Nyaya-Vaisheshika categories (Study)

by Diptimani Goswami | 2014 | 61,072 words

This page relates ‘Historical Survey of Nyaya System’ of the study on the Nyaya-Vaisheshika categories with special reference to the Tarkasangraha by Annambhatta. Both Nyaya and Vaisesika are schools of ancient Indian Philosophy, and accepted in their system various padarthas or objects of valid knowledge. This study investigates how the Tarkasamgraha reflects these categories in the combined Nyayavaisesika school.

Historical Survey of Nyāya System

The Nyāya System is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian Philosophy. The oldest name of Nyāya is Ānvikṣikī. Ānvikṣikī means the science of inquiry. It comprises Ātma-vidyā and the theory of reasons. Manu has used the term Ānvikṣikī to mean Ātmavidyā and his followers also called Ānvīkṣikī as a branch of the Vedas.[1] Kauṭilya has accepted Ānvīkṣikī as a separate branch of study over and above, Trayi (the Vedas), Vārttā (commerce) and Daṇḍanīti (polity).[2] Kauṭilya has included the Sāṃkhya, Yoga and Lokāyata in the Ānvikṣikī.[3] The time of the formation of Ānvikṣikī as a distinct branch of learning was about 650 B.C.[4] Ānvīkṣikī was called Hetu-śāstra or Hetu Vidyā as it dealt predominantly with the science of reasoning. This meaning of Ānvīkṣikī is found in the Manusaṃhitā[5], Mahābhārata[6] etc. It is also known as Tarkavidyā, the art of debate or Vāda-vidyā, the art of discussion. In later times Ānvikṣikī has come to be denoted as Nyāya-śāstra (the science of true reasoning).

The authorship of Ānvīkṣikī is ascribed to Gotama or Gautama. It is stated in the Yājñavalkyasmṛti that Nyāya is included in the fourteen principal branches of learning.[7] In the Matsya-Purāṇa it is pointed out that Nyāya vidyā along with the Vedas, proceed from the mouth of Brahmā.[8] Many tenets of Nyāya are found in the Śānti-parva of the Mahābhārata.[9]

However, there were many teachers who propounded Nyāya philosophy. It is said in the Ādiparva of the Mahābhārata that there were a number of sages in the hermitage of Kāśyapa who knew true meanings of demonstration, refutation and conclusion.[10] These sages were the early teachers of the Nyāya-śāstra. But nothing is known about these early teachers.

The Nyāya system, formulated by Gautama, is also known as Akṣapāda Darśana because another name of Gautama is Akṣapāda. Mādhavācārya designates the Nyāya system as Akṣapāda system in his Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha. The Nyāya system is atomistic, pluralistic and realistic. The meaning of the term Nyāya is right or justice.[11] Etymologically this word means ‘that by which man is guided’ (nīyate aneneti nyāyaḥ). “Nyāyaśāstra is therefore the science of right judgement or true reasoning”[12]

Vatsyāyana defines Nyāya as an examination of objects by evidences.[13] He also points Out that the distinctive characteristic of Nyāya is its critical treatment of metaphysical problems. Vācaspati points out that Nyāya signifies the critical examination of the objects of knowledge by means of the canons of logical proof.[14]

“The word Nyāya derived from the root √ ni is sometimes explained as that by which sentences and words could be interpreted as having one particular meaning and not another and on the strength of this even Vedic accents of words (which indicate the meaning of compound words by pointing out the particular kind of compound in which the words entered into combination) were called Nyāya.”[15] Another name of Nyāya system is Pramāṇaśāstra because in this we find discussion in details regarding pramāṇa. The valid knowledge is called pramā and the means by which this pramā is achieved is known as pramāṇa. Vātsyāyana states in his work that pramāṇa is the tool of knowledge.[16] Uddyotakara defines pramāṇa as the ‘upalabdhihetuḥ’ cause of knowledge.[17] He also argues that this definition may be said to be over-pervasive since the cogniser and the object cognized are also known as the cause of knowledge. He rejects this argument by saying that it is the pramāṇa by which the cogniser and the object cognized are known and hence pramāṇa is regarded as the real cause of knowledge.[18] According to Śivāditya pramāṇa is that which produces pramā or right knowledge.[19]

The history of the Nyāya system extends over many centuries. At the earliest stage it has not developed as a system but a means of arriving at the real meanings of Vedic words. There were disputations and debates among scholars to find out real meanings of the Vedic texts in earlier times. When disputations began among the supporters of different schools of thought; they tried to defeat one another by using it. Such disputations happened in the time of Upaniṣads and the art of disputation was then recognized as a subject of study which is regarded to as Vākovākya.[20] This is the earliest mention of Nyāya system.

The first systematic work of the Nyāya system is the Nyāyasūtra of Gautama or Akṣapāda. A large number of works were written after Nyāyasūtra for the development of this system. The accurate date of the Nyāyasūtra is difficult to ascertain. According to D.N. Shastri, the date of Nyāyasūtra may be put in the middle or at the close of the second century A.D.[21] This is the primary text of the Prācina Nyāya school. This work is divided into five chapters, each of which is again divided in to two sections called Āhnikas. There are a large number of Sutras.

The main subjects dealt in the Nyāyasūtra are:

  1. Pramāṇa (the means of knowledge);
  2. Prameya (the object of knowledge),
  3. Vāda (discussion),
  4. Avayava (members of a syllogism) and
  5. Anyamata-parīkṣā (the examination of the doctrines of other systems of philosophy).

This works contains an examination of various philosophical doctrines. For example, in book III, chapter II, there is a criticism of the Sāṃkhya doctrine of knowledge (buddhi) and the Bauddha doctrine of momentariness; in book IV, chapter I, there is a review of Buddhist doctrine of Sunyatā and also the Vedāntic view of Brahmapariṇāmavāda etc.

