Vaiseshika Darshana (वैशेषिकदर्शनम्)

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Vaiseshika or Vaiśeṣika (Samskrit : वैशेषिक) is one of the Shad Darsanas or the Veda Upangas which exist traditionally since ancient times in India. The Vaiseshika system takes its name from Visesha, or particularity which is the characteristic differential of things. Rishi Kanada is credited as the founder of the Vaiseshika system of philosophy. He is also known by the names, Aulukya and Kasyapa. The aphorisms of Kanada contain the essence of the Vaiseshika philosophy. The principal subject treated therein is Visesha, one of the six Padarthas or categories enumerated by the founder.[1]

The Nyaya and the Vaiseshika

The Vaiseshika and the Nyaya agree in their essential principles, such as the nature and qualities of the Self and the atomic theory of the universe. The Vaiseshika has, for its chief objective, the analysis of experience. It begins by arranging its enquiries under categories (Padarthas), i.e., enumeration of certain general properties or attributes that may be predicated of existing things. It formulates general conceptions, which apply to things known, whether by the senses or 13sY inference, or by authority.[1]

The Aphorisms of Kanada

There are ten chapters in Kanada's book. The first chapter deals With the entire group of Padarthas (पदार्थ) or predicables. In the second chapter, Kanada has ascertained substance. In the third chapter, he has given a description of soul and the inner sense. In the fourth chapter, he has discussed the body and its constituents. In the fifth chapter, he has established Karma or action. In the sixth chapter he has considered Dharma or virtue according to scriptures. In the seventh chapter, he has established attribute and Samvaya (co-inherence or combination). In the eighth chapter he has ascertained the manifestation of knowledge, its source, and so on. In the ninth chapter, he  has established the particular or concrete understanding. And, in the tenth chapter, he has  differences in the attributes of the soul.[1]

There is enumeration of Padarthas (substances) in the beginning. Then there is definition. Then comes examination or demonstration. This system is chiefly concerned with the determination of the Padarthas and yet, Kanada opens the subject with an enquiry into Dharma, because Dharma is at the root of the knowledge of the essence of the Padarthas. The first Sutra is:

यतोऽभ्युदयनिःश्रेयससिद्धि: स धर्म:

(Yatobhyudayanihsreyasa-siddhih so dharmah)

“That, which directs and leads to the attainment of abhyudaya in the world; that shows the pathway to cessation of grieves and pains in toto, and get the one to nihshreyasa thereafter, is Dharma.”[2]

This definition accorded by Maharishi Kanada through this short couplet is considered as one of the best descriptions of Dharma revealing not only the basic spirit in the root of the word Dharma itself, but explaining the purpose and importance of Dharma in life simultaneously. Along with this, Kanada’s definition categorically divulges the eastern viewpoint of Dharma –the great Indian perspective pertaining to it in particular. It could be well analyzed, comprehended and understood on the basis of the review of just two words incorporated in this statement, which are, in fact, the central points of the whole of the proclamation made by Maharishi Kanada. The reality of the couplet could also be well realized by the review of these two words. The two words emerging predominantly in this couplet are: Abhyudaya and NihshreyasaAbhyudaya signifies rise, progress or development of a human being. It is undoubtedly dedicated to his prosperity. Nihshreyasa on the other hand divulges eternal bliss –infinite happiness with contentment, which is, in fact, the state of MuktiMoksha or the Nirvana –liberation of soul.[2]

The Seven Padarthas[1]

    A Padartha is an object which can be thought (Artha) and named (Pada). All things which exist, which can be perceived and named, all objects of experience, are Padarthas. Compound substances are dependent and transitory. Simple substances are eternal and independent.    

    As per Vaiseshika, knowledge of the Padarthas is the means of attaining the Supreme Good. The Supreme Good results from the knowledge produced—by a particular Dharma - of the essence of the Padarthas, by means of their resemblances and differences.     

    The Padarthas of the Vaiseshika are the following:    

  1.     Substance (Dravya)    
  2.     Quality or property (Guna)    
  3.     Action(Karma)    
  4.     Generality of properties (Samanya)    
  5.     Particularity (Visesha)    
  6.     Co-inherence or perpetual intimate relation (Samavaya)    
  7.     Non-existence or negation of existence (Abhava).    

    The first three categories of substance, quality and action have a real objective existence. The next three, viz., generality, particularity and inherence are logical categories. They are products of intellectual discrimination. Kanada enumerated only six categories, the seventh was added by later writers.    

