Vaisheshika Darshana By Maharshi Kanada: Highlights

By Prof. Vd. Rangaprasad Bhat
Maharshi KaNAda is considered to be the propounder of the vasisheshika darshana shastra. The KaNAda darshan is getting referred by the name of Oulukya darshan in the work of Sriharsha named – “NaiShedha”.  The vaishesika darshana has 370 verses which have been divided ino 10 adhyayas/ chapters. PrasashtapAdabhAShya is one of the best reference text of commentary to understand the vasihesika darshana.  

The other commentaries available over vasihesika darshana are – VyomavatI TeekA, Nyayakandali, NyAyaleelAvatee, KaNAdarahasya, SaptapadArthI, NyAyasUtravrtti etc.,

KaNAda and early VaisheShika scholars were non-theistic. However, this was common for his times since several major early versions of Hindu philosophies such as SAmkhya, NyAya, and MimAmsa along with sub-schools of Yoga and Vedanta, as well as non-Vedic schools such as Jainism and Buddhism, was similarly non-theistic. KaNAda was among the sages of India who believed in man’s potential to understand existence and reach moksha on his own, without God.

In the fifth chapter of Vaisheshika Sutra, KaNAda mentions various empirical observations and natural phenomena such as the falling of objects to ground, rising of fire and heat upwards, the growth of grass upwards, the nature of rainfall and thunderstorms, the flow of liquids, the movement towards a magnet among many others, asks why these things happen, then attempts to integrate his observations with his theories on atoms, molecules and their interaction. He classifies observed events into two: those caused by volition, and those caused by subject-object conjunctions

The concept of aNu:-
KaNAda came up with the idea that aNu (atom) was an indestructible particle of matter. An interesting story states that this theory occurred to him while he was walking with food in his hand. As he nibbled at the food in his hand, throwing away the small particles, it occurred to him that he could not divide the food into further parts and thus the idea of a matter which cannot be divided further came into existence. He called that indivisible matter aNu. He also stated that aNu can have two states — absolute rest and a state of motion.

KaNAda in his sutras enumerates real entities irrespective of whether they can be perceived through the sense organs or not. These are conceivable by the mind of the observer who is central to his world. These are the nine dravyas and they alone can influence everything existing in the universe. These are the building blocks of KaNAda’s world described through their guNAs/attributes and karma/motion. Space is one among these nine and KaNAda recognizes it as an independent positive entity, which is neither absence of matter nor an abstract concept. Every dravya has an identifier the linga, which helps identify the specific dravya, besides which it has a unique set of guNA /attributes associated with it.

पृथिव्यापःतेजो वायुराकाशं कालो दिगात्मा मन इित द्रव्याणि॥ १।१।५॥
पृथ्वि (earth)
आपः (water)
तेजः (fire)
वायुः (air)
आकाशं (space)
कालः (time)
दिक् (direction)
आत्मा (AtmA)
मन (mind)
are those nine dravyas which get  highlighted by KaNAda.

The afore mentioned dravyas have specific guNAs attributed to them like the Dravya prthvi has smell associated as the primary guNA to it; the ap dravya has taste attributed as the primary guNA.

Earth element  (Pruthvi) is related with Olfaction – smell perception.
Water element (Jala or aap) is related with gustation – taste perception
Fire element (Teja) is related with vision
Air element (Vayu) is related with touch perception.
Ether / vacuum is related with hearing.

Time, space, soul and mind (Dik, kAla, Atma, manas) are the eternal or nitya dravyas. None of these could be perceived and sensed by any of the sensory organs, so specifies the Vaisheshika darshana.

In sutra 5.2.21, he states that Mind alone is capable of perceiving the dik,kAla & Atma by being in constant motion inter-depenedent with each other.

The mind too, being aNu, (imperceptibly small) is not visible to one’s naked eyes – verse 7.1.23 states as above.
It may be understood that it is the first four of the dravyas out of the above nine are capable of motion.

Dik & KAla :-
इत इदिमित यतः तद् दिश्यं लिङ्गं ॥ २।२।१०॥
That which gives rise to cognition as “This is from this,”  denotes the  direction – 2.2.10

The guNAs of paratva – aparatva (proximity – remoteness), with relevance to kAla/  time can signify two objects co-existing at the same point of time or being separated by the factor of time.It can be illustrated with the movement of the sun. Where in the object remains in the same place, but the movement of the sun which denotes the time, gives an visual effect as if the object has moved from its stationary position, when one looks into the shade of the stationary (paratva) object moving to a distant palce (aparatva)

Though it reflects that the time/ kAla is dependent on sun’s movement, the dravya has to have an independent existence by definition. The concept of ‘simultaneity’ in time (as in sutra 2.2.6 commentary) indicates the movement in sun and not vice-versa (that of the dravya).

kAryakAraNa bhAva:-
कारणभावात कार्यभावः ॥४।१।३॥
The existence (kArya) is the result of cause (kAraNa).

The saDpadArthAs:
धर्मविशेष प्रसूतात् द्रव्य-गुण-कर्म-सामान्य-विशेष-समवायानां, पदार्थानां साधर्म्य वैधर्म्याभ्यां तत्व ज्ञान निःश्रेयसं ||  वै.द.१/४ ||

Prof.Vd.A.Rangaprasad Bhat
Padmanilayam”, (Ayurveda & Non Conventional Marma Chikitsa Clinic) 49/46, Kanagaraya Malaiyappan St, Raja Annamalaipuram, Mandavelipakkam, Chennai- 600028.

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