Philosophy of Vaisheshika
The term Vaisesika is derived from the term visesa. The Vaisesika system lays stress on particularity (visesa) of the eternal substances. Ether, space, time, souls, internal organs, and the atoms of earth, water, fire and air are eternal. Each of them has a particularity which is its distinctive feature. The Vaisesika emphasizes the plurality and distinctness of physical things and individual souls. Its special feature is the doctrine of atomism.
Kanada (300 B.C.), the author of the Vaisesika Sutra, is the founder of the Vaisesika system. It specializes in the philosophy of nature. Kanada speaks of the six categories: substance, quality, action or motion, community, particularity, and inherence. The later Vaisesikas clearly recognize non-existence as the seventh category. Kanada does not clearly mention God in the Vaisesika Sutra.
Prasastapada (400 A.D.), Sridhara (1000 A.D.) and Udayana (1000A.D.) discuss the theistic proofs, the nature of God, and His creation of the world out of the atoms and dissolution of it into them. The Vaisesika discusses the nature of the individual self, the proofs for its existence, the plurality of finite souls, and their bondage and liberation.
Knowledge of Vaisesika Philosophy
Knowledge is a quality of the self, which inheres in it. It is in the nature of manifestation. It manifests an object, physical or mental. The genus of knowledge inheres in it.
There are innumerable cognitions apprehending an. infinite number of objects. But knowledge is mainly of two kinds, valid knowledge and invalid knowledge. Valid knowledge is what apprehends an object in its real nature. Invalid knowledge is what apprehends an object as different from it.
It is of four kinds:
(iii) Indefinite perception, and
(i) Doubt is indefinite knowledge. The perception of the common quality of two objects and the recollection of their peculiar qualities generate a doubt as to whether the object perceived is one or the other. The common quality of a post and a man e.g., height, is perceived.
Then their special qualities are remembered. The mind oscillates between the two memory images. This is doubtful perception of an external perceptible object, which is expressed in such a form: ‘Is it a post or a man?’
(ii) Illusion is the knowledge of one object as another different from it. It is a definite knowledge which does not apprehend the real nature of an object. A cow is misperceived as a horse. Illusion is wrong perception by a sense-organ vitiated by the bodily humors—flatulence, bile, or phlegm, a subconscious impression produced by the perception of an object which is not present, conjunction of the self with manas, and demerit.
(iii) Anadhyavasaya is indefinite knowledge in which both alternatives are un-manifest. Uha is a doubtful perception in which only one alternative is manifest to consciousness. When a familiar or an unfamiliar object is perceived as ‘something’ owing to inattention or interest in a special thing, we have indefinite perception. A person unfamiliar with a jackfruit tree has an indefinite perception of it.
He has definite knowledge of an entity endued with being hood, genus of substance, genus of earth, genus of tree, colour, and the like. He also perceives the genus of jackfruit tree. But he does not know that its name is jackfruit tree. He has indefinite knowledge of its name. His indefinite perception of the jackfruit tree as ‘something’ is anadhyavasaya.
Dream is mental perception of a person through the sense-organs, whose sense-organs have ceased to function, and whose manas is overpowered by sleep. It arises from a particular conjunction of the self with manas called sleep, subconscious impressions, and merit or demerit.
It appears like perception of unreal objects through the sense-organs. It is of three kinds. It arise from the strength of subconscious impressions, or defects of bodily humours, or merits and demerits.
A person dreams of his beloved woman owing to the intensity of the subconscious impression of her generated by repeated thoughts of her. One dreams of flight in the sky owing to flatulence. One dreams of entering into fire owing to excess of bile. One dreams of crossing a river owing to predominance of phlegm.
These dreams are due to defects of bodily humours. The auspicious dreams which betoken good are due to merit. The inauspicious dreams which betoken evil are due to demerit. Dreams are cognitions produced by the internal organ overpowered by sleep.
3. Valid Knowledge of Vaisesika Philosophy
Valid knowledge is of four kinds, perception, inference, recollection, and intuition due to austerities.
(i) Perception is external or internal. Internal perception is due to conjunction of the self with the infernal organ. Cognition, pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, and volition are apprehended by internal perception. External perception is of five kinds, olfactory, gustatory, visual, tactual, and auditory.