The Dravyas[1]

    Earth, water, fire, air, ether, time, space, soul and mind are the nine Dravyas or substances. The first four of these and the last are held to be atomic. The first four are both eternal and non-eternal, non-eternal in their various compounds and eternal in their ultimate atoms to which they must be traced back. Mind is an eternal substance. It does not pervade everywhere like the soul. It is atomic. It can admit only one thought at a time.    

Qualities of Dravyas

There are seventeen qualities inherent in the nine substances, viz. colour (Rupa), taste (Rasa), smell (Gandha), touch (Sparsa), numbers (Sankhya), measures (Parimanani), separateness or individuality (Prithaktvam), conjunction and disconjunction (Samyoga-vibhagam), priority and posterity (Paratva-aparatva), intellection or  understanding (Buddhayah), pleasure and pain (Sukha-duhkha), desire and aversion (Ichha-dvesha), and volitions (Prayatnah).

    Seven others are said to be implied, viz., gravity, fluidity, viscidity, faculty, merit, demerit and sound—making twenty-four in all. Sixteen of these qualities belong to material substances. The other eight, viz.. understanding, volition, desire, aversion, pleasure, pain, merit and demerit are the properties of the soul.    

Karma

Third category, Karma or action, consists of five kinds of viz. elevation or throwing upwards, depression or throwing downwards, contraction, expansion and motion.

Samanya

The fourth category, Samanya or generality is twofold, viz., (i) higher and lower generality and a) that of genus and species.

Visesha

The fifth category, Visesha or particularity, belongs to the nine eternal substances of the first category, all of which have an eternal ultimate difference distinguishing each from the others. Therefore, the system is called Vaiseshika.

Samavaya

The sixth category, Samavaya or co-inherence, is of only one kind. It is the co-inherence between a substance and its qualities, between a genus or species and its individuals, between any object and the general idea connected with it and is thought to be a real entity.

Abhava

There are four kinds of Abhava, the seventh category, viz., antecedent non-existence, cessation of existence

The Principle of Adrishta[1]

Kanada does not openly refer to God in his Sutras. His belief was that the formation of the world was the result of Adrishta, the unseen force of Karmas or acts. He traces the primal activities of the atoms and souls to the Principle of Adrishta. The followers of Kanada introduce God as the efficient cause and atoms as the material cause of the universe.   

Atomic Theory of the Universe[1]

 In the Vaiseshika system, the formation of the world is supposed to be effected by the aggregation of atoms. These atoms are countless and eternal. They are eternally aggregated, disintegrated and redisintegrated by the power of Adrishta. An atom is defined as 'something existing, having no cause, and eternal'. It is less than the least, invisible, indivisible, intangible and imperceptible by the senses. Each atom has a Visesha or eternal essence of its own. The combination of these atoms is first into an aggregate of two (Dvyanu, dyad). Three of them, again combine into a particle, called Trasarenu (Triad), which like a mote in a sunbeam has just sufficient magnitude to be perceptible. There are four classes of Paramanus, vizi, Paramanus of earth, water, fire and air. The individual atoms combine with others, and again disintegrate after some time. 

 The Vaiseshika cosmogony is dualistic in the sense of assuming the existence of eternal atoms side by side with eternal souls. It has not decided positively the exact relation between soul and matter.   

Body and the Soul[1]

The body is subtle in Pralaya and gross in creation. The time, place and circumstances of birth, family and the span of life are all determined by the Adrishta.

The individual souls are eternal, manifold, eternally separate from one another, and distinct from the body, senses and mind; and yet capable of apprehension, volition, desire, aversion, pleasure, pain, merit and demerit. They are infinite, ubiquitous or omnipresent and diffused everywhere throughout space. The soul and the mind are not objects of perception. The soul is absolutely free from all connections with qualities in the state of Moksha or release. It regains its independence.                                

Birth, Death and Salvation[1]

Conjunction of soul with body, sense and life, produced by Dharma and Adharma, is called birth, and disjunction of body and mind produced by them is called death. Moksha consists in the non-existence of conjunction. with the body, when there is, at the same time, no potential body existing and consequently rebirth cannot take place.                                

Bondage and Release

Pleasure and pain result from the contact of soul, sense, mind and object. From pleasure arises desire. From one pleasure, raga or desire is produced successively for pleasure of a similar kind or for the means of attaining it. From pain due to one cause, aversion arises with regard to such pain or with regard to its source.

Faults That Lead to Bondage

Desire (Raga), aversion (Dvesha) and infatuation (Moha) are called faults (Doshas), as these bind the doer of an activity to this world.

