A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

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

This page describes the philosophy of dissolution (pralaya) and creation (srshti): a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the eleventh part in the series called the “the nyaya-vaisheshika philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 11 - Dissolution (Pralaya) and Creation (Srṣṭi)

The docrine of pralaya is accepted by all the Hindu systems except the Mīmāṃsā[1]. According to the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika view Īśvara wishing to give some respite or rest to all living beings desires to bring about dissolution (saṃhāreccho bhavati). Simultaneously with it the adṛṣṭa force residing in all the souls and forming bodies, senses, and the gross elements, ceases to act (śakti-pratibandha). As a result of this no further bodies, senses, or other products come into being. Then for the bringing about of the dissolution of all produced things (by the desire of Īśvara) the separation of the atoms commences and thus all combinations as bodies or senses are disintegrated; so all earth is reduced to the disintegrated atomic state, then all ap, then all tejas and then all vāyu. These disintegrated atoms and the souls associated with dharma, adharma and past impressions (saṃskāra) remain suspended in their own inanimate condition. For we know that souls in their natural condition are lifeless and knowledgeless, non-intelligent entities. It is only when these are connected with bodies that they possess knowledge through the activity of manas. In the state of pralaya owing to the adṛṣṭa of souls the atoms do not conglomerate. It is not an act of cruelty on the part of Īśvara that he brings about dissolution, for he does it to give some rest to the sufferings of the living beings.

At the time of creation, Īśvara wishes to create and this desire of Īśvara works in all the souls as adṛṣṭa. This one eternal desire of Īśvara under certain conditions of time (e.g. of pralaya) as accessory causes (sahakāri) helps the disintegration of atoms and at other times (e.g. that of creation) the constructive process of integration and unification of atoms for the world-creation. When it acts in a specific capacity in the diverse souls it is called adṛṣṭa. At the time of dissolution the creative function of this adṛṣṭa is suspended and at the time of creation it finds full play. At the time of creation action first begins in the vāyu atoms by the kinetic function of this adṛṣṭa, by the contact of the souls with the atoms. By such action the air atoms come in contact with one another and the dvyaṇukas are formed and then in a similar way the tryaṇukas are formed, and thus vāyu originates.

After vāyu, the ap is formed by the conglomeration of water atoms, and then the tejas atoms conglomerate and then the earth atoms. When the four elements are thus conglomerated in the gross form, the god Brahmā and all the worlds are created by Īśvara and Brahmā is directed by Īśvara to do the rest of the work. Brahmā thus arranges for the enjoyment and suffering of the fruits of diverse kinds of karma, good or bad. Īśvara brings about this creation not for any selfish purpose but for the good of all beings. Even here sorrows have their place that they may lead men to turn from worldly attachment and try for the attainment of the highest good, mukti. Moreover Īśvara arranges for the enjoyment of pleasures and the suffering of pains according to the merits and demerits of men, just as in our ordinary experience we find that a master awards prizes or punishments according to good or bad deeds[2].

Many Nyāya books do not speak of the appointment of a Brahmā as deputy for supervision of the due disposal of the fruits of karma according to merit or demerit. It is also held that pralaya and creation were brought about in accordance with the karma of men, or that it may be due to a mere play (līlā) of Īśvara. Īśvara is one, for if there were many Īśvaras they might quarrel. The will of Īśvara not only brings about dissolution and creation, but also acts always among us in a general way, for without it our karmas could not ripen, and the consequent disposal of pleasures and sorrows to us and a corresponding change in the exterior world in the form of order or harmony could not happen. The exterior world is in perfect harmony with men’s actions. Their merits and demerits and all its changes and modifications take place in accordance with merits and demerits. This desire (icchā) of Īśvara may thus be compared with the icchā of Īśvara as we find it in the Yoga system.

Footnotes and references:


The doctrine of pralaya and srsti is found only in later Nyāya-Vaiśesika works, but the sūtras of both the systems seem to be silent on the matter.


See Nyāyakandalī, pp. 48-54.

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