From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Jump to: navigation, search

Pramāṇa-samuccaya (T. tshad ma kun las btus pa, ཚད་མ་ཀུན་ལས་བཏུས་པ་; C. jiliang lun), or Compendium of Valid Cognition, by Dignaga is one of the most famous works on Buddhist logic and epistemology.

In ths work, Dignaga defines "direct perception" (pratyakṣa) as a knowledge that is free from all conceptual constructions, including name and class concepts. He then explains the distinction between direct perception (pratyakṣa) and inference (anumāna).


This text consists of root verses and an auto-commentary by Dignāga.[1] It is divided into six chapters. "The first is on [direct perception], the second, third, and fourth on inference and argumentation, the fifth on the nature of language, and the sixth on various fallacies and mistakes in reasoning or presentation of an argument."[2]

Chapter 1
In the first chapter, Dignāga asserts that there are only two means of knowledge: direct perception (pratyakṣa) and inference (anumāna). Corresponding to these we have two types of objects: particulars (svalakṣaṇa) and universals (sāmānyalakṣaṇa).[3] The auto-commentary states:
The sources of knowledge, [direct perception] and inference are exactly two in number, since there are two kinds of knowable object. There is no other knowable object than a particular, which has a particular characteristic, and a universal, which has a general characteristic. We shall show that [direct perception] has a particular as its content, and inference has a universal as its content.[1]
Direct perception is knowledge which excludes conceptual thought (kalpanā). This only reveals the bare features of an object via the senses. This knowledge is inexpressible in words, relating to real objects and ultimate reality. Errors of perception arise through misinterpretations by conceptual thought. Each item of sense perception is unique. Dignāga does not specify what the nature of the object of perception is, but implies that although it is not atomic or otherwise, it is existent.
Chapter 2
The auto-commentary for Chapter 2 states:
The inferential process is of two kinds: that which is for one’s own sake, and that which is for the sake of other people.[4]
This chapter explains "inference for oneself" (sva-artha-anumāṇa). This is knowledge of what can be inferred through a middle term (liṅga), which has the three characteristics for a valid middle term, namely, that it is concomitantly present in the thesis, present in a similar example and absent from a dissimilar example. According to Dignāga, inference only deals with universals and is always dependent upon the subject/object relation.
Chapter 3
The subject of this chapter is the "inference for other" (para-artha-anumāṇa), the process by which one makes public what one knows, by formal means, using a syllogistic means of argument. This typically takes the following form:
  • Thesis: Sound is impermanent
  • Reason: Because it is created
  • Exemplification: Whatever is created is known to be impermanent
  • Similar example: As in the case of a pot
  • Dissimilar example: As not in the case of space
Chapter 4
Dignāga offers examples of how inferences are to be used and how to select relevant examples. In his method of syllogistic logic, agreeing and different examples are needed to establish concomitance of the middle term.
Chapter 5
The auto-commentary for Chapter 5 states:
We have discussed the two means of acquiring knowledge. But some claim that verbal communication is an additional means of acquiring knowledge. Verbal communication is no different from inference as a means of acquiring knowledge. For it names its object in a way similar to the property of having been produced, that is, by precluding what is incompatible. Like the property of having been produced, a linguistic sign reveals part of the object to which it is applied, namely, the part with which it is necessarily related, and it reveals this part by excluding what is incompatible. Therefore it is no different from inference.[5]
Chapter 6
The sixth chapter discusses "various fallacies and mistakes in reasoning or presentation of an argument."[2]


  • Hayes, Richard P. Dignāga on the Interpretation of Signs. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer, 1988. (Includes translation of chapters 2 & 5)
  • Hattori Masaaki, Dignāga, On Perception, being the Pratyakṣapariccheda of Dignāga's Pramāṇasamuccaya from the Sanskrit fragments and the Tibetan Versions. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968. (Translation of chapter 1)

Alternate translations of the title

  • Compendium of Valid Knowledge (Buswell)
  • Compendium of Valid Cognition (Rigpa wiki)
  • Collection of writings on sources of knowledge (Richard Hayes)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hayes 2009, p. 110.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hayes 2009, p. 107.
  3. Westerhoff 2018, p. 220.
  4. Hayes 2009, p. 111.
  5. Hayes 2009, pp. 112-113.


  • Hayes, Richard. "Sensation, Inference and Language: Dignaga's Pramāṇa-samuccaya". In William Edelglass and Jay Garfield (editors) Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings (Oxford University Press: 2009)
  • Siderits, Mark. Buddhism as Philosophy: An Introduction (Hacket: 2012), "Chapter 10: The School of Dinnaga"
  • Westerhoff, Jan. The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), "Chapter 4, The School of Dinnaga and Dharmakirti"

External Links

This article includes content from Pramāṇa-samuccaya on Rigpawiki (view authors). Licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0 RW icon height 18px.png
This article includes content from Pramāṇa-samuccaya on Wikipedia (view authors). License under CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikipedia logo