The Knowledge That Results in Release

Intuitive knowledge of the Self destroys false knowledge. Consequently, attraction, aversion, stupidly or Moha and other faults vanish. Then activity also disappears. Then birth due to action does not take place. Consequently, pain connected with birth also disappears.

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    In its early stages, the Vaiśeṣika was an independent philosophy with its own metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics, and path to mukti or liberation. Over time, the Vaiśeṣika system became similar in its philosophical procedures, ethical conclusions and in it's theory of liberation to the Nyāya Darshana, but retained its difference in epistemology and metaphysics.    

  • Vaiśeṣika school of philosophy accepts only two reliable means to knowledge: Pratyaksha pramana (perception) and Anumana pramana (inference).
  • Vaiśeṣika considers their scriptures as indisputable and valid means to knowledge, and acknowledge that Vedas are the foundation of their siddhantas.
  • Vaisheshika school is known for its insights in naturalism or Padarthajnana. It recognizes nine ultimate substances : Five material or perceivable substances and four inanimate or non-material substances. The five material substances are: Earth, water, fire, air and akasha. The four non-material substances are: space, time, soul and mind. Earth, water, fire and air are atomic but akasha is non-atomic and  infinite.
  • It postulated that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to paramāṇu (atoms), which are indivisible, eternal, neither can be created or destroyed. Thus the Vaishesika explains the atomic theory far before any western discovery.
  • Human experiences are derived from the interplay of substance (a function of atoms, their number and their spatial arrangements), quality, activity, commonness, particularity and inherence.
  • Vaisheshika contends that every effect is a fresh creation or a new beginning. Thus this system refutes the theory of pre-existence of the effect in the cause as does the Vedic philosophy.
  • Kanada's Vaiseshika does not discuss much on God although this system accepts that God (Ishvara ) is the efficient cause of the world. The eternal atoms are the material cause of the world.
  • According to Vaiśeṣika school, knowledge and liberation are achievable by the complete understanding of the world of experience.

Vaiseshika Siddhantam

Although the Vaisheshika system developed independently from the Nyaya school of Hinduism, the two became similar and are often studied together. In its classical form, however, the Vaishesika school differed from the Nyaya in one crucial respect: where Nyaya accepted four sources of valid knowledge, the Vaishesika accepted only two.

Vaiśeṣika school of Hinduism accepted only two reliable means to knowledge - perception and inference.

Vaisheshika espouses a form of atomism, that the reality is composed of four substances (earth, water, air, fire). Each of these four are of two types, explains Ganeri, परमाणु || paramāṇu (atomic) and composite (analogous to molecule).

" An "Anu" is that which is small, indestructible (anitya), indivisible, and has a special kind of dimension. "

" A composite is that which is divisible into atoms. Whatever human beings perceive is composite, and even the smallest perceptible thing, namely, a fleck of dust, has parts, which are therefore invisible. "

The Vaiśeṣikas visualized the smallest composite thing as a triad (tryaṇuka) with three parts, each part with a dyad (dyaṇuka). Vaiśeṣikas believed that a dyad has two parts, each of which is an atom. Size, form, truths and everything that human beings experience as a whole is a function of atoms, their number and their spatial arrangements.

Vaisheshika postulated that what one's experiences is derived from

  1. dravya (substance: a function of atoms, their number and their spatial arrangements),
  2. guna (quality), karma (activity),
  3. samanya (commonness),
  4. vishesha (particularity) and
  5. samavaya (inherence, inseparable connectedness of everything).

Literature of Vaisheshika

The earliest systematic exposition of the Vaisheshika is found in the Vaiśeṣika Sūtra of Kaṇāda (or Kaṇabhaksha). This treatise is divided into ten books.

  • The two commentaries on the Vaiśeṣika Sūtra, Rāvaṇabhāṣya and Bhāradvājavṛtti are extant.
  • Praśastapāda’s Padārthadharmasaṁgraha (c. 4th century) commonly known as bhāṣya of Vaiśeṣika Sūtra, this treatise is basically an independent work on the subject.
  • Candra’s Daśapadārthaśāstra (648) based on Praśastapāda’s treatise is available only in Chinese translation. The earliest commentary available on Praśastapāda’s treatise is Vyomaśiva’s Vyomavatī (8th century). The other three commentaries are Śridhara’s Nyāyakandalī (991), Udayana’s Kiranāvali (10th century) and Śrivatsa’s Līlāvatī (11th century).
  • Śivāditya’s Saptapadārthī which also belongs to 11th century, presents the Nyāya and the Vaiśeṣika principles as a part of one whole.
  • Śaṁkara Miśra’s Upaskāra on Vaiśeṣika Sūtra is also an important work.

