Definition - What does Upamana mean?

Upamana is a Sanskrit word that means “comparison” or “resemblance.” It is one of the pramana, or sources of correct knowledge, in Indian philosophy, but not all of the Hindu schools of philosophy accept upamana as a distinct pramana.

Upamana is the association of something previously unknown by virtue of its similarity to something that is known. For example, someone who has never seen a wild ox is told that it resembles a cow. When the person sees the wild ox, he/she observes that it is similar to a cow and, thus, believes it to be a wild ox.

Yogapedia explains Upamana

According to Hindu philosophy, there are six pramana. Each of the schools of philosophy acknowledges one or more of these pramana as valid sources of knowledge:

  • Pratyaksha (perception) – Acquiring knowledge from experience
  • Anumana (inference) – Gaining right knowledge from logical conclusion
  • Upamana (comparison) – Learning by analogy and observing similarities
  • Arthapatti (postulation) – Supposition of a fact to support a well-established fact
  • Anupalabdhi (non-apprehension) – Understanding non-existence by non-perception
  • Sabda (testimony) – Gaining authentic knowledge from spoken and written words

Nyaya, Vedanta and Mimamsa schools all accept upamana as a pramana. The Vaisheshika and Samkhya systems explain upamana as a form of anumana, while Jainism considers upamana as a form of pratyaksha. Yoga accepts only anumana, pratyaksha and sabda as sources of right knowledge.

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