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By Swami Harshananda

sāmānyatodrṣta (‘seen in a general way’)

Anumāna or inference is an important pramāṇa or means of knowledge recognised by almost all systems of Indian philosophy. The Nyāyadarśana of Gautama (550 B. C.) has further categorised anumāna into three varieties: pṅrvavat; śeṣavat and sāmānyatodṛṣṭa.

The purvavat (‘as seen earlier’) inference is that in which we infer an unperceived effect from a perceived cause, as in the case of inferring future rain from the appearance of dark heavy clouds in the sky.

In śeṣavat (‘from the seen [effect] to the unseen [cause]’), the unperceived cause is inferred from a perceived effect, as in the case of inferring of past rain by seeing the swift muddy currents in the river now.

In the sāmānyatodṛṣṭa inference, there is no direct cause and effect relationship (as between fire and smoke). The inference is drawn from the universal experience regarding such an incident. For instance, if there is a change of place, there must have been a movement as known from our common experience. Similarly when we see the moon in different positions at long intervals, we infer that it moves, though the actual movement itself is not easily or clearly perceivable (vide Nyāyasutras 1.1.5).


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore