A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

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

This page describes the philosophy of the six padarthas (dravya, guna, karma, samanya, vishesha, samavaya): a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the ninth part in the series called the “the nyaya-vaisheshika philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 9 - The six Padārthas: Dravya, Guṇa, Karma, Sāmānya, Viśeṣa, Samavāya

Of the six classes of entities or categories (padārtha) we have already given some account of dravya[1]. Let us now turn to the others.

1) Of the qualities (guna) the first one called rūpa (colour) is that which can be apprehended by the eye alone and not by any other sense. The colours are white, blue, yellow, red, green, brown and variegated (citra). Colours are found only in kṣiti, ap and tejas. The colours of ap and tejas are permanent (nitya), but the colour of kṣiti changes when heat is applied, and this, Śrīdhara holds, is due to the fact that heat changes the atomic structure of kṣiti (earth) and thus the old constitution of the substance being destroyed, its old colour is also destroyed, and a new one is generated. Rūpa is the general name for the specific individual colours. There is the genus rūpatva (colourness), and the rūpa guṇa (quality) is that on which rests this genus; rūpa is not itself a genus and can be apprehended by the eye.

2) The second is rasa (taste), that quality of things which can be apprehended only by the tongue; these are sweet, sour, pungent (kaṭu), astringent (kaṣāya) and bitter (tikta). Only kṣiti and ap have taste. The natural taste of ap is sweetness. Rasa like rūpa also denotes the genus rasatva, and rasa as quality must be distinguished from rasa as genus, though both of them are apprehended by the tongue.

3) The third is gandha (odour), that quality which can be apprehended by the nose alone. It belongs to kṣiti alone. Water or air is apprehended as having odour on account of the presence of earth materials.

4) The fourth is sparśa (touch), that quality which can be apprehended only by the skin. There are three kinds of touch, cold, hot, neither hot nor cold. Sparśa belongs to kṣiti; ap, tejas, and vāyu.

5) The fifth śabda (sound) is an attribute of ākāśa. Had there been no ākāśa there would have been no sound.

6) The sixth is saṃkhyā (number), that entity of quality belonging to things by virtue of which we can count them as one, two, three, etc. The conception of numbers two, three, etc. is due to a relative oscillatory state of the mind (apekṣābuddhi); thus when there are two jugs before my eyes, I have the notion—This is one jug and that is another jug. This is called apekṣābuddhi; then in the two jugs there arises the quality of twoness (dvitva) and then an indeterminate perception (nirvikalpa-dvitva-guṇa) of dvitva in us and then the determinate perceptions that there are the two jugs. The conceptions of other numbers as well as of many arise in a similar manner[2].

7) The seventh is parimiti (measure), that entity of quality in things by virtue of which we perceive them as great or small and speak of them as such. The measure of the partless atoms is called parimaṇḍala parimāṇa ; it is eternal, and it cannot generate the measure of any other thing. Its measure is its own absolutely; when two atoms generate a dyad (dvyanuka) it is not the measure of the atom that generates the aṇu (atomic) and the hrasva (small) measure of the dyad molecule (dvyanuka), for then the size (parimāṇa) of it would have been still smaller than the measure of the atom (parimaṇḍala), whereas the measure of the dyanuka is of a different kind, namely the small (hrasva)[3]. Of course two atoms generate a dyad, but then the number (saṃkhyā) of the atom should be regarded as bringing forth a new kind of measure, namely the small (hrasva) measure in the dyads. So again when three dyads (dyaṇuka) compose a tryaṇuka the number and not the measure “small” (hrasva) of the dyad is the cause of the measure “great” (mahat) of the tryaṇuka. But when we come to the region of these gross tryaṇukas we find that the “great” measure of the tryaṇukas is the cause of the measure of other grosser bodies composed by them. For as many tryaṇukas constitute a gross body, so much bigger does the thing become. Thus the cumulation of the tryaṇukas of mahat parimāṇa makes things of still more mahat pari-māṇa.

