The knowledge of any object is called pramA - mA is to measure and pra means very well. That is, a knowledge established by a thorough analysis and
review is pramA. The knower is pramAtru.
The object of pramA is pramEya
The source of pramA is pramANa.
As an example, looking at an ornament, the seer of the ornament is the pramAtru, the eyes seeing it is pramANA and the ornament is pramEya; the firm knowledge that the object is an ornament is pramA. pramAtru, pramEya and pramANa form a triad called tripuTi. In advaita, the three merge into one on realization - there is no bhEda or difference between the three at the supreme level. Similarly, jnyAna (knowledge), jnyAtru(knower) and jnyEya (known) form a tripuTi and a realized person will not see any bhEda among them.
The firm knowledge of different objects or issues are established differently and they are all recognized as pramANAs. They are
- pratyaksha - Direct knowledge
- anumAna - Inference by association
- upamAna - Comparison
- arthApatti - inference by removing inconsistency
- Agama - scriptures.
We will discuss these in some details to understand the contexts they are used or applicable.
pratyaksha pramANa - All objects around us fall into one of the following five categories - Sound, Touch, Form, Taste and Smell. The living beings
understand these five through their five organs of knowledge respectively as follows - Ear, Skin, Eyes, Tongue, and Nose. A firm knowledge is established when the respective sense organ interacts with the object. The source of that firm knowledge, the mind in this case, is the pratyaksha pramANA. pratyaksha pramANA is possible only when the sense organ, the mind and the context of the interaction are all in perfect
condition. A knowledge established by pratyaksha pramANA under these conditions is called SamyajnyAna (samyak+jnyAna); Otherwise, even pratyaksha
may lead to mithyA jnyAna (mis-understanding) or uncertain knowledge (samshaya jnyAna).
anumAna pramANa - It is in our experience to know an object or issue by other than interaction with the sense objects. For example, if we see smoke, it is possible to infer that there must be fire; this is because, it has been our experience that, smoke is associated with fire. Thus, the ability
to know an object by its relationship with another object is anumAna pramANa. However, anumAna has to be confirmed by pratyaksha pramANa, because if we follow the smoke and visit the place of smoke, we may notice there is no fire, but the smoke coming from a tobacco product, in which case, the
anumAna pramANa, that it is fire, is negated. pratyaksha pramAna is therefore called the Nirankusha pramANa (independent pramANa), for it cannot
be negated by any other pramANa; on the other hand the anumAna pramANa can be negated by pratyaksha pramANa.
upamAna pramANa - The knowledge obtained by comparing an unknown object with that of a known object is called upamAna pramANa. For example a person knows a dog. However, he does not know a wolf. A friend tells him that a wolf looks like a dog. So, if the person spots a wolf in a forest or countryside, he identifies it as a wolf by comparing it to the knowledge of the dog he has. upa is near or close (known
in this context) and mAna is to understand; thus upamAna is knowledge by comparing to a known object. upamAna has limitations and cannot be all encompassing.
arthApatti pramANa - arthApatti is an inference from circumstances, when the presented knowledge is inconsistent with the facts. For example, a child's parents claim the child is very intelligent; however, the child fails in every grade and progresses very slowly. So one has to understand that the child is not intelligent or is dull. Such a knowledge arrived at by removing the inconsistency between the presented knowledge and facts, is called arthApatti pramANa. The legal system uses this extensively, when the statements of a witness are inconsistent with the findings, say by investigators.
Agama pramANa - This is also called shruti pramANa. When it comes to issues beyond the reach of human mind or intellect, shruti pramANa is the only
means to acquire the knowledge of that issue or object. Shruti has been accepted as the final source, since it is apourushEya - not created by any human/humans. They are the statements of Brahman, presented along with creation. The following five rationales have been offered to establish the apourushEya of Agamas.
- There is no authorship for vEdas - If there was an author, the human ego would have revealed it.
- It is so comprehensive that a single human could never have composed them.
- There are no contradictions in the shrutis - So this rules out possibility of multiple human authors; if there were multiple authors, contradictions would be the norm.
- Its spelling, punctuations and intonations have been retained over time; a human composition could not have survived in original form over time.
- There are many facts in vEdas that humans have come to recognize and understand only in recent times; if humans had composed vEdas, they would
have known about these facts.
These rationales establish that the shrutis are not human creations. How did the shrutis come about?
Sri Krishna gives a clue to this in gIta 10-6.
"maharshayah sapta pUrve chatvArO manvah tathA
madbhAvA mAnasA jAtAh yEshAm lOka imAh prajAh "
- The seven great Rishis and four manus were born of My nature from My mind; and from them have come forth all these beings in the world.
The seven Rishis and four manus are the most evolved souls of the previous kalpa or creation. These are the mantradrishTA, to whom the vEdas were
revealed in their meditation (they were not the creators). The vEda has come to be handed down by them and maintained through generations.
Therefore issues related to dharma / adharma, nature of Brahman and nature of jIva has to be understood from the Agama only; such understanding is
Om shAntih, shAntih, shAntih ( Om peace, peace, peace).