyate ||


There are two types of sentients in the universe: the destructible and the indestructible. All creatures are destructible, while the anvil-like is called indestructible.



uttamaH purushhastvanyaH paramAtmetyudAh.rtaH |

yo lokatrayamAvishya bibhartyavyaya IshvaraH ||


The Supreme Being is different (from both the previous), and is thus called the `paramAtmA' (parama=Supreme; AtmA=Soul, sentient); He, who "invades" all three worlds and sustains them, though Himself unchanging, is Ishvara.


yasmAt.h xaramatIto.ahaM axarAdapi chottamaH |

ato.asmi loke vede cha prathitaH purushhottamaH ||


Because I (Krishna) am beyond the destructible, and am also Superior to the indestructible, thus am I called in the world, and in the Vedas, as the Purushottama (Supreme Being).


In his commentary upon the Bhagavad Gita (and in other places as well), Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha says that the `kUTastha' refers to Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, who is the "abhimAni" (controller) of all nature; thus, she is like a changeless anvil which supports change in others, in being herself changeless, but supporting all of nature that is ever-changing.


Thus, Krishna is saying that there are two kinds of entities in the universe; one, the destructible, which includes all creatures, and the second the anvil-like, Lakshmi, who sustains all nature without suffering change. He, the Lord Vishnu, is different from both, and is thus called Paramaatmaa. He, who inhabits all three worlds and sustains them, without suffering the changes and other travails of the universe, is called Ishvara (Lord).



II. The second prameya is:



satyaM jagat.h The universe is true (real)


That the universe is real, needs no separate proof at all; it is known from the evidence of one's everyday experience. How is such experience to be invalidated? Possibly by scripture. But what value to scripture when it negates the very source of knowledge that tells of the scripture's existence and worth in the first place? As Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha puts it:


na chAnubhava virodhe Agamasya prAmANyam.h |


Scripture has no validity if opposed to experience.


Thus, one finds that the universe cannot be considered an illusion, because, as Ananda Tiirtha says, again:


tatra pramANAbhAvAt.h |


-- there is no evidence for the same.


In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:

asatyamapratishhThaM te jagadAhuranIshvaram.h |

aparaspara saMbhUtaM kimanyatkAmahaitukam.h ||


They (the evil) say that the universe is untrue (illusory), without basis [in reason/scripture], and without an Ishvara; that it has no mutual coherence, and is for nothing except lust-satisfaction.


Thus, the idea that the universe is illusory, or that it has no personal Creator, is strongly rejected in the Bhagavad Gita, among other places.


III. The third prameya is:


tattvataH bhedaH The differences are real


What is the nature of difference? Is the difference from something else inherent in an entity, or is it something apart from it? If it is something else, then we have an infinite regress.


For if the difference is apart from the entity itself, then there must be a difference between the difference and the entity. Applying the same reasoning over and over, therefore, one has to postulate an infinite number of differences, showing the need for an infinity of description to capture difference. However, all this is avoided when one considers that the property of being different from every other entity, is part of the entity itself; as Ananda Tiirtha puts it:


padArthasvarUpatvAt.h bhedasya |


Because difference is the self-same nature of the entity (infinite regress does not occur).


Thus, because differences are the self-same properties of the entities of the universe themselves, and since the entities are real, the differences are also real.

What are the types of difference? There are five, given by:


jIveshvarabhidA chaiva jaDeshvara bhidA tathA |

jIvabhedo mithashchaiva jaDajIva bhidA tathA |

mithashcha jaDabhedo.ayaM prapaJNcho bhedapaJNchakaH ||


-- paramashrutiH


The difference between soul and the Creator, and the difference between the insentient and the Creator; the difference between any two souls, and the difference between insentient and soul; and the difference between any two insentients, these five differences constitute the universe.


But what about statements in the Vedas that apparently show the identity of jiiva (soul) and Ishvara (Creator)? Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha says:


na hi kashchidapi abhedAgamaH | santi cha bhede sarvAgamAH |


There is never, ever, a statement of non-difference; all scripture shows difference, only.


This aspect is clarified in quotes like the following:



sarve vedA harerbhedaM sarvasmAt.h GYApayanti hi |

bhedaH svAtantryasArvaGYyasarvaishvaryAdikashcha saH |

svarUpameva bhedo.ayaM vyAvR^ittishcha svarUpatA

sarvavyAvR^ittaye yasmAt.h svashabdo.ayaM prayujyate |

sarvavyAvR^ittatAmeva neti netyAdikA shrutiH |

vishhNorato vedAdanyA api sarvA na saMshayaH |


-- nArAyaNashrutiH


All the Vedas speak of the difference of Hari from all else. That difference lies in His independence, omniscience, and overlordship over all, etc. His essential nature itself constitutes His difference from all. Essential nature is what distinguishes an entity from others. The word 'sva' (self) in `svarUpa' (self-nature) meaning essential nature is used in order to distinguish an entity from all others. The Shruti (*) starting from "not thus, not thus," points to the difference of Vishnu from all else (from the sentients and the insentients, or from the destructible and the indestructible). All other Shruti texts also present the same truth. There is no doubt upon this point.


