Contribution of Vachaspati-Mishra to Samkhya System

by Sasikumar. B | 2017 | 35,637 words

This page relates ‘Vacaspati Mishra—Works on Nyaya-Vaisheshika’ of the research on the Sankhya [Samkhya] school of Indian philosophy with special reference to the contribution of Vachaspati-Mishra. The study includes concepts such as Epistemology (validity and worth of knowledge), Ontology (theory of being or reality), Psychology (science of behavior and mind), Phenomenology (the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness) and Ethics (the removal of errors), all forming an essential part of Samkhya philosophy.

Chapter 2.1 - Vācaspati Miśra—Works on Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika

Vācaspati Miśra has actually written two works on Nyāya philosophy. One is Nyāyavārtikatātparyaṭīkā and the other is Nyāyasūcīnibandha. Generally, the term Nyāya means argument.[1] The origin of Nyāya can be traced to the disputations among scholars in the interpretations of Vedic texts.


Dharmakīrti and several other Buddhist logicians[2] having compiled treatises subversive of the interpretations of Vātsyāyana and Udyotakara, Vācaspati Miśra wrote, in support of the Brāhmaṇa commentators, an elaborate gloss on the Nyāyavārtika called the Nyāyavārtikatātparyaṭīkā. He has written a lucid commentary on the Nyāyavārtika of Udyotakara. As the author himself says, the aim in writing his Tātparyaṭīkā on the Nyāyavārtika was to acquire merit by restoring the very old teachings of Udyotakara which had been overwhelmed by the unassailable wrong reasoning of the Buddhist. It is to be noted here that Udyotakara had established a school of his own by subjecting the Buddhist views to criticism. But the tradition established by Udyotakara had almost crumbled due to the severe attacks of the Buddhist logicians like Dharmakīrti and others. It must be stated in the credit of Vācaspati Miśra that the tradition of Udyotakara was restored by his efforts. Thus, it is due to Vācaspati Miśra alone, the search of the Nyāya philosophy could be fully restored to posterity.

In the Nyāyavārtikatātparyaṭīkā, Vācaspati Miśra mentions four schools of Buddhist philosophy,[3] viz., Mādhyamika, Yogācāra, Sautrāntika and the Vaibhāṣika including the doctrine of the Vātsīputrīya sect; and repeatedly criticizes Diṅgnāga and Dharmakīrti.[4] Dharmakīrti’s view that there are only two kinds of the point of defeat (nigrahasthāna) occurs respectively. When one adduces a reason which is not a proper one (asādhanāṅgavacana) and when one alleges a defect in that where there is really no defect (adoṣodbhāvana).

Vācaspati Miśra says that sage Akṣapāda too laid down two kinds of the point of defeat which occur respectively. When one misunderstand an argument (Vipratipatti) or does not understand it at all (apratipatti). While in respect of the division of the point of defeat into two kinds the view of Dharmakīrti does not differ from that of Akṣapāda, the two kinds as laid down by the latter are clearer than those laid down by the former. For instance non-ingenuity (apratibhāna), which consists in one's inability to hit upon a reply, is recognized as a point of defeat, but it is included rather in the two kinds of the point of defeat laid down by Akṣapāda than in those laid down by Kīrti.[5]

According to Naiyāyikas, the Upādānakāraṇa of the world is constituted by the atoms and God is the Nimittakāraṇa. There is no incompatibility in this statement, even though the carpenter is helped and influenced by the axe, yet the axe is made by him. According to Vācaspati Miśra, the argument put forward in sūtra 4.1.20,[6] has no power against the view of the world, and is the work of God as assisted by men's actions. While it is an effective argument against the view that in creating the world, God does not require any help outside himself. Thus, Vācaspati Miśra gives a perfect shape to the pūrvapakṣa and the siddhānta view regarding the cause of the world from the point of view of the Naiyāyikas.


This work is a valuable contribution to the Nyāyaśāstra, in as much as it presents the correct version of the sūtras of Gautama. As the author himself has stated, this was an attempt at restoring the text of the Nyāyasūtras in their proper form and sequence, when it was subjected to severe ill-treatment by the Buddhists who tried to distort and twist the sūtras.[7] The aim of the author in writing that book was to have before himself the correct version of the Sūtra work before proceeding to write his commentary on the Nyāyavārtika.

This is clear from the following remark at the end of this work:

yadalambhi kimapi puṇyaṃ duṣṭarakunibandhapaṅkamagnānām
śrīgotamasunavināṃ atijaratināṃ samuddharaṇāt |[8]

Thus Vācaspati Miśra has restored the Nyāyasūtras as well as the Nyāyavārtika from the mud of wrong reasoning of the Buddhists through his two works Nyāyasūcīnibandha and Nyāyavārtikatātparyaṭīkā.

Footnotes and references:


M.M. Gangadhar Sastri: Nyāyavārtikatātparyaṭīkā, opening lines


In order to prevent interpolations into the Nyāyasūtra,

Vācaspati Miśra compiled an index of the sūtras of the work called Nyāyasūcīnibandha


Nyāyavārtikatātparyaṭīkā, 1.1.23, 1.2.1, etc.


Ibid, 1.1.1, 1.1.4, 1.1.5, etc.


na puruṣakarmābhāve phalaniṣpatteḥ| Nyāyasūtra, 4.1.20


S.Ranganath: Contribution of Vācaspati Miśra to Indian Philosophy, p.7


Vācaspati Miśra: Nyāyavārtikatātparyaṭīkā, p. 700

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