By Swami Harshananda
Hetvābhāsa literally means ‘seemingly reasonable or logical’.
Nyāya or logic is an important aspect of all the philosophical systems. It is needed either to prove one’s standpoint or to contradict and disprove that of the opponent. One of the means of knowledge, called ‘pramāṇas’ or valid sources of knowledge, is anumāna or inference.
The most frequently quoted and widely accepted mode of expressing the anumāna pramāṇa is as follows:
- There is fire on the yonder hill, because smoke is rising from there. It is well-known from our experience (of direct perception) that wherever there is smoke, there is fire. Hence, by seeing the smoke, even though we may not be actually seeing the fire, we can infer the existence of fire there.
- In this example, the rising of smoke which is invariably associated with fire, is technically called ‘hetu,’ ‘liṅga’ or ‘sādhana’. When this hetu is only an ābhāsa (illusory), it is called ‘hetvābhāsa’.
- For instance, ‘All bipeds are rational. Swans are bipeds. Hence, swans are rational.’ The conclusion of this inference is false because the hetu given (that all bipeds are rational) is itself an ābhāsa, illusory or unreal.
Hetvābhāsa is of five kinds:
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore