Udayana’s Arguments for the Existence of God (Nyaya Kusumanjali. 5)

The Nyaya Sutras was composed by Aksapada Gautama, probably in the 6th c. BC. Nyaya Sutra 1.6.32 states the parts (avyava) of a deduction (nigmana) in the aphorism:


which unfolds as:
1. Pratijna - Claim or proposition (conjecture) that needs to be established (1.6.33)
2. Hetu - Reason (1.6.34)
3. Udaharana (Drstanta)- Empirical support (negative or positive case examples) (1.6.35,36)
4. Upanaya - Application (1.6.37)
5. Nigmana - Conclusion or deduction (restatement of claim) (1.6.38)

1. Pratijna Claim: The hill (full of trees (wood)) is on fire
2. Hetu Reason: Because I see smoke over it.
3. Udaharana Example: On a hearth (burning wood), fire and smoke are always seen together; but, never in a lake (without wood).
4. Upanaya Application: The smoke on the hill is like the smoke on the hearth, not like vapor over a lake.
5. Nigmana Deduction: Therefore, the hill is on fire

The Nyaya syllogism provides a relatively sufficient form for arguing from an effect to its cause. This is not sufficiently possible with either the hypothetical or the categorical syllogism. For instance,

If there is smoke, there must be fire.
There is smoke
Therefore, there must be fire.

If the hypothetical premise is assuming a causal relation, then granting priority (antecedence) to a causally consequent term (here, smoke) is problematic to the content of the form. It poses an informal problem. The logical positioning should give the causal term priority over the agented (effect). Thus,

If there is fire, there is smoke
There is fire
Therefore, there is smoke


If there is fire, there is smoke
There is no smoke
Therefore, there is no fire

The syllogisms are valid and the conditional order in the premise is correct (fire is the condition for smoke, and not vice versa). The hypothetical syllogism cannot facilitate an argument from the effect back to the cause. Even granted the categorical limit of say “smoke can only be produced by fire”, it cannot be incorporated into a hypothetical syllogism.

Smoke can only be produced by fire.

If there is fire, there is smoke.
There is smoke.
Therefore, there is fire


If there is smoke, there is fire.
There is smoke.
Therefore, there is fire.

The first one is invalid and the second one is valid; however, given the causal exclusivity of the hypothetical relation, the rules may be regarded as non-applicable to this exception. It, then, does indicate the insufficiency of the syllogism.

Let’s see if the categorical provides a way out.

All that is smoky is fiery
The hill is smoky
Therefore, the hill is fiery

Every smoke effect has a fire cause
The hill has smoke effect
Therefore, the hill has fire cause

The conclusion necessarily follows from the premises since the syllogism is self-contained. In other words, one is not required to go beyond the syllogism to verify the conclusion once the major and minor premises are assumed to be true. The syllogism, unlike the Nyaya syllogism, does not practically explain why one thinks the effect observed on the hill is smoke and why one needs to connect smoke with fire. It, therefore, does not have the sufficient steps required for a self-contained argument from effect to cause. For instance,

Every effect has a cause
The universe is an effect
Therefore, the universe has a cause.

One will need to go beyond the syllogism to prove both the premises, especially the minor “the universe is an effect”. Why not consider the universe as the cause of the uncaused, given its “universal” status? Other syllogisms, therefore, will need to be used in order to support this syllogism. It is not sufficient by itself.

Also, from the perspective of Nyaya syllogism, the above argument lacks a case support (either homogeneous or heterogeneous example). One does not observe any universe being effected or caused nor does one ever observe a no-creator=no-universe instance. This is unlike the smoke-fire example, in which case there is at least an example to support the reason.

Let's now turn to what a Nyaya syllogism may prove or not prove.

The eight reasons that Udayana (10th c. AD) gives in his Nyaya Kusumanjali are:
1. Karyatvat
2. Ayojnat
3. Dhrti
4. Pad
5. Pratyay
6. Shruti
7. Vakya
8. Sankhya vishesh

We will look at the Karyatvat argument here:

kshityadikam sakartrkam karyatvat ghatvat
sakartrkatvam ch upadanagocharaprokshajnanchikirshakrtimanjanyatvam
Similar to an earthen jar, the earth etc are agented (have the nature of being effected).
To be agented means to be produced by one who has immediate knowledge of the raw material (material cause), has the desire to produce, and has effort that meets the effect or work (or is of the profession that concerns the work being produced).

It may be structured as:

1. Pratijna Claim: The earth, etc is caused by an all-wise, willing, and working agent.
2. Hetu Reason: Because the earth, etc are agented.
3. Udaharana Example: Agented works like a clay pot are produced by an agent having knowledge of clay (raw material), having desire to create, and having done works that are appropriate for claypot creation.
4. Upanaya Application: The earth etc are like a clay pot which is agented (possessing material cause and capable of being sense-perceived), unlike non-agented eternals (immaterials and invisibles or materially imperceptibles).
5. Nigmana Deduction: Therefore, the earth, etc are created by one who knows all (about the material cause of earth etc), is willing to create, and has worked to create them.

At first sight, this may seem to indicate that the creator here is one who uses some pre-existing raw material to create the world. However, the raw-material (here implying clay) is in connection to the pot. It is a homogeneous example of the bigger clay jar, the earth. The argument qualifies the agent (creator) with the qualities of wisdom, will, and work. By implication, the creator of a clay pot has knowledge of clay; the creator of the universe is omniscient. The creator of a clay pot chooses to make the pot; the creator of the universe freely chooses to create it. The creator of a clay pot works in a manner and with a force suitable and necessary for the production of a pot. The omnipotent creator of the universe does creative works suitable to the production of the world. Only an omnipotent and omniscient Agent is suited for the profession of universe-creation.

The example of claypot is homogeneous with a moldable and shapeable (potential) material cause. However, we are still not in a position to claim if fundamental matter itself (or that which the universe is at least partially composed of) is not uncaused but caused (ex nihilo). Obviously, there is no example to support something being created out of nothing. In Nyaya metaphysics, therefore, the fundamental non-composite material cause (atoms, space, etc) is eternal. And, since atoms, etc are bereft of desire and intelligence, they can only be used to create earth, etc by an intelligent and volitional agent.

● Randle, H. N. "A Note on the Indian Syllogism." Mind, New Series, 33, no. 132 (1924): 398-414. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2249556.
● George Chemparathy, An Indian Rational Theology (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass in Komm., 1972), p.86
● Acharya Visvesvar Siddhanta Siromani, न्यायकुसुमांजलि (Varanasi: Chowkamba Vidya Bhawan, 1962).
● Peri Laxminarayan Shastri, న్యాయకుసుమాంజలి (Chennapuri: Vavilla Ramswami Shastrulu and Sons,1939)
● Dayanand Bhargav, तर्क संग्रह: (Motilal Banarsidass, 1998)


  1. Can I have your email address please? Needing to invite you to submit an article for Sophia or Journal of Dharma Studies on Kumarila Bhatta's (660CE) Foundationalism (or Intrinsic Reliability)


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