(*) -- BrhadaaraNyaka Upanishad.


This point is also made in the Bhagavad Gita XV-15, where Krishna says:

vedaishcha sarvaiH ahameva vedyo |


All the Vedas and other scriptures tell of Me (Krishna) only.


Thus, they do no speak of an impersonal God, or of identity between jiiva and Ishvara; they speak only of Him who is absolutely beyond -- and therefore different.

IV. The fourth prameya is:


jIvagaNAH hareH anucharAH The classes of jiiva-s

are cohorts of Hari


Notice the use of `jIva-gaNAH' rather than `jIvAH'. The latter would simply mean "jiiva-s," but by using the former, it is indicated that the jiiva-s (souls) are not uniform, but are graded in quality.


How so?


The Taittiriiya Upanishad says:


te ye shataM mAnushhA AnandAH |

sa eko manushhyagandharvANAmAnandaH |


te ye shataM devAnAmAnandAH |

sa eka indrasyA.a.anandaH |




A hundred times the enjoyment of a human; that is the enjoyment of a human-gandharva.


A hundred times the enjoyment of the deva-s; that is the enjoyment of Indra.


The Padma PuraaNa also expounds upon that portion of the Taittiriiya Upanishad, and other such Shruti quotes, as follows:


nR^ipAdyAH shatadhR^ityantA muktigA uttarottam.h |

guNaiH sarvaiH shataguNaiH modante iti hi shrutiH |


From the foremost-among-humans, to Brahma, the jiiva-s attain mukti, with each step up qualifying for a hundred times the enjoyment of the previous -- thus indeed says the Shruti.


Thus, it is clearly indicated that all jiiva-s do not have identical degrees of enjoyment. This can also be derived from inference, as a matter of fact:


Consider that all do not have identical positions of joy/suffering; why? If all jiiva-s are inherently identical, what causes them to be different in their positions in reality?


1> If because of the Creator, Lord Vishnu, then He may be accused of favoritism, malice, etc., and that is unacceptable.

2> If because of past karma, then why is the past karma different for jiiva-s that are identical? What caused those to be different?

3> If because the jiiva-s themselves have different desires and thus choose different paths, how can they be called identical at all?


Thus, it follows from logic as well, that all jiiva-s are not identical.


But even granting that all jiiva-s are not identical, why would any jiiva do Vishnu's bidding? No one wants to be a servant; all want to be free. Yet, as Ananda Tiirtha puts it:


svatantramasvatantraM cha dvividhaM tattvamishhyate |

svatantro bhagavAn.h vishhNuH bhAvAbhAvau dvidhetarat.h ||


All entities are divided into two kinds -- the independent and the dependent. Lord Vishnu is independent, as He alone is different from both the positive and the negative.


The use of `bhAvAbhAvau dvidhetarat.h' is to indicate that Vishnu is not simply different from the things existing; for instance, if one simply says that Vishnu is not like anything in the universe, there might be a suspicion as to whether He is similar to some inexistent entity that might be imagined.


Therefore, as only Vishnu is truly Independent in every respect, it follows that all else must follow His dictates, one way or another.


In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:


IshvaraH sarva-bhUtAnAM hR^iddeshe.arjuna tishhThati |

bhrAmayan.h sarva-bhUtAni yantrArUDhAni mAyayA ||


The Creator resides in the hearts of all creatures; He makes them act, as though they were parts mounted on a machine.


V. The fifth prameya is:


nIchochcha bhAvaN^gatAH (The jiiva-s are)

headed for higher and

lower states.


If the jiiva-s are not inherently identical, one might wonder, do they yet reach the same ultimate state? If they do, then again one might accuse Vishnu of arbitrarily assigning all jiiva-s to some fixed state, not recognizing the higher worth of some of them. But, as a matter of fact, it cannot be accepted that Vishnu is shown as flawed; as Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha puts it:


dhyeyo nArAyaNaM nityaM sR^ishhTisthitya.ntakArakaH |

bhaktAnAM muktido nityamadhamaj~nAninAM tamaH ||


Worthy of contemplation is that NaaraayaNa (Vishnu) who is Eternally the Cause of Creation, Sustenance, and Destruction; who is the Giver of mukti (liberation) to [His] devotees, and of eternal damnation to the evil.


But what is the scriptural basis for this assertion? After all, isn't it true that nearly every other doctrine denies the existence of eternal damnation?


In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:


UrdhvaM gachchhanti sattvasthA madhye tishhThanti rAjasAH |

jaghanya guNa-vR^ittisthA adho gachchhanti tAmasAH ||


Upwards (to liberation) go those situated in sattva; the rAjasa-s stay in the middle; those situated in abominable qualities and deeds, the taamasa-s, go to the lowest state.