The measure of tryaṇukas is not only regarded as mahat but also as dīrgha (long) and this dīrgha parimāṇa has to be admitted as coexisting with mahat parimāṇa but not identical, for things not only appear as great but also as long (dīrgha). Here we find that the accumulation of tryaṇukas means the accumulation of “great” (mahat) and “long” (dīrgha) parimāṇa, and hence the thing generated happens to possess a measure which is greater and longer than the individual atoms which composed them. Now the hrasva parimāṇa of the dyads is not regarded as having a lower degree of greatness or length but as a separate and distinct type of measure which is called small (hrasva). As accumulation of grossness, greatness or length, generates still more greatness, grossness and length in its effect, so an accumulation of the hrasva (small) parimāṇa ought to generate still more hrasva parimāṇa, and we should expect that if the hrasva measure of the dyads was the cause of the measure of the tryaṇukas, the tryaṇukas should be even smaller than the dyaṇukas. So also if the atomic and circular (parimaṇḍala) size of the atoms is regarded as generating by their measure the measure of the dyaṇukas, then the measure of the dyaṇukas ought to be more atomic than the atoms.

The atomic, small, and great measures should not be regarded as representing successively bigger measures produced by the mere cumulation of measures, but each should be regarded as a measure absolutely distinct, different from or foreign to the other measure. It is therefore held that if grossness in the cause generates still more greatness in the effect, the smallness and the parimaṇḍala measure of the dyads and atoms ought to generate still more smallness and subtleness in their effect. But since the dyads and the tryaṇuka molecules are seen to be constituted of atoms and dyads respectively, and yet are not found to share the measure of their causes, it is to be argued that the measures of the atoms and dyads do not generate the measure of their effects, but it is their number which is the cause of the measure of the latter.

This explains aṇuparimāṇa, hrasva parimāṇa, mahat parimāṇa, and dīrgha parimāṇa. The parimāṇa of ākāśa, kāla, dik and ātman which are regarded as all-pervasive, is said to be paramamahat (absolutely large). The parimāṇas of the atoms, ākāśa, kāla, dik, manas, and ātman are regarded as eternal (nitya). All other kinds of parimāṇas as belonging to non-eternal things are regarded as non-eternal.

8) The eighth is pṛthaktva (mutual difference or separateness of things), that entity or quality in things by virtue of which things appear as different (e.g. this is different from that). Difference is perceived by us as a positive notion and not as a mere negation such as this jug is not this pot.

9) The ninth is saṃyoga (connection), that entity of guṇa by virtue of which things appear to us as connected.

10) The tenth is vibhāga (separation), that entity of guṇa which destroys the connection or contact of things.

11) The eleventh and twelfth guṇas, paratva and aparatva, give rise in us to the perceptions of long time and short time, remote and near.

The other guṇas such as buddhi (knowledge),sukha (happiness), duhkha (sorrow), icchā (will), dveṣa (antipathy or hatred) and yatna (effort) can occur only with reference to soul.

The characteristic of gurutva (heaviness) is that by virtue of which things fall to the ground. The guṇa of sneha (oiliness) belongs to water.

The guṇa of sainskāra is of three kinds,

  1. vega (velocity) which keeps a thing moving in different directions,
  2. sthiti-sthāpaka (elasticity) on account of which a gross thing tries to get back its old state even though disturbed,
  3. bhāvanā is that quality of ātman by which things are constantly practised or by which things experienced are remembered and recognized[4].

Dharma is the quality the presence of which enables the soul to enjoy happiness or to attain salvation[5]. Adharma is the opposite quality, the presence of which in the soul leads a man to suffer. Adṛṣṭa or destiny is that unknown quality of things and of the soul which brings about the cosmic order, and arranges it for the experience of the souls in accordance with their merits or demerits.

Karma means movement; it is the third thing which must be held to be as irreducible a reality as dravya or guṇa.

There are five kinds of movement,

  1. upward,
  2. downward,
  3. contraction,
  4. expansion,
  5. movement in general.

All kinds of karmas rest on substances just as the guṇas do, and cause the things to which they belong to move.

