A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of caraka, nyaya sutras and vaisheshika sutras: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the sixth part in the series called the “the nyaya-vaisheshika philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 6 - Caraka, Nyāya sūtras and Vaiśeṣika sūtras

When we compare the Nyāya sūtras with the Vaiśeṣika sūtras we find that in the former two or three different streams of purposes have met, whereas the latter is much more homogeneous. The large amount of materials relating to debates treated as a practical art for defeating an opponent would lead one to suppose that it was probably originally compiled from some other existing treatises which were used by Hindus and Buddhists alike for rendering themselves fit to hold their own in debates with their opponents[1]. This assumption is justified when we compare the futilities (jāti) quibbles (chala), etc., relating to disputations as found in the Nyāya sūtra with those that are found in the medical work of Caraka (78 A.D.), III. viii. There are no other works in early Sanskrit literature, excepting the Nyāya sūtra and Caraka-samhitā which have treated of these matters. Caraka’s description of some of the categories (e.g. dṛṣṭānta, prayojana, pratijñā and vitaṇḍā) follows very closely the definitions given of those in the Nyāya sūtras.

There are others such as the definitions of jalpa, chala, nigrahasthāna, etc., where the definitions of two authorities differ more. There are some other logical categories mentioned in Caraka (e.g. pratiṣṭhāpanājijñāsā, vyavasāya, vākyadoṣa, vākyapraśaṃsā, upalambha, parihāra, abhyanujñā , etc.) which are not found in the Nyāya sūtra[2]. Again, the various types of futilities (jāti) and points of opponent’s refutation (; nigrahasthāna) mentioned in the Nyāya sūtra are not found in Caraka. There are some terms which are found in slightly variant forms in the two works, e.g. aupaniya in Caraka, upamāna in Nyāya sūtra, arthāpatti in Nyāya sūtra and arthaprāpti in Caraka.

Caraka does not seem to know anything about the Nyāya work on this subject, and it is plain that the treatment of these terms of disputations in the Caraka is much simpler and less technical than what we find in the Nyāya sūtras. If we leave out the varieties of jāti and nigrahasthāna of the fifth book, there is on the whole a great agreement between the treatment of Caraka and that of the Nyāya sūtras. It seems therefore in a high degree probable that both Caraka and the Nyāya sūtras were indebted for their treatment of these terms of disputation to some other earlier work. Of these, Caraka’s compilation was earlier, whereas the compilation of the Nyāya sūtras represents a later work when a hotter atmosphere of disputations had necessitated the use of more technical terms which are embodied in this work, but which were not contained in the earlier work. It does not seem therefore that this part of the work could have been earlier than the second century A.D. Another stream flowing through the Nyāya sūtras is that of a polemic against the doctrines which could be attributed to the Sautrāntika Buddhists, the Vijñānavāda Buddhists, the nihilists, the Sāṃkhya, the Cārvāka, and some other unknown schools of thought to which we find no further allusion elsewhere.

The Vaiśeṣika sūtras as we have already seen had argued only against the Mīmāṃsā, and ultimately agreed with them on most points. The dispute with Mīmāṃsā in the Nyāya sūtras is the same as in the Vaiśeṣika over the question of the doctrine of the eternality of sound. The question of the self-validity of knowledge (svatah prāmānyavāda) and the akhyāti doctrine of illusion of the Mīmāmsists, which form the two chief points of discussion between later Mīmāṃsā and later Nyāya, are never alluded to in the Nyāya sūtras. The advocacy of Yoga methods (Nyāya sūtras, IV. ii. 38-42 and 46) seems also to be an alien element; these are not found in Vaiśeṣika and are not in keeping with the general tendency of the Nyāya sūtras, and the Japanese tradition that Mirok added them later on as Mahāmaho-pādhyāya Haraprasāda Śāstrī has pointed out[3] is not improbable.

The Vaiśeṣika sūtras, III. i. 18 and III. ii. 1, describe perceptional knowledge as produced by the close proximity of the self (ātman), the senses and the objects of sense, and they also adhere to the doctrine, that colour can only be perceived under special conditions of saṃskāra (conglomeration etc.). The reason for inferring the existence of manas from the nonsimultaneity (ayaugapadya) of knowledge and efforts is almost the same with Vaiśeṣika as with Nyāya. The Nyāya sūtras give a more technical definition of perception, but do not bring in the questions of saṃskāra or udbhūtarūpavattva which Vaiśeṣika does. On the question of inference Nyāya gives three classifications as pūrvavat, śeṣavat and sāmānyatodṛṣṭa, but no definition. The Vaiśeṣika sūtras do not know of these classifications, and give only particular types or instances of inference (V.S. III. i. 7-17, IX. ii. 1-2, 4-5). Inference is said to be made when a thing is in contact with another, or when it is in a relation of inherence in it, or when it inheres in a third thing; one kind of effect may lead to the inference of another kind of effect, and so on. These are but mere collections of specific instances of inference without reaching a general theory.

