The Vaiseshika system takes its name from Visesha or particularity which is the characteristic differentia of things. 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.
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 is a supplement to the Nyaya. 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 by inference, or by authority.
The Aphorisms Of Kanada
There are ten chapters in Kanada’s book. The first chapter deals with the entire group of Padarthas or predicables. In the second chapter, Kanada has ascertained substance. In the third chapter, he has given a description of the 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 Samavaya (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 established the differences in the attributes of the soul.
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: Yatobhyudayanihsreyasa-siddhih sa dharmah—Dharma is that which exalts and bestows the Supreme Good or Moksha (cessation of pain).
The Seven Padarthas Or Categories
Padartha means literally the meaning of a word. But here it denotes a substance discussed in philosophy. 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.
The Padarthas of the Vaiseshika are the following: (i) Substance (Dravya), (ii) Quality or property (Guna), (iii) Action (Karma), (iv) Generality of properties (Samanya), (v) Particularity (Visesha), (vi) Co-inherence or perpetual intimate relation (Samavaya), and (vii) 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.
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.
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.
The third category, Karma or action, consists of five kinds of acts, viz., elevation or throwing upwards, depression or throwing downwards, contraction, expansion and motion.
The fourth category, Samanya or generality of properties, is twofold, viz., (i) higher and lower generality and (ii) that of genus and species.
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.
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.
There are four kinds of Abhava, the seventh category, viz., antecedent non-existence, cessation of existence, mutual non-existence and absolute non-existence.
Knowledge of the Padarthas Secures Supreme Good
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 Principle Of Adrishta And Its Inadequacies
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 of the world. The atoms are the material cause of the universe.
The unthinking atoms have not the power and the intelligence to run this universe in an orderly manner. Surely, the activities of the atoms are regulated by an omniscient and omnipotent God. Inference and scriptures compel us to admit God. What is that intelligence which makes the Adrishta to operate? That intelligence is God. The five elements are effects. They must be preceded by someone who has a knowledge of them. That ‘someone’ is God. There must be an author for the Vedas. The contents of the Vedas are destitute of error. The author is free from deceit. He must be an omniscient Being.
The souls are destitute of intelligence in the state of dissolution. Hence they cannot control the activities of the atoms. There is no source of motion within the atoms. Therefore, there must be a first mover of the atom. That First Mover is the Creator or God.
Atomic Theory Of The Universe
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, viz., 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 Soul
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. A man’s soul is as much in New York as in Bombay, although it can only apprehend and feel and act where the body is. 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
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.
Pleasure and pain result from the contact of soul, sense, mind and object.
From pleasure arises desire. From pleasure derived from the enjoyment of garlands, sandal paste, women and other objects, Raga or desire is produced successively for pleasure of a similar kind or for the means of attaining it. From pain caused by snakes, scorpions, thorns and the like, aversion arises with regard to such pain or with regard to its source.
A very powerful impression is produced by constant or habitual experience of objects, through the influence of which, a sad lover who does not win his mistress sees his beloved in every object. He who has been bitten by a snake beholds snakes everywhere, on account of a strong impression regarding that.
The Faults That Lead to Bondage
Desire (Raga), aversion (Dvesha) and infatuation (Moha) are called faults (Doshas), as they are incentives to activity which serves to bind the doer to this world. Gautama also says: “Faults have for their characteristic, incitement to activity or worldly occupation” (Nyaya Sutras, I-1-xviii).
Intuitive knowledge of the Self destroys false knowledge. Consequently, attraction, aversion, stupidity 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.