But can it not be argued that the `sattvasthA' refers to qualities born out of attachment to other entities, rather than to innate qualities, thus showing that eternality of the states described is not indicated? Not so. In a previous chapter of the 'Gita itself, it is said:


traiguNya vishhayA vedA nistraiguNyo bhavArjuna |

nirdvandvo nityasattvastho niryogaxema AtmavAn.h ||


The Veda-s deal with the three qualities -- [knowing them], be without the three qualities, O Arjuna; be free of the pairs-of-opposites (love/hate, friendship/enmity, etc.), continuously situated in sattva, without concern for accrual or maintenance [of material entities], and given to contemplation of the Lord.


Now, the three guNa-s, or qualities, are sattva, loosely translated as "goodness," rajas, translated similarly as "indifference," and tamas, also so translated as "evil." Now, Krishna is telling Arjuna to stay apart from the three guNa-s, and yet be always situated in sattva; does this make any sense?


It does, if one considers that guNa-s can be either acquired, or of one's own innate nature. Krishna is telling Arjuna to slough off all his acquired guNa-s, and be situated in the sattva that is his own nature (it cannot be the other way!).


But why can it not be argued that there are no qualities of one's own nature, at all, but all qualities are merely acquired by association?


For several reasons; some of them are:

1. While there are instances of qualities being acquired, there is never an instance of the property of having qualities, itself being acquired.

2. An entity that has no quality similar (even in being opposite) to the one being acquired, cannot even form the association necessary to effect the acquisition.

3. Considering that the qualities of good, indifference, and evil cannot be said to reside in the Lord or in inanimate nature, the question arises as to where they are being acquired from.

Also, observe that the exact word `sattvasthA' used in "traiguNya vishhayA vedA" to denote the quality of one's own nature, is also used in "UrdhvaM gachchanti sattvasthA," thus showing that it is the inherent, rather than the overlaid, quality that is being referred to. In any event, it is also seen that Krishna uses `rAjasAH' ("the indifferent") and `tAmasAH' ("the evil") as if they were inherent to the jiiva-s described; there is no indication in His words that the qualities indicated are acquired ones.


Further support for the position is found in the sixteenth chapter:


tAnahaM dvishhataH krUrAn.h saMsAreshhu narAdhamAn.h |

xipAmi ajasraM ashubhAn.h AsurIshhveva yonishhu || 19 ||

AsurIM yonimApannA mUDhA janmani-janmani |

mAmaprApyaiva kaunteya tato yAntyadhamAM gatim.h || 20 ||


Those who are hateful towards me, are cruel and the worst humans in the world; them I forever hurl only into demonaic species.


Having reached evil species in birth after birth, the fools; completely failing to reach me, only, they then go to the lowest state.


Notice the use of `eva' (meaning, "only," or "certainly") in the second line of the 20th verse; it is clearly stated that there are some who never reach mukti.


The IshAvAsya Upanishad says:


a.ndhantamaH pravishanti ye.avidyAmupAsate |


Unto a blinding darkness (eternal hell) enter those who worship falsely.


VI. The sixth prameya is:


muktiH naija-sukha anubhUtiH Liberation is the

complete experience of

the joys of one's own



Consider what liberation might be. If it is to mean ceaseless bliss, then one has to wonder what the source of such ceaseless bliss might be. If the source is something in the material world, then the bliss cannot possibly be eternal, and must cease. If the source of bliss is the Lord, then it could be eternal, but He could be accused of partisan behavior, because He evidently gives such bliss to some but not to others. Therefore, the joy experienced by the soul in its state of liberation can only properly be that of its own nature.


In the Bhaagavata PuraaNa, it is said:


muktirhitvAnyathArUpaM svarUpeNa vyavasthitiH |


Mukti is when other-attributes (those not of one's self-same nature) are given up, and [one is] situated in one's own nature.


Similarly, Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha quotes from the Rg Veda:


paraJNjyotirupasampadya svena rUpeNAbhinishhpadyate |


[In mukti], having earned the form of the highest brilliance, [one experiences] one's own form to an excellent degree.


But what is the significance of the prameya-shloka saying `anu-bhUtiH' (excellent experiencing, or complete experiencing) rather than just `bhUtiH' (for experiencing)? Is there any state where one may experience only part of the joy of one's own nature?


In his salutation before commencing the commentary upon the Vishnu-tattva-vinirNaya, Shri Jayatiirtha has said:


svApaM prApayati shramApahR^itaye kalpAvasAne cha yaH

taM devaM pitaraM patiM gurutamaM vande ramAvallabham.h ||


He, who gives sleep, to remove the stress of work, at the end of the kalpa as well; that Deity, Father, Lord, the highest among guru-s, the Lord of Ramaa (Lakshmi), I salute.

In the state of deep sleep, a person has no contact with the senses, and thus, sense-based satisfaction does not exist. However, it is a matter of common experience that sleep is very satisfying, and that upon awakening, one always recalls it to have been a very pleasing experience. So where is the joy of sleep coming from? Since it cannot be from association with external entities, it has to be from the jiiva-s own nature.

