AJNANIKA or ajnanavavadin (Sanscrit — one who states that there is no knowledge; an agnostic) — a movement in Indian philosophy that rejects any possibility of certain knowledge.
According to the Pali canon (Tipitaka) and the Jainist canon, the ajnanikas were active at the same time as Buddha and Mahavira. Sannaya Belatthiputta is specially remembered. He stated that all human assertions are subjective, and that metaphysical questions cannot be answered with either a "yes" or a "no". He did not directly reject the concept of the soul or the law of karman, but this was implied by the practical consequences of his doctrine, and so his doctrine was considered as a kind of akriyavada.
According to H. Jacobi, the doctrines of the ajnanikas were taken from the Jainist doctrine of syadvada, the doctrine that all knowledge is aspective and relative. Without doubt, their doctrines were also akin to the epistemological doctrines of the ajivikas — the "triple aspect" (terasiya).
In later Indian works, the doctrines of the various schools of the ajnanikas are not mentioned as a distinct school, but together with the materialists (lokayata) they are included among the nihilists (nastika). New researches (D. Chattopadhyaya) confirm that the ajnaikas are one of the groups included under the materialists. We may assert this especially given the example of Jayarasi Bhatta (eleventh century), one thinker of this school whose work (Tattvopoplava-simha — The Lion that upsets all categories) has been entirely preserved. The author calls on the fact that errors occur in sense cognition and that not all conditions (past, present and future) that are associated with any given terms are known. He thought that it is impossible to construct a universal proposition on the basis of perception, and by the same token he thought that certain inference could not exist. He also rejected the authority of the holy books and asserted that no philosophical school can proclaim philosophical views that would be certain knowledge. The philosophy of materialism also is not a body of knowledge, but it represents common sense by which one may guide himself in practical life.
The system of ontological agnosticism (advayavada) of the Buddhist school of madhyamaka should not be confused with the epistemological agnosticism of the materialists.
H. Jacobi, ERE VII 468–469; D. Chattopadhyaya, Lokayata. A Study in Ancient Indian Materialism, Delhi 1959; D. Chattopadhyaya, Indian Philosophy. A Popular Introduction, Delhi 1964, 145–146; F. Tokarz, Z filozofii indyskiej kwestie wybrane [Selected questions from Indian philosophy], Lb 1985, 19902, II 29-30; L. Cyboran, Klasyczna joga indyjska [Classical Indian yoga], Wwa 1986, 330; N. Champawat, Jayaraśi Bhatta, in: Wielcy myśliciele Wschodu [Great thinkers of the Orient], Wwa 1997, 257-262.
Maciej St. Zięba