--> Skip to main content

Anupalabdhi In Hindu Philosophy

In Hindu philosophy, Anupalabdhi is non-perception as a means of knowledge. It is one of the six independent means of valid knowledge. Apart from anupalabdhi, according to Advaita and Bhatta Mimamsa, the other five means of valid knowledge are perception, inference, comparison, verbal testimony and implication. Like perception, non-perception, too, relates to the present and has a direct perceptual character. It is an independent means of knowledge because it leads to cognition which no other positive means of knowledge could provide.

Non-perception works only in regard to the non-existence of that whose existence could have been known by other positive means like perception had it existed in the first place. For instance, a pot not visible in darkness can much less be known by this means of non-perception. Non-perception as such cannot be a proof of non-existence. Factors like too much proximity, too much remoteness, disturbance of the sense-organs, inattention, obscurity of the object, extreme subtlety or confusion with other objects may cause non-perception.

Prabhakara Mimamsakas and the Samkhyas urge that there is no such category as non-existence. The non-existence of a pot on the ground is only the ground and nothing more. If this contention were true, it will follow that even when there is existence of the pot on the ground, its non-existence has to be known, since even then there is perception of the ground. Again, mere bare ground cannot be a proof of the non-existence of the pot because many other things do not exist on the ground. The Naiyayikas contend that non-existence can never come into sense-contact in any kind of relation, either like a substance or its attribute.

When it is said by the Advaitins that non-perception has a perceptual character, it does not mean that it is perception but only that the instrument of that knowledge is non-perception, a distinct means of knowledge. It is not necessary that pratyakshatva (a perceptual character) should invariably be brought about by sense-contact. It can be the result of verbal testimony too. For example, in the statement ‘Thou art the tenth’, directly addressed to remind a person in a group of ten who has forgotten to count himself as the tenth and who mourns that the tenth person in the group is missing.  There is an immediate perceptual knowledge of the person who realizes that he is the tenth. But the statement ‘Thou art the tenth’ is not perception but verbal testimony.

Naiyayikas, who admit non-existence as a category, offer the theory that the non-existence of the pot, for instance, on the ground, is known by direct perception as qualifying the ground. This vivesanata (a kind of sense-contact) is conceived by them to know the fact of non-existence. Hence they do not admit anupalabdhi as an independent pramana.