The other state where a jiiva may experience partial joy of its own nature, is in the interregnum between kalpa-s, when Creation does not exist. At that time, too, there is no contact with material nature, and the jiiva experiences a state similar to deep sleep.

Thus, Shri Jayatiirtha worships Lord Vishnu as the remover of stress, during sleep, as well as at the end of the Kalpa.


VII. The seventh prameya is:


amalA bhaktiH cha tat.h sAdhanaM That (moksha) is achieved

by flawless devotion and

[correct understanding]


But why is moksha (liberation) even desirable? Why should one not focus on achieving other ends? There are said to be four ends that one can strive for: dharma, or religious/spiritual merit; artha, or wealth; kAma, or sensory satisfaction; and moksha (mukti), or liberation from the world. Of these, why is moksha the highest?


anityatvAtsaduHkhatvAnna dharmAdyAH paraM sukham.h |

moxa eva parAna.ndaH saMsare parivartatAm.h |


-- mahAbhArata


Because dharma, etc., are non-everlasting, and are always mixed with pain, dharma, etc., are not the supreme benefit; moksha alone is the supreme joy, and is beyond the ken of the world.


That gives the reason why it is that moksha should be the primary objective of one's striving, in preference to the other types of possible benefits.


Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha states:


mokshashcha vishhNu-prasAdena-vinA na labhyate |


Moksha and [the other ends] are not obtained without Vishnu's grace.


That mukti is achieved by the grace of Vishnu, and not achieved otherwise, is known clearly from several sources, for instance:


aj~nAnAM j~nAnado vishhNoH j~nAninAM moxadashcha saH |

Ana.ndadashcha muktAnAM sa evaiko janArdanaH ||


-- skAnda-purANa


To the un-knowing, Vishnu gives knowledge; to the knowing, He gives moksha; To the liberated, He gives joy, and He alone is fit for all to worship.


And also:


ye tu sarvANi karmANi mayi sanyasya matparaH |

ananyenaiva yogena mAM dhyAyanta upAsate ||

teshhAmahaM samuddhartA mR^ityusaMsArasAgarAt.h |

bhavAMi na chirAtpArtha mayyAveshitachetasAm.h ||




Those who, having surrendered all actions unto me, without fail, perform (bhakti)-yoga, meditate upon and worship me;


For them, who have imbued Me into their consciousness completely, I am the Swift Deliverer from the ocean of death and material existence.


And also:


yasya prasAdAtparamArtirUpAdasmAtsaMsArAnmuchyate nApareNa |

nArAyaNo.asau paramo vichi.ntyo mumuxubhiH karmapAshAdamushhmAt.h ||


-- nArAyaNashrutiH


By whose grace alone, the greatly suffering are rid of the world, and not otherwise; He is NaaraayaNa, the Supreme, and the one fit to be contemplated upon by those who seek to be liberated from the binds of karma.


What is devotion? In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna has said:


yo mAM evaM asammUDho jAnAti purushhottamaM |

sa sarvavit.h bhajati mAM sarvabhAvena bhArata ||


He who knows Me, without a doubt, as being the Supreme Person; he is considered to know all [the scriptures], and worships Me in all possible ways, O Bhaarata (Arjuna).


Thus, it is necessary to know the Lord's qualities as they are, for otherwise, a proper devotion to Him is not attained. In the previous verses to this one (which were cited in connection with the first prameya), Krishna has defined the exact meaning of `purushhottama' as being One who is different from, and vastly Superior to, the destructible and the indestructible.


How and why may devotion to the Lord be possibly flawed? If one considers oneself to (also) be the Lord, or to be the same as He, or to be even superior, or if one considers another than the Lord to be Supreme, or such, then one's devotion is flawed, and will not result in liberation. As Ananda Tiirtha puts it:


jIvAbhedA nirguNatvaM apUrNaguNatA tathA |

sAmyAdhikyaM tadanyeshhAM bhedastadgata eva cha |

prAdurbhAva viparyAsaH tadbhaktadveshha eva cha |

tatpramANani.ndAM cha doshhA ete.akhilA matAH |

etairvihIna yA bhaktiH sA bhaktiriti uchyate ||


-- mahAbhArata-tAtparya-nirNaya


The significant parts are:

1. jiivAbhedA - to consider there to exist intrinsic abheda between jiiva(s) and the Lord.

2. nirguNatvaM - to consider the Lord as attributeless.

3. apUrNaguNatA - to consider the Lord as having limited attributes (quality and/or quantity).

4. sAmya - to consider oneself or some other entity to be equal to Him

5. AdhikyaM tadanyeshhAM - to consider onself or some other entity to be superior to the Lord.

6. bhedastadgataeva cha - To consider His incarnations to be different from Him (or from each other) in worth, value, etc.

7. prAdurbhAvaviparyAsaH - To consider the Lord as being born like ordinary mortals during His incarnations.

