Comparative Analysis Of The Buddhist And Nyaya Schools Of Logic

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The word ‘logic’ comes from the Greek word Logos, which means reason or discourse. These translations are not enough to describe the logic we have and use today. A rough definition of logic is that it deals with correct reasoning and the principles followed to get there. There are different schools of logic, new and old, and each school has different definitions of what logic exactly is and the rules they follow for logic to be valid.The history of logic started with the study of valid inference. The two main types of logic based on region of origin are Western and Eastern logic. Western logic was mainly developed in Greece, particularly Aristotelian logic. India and China were the two main regions where eastern logic was developed. In this report we have taken up the analysis of Buddhist logic and Nyaya logic, which is one of the schools of Indian logic.

Buddhist Logic

This system of logic has been developed in the School of Buddhism and it reached its peak under the great masters – Dinnaga and Dharmakirti. Buddhist logic deals with nature of knowledge and the external world we live in and perceive.They consider sources of right knowledge to be the basis of logical reasoning. The ultimate aim is to form a relation between the static construction of thought and a moving reality. Buddhism has been in India for around 1,500 years implying that this much time has been spent in the formation of their doctrines. The theory of causation is the most important characteristic among these doctrines. The theory of causation states that if the cause to something exists and is possible, its result should occur in time. This idea attained prominence and played a role in the formation of syllogistic formation.

Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, used to preach his teachings to society. These teachings took the shape of Philosophy when they were delivered by his disciples. In time, this philosophy took the form of epistemology which led to logic. The disciples of Buddha were known as Sanghas. The Sanghas preached to the common people in the language they used and they were allowed to comment with timely modifications. They tried to convince people the four teachings to fulfill the desire of Buddha, their master. These four teachings later came to be known as the four noble truths.

Buddhist teachings have originated from the No-Soul theory. Their view is that the soul has no real existence due to its interdependence with everything. These teachings have been developed from the four noble truths. Buddhist doctrines have been formulated from these truths. The 4 noble truths are

  • Dukha Satya: The first teaching is that life is full of suffering and pain. These sorrows are miseries related to disease, old age and our craving for impermanent things.
  • Samudaya Satya: The second teaching speaks about the cause of these miseries. Every result has a cause. This is what the theory of causation talks about.
  • Nirodha Satya: The third teaching deals with the cessation of these sufferings. This can be achieved by renouncing oneself from attachments or desires of any kind.
  • Marga Satya: The fourth teaching tells us about the path of life one should lead to reach the state of Nirvana by cessation of sufferings.

Nirvana is a special type of salvation which can be achieved by following the eightfold path. The eightfold path consists of

1) Right view: It means to accept Buddhist teachings and obey them in true spirit and, practice them in our daily lives. This includes accepting that all our actions have consequences and we will face them after death. Later on, it came to include rebirth and karma, and the importance of the 4 noble truths.

2) Right intention: this involves giving up home and making a serious commitment to live a life that follows the path. This aims at living in an environment away from cruelty and ill-will. Such an environment can lead to peaceful renunciation.

3) Right Speech: This involves telling the truth, no rude speech, and talking to people in a sensitive way.

4) Right Action: This involves abstaining from actions like killing, taking things which are not given (stealing), sexual acts and any material desires.

5) Right Livelihood: This means that one should live a life by only possessing things what is essential to survive. It also means one should also not cause harm to others.

6) Right Effort: It means gaining control of one’s thoughts, essentially cultivating constant awareness.

7) Right Mindfulness: Being conscious of one’s actions along with the four awakenings of mindfulness, the body, thoughts, mind, sensations.

8) Right Meditation: attaining mental calmness by practicing the four stages of meditation, which help in unification of the mind and integrate personality.

Thus we see that the eightfold path mainly talks about topics like morality, meditation and wisdom. It is known as the middle path as it tells us to live a life between complete indulgence and harsh austerity. By practicing these teachings one can overcome miseries and reach the state of Nirvana.

Nyaya Logic

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Nyaya is one of the leading school of philosophy among the six orthodox schools of Hinduism and has made contributions in epistemology, logic and Indian philosophy. Nyaya logic is centered on the notion of Pramanas (knowledge sources). According to it human suffering is due to the mistakes committed under the influence of wrong knowledge and that Moksha or liberation can be gained only through correct knowledge. Thus Nyaya epistemology concerns itself with reliable sources of right knowledge and removing wrong notions. Correct knowledge helps one overcome delusions and understand oneself, soul and reality. The school of Nyaya accepts four of the six Pramanas as reliable sources of knowledge. They are

  1. Pratyaksa (Perception)
  2. Anumana (Inference)
  3. Upamana (Analogical Reasoning)
  4. Sabda (Testimony).

Pratyaksa has the most important position in the Nyaya epistemology. Perception can arise due to connection between an object and sensory organ, and it does not depend on words. Four conditions are needed for correct perception:

  • Indriyathasannikarsa, which means that there must be a direct connection between the object and the sensory organ.
  • Avyapaesya, which states that correct perception does not rely on accepting or denying someone else’s experience, that being hearsay.
  • Avyabhicara is the non-deviating condition which means that correct knowledge does not wander as it is not a result of deception of one’s sensory organs.
  • Vyavasayatmaka is the definite or the determinate condition which blocks cognitions that are unclear or doubtful.

