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By Swami Harshananda

Abhāva is literally translated as ‘non-existence’.

The production of an effect is the sign of the existence of the cause. In the same way, the non-production of it is the sign of its non-existence.

This is the line of argument adopted by the Vaiśeṣika system, one of the schools of philosophy. According to it, the non-perception of a jar in the ground before us is the same as the perception of the non-existence, abhāva, of the jar. This is the only system which considers abhāva as one of the four fundamental categories of reality:

  1. Prāgabhāva : non-existence before coming into being, as for e.g., the non-existence of the jar before it is produced
  2. Pradhvaiiisābhāva : non-existence after destruction, as for e.g., the non-existence of the jar after it is destroyed
  3. Anyonyābhāva : mutual nonexistence of two different objects, e.g., the non-existence of the cow in the horse & vice versa
  4. Atyantābhāva : absolute non-existence, as for e.g., the non-existence of color in the air.


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

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