The doctrine of vyāpti (concomitance of hetu (reason) and sādhya (probandum)) which became so important in later Nyāya has never been properly formulated either in the Nyāya sūtras or in the Vaiśeṣika. Vaiśeṣika sūtra, ill. i. 24, no doubt assumes the knowledge of concomitance between hetu and sādhya (prasiddhipūrvakatvāt apadeśasya), but the technical vyāpti is not known, and the connotation of the term prasiddhipūrvakatva of Vaiśeṣika seems to be more loose than the term vyāpti as we know it in the later Nyāya. The Vaiśeṣika sūtras do not count scriptures (śabda) as a separate pramāṇa, but they tacitly admit the great validity of the Vedas. With Nyāya sūtras śabda as a pramāṇa applies not only to the Vedas, but to the testimony of any trustworthy person, and Vātsyāyana says that trustworthy persons may be of three kinds rṣi, ārya and mleccha (foreigners). Upamāna which is regarded as a means of right cognition in Nyāya is not even referred to in the Vaiśeṣika sūtras.

The Nyāya sūtras know of other pramāṇas, such as arthāpatti, sambhava and aitihya , but include them within the pramāṇas admitted by them, but the Vaiśeṣika sūtras do not seem to know them at all[4]. The Vaiśeṣika sūtras believe in the perception of negation (abhāva) through the perception of the locus to which such negation refers (IX. i. i-io). The Nyāya sūtras (II. ii. I, 2, 7-12) consider that abhāva as non-existence or negation can be perceived; when one asks another to “bring the clothes which are not marked,” he finds that marks are absent in some clothes and brings them ; so it is argued that absence or non-existence can be directly perceived[5]. Though there is thus an agreement between the Nyāya and the Vaiśeṣika sūtras about the acceptance of abhāva as being due to perception, yet their method of handling the matter is different. The Nyāya sūtras say nothing about the categories of dravya, guna, karma, viśeṣa and samavāya which form the main subjects of Vaiśeṣka discussions[6].

The Nyāya sūtras take much pains to prove the materiality of the senses. But this question does not seem to have been important with Vaiśeṣika. The slight reference to this question in VIII. ii. 5-6 can hardly be regarded as sufficient. The Vaiśeṣika sūtras do not mention the name of “Īśvara,” whereas the Nyāya sūtras try to prove his existence on eschatological grounds. The reasons given in support of the existence of self in the Nyāya sūtras are mainly on the ground of the unity of sense-cognitions and the phenomenon of recognition, whereas the Vaiśeṣika lays its main emphasis on self-consciousness as a fact of knowledge. Both the Nyāya and the Vaiśeṣika sūtras admit the existence of atoms, but all the details of the doctrine of atomic structure in later Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika are absent there. The Vaiśeṣika calls salvation nihśreyasa or mokṣa and the Nyāya apavarga. Mokṣa with Vaiśeṣika is the permanent cessation of connection with body; the apavarga with Nyāya is cessation of pain[7].

In later times the main points of difference between the Vaiśeṣika and Nyāya are said to lie with regard to theory of the notion of number, changes of colour in the molecules by heat, etc. Thus the former admitted a special procedure of the mind by which cognitions of number arose in the mind (e.g. at the first moment there is the sense contact with an object, then the notion of oneness, then from a sense of relativeness—apekṣābuddhi—notion of two, then a notion of two-ness, and then the notion of two things) ; again, the doctrine of pilupāka (changes of qualities by heat are produced in atoms and not in molecules as Nyāya held) was held by Vaiśeṣika, which the Naiyāyikas did not admit[8]. But as the Nyāya sūtras are silent on these points, it is not possible to say that such were really the differences between early Nyāya and early Vaiśeṣika. These differences may be said to hold between the later interpreters of Vaiśeṣika and the later interpreters of Nyāya. The Vaiśeṣika as we find it in the commentary of Praśastapāda (probably sixth century A.D.), and the Nyāya from the time of Udyotakara have come to be treated as almost the same system with slight variations only. I have therefore preferred to treat them together. The main presentation of the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika philosophy in this chapter is that which is found from the sixth century onwards.

Footnotes and references:


A reference to the Suvarṇaprabhāsa sūtra shows that the Buddhist missionaries used to get certain preparations for improving their voice in order to be able to argue with force, and they took to the worship of Sarasvatī (goddess of learning), who they supposed would help them in bringing readily before their mind all the information and ideas of which they stood so much in need at the time of debates.


Like Vaiśesika, Caraka does not know the threefold division of inference (anumāna) as pūrvaval, śeṣavat and sāmānyalodṛṣṭa.


J.A.S.B. 1905.


The only old authority which knows these Pramāṇas is Caraka. But he also gives an interpretation of sambhava which is different from Nyāya and calls arthāpatti arthaprāpti (Caraka ill. viii.).


The details of this example are taken from Vātsyāyana’s commentary.


The Nyāya sūtra no doubt incidentally gives a definition of jāti as “samānaprasavatmikā jātiḥ ” (H. ii. 71).


Professor Vanamālī Vedāntatīrtha quotes a passage from Samkṣepaśañkarajaya, xvi. 68-69 in /.A.S.B., 1905, and another passage from a Nyāya writer Bhāsarvajña, pp. 39-41, in J. A. S. B., 1914, to show that the old Naiyāyikas considered that there was an element of happiness (suMa) in the state of mukti (salvation) which the Vaiśe-sikas denied. No evidence in support of this opinion is found in the Nyāya or the Vaiśeṣika sū/ras, unless the cessation of pain with Nyāya is interpreted as meaning the presence of some sort of bliss or happiness.


See Mādhava’s Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha-Aulūkyadarśana.