The Categories or Padārtha

According to the Vaisheshika school, all things which exist, which can be cognised, and which can be named are padārthas (literal meaning: the meaning of a word), the objects of experience. All objects of experience can be classified into six categories as follows

" 1.Dravya (substance): The substances are conceived as 9 in number. They are, पृथ्वी || pṛthvī (earth), आपः || apa (water), तेजस् || tejas (fire), वायु || vāyu (air), आकाश || ākaśa (ether), काल || kāla (time), दिक् || dik (space), आत्मन || ātman (self or soul) and मनस || manas (mind). The first five are called भूत || bhūtas, the substances having some specific qualities so that they could be perceived by one or the other external senses."

" 2.Guṇa (quality): The Vaiśeṣika Sūtra mentions 17 guṇas (qualities), to which Praśastapāda added another 7. While a substance is capable of existing independently by itself, a guṇa(quality) cannot exist so. The original 17 guṇas (qualities) are, rūpa (colour), rasa (taste), gandha (smell), sparśa (touch), saṁkhyā (number), parimāṇa (size/dimension/quantity), pṛthaktva (individuality), saṁyoga (conjunction/accompaniments), vibhāga (disjunction), paratva (priority), aparatva (posteriority), buddhi (knowledge), sukha (pleasure), duḥkha (pain), icchā (desire), dveṣa (aversion) and prayatna (effort). To these Praśastapāda added gurutva (heaviness), dravatva (fluidity), sneha (viscosity), dharma (merit), adharma (demerit), śabda (sound) and saṁskāra (faculty)."

" 3.Karma (activity): The karmas (activities) like guṇas (qualities) have no separate existence, they belong to the substances. But while a quality is a permanent feature of a substance, an activity is a transient one. Ākāśa (ether), kāla (time), dik (space) and ātman (self), though substances, are devoid of karma (activity)."

" 4.Sāmānya (generality): Since there are plurality of substances, there will be relations among them. When a property is found common to many substances, it is called sāmānya."

" 5.Viśeṣa (particularity): By means of viśeṣa, we are able to perceive substances as different from one another. As the ultimate atoms are innumerable so are the viśeṣas."

" 6.Samavāya (inherence): Kaṇāda defined samavāya as the relation between the cause and the effect. Praśastapāda defined it as the relationship existing between the substances that are inseparable, standing to one another in the relation of the container and the contained. The relation of samavāya is not perceivable but only inferable from the inseparable connection of the substances."

Later Vaiśeṣikas (Śrīdhara and Udayana and Śivāditya) added one more category abhava (non-existence). The first three categories are defined as Artha (which can perceived) and they have real objective existence. The last three categories are defined as budhyapekṣam (product of intellectual discrimination) and they are logical categories.

The atomic theory

According to the Vaiśeṣika school, the trasareṇu are the smallest mahat (perceivable) particles and defined as tryaṇukas (triads). These are made of three parts, each of which are defined as dvyaṇuka (dyad). The dvyaṇukas are conceived as made of two parts, each of which are defined as paramāṇu (atom). The paramāṇus (atoms) are indivisible and eternal, they can neither be created nor destroyed. Each paramāṇu (atom) possesses its own distinct viśeṣa (individuality).

The measure of the partless atoms is known as parimaṇḍala parimāṇa. It is eternal and it cannot generate the measure of any other substance. Its measure is its own absolutely.

Notes

  1. Amita Chatterjee (2011), Nyāya-vaiśeṣika Philosophy, The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy, doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195328998.003.0012
  2. DPS Bhawuk (2011), Spirituality and Indian Psychology (Editor: Anthony Marsella), Springer, ISBN 978-1-4419-8109-7
  3. Analytical philosophy in early modern India J Ganeri, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  4. M Hiriyanna (1993), Outlines of Indian Philosophy, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120810860
  5. MM Kamal (1998), The Epistemology of the Carvaka Philosophy, Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies, 46(2)
  6. B Matilal (1992), Perception: An Essay in Indian Theories of Knowledge, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0198239765

References

  1. Chattopadhyaya, D. (1986), Indian Philosophy: A Popular Introduction, People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, ISBN 81-7007-023-6.
  2. Dasgupta, Surendranath (1975), A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. I, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, ISBN 978-81-208-0412-8.

References