Perception is either indeterminate or determinate. Earth, water, and fire are perceived owing to the conjunctions of the self with the manas, of the manas with the sense-organs, and of the sense-organs with the objects, when they have extension and manifest colour, and consist of many parts. The substances endued with qualities, actions and communities, and qualified by other substances are perceived.
(ii) Recollection is produced by a particular conjunction of the self with manas, a subconscious impression, and suggestive forces or cues. The self is the inherent cause, conjunction of the self with manas, the non-inherent cause, and a subconscious impression, the efficient cause of recollection.
It apprehends a past object, seen, heard, or felt in the past owing to a particular conjunction of the self with manas and revival of its subconscious impression produced by intensity, frequency, or emotional appeal of a past experience. Perception, recollection, or thought of a connected experience is the exciting cause of recollection.
Attention, intention to recall, inhibition of contrary suggestive forces, perception of a similar object and the like are its exciting causes. Recollection is a kind of valid knowledge. It apprehends the real nature of an object perceived in the past.
(iii) Intuition due to austerities is the intuition of the sages, who are the authors of the scriptures. It is immediate apprehension of the real nature of the past, present and future objects, of the Moral Law and other super-sensible objects owing to a particular conjunction of the self with manas and a peculiar merit born of austerities. It is akin to yogic perception. It is produced by a special kind of merit born of austerities, while yogic perception is due to intense meditation.
It is produced by the internal organ, and not by the external sense-Organs. It is a distinct and vivid perception through the internal organ called pratibhajnana. The sages have this kind of intuition in abundance. But even the common people have momentary flashes of intuitive non-sensuous perception. A young girl ‘ says, ‘My heart says: my brother will come to-morrow.’ This is non-sensuous intuition. It is a kind of valid ‘ knowledge.
Inference is the knowledge derived from the mark, from which the existence of the probaadum is inferred as its effect, or cause, or conjunct, or antagonist, or inherent. From a rainfall in the source of a river (cause) a flood in the river (effect) is inferred. From smoke (effect) the existence of a fire (cause) is inferred. From a body (conjunct) the existence of the tactual organ (conjunct) conjoined with it is inferred.
From an infuriated serpent the existence of a mongoose (antagonist) hidden behind a bush is inferred. From the heat of water the existence of a fire (inherent) is inferred. Heat inheres in fire, but not in water. The causal relation between the probans and the probandum is shown by the members of an inference. A mark or probans preceded by the knowledge of a well-known and well- established general principle leads to the knowledge of the probandum.
4. Categories (Padartha) of Vaisesika Philosophy
Padartha literally means the meaning of a word. It is an object of knowledge, and capable of being named. It is knowable and nameable. It is an. object of valid knowledge. Kanada brings all objects of valid knowledge under six categories.
They are substance (dravya), quality (guna), action or motion (karma), generality (samanya), particularity (visesa), and inherence (samavaya). Kanada does not mention non-existence or negation. The later Vaisesikas add the seventh category of non-existence. Sridhara, Udayana and Sivaditya recognize seven categories including non-existence.
Substance is the substratum of quality and action. A book is a substance. Its colour, extension, solidity, dimension’ and the like are its qualities. Its motion is its action. Its qualities and motion subsist in it. Quality cannot subsist in itself, but it subsists in a substance, which is its substratum. Quality is comparatively permanent and passive, but action or motion is temporary and dynamic. The genus of man subsists in many individual persons.
It is a generality or community. An eternal substance has particularity which distinguishes it from other eternal substances. Space is one, eternal and ubiquitous substance. It has a particularity which distinguishes it from other eternal substances, time, ether and the like. Inherence is the inseparable relation between substance and quality, substance and action, a generality and an individual, an eternal substance and its particularity, and a composite substance and its component parts.
When a jar is destroyed, there is negation or non-existence of the jar. Substances the main category. All other categories depend on it for their existence. Substance is the substratum of quality, action, community, particularity and inherence.
The first six categories have existence, name ability and know ability. They are objects of the positive notion of being. They can be known without depending on their counter- entities, and expressed by names. They are capable of being known, though they exist independently of being known. The three categories of substance, quality and action-are related to being-hood (satta) which subsists in them.
