Vaiśesika Darśana

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Vaisesika Darsana, VaiZesika DarZana, Vaishesika Darshana


The Vaiśesika Darśana was founded by Kaṇāda, also known as Uluka. Hence it is also called Kāṇāda or Aulukya Darśana. Kaṇāda seems to be a nickname of Uluka since he led the life of an ascetic. He used to live on kaṇas or grains gleaned from agricultural fields.[1] The basic text is the Vaiśesika Sutras of Kaṇāda. It is divided into ten adhyāyas or chapters, each adhyāya containing two ahnikas or sections. It has 374 sutras in all.

The earliest exposition of this work seems to be the Padārtha-dharma- sañgraha of Praśastapāda.[2] Though known as Bhāsya, it is not a regular sutra-by-sutra commentary on the original work. This Bhāsya, while restating the principles contained in the original sutras, develops them considerably. The Nyāyakandali of Śrīdhara,[3] Vyomavati of Vyomaśiva and Kiranā-valī of Udayana[4] are the well- known commentaries of Praśastapāda. Vallabhācārya’s[5] Nyāya-līlāvatī and Udayana’s Lakṣanāvali are two valuable compendiums on this system.

The Vaiśesika system became so closely associated with the Nyāya system in course of time that the later writers started dealing with them as if they were one system. Of these, mention must be made of the Saptapadārthī of Sivāditya[6] and the Bhāsā-pariccheda of Viśvanātha[7] with his own commentary, Siddhāntamuktāval ahnikas or sections. It has 374 sutras in all.

The earliest exposition of this work seems to be the Padārtha-dharma- sañgraha of Praśastapāda.[8] Though known as Bhāsya, it is not a regular detailed sutra commentary on the original work. This Bhāsya, while restating the principles contained in the original sutras, develops them considerably. The Nyāyakandali of Srīdhara,[9] Vyomavatl of Vyomaśiva and Kiranāvalī of Udayana[10] are the well- known commentaries of Praśastapāda. Vallabhācārya’s[11] Nyāya-līlāvatī and Udayana’s Lakṣanāvali are two valuable compendiums on this system.

The Vaiśesika system became closely associated with the Nyāya system in course of time, so that the later writers started dealing with them as if they were one system. Of these, mention must be made of the Saptapadārthī of Sivāditya[12] and the Bhāsā-pariccheda of Viśvanātha[13] with his own commentary, Siddhāntamuktāvali.

The Seven Padārthas

The Vaiśeṣika school of philosophy recognizes seven padārthas or categories of realities. ‘Padārtha’ means ‘what is denoted by a word’, an object of knowledge. All such objects can be divided into two classes:[14]

  1. Bhāva - It means being. It stand for all the positive and existent realities.
  2. Bhāva - It means non- being. It denotes the negative facts.

The saptapadārthas or seven categories are:

  1. Dravya - substance
  2. Guṇa - quality
  3. Karma - action
  4. Sāmānya - generality
  5. Viśeṣa - particularity
  6. Samavāya - relation of inherence
  7. Abhāva - non-existence

These may now be considered one by one.

Dravya

Dravya is a substance in which a guṇa[15] and karma[16] can exist. It is the substratum for both. There are nine kinds of dravyas:

  1. Four elements - earth, water, light and air, respectively called pṛthvī, jala, tejas and vāyu
  2. Ākāśa - ether
  3. Kāla - time
  4. Dik - space
  5. Ātman - soul
  6. Manas - mind

All these are eternal. The four elements exist in the form of paramāṇus[17] before creation. Ākāśa, kāla, dik and ātman are all-pervading whereas manas is aṇu[18] in size. The Vaiśeṣika system accepts two kinds of souls:[19]

  1. Jivātmans - They are infinite in number.
  2. Paramātman - The Supreme Soul or God is only one.

Guna

Guna or quality is always dependent on dravya or substance for its existence and manifestation. It belongs to a dravya but never to another guṇa. The Vaiśeṣika system enumerates the guṇas as 24. Some of them are:

  1. Five qualities of the five sense-organs
  2. Parimāṇa - magnitude
  3. Saiyoga - conjunction
  4. Buddhi - cognition
  5. Sukha and duhkha - pleasure and pain
  6. Icchā and dveṣa - desire and aversion
  7. Saṅskāra - tendency
  8. Dharma and adharma - merit and demerit

This enumeration limiting the guṇas to 24 has been done from the standpoint of their impossibility of further division.

Karma

Karma or action is physical movement. It belongs to a substance. It is dynamic in nature. Five kinds of action like utkṣepaṇa[20] and ākuṅcana[21] have been listed which can be perceived by the senses of sight and touch. Manas or mind too has movement but it is not perceived externally.