8. tadbhaktadveshha - To hate His devotees.

9. tatpramANa ni.ndAM cha - To condemn/hate the primordial pramANa-s (Shruti, etc.)

Considering the Lord non-different from soul(s), and considering Him to be of incomplete qualities; considering someone other than He to be equal to, or superior than, Him, and considering He Himself to have inherent difference within Himself (as in considering different forms of Him to be different from each other, etc.); to say that He suffers the sorrows of birth, etc., in His incarnations; to hate His devotee(s); to criticize or hate the authorities regarding the Lord; these are all the flaws possible (in devotion)


-- devotion that is devoid of these, is called bhakti.


Shrimad Achaarya says that just as a king puts down those subjects of his who are disloyal to him, the Lord puts down those jiiva-s who refuse to be loyal to Him. Disloyalty to the throne can take several forms -- refusing to acknowledge the king, considering oneself or another to (also) be the king or as powerful as the king, condemning the servants of the king, speaking ill of the dictates of the king, etc. So also, disloyalty to the Lord can be as atheism, a mistaken belief in identity with the Lord, the worship of other deities as the Lord, attempting to hurt or harm devotees of the Lord, condemning the scriptures, etc. And while a human king is limited in his power, and is also bounded in his influence by space and time, the Lord faces no such limitation. Thus, whilst there exists the possibility of escaping punishment in spite of defying a king, there is none such when defying the Lord.


It is seen that all of these flaws may be considered instances where one does not understand the Lord as the Purushottama, and these are all the possible instances where proper understanding of Him as being so may lapse. Thus, when such lapses are not found, bhakti exists.


To quote Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha again:


j~nAnapUrvaM parassnehaH nityo bhakti itIryate |


Continuous/ceaseless affection for the Lord, which is accompanied by the proper knowledge, is called devotion.


Shri Jayatiirtha offers the following equivalent but more explicit definition:


anantakalyANaguNatvaj~nAnapUrvakaH antrAyasahasreNApi

apratibaddhaH prema pravAhaH bhaktiH |


Knowing the Lord as full of completely auspicious infinite attributes, and maintaining a stream of unperturbed love towards Him even if there be a thousand obstacles or problems, is bhakti.


That is to say, one is not to have "devotion" when things are going well for oneself, but criticize Him when they are not, etc., as one is apt to do.


VIII. The eighth prameya is:


axAditrayaM hi pramANaM The triad of pratyaksha,

etc., are indeed the

sources of valid



The word `pramANa' is defined by Ananda Tiirtha using the statement:


yathArthaM pramANam.h |


That which is as-is, is a pramANa.


This is a definition of the word pramANa. But what is a definition of something? What does it mean to define something? If there is an entity to be defined, which we refer to as a lakshya, then a property, called a lakshaNa, must be given for it; this statement of a property is a definition. But what kind of property is suitable for use in a definition?


Shri Jayatiirtha says:


lakshyamAtravyApako dharmo lakshaNam.h |


A property that extends only to the entity to be described, is a lakshaNa.


Consider the case of a cow. If one has to specify what one means by `cow', then how does one do so? One cannot say that cows have four feet, because many animals do, and this specification has the flaw of "ati-vyApti" -- excess over legitimate domain. One cannot say that cows are white with brown spots on their skin, because not all cows are like that, and this specification carries the flaw of "a-vyApti," or not extending to all cases of the defined. A proper lakshaNa is given by:


sAsnAdimAn.h gauH |


A cow is that which has a flap of loose skin hanging at its throat, etc. (Other properties like four-leggedness, etc., to be added in support of this one.)


Thus, just as the property of having a loose flap of skin at the throat is unique to the cow and is thus a lakshaNa for a cow, the property of being "yathArtha" -- as-is, is unique to the pramANa, and is a lakshaNa for a pramANa. Therefore, the pramANa-lakshaNa is given by "yathArthaM pramANam.h" rather than in any other way.


Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha further states:


tat.h dvividham.h | kevalaM anupramANaM cha |


That (pramANa) is of two kinds -- kevala-, and anu-pramANa.


yathArthaj~nAnaM kevalam.h |


Knowledge which is as-is, is called kevala.


tatsAdhanaM anupramANam.h |


The source of that (the previous) is anu-pramANa.


And after some further discussion about kevala-pramANa, he says:


anupramANaM trividham.h | pratyaxamanumAnamAgamaM iti |


anu-pramANa is of three types: pratyaksha, anumAna, and Agama -- thus.


Generally speaking, the word `pramANa' is often applied to refer to this kind -- in the prameya-shloka, Shri Vyaasa Tiirtha applies it so. So in fact, the three kinds of anu-pramANa are what are mentioned as "the triad of pratyaksha, etc.," in the verse.


nirdoshhArthendriya sannikarshaH pratyaksham.h |


Flawless interaction between a sense-organ and an entity in its domain, is called pratyaksha.