The three categories of generality, particularity and inherence are related to themselves and devoid of relation to being-hood. They are neither causes nor effects. They are eternal and incapable of being expressed by the word ‘object’ They are non-spatial and timeless ontological entities. Substance, qualify and action are causes capable of producing effects and liable to destruction. They exist in time and space.
5. Substance (Dravya) of Vaisesika Philosophy:
Kanada defines a substance as an entity which has qualities and actions, and which is the inherent or material cause of an effect. A substance is the substrate of qualities and actions. It is not a mere collection of qualities and actions. It is not a mere aggregate of qualities as the Buddhist realist maintains.
Nor is it a mere complex of ideas as the Buddhist idealist maintains. It has a real, objective existence. It differs from its qualities and actions because it is their substrate. If it were not different from them, it would not be their substrate.
Qualities and actions are devoid of qualities and actions. They are not self-existent, but they exist in a substance. The relation between a substance and its qualities and actions is inherence. A substance is the material or inherent cause of its effect.
This characteristic distinguishes it from a quality and an action. But the conjunction of threads, which is a quality, is its non-inherent cause. The whole is not a mere aggregate of parts as the Buddhist realist maintains. It has an existence over and above that of its parts. They are its material cause; it inheres in them. The relation between a material cause and its product is inherence.
A substance has the genus of substance which inheres in it. Substances are eternal and non-eternal. Non-eternal substances consist of parts, and are produced by their combination, and destroyed by their separation. Composite substances art produced and destroyed by something different from themselves. They are non-eternal.
They are not self-subsistent and independent, but they subsist in their component parts. But simple and part-less substances like the atoms of earth, water, fire and air are eternal. They are neither produced nor destroyed. They are self-existent, independent and endued with particularities. Space, time, ether and souls, which are incorporeal and ubiquitous, are eternal. Minds (manas) are atomic and eternal. They are neither produced nor destroyed.
6. Quality (Guna) of Vaisesika Philosophy
Kanada defines a quality as an entity inhering in a substance, and devoid of quality, which is not an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction. Prasastapada adds one more characteristic of a quality. He defines it as an entity related to the genus of quality, abiding in a substance, and devoid of quality and action.
A quality inheres in a substance, which is its substrate. It depends upon a substance for its subsistence. But it is not identical with a substance. If it were so, it would not be related to a substance as the content of a substrate.
A substance is the substrate of its quality, which is its content. Qualities in here in a substance. But sometimes a substance also inheres in another substance. A composite substance inheres in its component parts. So a quality is defined as- devoid of qualities.
A composite substance is not devoid of qualities. But a quality is devoid of qualities. An action or movement also inheres in a substance, and is devoid of quality. It is an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction. But a quality is not an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction. Hence a quality is different from an action.
A quality is devoid of action. A substance only has an action. A fan has motion; but its colour is devoid of motion. A quality has no motion, but it seems to be in motion because its substrate is in motion. A quality is devoid of quality. Number is the quality of a substance, but it is not a quality of its colours, odours, tastes and other qualities. A quality has a community, the genus of quality. A colour has the genus of colour.
A quality differs from community, particularity and inherence, which are devoid of community. It differs from a substance because it is devoid of quantities, while the latter is endued with qualities.
It differs from an action, which is devoid of qualities, but which is an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction. A quality is not their unconditional cause. A quality exists through relation to being hood. The genus of quality subsists in a quality, but may possess an inferior community also. A colour possesses the genus of colour also.
7. Action or Motion (Karma) of Vaisesika Philosophy
Kanada defines an action as an entity, which inheres in one substance, which is devoid of a quality, and which is an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction. Action is physical motion, and resides in a substance like a quality.
But an action is its dynamic and temporary feature, whereas a quality is its static and enduring feature. Conjunction, which with each other. But an action or motion abides in substance only. It does not reside in many substances.
Conjunction of a book with a table resides in the two substances. But the motion of a fan resides in it only. An action, like a quality, resides in a substance, and is devoid of a quality. But it is an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction, whereas a quality is not their cause.
The motion of a carriage is the direct and immediate cause of its disjunction from one part of the ground and conjunction with another part of it. An action is a non-inherent cause of conjunction and disjunction.