Sāmanya

Sāmanya or generality is the essence in a class and can be called the universal. These universals are nitya[22] and inhere in the individuals. For example, gotva[23] and ghaṭatva[24] are present in each individual cow and jar respectively. The death of a cow or the breaking of a jar do not destroy the sāmānya that was in them.

Vtśeṣa

Vtśeṣa or particularity is the direct opposite of the sāmānya. It is the unique individuality of the eternal substances. For instance, one paramāṇu or atom of earth is distinct from another paramāṇu of earth. There is something in these atoms which makes them different from one another. That is called viśeṣa.

Samavāya

Samavāya or inherence seems to be a special concept contributed by the Vaiśeṣika philosophy. Saiyoga or conjunction between two objects can be brought about at will. Even viyoga or disjunction can be brought about by this. This relationship between two objects is temporary. But the samavāya relationship is inherent in the substances. Hence they are called ‘ayutasiddha’ or related without conjunction. It is nitya or permanent. The relation by which a whole is in its parts,[25] a quality like redness in a red object like a red rose, a movement in a moving object[26] is samavāya or inherence. The terms related by samavāya are not reversible.

Abhāva

Abhāva or non-existence is the last. It is the only category of the negative type. It is considered as a reality in this system. When we look at the sky in the night, we recognize the non-existence of the sun there, just as we notice the existence of the moon and the stars. Broadly speaking, abhāva is of two types:

  1. Sansargābhāva - It means the absence of something in something else.
  2. Anyonyābhāva - It means the non-existence of a jar on a table.

Sansargābhāva

The former is the absence of something in something else, as the non-existence of a jar on a table. In the latter case, it simply means that one thing is not another thing, as a horse not being present in a buffalo. Sansargābhāva is of three kinds:

  1. Prāgabhāva - It isantecedent non-existence. It can be explained with the example of non - existence of the house in the bricks, before it is built.
  2. Pradhvamsābhāva or dhvamsābhāva - non-existence after destruction. It can be explained with the example of non existence of an earthern jar in the broken pieces, after the jar is broken.
  3. Atyantābhāva - absolute non-existence. It can be explained with the example of absence of color or shape in the air.

God and the World

The Vaiśeṣika Darśana accepts the existence of God, called īśvara or Maheśvara, as the Supreme Intelligent Being under whose will and guidance this world is created, sustained and destroyed. This world is a system of physical things and the living beings which interact with one another. What guides the world is actually the moral order by which the life and destiny of all the individual souls are governed, the universal law of karma.

The starting point of creation[27] is the will of God. The first product of his will to create is the World-soul, Brahmā. He is infilled by God with the six blessed qualities like:

  1. Jñāna
  2. vairāgya
  3. Aiśvarya.[28]

Brahmā, the chief architect of creation, proceeds with further creation in accordance with the totality of the adṛṣṭas[29] of the individual souls by setting in motion the paramāṇus or atoms to combine with one another, ultimately resulting in the world. The process of dissolution is in the reverse order. Brahmā gives up his body, Maheśvara then wills the dissolution and brings about the pralaya or destruction. The whole world is then reduced to its primary state of seven padārthas.

Conclusion

Like the Nyāya system, the Vaiśeṣika Darśana also is a realistic philosophy which combines pluralism with theism. Creation is executed by God in a planned manner as per the karmas of the individual souls for the proper realization of their ultimate moral perfection. By harmonizing the atomic theory with a moral and spiritual outlook on life and accepting the God as the creator and moral governor of the world, the Vaiśeṣika system has moved nearer towards the Vedānta system which proved to be the pinnacle of philosophy as a whole.

References

  1. Kaṇa means grain and ad means to eat.
  2. He lived in 5th century A. D.
  3. He lived in 991 A.D.
  4. He lived in A. D. 984.
  5. He lived in 11th cent. A. D.
  6. He lived in 10th cent. A.D.
  7. He lived in A.D. 1650.
  8. He lived in 5th century A. D.
  9. He lived in 991 A.D.
  10. He lived in A. D. 984.
  11. He lived in 11th cent. A. D.
  12. He lived in 10th cent. A.D.
  13. He lived in A.D. 1650.
  14. Vaiśesikasutras 1.1.14
  15. Guṇa means quality.
  16. Karma means action.
  17. Paramāṇus means atoms.
  18. Aṇu means atomic.
  19. These souls are also known as īśvara or Maheśvara.
  20. Utkṣepaṇa means throwing upward.
  21. Ākuṅcana means contraction.
  22. Nitya means eternal.
  23. Gotva means cowness.
  24. Ghaṭatva means jarness.
  25. The cloth in its threads.
  26. A moving ball.
  27. It is followed by sustenance and destruction, these three being cyclic and eternal.
  28. Aiśvarya means knowledge, detachment and splendor.
  29. Adṛṣṭas means the unseen merits and demerits.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore