Vaisheshika, or IAST|Vaiśeṣika, (Sanskrit:वैशॆषिक) is one of the six Hindu schools of philosophy (orthodox Vedic systems) of India. Historically, it has been closely associated with the Hindu school of logic, Nyaya.

Vaisesika espouses a form of atomism and postulates that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a finite number of atoms. Originally proposed by the sage IAST |Kaṇāda (or "Kana-bhuk", literally, "atom-eater") from the c. 6th century BC.


Although the Vaishesika system developed independently from the Nyaya, the two eventually merged because of their closely related metaphysical theories. 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 perception and inference. Although not among Kanada's original philosophies [Kevin Burns: "Eastern Philospohy", Enchanted Lion Books, 2006] , later Vaishesika atomism also differs from the atomic theory of modern science by claiming the functioning of atoms was guided or directed by the will of the Supreme Being. This is therefore a theistic form of atomism.

An alternative view would qualify the above in that the holismevident in the ancient texts mandate the identification of sixseparate traditional environments of philosophy, consisting ofthree sets of two pairs.

Literature of Vaisheshika

The earliest systematic exposition of the Vaisheshika is found in the IAST |Vaiśeṣika Sūtra of IAST |Kaṇāda (or IAST |Kaṇabhaksha). This treatise is divided into ten books. The two commentaries on the IAST |Vaiśeṣika Sūtra, IAST |Rāvaṇabhāṣya and IAST |Bhāradvājavṛtti are no more extant. IAST |Praśastapāda’s IAST |Padārthadharmasaṁgraha (c. 4th century AD) is the next important work of this school. Though commonly known as IAST |bhāṣya of IAST |Vaiśeṣika Sūtra, this treatise is basically an independent work on the subject. The next Vaisheshika treatise, Candra’s IAST |Daśapadārthaśāstra (648 AD) based on IAST |Praśastapāda’s treatise is available only in Chinese translation. The earliest commentary available on IAST |Praśastapāda’s treatise is IAST |Vyomaśiva’s IAST |Vyomavatī (8th century). The other three commentaries are IAST |Śridhara’s IAST |Nyāyakandalī (991 AD), Udayana’s IAST |Kiranāvali (10th century) and IAST |Śrivatsa’s IAST |Līlāvatī (11th century). IAST |Śivāditya’s IAST |Saptapadārthī which also belongs to the same period, presents the IAST |Nyāya and the IAST |Vaiśeṣika principles as a part of one whole. IAST |Śaṁkarā Miśra’s IAST |Upaskāra on IAST |Vaiśeṣika Sūtra is also an important work [harvnb|Radhakrishnan|2006|pp=180-81] .

The categories or "padartha"

According to the Vaisheshika school, all things which exist, which can be cognised, and which can be named are IAST |"padārtha"s (literal meaning: the meaning of a word), the objects of experience. All objects of experience can be classified into six categories, "dravya" (substance), IAST |"guṇa" (quality), "karma" (activity), IAST |"sāmānya" (generality), IAST |"viśeṣa" (particularity) and IAST |"samavāya" (inherence). Later IAST |Vaiśeṣikas (IAST |Śrīdhara and Udayana and IAST |Śivāditya) added one more category IAST |"abhāva" (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 IAST |"budhyapekṣam" (product of intellectual discrimination) and they are logical categories [harvnb|Radhakrishnan|2006|pp=183-86] .

1."Dravya" (substance): The substances are conceived as 9 in number. They are, IAST |"pṛthvī" (earth), "ap" (water), "tejas" (fire), IAST |"vāyu" (air), IAST |"ākaśa", IAST |"kāla" (time), "dik" (space), IAST |"ātman" (self) and "manas" (mind). The first five are called IAST |"bhūta"s, the substances having some specific qualities so that they could be perceived by one or the other external senses [harvnb|Chattopadhyaya|1986|p=169] .

2.IAST |"Guṇa" (quality): The IAST |Vaiśeṣika Sūtra mentions 17 IAST |guṇas (qualities), to which IAST |Praśastapāda added another 7. While a substance is capable of existing independently by itself, a IAST |guṇa(quality) cannot exist so. The original 17 IAST |guṇas (qualities) are, IAST |"rūpa" (colour), "rasa" (taste), "gandha" (smell), IAST |"sparśa" (touch), IAST |"saṁkhyā" (number), IAST |"parimāṇa" (size), IAST |"pṛthaktva" (inidividuality), IAST |"saṁyoga" (conjunction), IAST |"vibhāga" (disjunction), "paratva" (priority), "aparatva" (posteriority), "buddhi" (knowledge), "sukha" (pleasure), IAST |"duḥkha" (pain), IAST |"icchā" (desire), IAST |"dveṣa" (aversion) and "prayatna" (effort). To these IAST |Praśastapāda added "gurutva" (heaviness), "dravatva" (fluidity), "sneha" (viscosity), "dharma" (merit), "adharma" (demerit), IAST |"śabda" (sound) and IAST |"saṁkāsra" (faculty) [harvnb|Radhakrishnan|2006|p=204] .

3."Karma" (activity): The "karma"s (activities) like IAST |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. IAST|"Ākaśa", IAST |"kāla" (time), "dik" (space) and IAST |"ātman" (self), though substances, are devoid of "karma" (activity) [harvnb|Radhakrishnan|2006|pp=208-09] .

4.IAST |"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 IAST |"sāmānya" [harvnb|Radhakrishnan|2006|p=209] .

5.IAST |"Viśeṣa" (particularity): By means of IAST |"viśeṣa" , we are able to perceive substances as different from one another. As the ultimate atoms are innumerable so are the IAST |"viśeṣa"s [harvnb|Radhakrishnan|2006|p=215] .

6.IAST |"Samavāya" (inherence): IAST |Kaṇāda defined IAST |"samavāya" as the relation between the cause and the effect. IAST |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 IAST |"samavāya" is not perceivable but only inferable from the inseparable connection of the substances [harvnb|Radhakrishnan|2006|pp=216-19] .

Epistemology and syllogism

The early IAST |vaiśeṣika epistemology considered only "pratyaksha" (perception) and IAST |"anumāna" (inference) as the IAST |"pramaṇa"s (means of valid knowledge). The other two means of valid knowledge accepted by the Nyaya school, IAST |"upamāna" (comparison) and IAST |"śabda" (verbal testimony) were considered as included in IAST |"anumāna" [harvnb|Chattopadhyaya|1986|p=170] . The syllogism of the IAST |vaiśeṣika school was similar to that of the Nyaya, but the names given by IAST |Praśastapāda to the 5 members of syllogism are different [harvnb|Radhakrishnan|2006|p=75ff] .

The atomic theory

The early IAST |vaiśeṣika texts presented the following syllogism to prove that all objects i.e. the four IAST |bhūtas, IAST |"pṛthvī" (earth), "ap" (water), "tejas" (fire) and IAST |"vāyu" (air) are made of indivisible IAST |"paramāṇu"s (atoms): Assume that the matter is not made of indivisible atoms, and that it is continuous. Take a stone. One can divide this up into infinitely many pieces (since matter is continuous). Now, the Himalayan mountain range also has infinitely many pieces, so one may build another Himalayan mountain range with the infinite number of pieces that one has. One begins with a stone and ends up with the Himalayas, which is obviously ridiculous - so the original assumption that matter is continuous must be wrong, and so all objects must be made up of a finite number of IAST |"paramāṇu"s (atoms).

According to the IAST |vaiśeṣika school, the IAST |"trasareṇu" (dust particles visible in the sunbeam coming through a small window hole) are the smallest "mahat" (perceivable) particles and defined as IAST |tryaṇukas (triads). These are made of three parts, each of which are defined as IAST |dvyaṇuka (dyad). The IAST |dvyaṇukas are conceived as made of two parts, each of which are defined as IAST |paramāṇu (atom). The IAST |paramāṇus (atoms) are indivisible and eternal, it can neither be created nor destroyed [harvnb|Chattopadhyaya|1986|pp=169-70] . Each IAST |paramāṇu (atom) possesses its own distinct IAST |viśeṣa (individuality) [harvnb|Radhakrishnan|2006|p=202] .

Later developments

Over the centuries, the school merged with the Nyaya school of Indian philosophy to form the combined school of "IAST |nyāya-vaiśeṣika". The school suffered a natural decline in India after the 15th century.

ee also

*Hindu philosophy
*Nyaya philosophy



*Harvard reference
Surname1 = Chattopadhyaya
Given1 = D.
Year = 1986
Title = Indian Philosophy: A Popular Introduction
Publisher = People’s Publishing House, New Delhi
ID = ISBN 81-7007-023-6
*Harvard reference
Surname1 = Radhakrishnan
Given1 = S.
Year = 2006
Title = Indian Philosophy, Vol. II
Publisher = Oxford University Press, New Delhi
ID = ISBN 0-19-563820-4

External links

* [ A summary of Vaisheshika physics]

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