The carriage which is a substance, is the inherent or material cause of its disjunction from one part of the ground, and of its conjunction with another part of it. But its motion is their non-inherent cause. Its colour, which is its quality, is never their non-inherent cause. Motion has the genus of motion which inheres in it.
Motion resides in a corporeal substance of limited dimension. It is non-eternal, and resides in a non-eternal substance. An incorporeal, ubiquitous substance, like ether, time, space or a soul, is incapable of motion. It cannot change its position. Motion is produced by heaviness, fluidity, effort and conjunction. It is destroyed by the destruction of its basic substance, or its conjunction with another substance.
Five kinds of action or motion are recognized, viz., upward motion, downward motion, contraction, expansion, and locomotion. Upward motion brings a body into contact with a higher region, e.g., throwing a stone upward. Downward motion brings a body into contact with a lower region, e.g., throwing a stone downward from a tree to the ground. Contraction brings the parts of a body closer to one another, e.g., the rolling of a cloth.
Expansion makes the parts of a’ body farther from one another, e.g., the unfolding of a cloth. All other kinds of motion are comprised in locomotion. Walking, evacuation, flaming up, and slanting motion are different kinds of locomotion.
8. Community or Generality (Samanya)
Kanada says, ‘Community and particularity depend upon the intellect to indicate their existence.’ They are not conceptual constructs, but ontological entities. Community is the cause of assimilation. It is the objective basis of the notion of common characters among many individuals which- are quite different from one another. It is the essential and common character of many individuals. It is natural and not accidental. It is one and eternal, and exists in many individuals.
There is one community in many individuals. There is the genus of cow in many cows, which is one, and not different in different individual cows ‘Community inheres in many individuals. It exists in many individual entirely and simultaneously without differing in its essential nature. It produces an abstract universal concept of many individuals.
(i) Community inheres in all its Individuals. The genus of cow exists in all individual cows. It does not exist in all individuals—cows, goats, sheep and the like. It is not perceived in all individuals. Though a community is not- limited to a particular place, it exists in all its proper individuals, which are produced’ by their causes and collocations of conditions. They only are its substrates.
(ii) Community exists in all its proper individuals with an identical nature. It does not differ in its nature in different individuals.
(iii) Community exists in many individuals. The genus of cow exists in all cows. It does not exist in one cow. Ether is one. So there is no genus of ether.
(iv) Community is the cause of the concept of common character in many individuals. It is the universal class-essence existing in many similar individuals, and produces a concept which is an assimilative cognition. A concept is produced by a community, which is objective basis.
(v)Community exists simultaneously in its identical nature in many individuals. It does not cease to exist in one individual, when it comes to exist in another new-born individual.
(vi) Community is eternal. It is one in many individuals, and therefore eternal. If it were not eternal, one community could not subsist in many non-eternal individuals past, present, and future.
(vii) Community is different from the individuals, which are its substrates. If it were not different from its substrates, it would be produced and destroyed with them. But it is not produced, when they are produced, and it is not destroyed, when they are destroyed. It is eternal, while they are temporary.
Further, the individuals are different ‘from one another, and produce discriminative cognitions,’ which apprehend their different specific characters. But community produces assimilative cognition, which apprehends their common character. So a community is different from its proper individuals.
The genus of earth is inferior to the genus of substance. The genus of colour is inferior to the genus of quality. The genus of upward motion is inferior to the genus of motion. So there is a hierarchy of genera with Being as the highest genus and the lowest genera at the bottom. There is the highest genus (para jati). There are the lowest species (apart jati). There are the subaltern genera and species (parapara jati).
Being (satta) is the highest generality. Substances, qualities, and actions exist through relation to Being. Being is common to them. But it is different from them. Substances, qualities, and actions are different from one another. But Being is identical in them.
So it is different from its substrates, and inheres in them. There is one Being in substances, qualities, and actions. It does not differ in its different substrates. We perceive them all as existing. Being is the one, identical common factor in them. It has no special distinguishing marks. So Being is one.
9. Particularity (VISESA) of Vaisesika Philosophy
Kanada defines particularity as the ultimate distinguishing feature of an eternal substance, which is known by its discrimination from the other eternal substances.
