Four principles of reasoning

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Four principles of reasoning (Skt. yukti catuṣṭayam; Tib. རིགས་པ་བཞི་, rikpa shyi, Wyl. rigs pa bzhi) are:

  1. the principle of causal efficiency (Skt. kāryakāraṇayukti; Wyl. bya byed kyi rigs pa)
  2. the principle of dependency (Skt. apekṣāyukti; Wyl. ltos pa’i rigs pa)
  3. the principle of nature (Skt. dharmatāyukti; Wyl. chos nyid kyi rigs pa)
  4. the principle of establishing a proof (Skt. upapattisādhanayukti; Wyl. ‘thad sgrub kyi rigs pa)

According to Kapstein these four categories first appear in the Samdhinirmochana Sutra.[1]


  1. All functions of a certain cause producing a certain effect are called the reasoning of function.[2]
  2. The fact that everything that is an effect, such as the sprout, is definitely dependent upon its own causes is called reasoning of dependence.[3]
  3. Since the efficient function of a thing and its dependence on causes are the very character of that thing, these two principles of reasoning related to them are themselves contained within the wider principle of the nature or evidence of things. [...] When one reaches this point, no other valid proofs are necessary―just as there is no need to explain the reason for a fire's heat. Conventional and ultimate reasonings are both referred to as reasoning based on the [nature or] evidence of things. The relative nature or mode of being of fire is that is throws out heat; the ultimate nature or mode of being of fire is that it lakes inherent existence. Thus a thing's mode of being is established without mistake by both valid cognitions (conventional and ultimate) together, and not by only one of them in isolation. [4]
  4. How is this proof being established? It is established by means of the two types of validity: the validity of direct perception which is to perceive these two things: the conventional meaning of whatever appears and the ultimate meaning of how it is, and the validity of inference which is to infer unmistakenly something other from the perception of a sign that has the capacity for estimating something that is hidden.[5]

Alternative Translations

  • Four applications (Art Engle)[6]
  • Four principles of reason (Kapstein)
  • The principle of function (Thupten Jinpa)
  • The principle of dependence (Thupten Jinpa)
  • The principle of nature (Thupten Jinpa)
  • The principle of evidence (Thupten Jinpa)

Further Reading

  • Matthew Kapstein, 'Mi pham's Theory of Interpretation' in Reason's Traces, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001
  • The Dalai Lama, The Middle Way: Faith Grounded in Reason, translated by Thupten Jinpa. The chapter on the Four Principles. Wisdom Publications ISBN 1-61429-156-X


  1. Kapstein 2001, p. 320
  2. Mipham Rinpoche, Gateway to Knowledge, The Reasoning of Function.
  3. Mipham Rinpoche, Gateway to Knowledge, The Reasoning of Dependency.
  4. Mipham Rinpoche, Adornment of the Middle Way. Shantarakshita's Madhyamakalankara with Commentary by Jamgön Mipham, translated by Padmakara Translation Group, Shambhala, 2005, page 288.
  5. Mipham Rinpoche, Gateway to Knowledge, The Reasoning of Nature.