We often come across terms such as Shaastras, Shrutis, Smritis, etc but actually fail to understand their true meaning. In this series of articles, we shall examine what exactly is meant by Shaastras and in particular, the ‘Nyaaya Shaastra’.

The term Shaastra in this context means an entire body of teaching on a particular subject or an established and well-defined system of logic and reasoning. The term Nyaaya, in this context does not mean justice. It has several interpretations, the simplest of which is this – “Nirneeyate anena iti nyaayah”, i.e. that by which we come to a conclusion. Therefore, the word Nyaaya here refers to the means of obtaining and processing right knowledge or accurate information. These means include direct perception, inference, analogy, etc.

Now these two words viz. Nyaaya and Shaastra combined together connote an entire body of teachings on accurate knowledge and the means of its acquisition. Nyaaya Shaastra is a system of reasoning and logic. It must be noted that the terms Nyaaya Shaastra, Tarka Shaastra and Anveekshiki are synonyms and refer to the same thing.

Now that we know what Nyaaya Shaastra is, we can proceed to what its main subject matter is. Nyaaya Shaastra, among other things is concerned mainly with the study of two things-

1. Pramaana- the means and methods of acquiring accurate knowledge. Nyaaya Shaastra recognizes 4 such means- Pratyaksham that is direct perception through senses, Anumaanam that is inference, Upamaanam that is analogical reasoning, and Shabdah that is word. Other pramanas such as Arthaapattih recognized in Mimaansa Shaastra are included in Anumaana in Nyaya Shaastra. This will be subsequently discussed in a later article on the Pramaanas.

2. Prameya- the object of accurate knowledge. Nyaaya Shaastra recognizes twelve such objects. These are introduced to demonstrate and elaborate the working and nature of Pramaanas.

In addition to the aforementioned, Nyaaya Shaastra also deals with other very important matters such as cause and effect relations, the art and process of making accurate definitions, elements of cognition, the art and rules of debate, rhetoric, etc. Nyaaya Shaastra also serves as a form of technical language used in the texts of other Shaastras such as Vedanta. All these subjects will be discussed in coming articles.