It depends upon the intellect to indicate its existence. Particularities are the final distinctive characters of eternal substances. They subsist in the eternal substances, the atoms, ether, time, space, self and manas. One particularity inheres in each of them, which distinguishes it from the other eternal substances.
Particularities do not require other particularities to distinguish them from one another, because it would lead to infinite regress. They not only distinguish their substrates from one another, but they also distinguish themselves from one another. They distinguish their substrates from one another without the aid of other attributes, because then they would lose their distinctive character.
They are devoid of a community. If they had a community, that would distinguish their substrates from one another. They exist in single substances only. They do not exist through inherence of Being in them, which is a generality.
Eternal substances have particularities, which distinguish them from one another. But their qualities have no particularities. They also are distinguished from one another by the particularities of their substrates. Eternal substances are infinite in number, and their particularities also are innumerable.
Composite non-eternal substances are distinguished from one another by their parts, qualities, actions, conjunction with other substances, and the like. A white cow is distinguished by her quality. A cow moving fast is distinguished by her action.
A cow with a large bell is distinguished by her conjunction with another substance. But the two atoms of earth, which have the same form, quality, and action are distinguished from each other by their particularities.
Composite substances are distinguished from one another by their parts. They do not require particularities to distinguish them from one another. But the eternal substances, for example, atoms, which are part less, homogeneous, and endued with the same qualities and actions, are distinguished from one another by their particularities.
Two liberated souls, whose special qualities are destroyed, are distinguished from each other by their particularities. If they had no particularities, they would be indistinguishable from each other. Particularities are necessary to ensure their existence as distinct entities.
10. Inherence (Samavaya) of Vaisesika Philosophy
Kanada defines inherence as the relation between a material cause and its effect, which is the cause of the notion ‘this subsists in this abode.’ Prasastapada defines it as the relation which subsists between two inseparable entities related to each other as the substrate and the content, and which is the cause of the nation ‘this subsists in this abode’. It is not the relation between two entities, which are capable of separate existence and subsistence in different substrates.
Separable entities are capable of existing apart from each other and residing in different substrates. A cloth subsists in its constituent yarns. Though the yarns subsist in their parts, which are different from the cloth, yet both cannot subsist in different substrates apart from each other. The cloth subsists in the yarns, which compose it.
Though they have an independent existence apart from the cloth, yet it has no independent existence apart from them. The yarns are the substrate, and the cloth is its content. They are its material cause, and it subsists in them.
Inherence is a relation between a substance and a quality, a substance and an action, a genus and an individual, an eternal substance and its particularity, a whole and its parts. A quality inheres in a substance.” An action inheres in a substance. A genus inheres in an individual. A particularity inheres in an eternal substance. A composite whole inheres in its constituent parts. An effect inheres in its material cause.
Inherence is inseparable relation between two non-pervasive entities, which are restricted to particular places and which are known to be different from each other. Inseparable relation implies incapacity of its relata for independent existence.
Inherence is inseparable relation between two entities, one of which is incapable of separate existence apart from the other. A composite whole cannot exist apart from its parts. But when it is destroyed, the parts can exist apart from it. But so long as the whole exists, it and its parts cannot exist apart from each other. A quality cannot exist apart from its substance. But the substance can exist apart from its quality at the moment of its production.
It acquires its qualities at the next moment. But so long as a quality persists, a substance cannot exist apart from it. An action cannot exist apart from its substance. But the substance can exist without its action. An action is temporary, while its substance is enduring. But so long as an action lasts, a substance cannot exist apart from it.
An individual cannot exist apart from its genus. But the genus exists before the individual is born and after it is destroyed. But so long as the individual lasts, the genus cannot exist apart from it. The genus and the individual are inseparably related to each other. The genus exists in the other individuals. But its existence in them does not affect its inseparable relation to a particular individual. A particularity cannot exist apart from an eternal substance.
An eternal substance also cannot exist apart from its particularity. There is mutual dependence here. But in the other instances there is one-sided dependence. Therefore inherence is an internal relation. It is an external relation.
Inherence is one, because it has the same distinguishing feature. There is no evidence of its distinctions. One inherence can account for all notions ‘this subsists in this abode’. So it is useless to assume many inherences.
