, or , (Sanskrit:वैशॆषिक
) is one of the six Hindu
schools of philosophy
systems) of India. Historically, it has been closely associated with the Hindu school of logic
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 (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, 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 holism
evident in the ancient texts mandate the identification of six
separate traditional environments of philosophy, consisting of
three sets of two pairs.
Literature of Vaisheshika
The earliest systematic exposition of the Vaisheshika is found in the of (or ). This treatise is divided into ten books. The two commentaries on the , and are no more extant. ’s (c. 4th century AD) is the next important work of this school. Though commonly known as of , this treatise is basically an independent work on the subject. The next Vaisheshika treatise, Candra’s (648 AD) based on ’s treatise is available only in Chinese translation. The earliest commentary available on ’s treatise is ’s (8th century). The other three commentaries are ’s (991 AD), Udayana’s (10th century) and ’s (11th century). ’s which also belongs to the same period, presents the and the principles as a part of one whole. ’s on is also an important work.
The categories or padartha
According to the Vaisheshika school, all things which exist, which can be cognised, and which can be named are s (literal meaning: the meaning of a word), the objects of experience. All objects of experience can be classified into six categories, dravya
(substance), (quality), karma
(activity), (generality), (particularity) and (inherence). Later s (and Udayana and ) added one more category (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 (product of intellectual discrimination) and they are logical categories.
1.Dravya (substance): The substances are conceived as 9 in number. They are, (earth), ap (water), tejas (fire), (air), , (time), dik (space), (self) and manas (mind). The first five are called s, the substances having some specific qualities so that they could be perceived by one or the other external senses.
2. (quality): The mentions 17 s (qualities), to which added another 7. While a substance is capable of existing independently by itself, a (quality) cannot exist so. The original 17 s (qualities) are, (colour), rasa (taste), gandha (smell), (touch), (number), (size), (inidividuality), (conjunction), (disjunction), paratva (priority), aparatva (posteriority), buddhi (knowledge), sukha (pleasure), (pain), (desire), (aversion) and prayatna (effort). To these added gurutva (heaviness), dravatva (fluidity), sneha (viscosity), dharma (merit), adharma (demerit), (sound) and (faculty).
3.Karma (activity): The karmas (activities) like s (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. , (time), dik (space) and (self), though substances, are devoid of karma (activity).
4. (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 .
5. (particularity): By means of , we are able to perceive substances as different from one another. As the ultimate atoms are innumerable so are the s.
6. (inherence): defined as the relation between the cause and the effect. 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 is not perceivable but only inferable from the inseparable connection of the substances.
Epistemology and syllogism
The early epistemology considered only pratyaksha
) and (inference
) as the s (means of valid knowledge). The other two means of valid knowledge accepted by the Nyaya
school, (comparison) and (verbal testimony) were considered as included in . The syllogism of the school was similar to that of the Nyaya
, but the names given by to the 5 members of syllogism are different.
The atomic theory
The early texts presented the following syllogism to prove that all objects i.e. the four s, (earth), ap
(fire) and (air) are made of indivisible 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 s (atoms).
According to the school, the (dust particles visible in the sunbeam coming through a small window hole) are the smallest mahat (perceivable) particles and defined as s (triads). These are made of three parts, each of which are defined as (dyad). The s are conceived as made of two parts, each of which are defined as (atom). The s (atoms) are indivisible and eternal, it can neither be created nor destroyed. Each (atom) possesses its own distinct (individuality).
Over the centuries, the school merged with the Nyaya
school of Indian philosophy to form the combined school of . The school suffered a natural decline in India
after the 15th century.