Sāmānya is the fourth category. It means the genus, or aspect of generality or sameness that we notice in things. Thus in spite of the difference of colour between one cow and another, both of them are found to have such a sameness that we call them cows. In spite of all diversity in all objects around us, they are all perceived as sat or existing. This sat or existence is thus a sameness, which is found to exist in all the three things, dravya, guna, and karma. This sameness is called sāmānya or jāti, and it is regarded as a separate thing which rests on dravya, guṇa, or karma. This highest genus sattā (being) is called parajāti (highest universal), the other intermediate jātis are called aparajāti (lower universals), such as the genus of dravya, of karma, or of guṇa, or still more intermediate jātis such as gotvajāti (the genus cow), nīlatvajāti (the genus blue). The intermediate jātis or genera sometimes appear to have a special aspect as a species, such as paśutva (animal jāti) and gotva (the cow jāti); here however gotva appears as a species, yet it is in reality nothing but a jāti. The aspect as species has no separate existence. It is jāti which from one aspect appears as genus and from another as species. This jāti or sāmānya thus must be regarded as having a separate independent reality though it is existent in dravya, guṇa and karma.

The Buddhists denied the existence of any independent reality of sāmānya, but said that the sameness as cow was really but the negation of all non-cows (apoha). The perception of cow realizes the negation of all non-cows and this is represented in consciousness as the sameness as cow. He who should regard this sameness to be a separate and independent reality perceived in experience might also discover two horns on his own head[6]. The Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika said that negation of non-cows is a negative perception, whereas the sameness perceived as cow is a positive perception, which cannot be explained by the aforesaid negation theory of the Buddhists. Sāmānya has thus to be admitted to have a separate reality. All perception as sameness of a thing is due to the presence of this thing in that object[6]. This jāti is eternal or non-destructible; for even with the destruction of individuals comprehended within the jāti, the latter is not destroyed[7].

Through viśeṣa things are perceived as diverse. No single sensation that we receive from the external world probably agrees with any other sensation, and this difference must be due to the existence of some specific differences amongst the atoms themselves. The specific difference existing in the atoms, emancipated souls and minds must be regarded as eternally existing, and it is on account of its presence that atoms appear as different to the yogins who can perceive them.

Samavāya , the inseparable relation of inherence, is a relation by virtue of which two different things such as substance and attribute, substance and karma, substance and sāmānya, kāraṇa (cause) and kārya (effect), atoms and viśeṣa, appear so unified that they represent one whole, or one identical inseparable reality. This peculiar relation of inseparable inherence is the cause why substance, action, and attribute, cause and effect, and jāti in substance and attribute appear as indissolubly connected as if they are one and the same thing. Samyoga or contact may take place between two things of the same nature which exist as disconnected and may later on be connected (yutasiddha), such as when I put my pen on the table.

The pen and the table are both substances and were disconnected; the saṃyoga relation is the guṇa by virtue of which they appear to be connected for a while. Samavāya however makes absolutely different things such as dravya and guṇa and karma or kāraṇa and kārya (clay and jug) appear as one inseparable whole (ayutasiddhd). This relation is thus a separate and independent category. This is not regarded as many like saṃyogas (contact) but as one and eternal because it has no cause. This or that object (e.g. jug) may be destroyed but the samavāya relation which was never brought into being by anybody always remains[8].

These six things are called the six padārthas or independent realities experienced in perception and expressed in language.

Footnotes and references:


The word “padārtha” literally means denotations of words.


This is distinctively a Vaiśesika view introduced by Praśastapāda. Nyāya seems to be silent on this matter. See Śaṅkara Miśra’s Upaskāra , vu. ii. 8.


  It should be noted that the atomic measure appears in two forms as eternal as i “paramāṇus” and non-eternal as in the dvyaṇuka. The parimaṇḍala parimāṇa is thus a variety of aṇuparimāṇa. The aṇuparimāṇa and the brasvaparimāṇa represent the two dimensions of the measure of dvyaṇukas as mahat and dīrgha are with reference to tryaṇukas. See Nyāyakandalī, p. 133.


