Vaisesika

THis system takes its name from “visesa” (particularity); it emphasizes the significance of particulars or individuals, and is decidedly pluralistic. The Vaisesika is mainly ~ system of physics and metaphysics. It adopts a sixfold classification of the objects of experience (padarthas): substance, quality, activity, generality, particularity, and inherence, to which later Vaigesikas added a seventh, non existence. We find that three of these (substance, quality, and activity) possess real objective existence and we can intuit them; the others (generality, particularity, and inherence) are the products of intellectual discrimination. They are logically inferred, not directly perceived.

Reality consists of substances possessed of qualities. Substances are substrates of qualities, but are distinct from the qualities which they possess. Earth, water, light, air, ether (akasa), time, space, soul (or self), and mind are the nine substances which comprise all corporeal and incorporeal things.

The existence of soul is inferred from the fact that consciousness cannot be a property of the body, the sense organs, or the mind. Though the soul is all pervading, its life of knowing, feeling, and willing resides only where the body is. The plurality of souls is inferred from their differences in status and their variety of conditions. Each soul experiences the consequences of its own deeds, and the Vaisesika system uses this fact as proof of the plurality of souls. Each soul has its characteristic individuality (visesa). Even the freed souls exist with specific features.

The Vaisesika adopts the atomic view. Things are composed of invisible ~eternal atoms which are incapable of division. There are four kinds of atoms: earth, water, light, and air.

The Vaisesika has been regarded as non theistic. Kanada (or Kasyapa), the author of the Vaisesika Sutra (much older than Nyaya but later than 300 B.C.), does not mention God, but later commentators felt that the immutable atoms could not by themselves produce an ordered universe unless a presiding God regulated their activities. The authorship of the Vedas and the conventions of the meanings of words also require us to postulate a prime mover. The world cannot be explained by the activities of the atoms alone or by the operation of karma. The system therefore adopts the view of God which is found in the Nyaya.

The selections are taken from (A) The Vaisesik Sutras of Kanada, with the Commentary of Samkara Misra, extracts from the Gloss ofJayanarayana, and the Bhasya of Candrakanta, translated by Nandalal Sinha, The Sacred Books of the Hindus, vi (Allahabad: The Panini Office, 2nd ed., 1923); (B) The Padarthadharmasamgraha of Prasastapada (4th century A.D.), with the Nyayakandali(A.D. 991) of Sridhara, translated by Ganganatha Jha (Allahabad: E. J. Lazarus & Co., 1916).

Topics, such as logic and related subjects, which are treated extensively in the selections from the Nyaya system are not included in any detail here.