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By Swami Harshananda

paramāṇu (‘atom’)

Generally, all the six systems of Hindu philosophy—known as the Saḍ-darśanas—propound their own theories of creation of this world.

The Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika systems put forward the theory that the physical world is evolved out of a gradual combination of the paramāṇus of the four basic elements —pṛthvī (earth), ap (water), tejas (fire), vāyu (air)—and the ākāśa (ether) as also the jīvas (individual souls) in accordance with their karma, by īśvara or God.

When an element like the earth or water is broken into smaller parts, the smallest ultimate particle beyond which further division is impossible, is called ‘paramāṇu’. Only the first four elements can be in the form of paramāṇus or atoms.

paramapuruṣārtha (‘the highest [goal of life] aspired after, by a human being’)

A puruṣa or a human being is expected to strive for four puruṣārthas or

ends in life viz., dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kāma (desire for carnal pleasures) and mokṣa (liberation from transmigratory existence).

Out of these, the last is considered as ‘parama’ or the highest and the best. Hence the name ‘paramapuruṣārtha’.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore