Hinduism - The Nyaya and Vaishesika Philosophy

Indian Philosophy

by V. R. Gandhi

1. Having finished our discussion on the Sankhya and its counterpart the Yoga philosophy we now enter upon the Nyaya of Gautama with its supplement the Vaisheshika.

The author or rather the recognized promulgator of the Nyaya philosophy is Gautama. This philosophy starts with the proposition that in order to obtain the summum bonum one must acquire the knowledge of the truth; knowledge of the truth drives away miseries, births, mundane existence, faults and false knowledge and the result is Moksha, the freedom of the soul. How can the knowledge of the truth be obtained? Gautama says: 'Knowledge of sixteen topics leads to Moksha. What are these sixteen topics? They are all connected with the process of reasoning and the laws of thought.1 We do not find in Nyaya any prominence given to the rational demonstration of the universe. This we shall find in its complement the Vaisheshika. The Nyaya therefore teaches us the method of investigation, the Vaisheshika following that method actually tries to investigate into the nature of the universe.

2. The Nyaya mode of investigation may seem very peculiar to those who are not acquainted with the Hindu mode of thinking but it is quite Indian and unique. It says that if you wish to investigate into the nature of things you must proceed first to mention Udaish, then give the Lakshan. of those things and lastly to make Pareeksha. I shall explain these terms. First you have to mention Udaish, i.e. only to name the things by their respective names. Then you have to give the Lakshan. of those things, i.e. give the differentia of those things-differentia, i.e. those qualities which belong to them only and to nothing else and which at the same time are their essential qualities, i.e. qualities without which they cannot exist. This means that after naming them you have to give their logical definitions. And thirdly you have to examine whether those definitions are right. The sixteen topics of Nyaya philosophy are treated in that way. We shall proceed with them in order.

3. The first is Praman., i.e. the means or instruments by which Pram or the right measure of any subject is to be obtained. These are the different processes by which the mind arrives at a true and accurate knowledge. These processes are four Pratyaksh, Anuman, Upman, and Shabd. We shall describe them when we come to the Vaisheshika philosophy. The second topic is Prmaiya by which is meant all the objects or subjects of right knowledge. They are twelve in number: Atma (soul), Shreer (body), Indriyas (organs or senses), Arth (objects of sense), Buddhi (understanding or intellect), Man (mind), Prvriti (activity), Dosh (faults), Praityabhav (transmigration), Phal consequences or fruits), Dukha (pain), Apvarg (emancipation). These are the twelve of which we have to get the right knowledge by any one of the four processes.

The other fourteen topics are not different categories under which things can be classed but rather regular stages through which a logical controversy is to pass. For instance, in discussing a topic there is first the state of Sanshaya or doubt about the point to be discussed. Next there must be a Pryojan or motive for discussing it. Next a drishant or a familiar example must be adduced in order that a Sidhant or established conclusion may be arrived at. These four with the former two Prman. and Prmaiya, make up six. The seventh is Avayava, i.e. the argument of the objector split up. The eighth is Tark or refutation of his objection. The ninth is NirNyaya or coming to a conclusion. But this is not enough for the Nyaya philosopher. He thinks that every side of a question must be examined, every possible objection stated and so a further Vad or controversy takes place which of course leads to Jalpa (mere wrangling), followed by Vitanda (caviling), Haitvabhas (fallacious reasoning), Chhala (quibbling artifices), Jati futile replies), and Nigrahsthan (the putting an end to all discussion by a demonstration of the objector's incapacity for argument). These are Gautama's sixteen topics.

4. The most important part of the [philosophy] is the Vaisheshika system. The Nyaya of Gautama does not aim at a {demonstration of the] universe. The aim of every [philosophy] ought to be to give an [analytical] demonstration of the [universe, it being] the way for obtaining the summum bonum. The Nyaya only mentions the objects or subjects to be known but it is Kanada, the author of the Vaisheshika, who tries to analyze the things and then lays down that final liberation- the summum bonum -follows the right understanding of things. His method is that of generalization. He arranges all the nameable objects, their properties or abstractions even, under seven categories. Let us place ourselves in his position and look at the universe as he does; then only we will be able to understand his philosophy.

5. We [observe] things around us; we see uniformity [and variety] in them. What is that [uniformity and what] is that variety? That [something which] is common to many things, which [is all- pervading] and is without beginning or end [accounts for] uniformity. Not with ..... objects, we see variety in them(?); [notwithstanding] common properties found in all of them, there is something which individualizes them. This is variety. The Vaisheshika called uniformity or generality Samanya and variety or individuality Vishaish. They are the same as genus and species. But this generality and individuality do not exist by themselves. They exist in something. That something which is the tabernacle of qualities or energies is what the Vaisheshika calls Dravya (substance). He thinks that the qualities and energies or actions are separate entities and therefore ought to be classed under separate categories. The first are what he calls Gun. (Qualities), the second are Karma (actions). We saw before that generality or individuality does not exist without a substance; so there must be some intimate relation between them; in the same manner, we do not see qualities or actions except in substances; (so) there must be an intimate relation between substances and their qualities or actions. This relation is classified by the Vaisheshika under a separate category and is named Samvay or perpetual intimate relation. Thus all the objects can be classed under six heads Dravya (substance), Gun. (Quality), Karma (actions), Samanya (generality), Vishaish (individuality) and Samvaye (the perpetual relation). There is nothing in the universe outside these six categories. In order however to include negative qualities into the nameable objects- as darkness which is the absence of light, a seventh category called Abhav or non-existence or negation of existence is added to the six mentioned before.

6. We will now proceed with these categories one by one.

(i) The first is Dravya or substance. Kanada divides them into nine classes- Prithvi (earth), Jal (water), taijasa (light), Vayu (air), Akash (ether), Kal (time), Dik (space), Atma (soul), Manas (mind). These are the nine substances, each existing as an entity. There is no substance, material or spiritual, outside these nine.

(ii) The second category is Gun. or quality. According to this philosophy there are only 24 qualities and no more. These are Roop (color), Res (savor or taste), Gandha (odor), Sparsh (tangibility), Sankhya (number), Pariman. (dimension), Prithkatv (individuality), Sanyoga (conjunction), Vibhaga (disjunction, Pratv (priority), Apratv (posteriority), (intellect), Sukha (pleasure), Dukha (pain), Ichha (desire, Dvaish (aversion), Pryatn (volition), Gurutva (gravity), Dravatv (fluidity), Snaih (viscidity), Sanskar (self-productiveness), Dharma (merit),Adharma (demerit), and Shabd (sound).

(iii)The third category action is fivefold: Utkshaipan. (Elevation or throwing upwards), Avkshaipan. (Depression or throwing downwards), Akunchan (contraction), Sanprsaran. (dilatation), and Gaman (motion in general).

(iv) The fourth category is samanya (generality). It is twofold, higher and lower. All the different objects thought different one from each other are known as substance. Their being substance is the highest generalization.5

But these different objects may be divided into several classes, each class differing from the other. All the objects included in one class have a lower generality and so on.

(v) The fifth category Vishaish (individuality) is of infinite nature. Each atom is separate from the other. And therefore there are infinite individualities.

(vi) The sixth category Samvay or intimate relation is that which exists between a substance and it qualities, between atoms and, what is formed out of them, between the whole and its parts, between atoms and what is formed out of them, between the whole and its parts, between substance and its modifications.

(vii) The seventh category is non-existence, which is very easy to understand.

7. We will examine these categories a little closer.

(a) Of the nine substances, earth, water, light and air are considered eternal and non-eternal. The atoms of these substances are eternal but their different manifestations are not eternal. With regard to the creation of the universe the Vaisheshika supports the atomic theory and states that the material universe is created out of these four elements. The Vaisheshika believe in a personal creator because they think that although the elements were here yet there must be some one to form them into different shapes. For the formation of a pot, although the clay is there, still there is the necessity of a potter. By the will of this divine power motion is imparted to the atoms and evolution follows.

(b) Besides these four elementary substances, there are five other substances-ether, time, space, soul and mind. These are eternal and all of them except mind are all- pervading, i.e. they exist everywhere. This means that the soul of every man exists as much in Chicago as in Bombay. The mind however is atomic and is connected with soul. When the soul becomes related with mind knowledge is the result; knowledge is a special characteristic of soul, but it is mind, which receives the sensation of pleasure or pain. The different senses are only the instruments of knowledge. The effects of acts are stored in the mind and they manifest themselves as pleasures and pains in future incarnations. When by the grace of god the soul acquires the right knowledge of things all miseries vanish and the supreme bliss follows.

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