In another context, Shri Madhva has also quoted the Brahma-Tarka statement:


vishhayAn.h pratisthitaM hi akshaM pratyakshaM iti kIrtitam.h |


A sense-organ that is flawlessly situated upon a subject of its observation, is known as pratyaksha.


Similarly, he gives a quote from there saying:


tarko adushhTaH tathA anumA |


Inference that is without flaw constitutes logic.


What are the flaws of inference?


AtmAnyonyAshraya chakrakAnavasthAkalpanAgaurava

shrutadR^ishhTahAnAdayodUshhaNAnumA |


AtmAshraya, anyonyAshraya, chakrakAshraya, anavasthA, kalpanAgaurava, shruta-hAna, dR^ishhTa-hAna, etc., are flaws of inference.


(Please look in the glossary of logical errors for the meanings of these terms.)

Similarly, Agama is defined as:


nirdoshhaH shabdaH AgamaH |


Flawless textual evidence is Agama.


Thus, in every case, it is not necessary for something to have a certain positive qualification in order to qualify as a pramANa -- the mere lack of a flaw is considered sufficient. That is to say, the quality of being a pramANa -- which is called prAmANya -- is inherent in a source of knowledge, unless such property is vitiated by a flaw. Any source of knowledge is assumed to convey as-is (exact) information unless there is reason to believe otherwise.


But how? Certain schools of thought hold that all sources of knowledge are flawed by themselves, and that thus, it is not possible to qualify a source of knowledge as a pramANa except upon support from another source. Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha says:


prAmANyaM cha svata eva | anyathA.anavasthAnAt.h |


The quality of being a pramANa is of the self-same nature (of the source) only; otherwise, an infinite regress results.


Just consider -- if any one pramANa has to be qualified by another in order to be effective, then there has to be a third to qualify the second, and so on, with no end. There cannot ever be any valid knowledge at all, in that case. To avoid that situation, one must accept that the property of validity is inherent in a source of knowledge, unless such is vitiated by flaw.


But how does one know that there is a flaw somewhere? What is the source of such knowledge of flaw? Shrimad Achaarya states:


bahupramANavirodhe chaikasyAprAmANyaM dR^ishhTaM shuktirajatAdau |


When many pramANa-s (or a stronger pramANa) oppose(s) a single source, then the latter's a-prAmANya, or non-validity, is seen, as in the case of the shell appearing as silver.


A famous example given in Vedanta is that of a sea-shell being seen in poor light, and of its glint in that light appearing to be that of silver, thus leading to the mistaking of the shell for a silver object. If one picks up the shell and observes it not to be made of silver, then the stronger evidence of one's closer and careful observation is used to dismiss the earlier one as unsatisfactory.


But it may be argued that a-prAmANya is known when a flaw is seen; so what's this about opposing a stronger or many pramANa-s, etc.?


na cha doshhajanyatvAdeva durbalatvamiti virodhaH |

bahupramANaviruddhAnAM doshhajanyatvaniyamAt.h |


It is not to be said that the previous is incorrect because a-prAmANya is always born of flaw; for there exists a rule that opposition to many (or stronger) pramANa(s) is born of flaw.


Further clarification:


doshhajanyatvaM cha balavatpramANavirodhAdeva j~nAyate |


The fact of the source being vitiated by flaw, is known only by its opposition to stronger evidence.


Coming back to the prameya-shloka quote "akshAditrayaM hi pramANaM," there are two parts to the issue:

1. That pratyaksha, etc., are pramANa-s, and may not be dismissed as not being so.

2. That there exists no source of exact knowledge which is not covered under these three.

For the latter point, one has to consider that there are certain other types of pramANa given by some other schools of thought: for instance the following


1> arthApatti -- this is defined by


arthataH prAptirevArthApattirityAbhidhIyate |


Something obtained (derived) by exclusion is called arthApatti.


An example for this is given by the famous "pIno devadattaH; divA na bhuN^kte -- tasmAt.h, rAtro bhuN^kte" -- Devadatta is very stout; he does not eat during the day time -- therefore, he eats at night.


By excluding all except a certain case, and knowing that one of the cases must hold, one considers whichever case is not excluded, to be true, and this type of pramANa is called arthApatti.


2> upamAna -- this is defined by


dR^ishhTvA sadR^ishamevAnyaM pUrvadR^ishhTe tu vastuni |

etatsadR^ishatAj~nAnamupamAnaM prakIrtitam.h |


Upon perceiving a similarity with some entity that has been seen before; that knowledge of similarity is known as upamAna. For instance, knowing a forest-fire to be of a similar nature to a kitchen-fire, and coming to know that it must be very hot.


3> abhAva -- this literally means "absence," so that perception of some entity's absence is held to be an independent pramANa. For instance, entering into an empty room, and observing the absence of a person one is looking for.


With regard to these, Shrimad Achaarya states:


arthApattyupame anumA visheshhaH |


arthApatti and upamAna are special cases of anumAna.


How so? Because it is possible to state an inference rule so that given the conditions of the arthApatti (or upamAna), one can arrive at its conclusion; in fact, it turns out that such an inference is unconsciously applied in such a case.


Shri Jayatiirtha, says, in his commentary upon the Vishnu-tatva-vinirNaya:


kurupANdavavat.h sAmAnyavisheshhabhAvaM Ashritya

arthApattyAdivyAvR^ittyarthaM etaduktam.h |


Just like the Kuru-Paandava relationship, which is used to indicate difference between the ordinary and the special, it should be understood that arthApatti, etc., are included [as part of anumaana].


Shri Shrinivasa Tiirtha, the author of sub-commentaries upon many of Shri Madhva's works, says in his Vaakyaartha-diipika, as commentary upon the statement by Shri Jayatiirtha:


yathA pANDavAnAM kauravavisheshhAtpR^ithaggrahaNaM

evamarthApattyAdInAM anumAnavisheshhatvAt.h

pR^ithaktvyAvR^ittyarthaM na kenachidityuktamityarthaH |


Just as the Paandava-s were special cases of the Kaurava-s, and were thus referred to as though separate, so also, arthApatti, etc., are special cases of anumAna (and are thus separately referred to), and it is thus not at all appropriate to exclude them from the purview [of anumaana] -- thus is the meaning.


Shri Madhva has further said:


abhAvo anumA pratyakshaM cha |


abhAva [is subsumed under] anumAna, pratyaksha, and [Agama].


This can be of three kinds, because an anu-pramANa can not only give knowledge of presence, it can also give knowledge of absence. A sense-organ can also perceive absence of whatever entity it is capable of perceiving. The ear can detect sound as well as silence; the eye, light as well as darkness, etc.


Similarly, absence may also be inferred, or known from textual evidence. Thus, any specific case of absence can always be reduced to one of the three given pramANa-s.


IX. The last prameya is:


akhila-AmnAya-eka-vedyo hariH All the Vedas speak

solely of Hari


The meaning of `AmnAya' is given by the following verse (conjuncts split):


vedAste nityavinnatvAt.h shrutayashcha akhilaiH shruteH |

AmnAyo ananyathA pAThAt.h IshabuddhiH sthitAH sadA ||


-- mahAvArAha upanishhad.h


The Vedas are called `veda' for being eternally-present; because they are always "heard" (rather than composed), they are called `shruti'; they are called `AmnAya' for being recited without difference (i.e., for being unchanged over all time) -- they have all these qualities because they are present in the mind of Ishvara (Vishnu) at all times.


Therefore, the word `AmnAya' in the quote refers to the Vedas, with special reference to the quality of their unchanging nature over all time. And the prameya is that the entire corpus of the unchanging Vedas speaks primarily of Hari (Vishnu) only.

As Shrimad Ananda Tiirtha puts it:


vishhNusarvottamatvaM eva mahA-tAtparyaM sarvAgamAnAm.h |


The primary meaning of all Agama-s is the Supremacy of Vishnu, only.


And he also says:


mukhyataH sarvashabdaishcha vAchya eko janArdanaH |

avyaktaH karmavAchyaishcha vAchya eko amitAtmakaH ||


All words (in the scriptures) primarily refer to the one Janaardana; even the unexpressed karma-referring portions (the karma-kANDa of the Vedas) refer to Him, whose nature is Boundless.


Scriptural evidence in support of this position is not scant. As seen with an earlier prameya, we have Krishna's statement in the 'Gita:


vedaishcha sarvaiH ahameva vedyo |


The Vedas and [their adjunct texts like the Itihaasa-s and PuraaNa-s] all speak of Me only.


We also have


mukhyaM cha sarvavedAnAM tAtparyaM shrIpateH param.h |

-- mahAvArAha upanishhad.h


The chief import of all the Vedas is the Supremacy of the Lord-of-Shri (Vishnu).



yo vipralambhaviparItamatiprabhUtAn.h

vAdAnnirastakR^itavAn.h bhuvi tattvavAdam.h |

sarveshvaro haririti pratipAdayantaM

Ana.ndatIrthamunivaryamahaM namAmi ||


That doctrine which quells all positions arising out of ignorance and deceit, is Tattvavaada;


Ananda Tiirtha, the august among saints, who propounded the Supremacy of Hari over all, I salute.


|| bhAratIramaNamukhyaprANA.ntargata shrIkR^ishhNArpaNamastu ||

|| shrI gurubhyo namaH hariH OM ||


Appendix: terms commonly used in Tattvavaada.


Canonical definitions, where known, are given within square brackets.

