Classical Indian Epistemology the Theory of Khyativada, Atma, Sadasat and Anirvachniya Khyati

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Classical Indian Epistemology :The Theory of Khyativada & Eight Theories (Philosophy)


  • Khyati means error and Vada means discourse or theory.

  • So, Khyati-Vada is the theory of error.

  • It means errors that occur in perception.

  • The schools of Indian philosophy accept eight theories of error. They are;

    • Atma-Khyati

    • A-Khyati

    • Sadasat-khyati

    • Anirvachniya-khyati

    • Asat-Khyati

    • Anyatha-khyati

    • Sat-Khyati

    • Viaparita-khyati


  • It is referred to as the idealistic theory.

  • It negates all external objects.

  • Here, perception includes mental Vritti or modification.

  • Advocated by Yogacara/Vijnana-vada school of Buddhism.

  • Error is super-imposition form of cognition on the so called external object which is regarded as unreal.


  • Advocated by Prabhakara school of Purva-Mimamsa.

  • Does not admit of error in the logical sense. No logical distinction between knowledge and error.

  • Believe in intrinsic validity of knowledge.

  • So, all knowledge is valid per se and error is only partial truth.

  • Other words, error is only imperfect knowledge.

  • Error also regarded as Non-apprehension.

  • Error can never be regarded as unitary knowledge.

  • Error is due to the non-discrimination between the two cognitions.

  • Error is regarded as commission. Not omission.


  • Advocated by Later Sankhya school of Indian philosphy

  • It is based upon the united perception of real and unreal object.


  • Advocated by Advaita Vedanta school of Sankara.

  • According to them, object is neither real nor unreal. It is mithya.

  • Error is indescribable, indeterminate and inexplicable.

  • Error is unreal because it has no existence apart from Brahman and error is not unreal because it projects the world of appearance or phenomenal world.


  • Advocated by Madhyamika School or Shunya-vada school of Buddhism.

  • It involves perception of non-existent entities.

  • Shunya forms the basis for all apparent perceptions.

  • It was believed to be given by Nagarjuna.


  • Advocated by Nyaya-Vaisesika school of Indian Philosophy

  • This theory of error is similar to Kumarila’s Viaparita-khyati.

  • Error is due to wrong synthesis of the presented and the re-presented object.

  • In other words, the represented object is confused with the presented object.

  • The word, anyatha means elsewhere.

  • In other words, the presented object is seen elsewhere and the represented object exists elsewhere.

  • The shell is misperceived as silver which exists somewhere else.

  • They recognise subjective element in the theory of error.


  • Advocated by Ramanuja of Visishtadvaita Vedanta School.

  • According to this theory, there is no error.

  • The silver is as real as the shell. The shell appears as silver because there are some particles of silver in the shell.

  • This view is similar to the view of Prabhakar’s theory of Khyati called a-Khyati.

  • Error is regarded as non-apprehension and not misapprehension.

  • So, error is regarded as partial truth or incomplete truth.

  • Cognition is never regarded invalid.

  • There is no subjective element found in error.

  • Therefore, distinction between error and truth is only practical.


  • Advocated by Kumarila Bhatta school of Purva-Mimamsa.

  • There is a logical distinction between truth or knowledge and error.

  • Error is misapprehension. Not non-apprehension.

  • Error is regarded as a unitary knowledge and not a composition of two imperfect cognitions.

  • Error is regarded as omission. Not commission.

  • Error is due to positive wrong synthesis of two elements, the perceived and the remembered.

  • Memory is cause.

Points to Remember!

  • The theory of error or Khyati accepted by Prabhakara school (Akhyāti), the Sat-Khyati of earlier Sankhya school, and the Khyati of Ramanuja school (Sat-Khyati) comes under one group which holds error as mere non-apprehension.

  • The theory of error or Khyati accepted by Kumarila school of Purva-Mimasa (Viaparita-khyati), the Anyatha-khyati of Nyaya, and the Sadasat-khyati of later Sankhya school come under one group which holds error as mis-apprehension.


1. Khyati-vada deals with the theory of

A. Doubt

B. Mistake

C. Error

D. All of these

Answer: C

2. According to the theory of Khyati-Vada, error occurs in

A. Pratayaksha

B. Anumana

C. Arthapatti

D. Both A and B

Answer: A

3. Atma-Khyati is advocated by

A. Madhyamika school of Buddhism

B. Vijnana-vada school of Buddhism

C. Buddhism

D. Both B and C

Answer: B

4. The shell is misperceived as silver which exists somewhere else- this is the view of

A. Atma Khyati

B. Viparita Khyati

C. Anyatha Khyati

D. Asat Khyati

Answer: C

5. Cognition is never regarded invalid in which Khyati

A. Sat Khyati

B. Asat Khyati

C. Viparita Khyati

D. All of these

Answer: A