From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Jump to navigation Jump to search

anumāna (T. rjes dpag རྗེས་དཔག་; C. biliang 比量) is translated as "inference," "inferential cognition," "inferential understanding," etc. It is defined as "a direct conceptual understanding of an obscure phenomenon, generated in reliance upon a correct reason, e.g. the cognition of the impermanence of a vase."[1][2]

In Buddhist logic and epistemology, inference (anumāna) is considered to be one of the two forms of valid cognition (pramana), along with direct perception (pratyakṣa).[3][4][5]

The Princeton Dictionary states:

Inference allows us to glean knowledge concerning objects that are not directly evident to the senses. In the Buddhist logical traditions, inferences may be drawn from logical signs (hetu, liṅga): e.g., there is a fire on the mountain (sādhya), because there is smoke (sādhana), like a stove (sapakṣa), unlike a lake (vipakṣa).[3]

Within Pramāṇa theory

John D. Dunne states:

Inferential knowledge and the topics related to it are particularly important to Pramāṇa Theorists. One can point to three basic reasons for the importance of inference: first, it provides access to entities that are to some degree unavailable to the senses, and such entities are often under dispute. Second, it is closely tied to the understanding of language, an issue that is essential to the success of the South Asian philosophical enterprise. And third, it provides the framework for formal disputation, an undeniably crucial aspect of South Asian philosophy.
As Matilal has noted, the earliest theories of inference probably arose out of a concern with the codification of philosophical debate, but properly speaking, what is meant by inference here is not a “syllogism” or some other argument. Rather, an inference produces or constitutes a knowledge-event that knows its object by means of knowledge about another object that is invariably related to that object. A stock example is the inferential cognition that knows fire is present in a particular locus by means of perceptual knowledge of smoke in that same locus. Inference clearly involves some steps, for in providing knowledge of one thing by means of knowing something invariably related to it, the act of inference requires a sequential structure, which we will discuss below. Nevertheless, the central concern for these thinkers is not the formalism of that structure itself; instead, they are most concerned with the way in which that structure supplies the necessary conditions for an inference.[6]

Types of inference

Inference for oneself and for others

John D. Dunne states:

Pramāṇa Theorists generally speak of two forms of inference: “inference-for-oneself” (svārthānumāna) and “inference-for-others” (parārthānumāna). The former is simply an inferential cognition: one looks at a smoky room, for example, and (with other conditions in place), one infers that fire is present. In contrast, an inference-for-others is one that is stated verbally so as to induce an inferential cognition in another person. In other words, this latter “inference” (which is actually a series of statements and not an inference) is meant to result in another person having his own inference-for-oneself with regard to the question at hand. In this sense, inference-for-oneself lies at the core of these thinkers’ inferential theory. But ironically, the structural elements that are necessary for one to have an inference-for-oneself are primarily explored in discussions of inference-for-others.[6]

Correct and incorrect inference

Inference is also classified as:[1]

  • correct inference (རྗེས་དཔག་ཡང་དག་)
  • incorrect inference (anumānābhāsa)

Three types

Inference is also classified as:[1]

  1. inference through belief (āpta-anumāna; ཡིད་ཆེས་གྱི་རྗེས་དཔག་)
  2. inference through renown (prasiddha-anumāna; གྲགས་པའི་རྗེས་དཔག་)
  3. inference by the power of the fact (vastu-bala-anumāna; དངོས་སྟོབས་ཀྱི་རྗེས་དཔག་)

Alternate translations

  • inference
  • inferential cognition (Tsepak Rigdzin)
  • inferential understanding (Tsepak Rigdzin)
  • valid inference (Rigpa wiki)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Internet-icon.svg rjes dpag, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
  2. Alternate traditional definition: "a state of mind that knows its own particular object, a hidden phenomenon to be proven, based on evidence in which the three modes are complete".(tshul gsum tshang ba'i rtags la brten nas rang yul lkog gyur gyi bsgrub bya rtogs pa'i blo). Source: Rigpa wiki
  3. 3.0 3.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. anumāna.
  4. Westerhoff 2018, Chapter 5.
  5. Internet-icon.svg rjes su dpag pa, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
  6. 6.0 6.1 Dunne 2004, Chapter 1.1.


External links