General terms:


pramaaNa ["yathaarthaM pramaaNam.h"] -- something that describes as-is, is called a pramaaNa. This can be of two types:


kevala-pramaaNa ["yathaartha-GYaanaM kevalam.h"] -- knowledge of something as-is, is called kevala-pramaaNa.


anu-pramaaNa ["tat-saadhanaM anu-pramaaNam.h"] -- the source of the previous, is called an anu-pramaaNa, which can be of three types:


pratyaksha ["vishayaan.h prati-sthitaM hi aksham.h"] - flawless interaction between a sense of perception (like sight), and an object or entity in its domain, is called pratyaksha.


anumaana ["tarkaH adushhTaH"] -- inference without flaw constitutes logic. Flaws of inference are described below.


aagama ["adushhTa vaakya"] -- sentences, or bodies of sentences (texts) without flaw, are called aagama.


Also of interest are:


pramaataa ["pramaavaan.h pramaataa"] -- a person in whom pramaa exists, is the pramaataa.


prameya ["pramaavishayaH prameyaH"] -- the subject of pramaa is the prameya.


pramaa ["yathaarthaGYaanaM pramaa"] -- knowledge of something as-is is called pramaa.


Note: pramaa thus means the same thing as kevala-pramaaNa, except that it is used in a singular sense, to denote one piece of correct knowledge, etc.; the latter is more often used to indicate a body of correct knowledge, and such.


hetu -- antecedent, in an inference.

saadhya -- consequence, likewise.

upa-jiivya -- anu-pramaaNa by which hetu is known.

upa-jiivaka -- anu-pramaaNa fed by, or created by, saadhya.


Error terms.

Semantic errors (shabda-dosha):


virodha ["yogyataaviraho virodhaH"] -- This can loosely be translated as 'opposition,' and the definition reads loosely as: "Lack of ability is opposition." What the definition means to say is that if a statement runs counter to one already accepted, and is unable to force its own way, then it must be rejected, for being opposed to a known fact.


asangati ["aakaaN^kshaaviraho asangatiH"] -- This can be translated as 'irrelevance,' and the definition reads: "Lack of fulfillment of expectation is irrelevance." In a discussion, if a reply given, a point raised, or a statement made, is not in accordance with the expectation that it be pertinent to the matter under discussion, then it is irrelevant.


nyuunataa ["vivakshitaa.asaMpuurtirnyuunataa"] -- This can read as 'nullity,' with the definition reading loosely as: "Non-satisfaction of the claim constitutes nullity." In a discussion, if someone makes a claim, and later gives evidence that does not support the claim in full, then such evidence suffers from nullity, with respect to the claim. Another type is where a definition given does not cover all cases of the objects or entities to be defined.


aadhikyam : ["saN^gataavadhikatvamaadhikyam.h"] -- This can be translated as 'superfluity,' and the definition as: "An excess over what is relevant, constitutes superfluity." In a discussion, if someone takes the meaning or definition of something to cover more than what it should, then such is superfluous. Another type is where a definition given covers more than the object, entity, or set to be defined.


Note: nyuunataa and aadhikya have also been referred to, in special cases, as a-vyaapti (non-domination), and ati-vyaapti (over-domination). The latter, ati-vyaapti, is the error responsible for Russell's paradox.


Logical errors (tarka-dosha):


aatmaashraya : This can loosely be translated as "assuming the consequence," in some cases. More generally, however, if something "rests on itself," in the sense that an object or entity is stated to have a property such as presence within itself, support of itself, etc., then this flaw exists. A standard example is "sva-skandha-aarohaNa" or "mounting one's own shoulder."


anyonyaashraya : Loosely, "mutual reliance." If a statement is proved by another, and the latter by the former, then this error exists.


chakrakaashraya : "circular reliance," a.k.a. circular reasoning. A more general case of the above; if instead of two, we have 'n' number of disputed statements, that are tied in a circle so that each one proves the next, then circular reasoning is shown.

anavasthaa : Infinite regress. If the proof of a statement requires an assumption, and proof of that assumption requires another, and proof of that still another, and so on, then infinite regress is said to occur.


pramaa-haana : "neglect of evidence," as in, when a statement neglects to take into account the fact that it is in opposition to accepted evidence. This itself has various forms: shruta-haana (neglect of Shruti), dR^ishhTa-haana (neglect of pratyaksha), etc.


kalpanaa-gaurava : "Respect for imagination." If a statement must be assumed without proof, so that an inference based upon it may be accepted, then the inference is subject to the respect that has been accorded to one's imagination, and is unacceptable. Economy in assumptions is a virtue.


upajiivya-virodha : "Opposition to upajiivya." If an inference is made where the consequence runs counter to the source of knowledge by which the antecedent is known, then the inference is considered incorrect, for opposing the source of its own antecedent, and the error made is known as upajiivya virodha; as has already been noted, 'upajiivya' is the name given to the anu-pramaaNa from which the antecedent is known.


apa-siddhaanta : "Invalid thesis." If a doctrine or a claim made is of such nature that its acceptance would render the doctrine itself false or without basis, then apa-siddhaanta-doshha -- the error of an invalid thesis -- is said to occur.


Note: upajiivya virodha is actually a form of pramaa-haana, but is often referred to separately. Similarly, apa-siddhaanta-doshha is a form of upajiivya-virodha, but is referred to separately.