Perception can be of two types – ordinary (laukika) and extraordinary (alaukika). Ordinary perception is the direct experience of the real world by the five senses – eyes, ears, nose, touch and taste. Extraordinary perception is of three kinds. They include yogaja, i.e. yogic perception or intuition; samanyalaksanapratyaksa which means universal perception, induction from perceiving specific things to a universal point of view; and jnanalaksanapratyaksa which means to perceive objects through memory. There are 2 modes/stages of perception. One being where one perceives something unaware of its features (nirvikalpa/indeterminate) and the other where one clearly knows what is being perceived (savikalpa/determinate). Both laukika and alaukika are determinate but they are necessarily preceded by the indeterminate stage or mode.


It is one of the most notable contributions of the Nyaya school. Inference is of two types – for oneself, which does not require a formal method of showing flow of logic; and inference for other, which calls for a systematic methodology established by this Pramana.

To assert an inference, Nyaya follows a formal five-step syllogistic argument:

  • Pratijna – the assertion that needs to be proved.
  • Hetu – reasoning
  • Udaharahana – example
  • Upanaya – reaffirmation or application
  • Nigamana – conclusion.

These steps are often simplified into three steps

  • P is qualified by S
  • Since P is qualified by H
  • Whatever is qualified by H is qualified by SIn Nyaya, here, P is called paksha (minor term), S is Sadhya (major term), H is the Hetu and the relationship between H and S is called vyapti (middle term).


Upamana essentially means comparison or analogy. The use of comparisons help one understand a new idea from prior knowledge over a known concept. For example, one may describe a wolf to someone who hasn’t seen one before as a large, wild dog.


It means relying on the word, testimony of experts. This isn’t considered a proper Pramana by many schools of thought, due to discrepancy in establishing reliability or credibility of such experts. But in Nyaya, the hearer does not need any positive evidence of credibility. Just the absence of doubt in the speaker’s assertion is enough.

Testimony is of two types – Vaidica and Laukika. The former is preferred over the latter since Laukika sources need to be revised as more reliable sources become available.Nyaya school deals with how to gain correct knowledge, to what extent it may be acquired and correcting misconceptions and misinformation that one has. It may be noted that Nyaya school of logic was primarily an atheist school. Early Naiyyayika scholars did not document any analysis regarding the existence of supernatural powers, namely God. But later scholars gave forth arguments both for and against the existence of God.

Nyaya has thus contributed very extensively in the system of logic that has been adopted by many of the other Indian schools. Both Buddhist and Nyaya logic have been around for a very long time not only as a religion but also as schools of epistemology. There are quite a few similarities between these two schools of logic but their differences make them stand apart. Both Buddhist and Nyaya logic believe that human suffering is something everyone has to face in life. The cause of this suffering though is not exactly the same in both schools. Buddhism says that the cause of miseries in life is because we are attached to impermanent things and it’s our desire to do something which sometimes leads to sorrow. This in fact is the second noble truth of Buddhism.

Nyaya logic believes that the cause of suffering is due to the activity of attaining wrong knowledge, either by ignorance or delusion. One similarity we see that is both schools follow the theory of causation, i.e. every result has a cause.The aim of both forms of logic is to ultimately reach salvation, to be liberated thus attaining Moksha by reaching the state of Nirvana. Joy isn’t included in this state but it is more like release from pain and suffering. Moksha leads to escaping from the endless cycle of rebirths and hence pain and sadness. A slight difference is that in Buddhism, Nirvana is considered as the silent beyond. Nyaya logic on the other hand looks at Moksha as not destruction of oneself but only that of bondage. A major difference seen in both forms of logic is the idea of one having a soul and its importance. Buddhist logic believes in the No-Soul theory, i.e. one has no self or soul. Thus, Nirvana means coming out of the cycle of births and rebirths, and going out of existence. As Buddha said it, Nirvana means blowing out (like fire in a lamp).

Nyaya logic that everyone has a soul and liberation is from qualities of the soul like desire, pain, pleasure, cognition, etc. Right knowledge is an important characteristic in both types of logic. In Buddhism, the eightfold path is the way of life to be followed to reach the state of nirvana which is the ultimate goal. This is possible only by the development of certain kind of knowledge or insight. Buddha claims that this right knowledge were the 4 noble truths that lead to his awakening.

In Nyaya logic, the four Pramanas are considered as reliable sources of gaining right knowledge. Thus the four noble truths and the four Pramanas are complementary to each other in a way that they both are reliable and valid means to attain correct knowledge.The concept of reality is also quite similar in both schools. Buddhism talks about this in the eightfold path (Right view). People can get away from their sorrows by being aware of reality. Buddhism also wants to clear the confusion between the actual state of things and a person’s view of reality. In Nyaya, human suffering is because ignorance of reality or delusion of what its true state is. Thus reality is static and valid knowledge can help oneself come out of any kind of oblivion of what reality is or might be.


Logic, in its modern form, has come a long way having developed from the philosophy of knowledgeable and influential individuals such as Aristotle and Buddha. Their philosophies came into being through the organization and documentation of their teachings. Buddhist and Nyaya logic, among many such others, have developed separately from modern or western logic simply due to geographical separation. Thus both Buddhist and Nyaya logic are bound to have similarities and differences.

Large differences between the two lie in the sphere of what they choose as reliable sources of knowledge. Buddhist logic pursues a very ‘minimalistic’ approach to its ways. However, Nyaya logic delves deeper into what they consider logic and its validity, formalizing Indian syllogism in its aim to gain only true and correct knowledge.Despite this they are quite similar. As mentioned above, that logic developed from one’s teachings and philosophies, it gives rise to the fact that logic largely developed to answer the reason behind why one would philosophize. The aim of both the schools is to end human sorrow and to come out of the cycle of suffering. By analyzing the suffering and its cause the schools of logic attempt to draw a conclusion as to how to solve these miseries. Thus, these two schools of logic are essentially slightly different approaches to reach the same goal.

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