Praśastapāda says that bhāvanā is a special characteristic of the soul, contrary to intoxication, sorrow and knowledge, by which things seen, heard and felt are remembered and recognized. Through unexpectedness (as the sight of a camel for a man of South India), repetition (as in studies, art etc.) and intensity of interest, the saṃskāra becomes particularly strong. See Nyāyakandalī, p. 267. Kanāda however is silent on these points. lie only says that by a special kind of contact of the mind with soul and also by the saṃskāra, memory (smṛti) is produced (ix. 2. 6).


Praśastapāda speaks of dharma (merit) as being a quality of the soul. Thereupon Śrīdhara points out that this view does not admit that dharma is a power of karma (na karmasāmarthyain). Sacrifice etc. cannot be dharma for these actions being momentary they cannot generate the effects which are only to be reaped at a future time. If the action is destroyed its power (sāmarthya) cannot last. So dharma is to be admitted as a quality generated in the self by certain courses of conduct which produce happiness for him when helped by certain other conditions of time, place, etc. Faith (śraddhā), non-injury, doing good to all beings, truthfulness, non-stealing, sex-control, sincerity, control of anger, ablutions, taking of pure food, devotion to particular gods, fasting, strict adherence to scriptural duties, and the performance of duties assigned to each caste and stage of life, are enumerated by Praśastapāda as producing dharma. The person who strictly adheres to these duties and the yarnas and tiiyamas (cf. Patañjali’s Yoga) and attains Yoga by a meditation on the six padārthas attains a dharma which brings liberation (mokṣa). Śrīdhara refers to the Sāṃkhya-Yoga account of the method of attaining salvation (Nyāyakandalī , pp. 272-280). See also Vallabha’s Nyāyalīlāvatī , pp. 74-75. (Bombay, 1915.)


The Buddhist Panditāśoka says that there is no single thing running through different individuals (e.g. cooks) by virtue of which the sāmānya could be established. For if it did exist then we could have known it simply by seeing any cook without any reference to his action of cooking by virtue of which the notion of generality is formed. If there is a similarity between the action of cooks that cannot establish jāti in the cooks, for the similarity applies to other things, viz. the action of the cooks. If the specific individualities of a cow should require one common factor to hold them together, then these should require another and that another, and we have a regressus ad infinitum. Whatever being perceptible is not perceived is non-existent (yadyadnpalabdhilakṣaṇaprāptam sannopalabhyate tattadasat). Sāmānya is such, therefore sāmānya is non-existent. No sāmānya can be admitted to exist as an entity. But it is only as a result of the impressions of past experiences of existence and non-existence that this notion is formed and transferred erroneously to external objects. Apart from this no sāmānya can be pointed out as being externally perceptible— Sāviānyadūṣaṇadikprasāritā —in Six Buddhist Nyāya Tracts. The Vedānta also does not think that either by perception or by inference we can know jāti as a separate substance. So it discards jāti. See Vedāntaparibhāṣā, Śikhāmaṇi and Maṇi-prabhā , pp. 69-71. See also Sriharsa’s Khaṇḍanakhaṇḍakhādya , pp. 1079-1086.


Similarity (sādṛśya) is not regarded as a separate category, for it is defined as identity in difference (tadbhinnatve sali tadgatabhūyodharmavattvani).


The Vedānta does not admit the existence of the relation of samavāya as subsisting between two different entities (e.g. substance and qualities). Thus Śaṅkara says (Brahma-sūtrabhāṣya II. ii. 13) that if a samavāya relation is to be admitted to connect two different things, then another samavāya would be necessary to connect it with either of the two entities that it intended to connect, and that another, and so there will be a vicious infinite (anavastkā). Nyāya, however, would not regard it as vicious at all. It is well to remember that the Indian systems acknowledge two kinds of anavasthā —prāmāṇikī (valid infinite, as in case of the question of the seed and the tree, or of the avidyā and the passions), and another aprāmāṇikī anavasthā (vicious infinite) as when the admission of anything involves an infinite chain before it can be completed.

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