One inherence is enough to relate all its relation substances and their qualities, substances and their actions, wholes and parts, genera and individuals, eternal substances and their particularities. Inherence is eternal, though its relata are transient. It is not produced by any cause, and does not pertain to relations in time. It is different from conjunction, which is a temporary relation.
Just as one Being inheres in many existing entities, so one inherence subsists between innumerable pairs of relata. Just as Being is eternal, so inherence is eternal. Inherence is different from conjunction, which is a temporary relation.
An effect is mainly produced by a material cause. It is produced by a non-material cause and an efficient cause with the aid of a material cause. If it had a material cause, it would be related to its cause either by itself or by another inherence.
It cannot be related to its cause by itself, because then it would be substrate of itself. But no entity can be both a substrate and its content, and can subsist in itself. Nor can inherence be related to its cause by another inherence, for it would lead to infinite regress. Therefore inherence is uncaused and eternal.
Inherence is not conjunction, since the latter is a relation between two substances, while the former is a relation between a substance and another substance or non-substance.
Conjunction is a separable relation, while inherence is an inseparable relation. In conjunction the relata exist as unrelated to each other before they are conjoined. But in inherence the relata are always related to each other, when they are related as a substrate and its content.
Inherence is eternal, while conjunction is temporary. Conjunction is produced, but inherence is uncaused. Conjunction is destroyed by disjunction of its relata, but inherence is indestructible. Conjunction is a relation between two independent substances, but inherence is a relation between a substrate and its content.
Inherence is a natural and inseparable relation, while conjunction is an adventitious and separable relation. Inherence is a separate category, while conjunction is a quality. Inherence is one, while conjunctions are many. Inherence is imperceptible, while conjunction is perceptible.
Inherence is different from substance, quality, action, community, and particularity, because it is a relation between a substance and the other categories. It is different from nonexistence. So it is a distinct category.
11. Non-Existence (Abhava)
Udayana divides the categories into existence and nonexistence. He divides the former into substance, quality, action community, and particularity, and the latter into prior nonexistence, posterior non-existence, absolute non-existence, and mutual non-existence. Prior non-existence is the non-existence of an effect in its material cause before its production. A jar is produced from clay. There is prior non-existence of the jar in clay. It is without a beginning, but has an end.
It is destroyed by the production of the effect. When the jar is produced, its prior non-existence is destroyed. Thus prior non-existence is not produced but destroyed. It is beginning less but non-eternal. If it is not destroyed, the effect cannot be produced.
Posterior non-existence is the non-existence of an effect by its destruction. When an effect is destroyed, and loses its specific nature, it has posterior non-existence. It has a beginning but no end. Poster non-existence is produced by the destruction of an effect, but it can never be destroyed. When a jar is destroyed by the stroke of a club, it has posterior non-existence in its fragments, which is produced by an efficient cause.
The non-existence of a cow in a horse and the non-existence of a horse in a cow are mutual non-existence. It is one and eternal, but it is related to different objects when they are produced. The knowledge of non-existence of a cloth in a jar depends on the knowledge of the jar as well as the cloth, which is its counter-entity. Mutual non-existence has for its counter-entity identity between two things. Negation other than mutual negation is negation of relation.
Absolute negation is non-existence in all times. There is absolute negation of colour in air. There is absolute negation of the genus of earth in water, and of the genus of water in earth. Absolute negation does not refer to production or destruction. It does not refer to the past or the future. It is neither prior negation nor posterior negation. It is negation in all times.
It is neither produced nor destroyed, but eternal by nature. Absolute negation is different from mutual negation. Mutual negation is denial of identity between two things, which have specific natures. But absolute negation is denial of an absolutely non-existent entity in all times and in all places.
The category of negation or non-existence is absolutely necessary for the Vaisesika philosophy of realistic pluralism. If there were no prior non-existence, an effect would not be produced. If there were no posterior non-existence, there would be no destruction of an effect.
If there were no mutual non-existence, there would not be different things with specific natures. If there were no absolute non-existence, all things would exist always and everywhere. If there were no nonexistence, all things would be eternal.CGPCS Notes brings Prelims and Mains programs for CGPCS Prelims and CGPCS Mains Exam preparation. Various Programs initiated by CGPCS Notes are as follows:-
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