The first commentator of the Nyāyasūtra is Vātsyāyana and the name of his work is Nyāyabhāṣya. He is also known as Pakṣilasvāmin who mentioned in his work the views of the earlier Naiyāyikas. According to S.N. Dasgupta, his date is about 4th century A.D.[22] Rādhākrishnan also accepts the same date.[23]

According to Karl H. Potter,

“The Nyāyabhāṣya is not only the first commentary on the Nyāyasūtra that is still extant, it is also the first to which we find any reference”.[24] There are many commentaries on Nyāyabhāṣya.

Nyāya-vārtika is a sub-commentary on Nyāyasūtra written by Uddyotakara. The date of Uddyotakara is about 635 A.D.[25] In this commentary, the author develops many new arguments and sometimes presents new or alternative explanations for the same Sūtra. “The main object which prompted Uddyotakara to write his sub-commentary was to oppose Dignāga, Nāgārjuna and other Buddhist logicians that preceded him.”[26]

Dharmakīrti in his Nyāyabindu defended Dignāga and refuted the views of Uddyotakara. Towards the first half of the ninth century, Vācaspati Miśra tried to re-establish the Nyāya doctrines propounded by Gautama, Vātsyāyana, and Uddyotakara. He wrote Nyāyavārtikatātparyatīkā. Vācaspati was a versatile, genius and prolific writer. He wrote commentaries on the works of other philosophical schools like Sāṃkhya, Vedanta and Mīmāṃṣā. In his work, Vācaspati has established the supremacy of Nyāya on other systems by refuting the opposite views. Vācaspati does not always followed Vātsyāyana or Uddyotakara for interpreting different Sūtras of Nyāyasūtra.

Nyāyamañjarī of Jayanta Bhaṭṭa is an independent work on the Nyāyasūtra. According to Radhakrishnan, the time of Jayanta Bhaṭṭa is 10th century A.D.[27] The author’s interpretation of Nyāya doctrine is quite independent. The author has referred to many schools of Indian Philosophy like, Buddhism, Jainism, Mīmāṃṣā, Sāṃkhya, Vedānta, Śaivism etc.

Nyāyasāra of Bhāsarvajña is another important treatise. This treatise was written in about 10th century A.D.[28] In this treatise, author mentions the three pramāṇas, pratyakṣa, anumāna and śabda.[29] The author himself wrote a commentary on his work called Nyāyabhāṣya.

Udayanācārya, also known as Udayakara was one of the greatest Naiyāyikas. He flourished after Vācaspati Miśra. He was the last of Naiyāyikas who belong to the old school of Nyāya (Prācīnanyāya). After that he flourished the NavyaNyāya school. It is also said that Udayana prepared the way for emergence of NavyaNyāya. He wrote a sub-commentary named Nyāyavārtikatātparyapariśūddhi on Vācaspati’s Nyāyavārtikatātparyaṭīkā. He refuted the criticisms of the Buddhist logicians against Vācaspati Miśra in this work. Udayana also wrote some independent works on Nyāya system. In his Nyāya-kusumāñjalī, he has forwarded arguments to prove the existence of God. Another important Nyāya work of Udayana is Ātmatattvaviveka. In this work he tries to establish the Nyāya-doctrine of Soul against the attack of Buddhists. The time of Udayana is supposed to be the latter half of the11th century A.D.[30] Varadarāja wrote an important commentary named Bodhinī on Udayana’s Nyāya-kusumāñjalī.[31] Vardhamāna wrote a commentary named Prakāśa on Udayana’s Tātparyapariśuddhi.

The Tārkikarakṣā of Varadarāja is another important treatise on Nyāya system. Trilocana, a brilliant Naiyāyika wrote Nyāyamañjarī. His time is speculated as about 900 A.D.[32] Though the title Nyāyamañjarī is identical with the title of Jayanta Bhaṭṭa’s great work on Nyāya, the work is different in nature. However, it has given rise to some confusion also.

Maṇikaṇṭha Miśra wrote a work, named Nyāyaratna.It is a logical text on the argumentative aspects of Nyāya. Visvanātha’s Nyāyasūtravṛtti (17th century A.D.) is another important work of this system.[33] In this work, the author discusses the essential structure of the Nyāya syllogism.

The above mentioned treatises of Nyāya system follow the Sūtras of Gautama and maintain the spirit of these Sūtras. Thus, these works discuss religion and metaphysic together with purely logical problems. Hence, in these works we find discussions on the concept of the self and its rebirth, God and the world as also the logical problems, concerning the nature and means of knowledge etc. But later on the Nyāya works started to give stress on pure logic and dialectics. As a result there developed a new trend among the Nyāya scholars which is termed as Navya-Nyāya (Neo Logic) and the former works are regarded as Prācīna Nyāya (Old Nyāya).

Footnotes and references:


traividyebhyastrayīṃ vidyāt daṇḍanītiñca śāśvatīm/ ānvīkṣikīṃ cātmavidyāṃ vārtārambhāṃścalokataḥ// Manusaṃhitā, 7.13


ānvīkṣikī trayī vārttā daṇḍanītiśceti vidyāḥ/ Arthaśāstra, 1.2.1


sāṃkhyaṃ yogo lokāyataṃ cetyānvīkṣikī / Ibid., 1.2.2


cf. Vidyabhusana, S.C., A History of Indian Logic, p. 5


yo’vamanyeta te mule hetu-śāstrāśrayāddvijaḥ/ Manusaṃhitā, 2.11


Mahābhārata, Ādiparva, 1.67


purāṇanyāyamīmāsā dharmaśāstrāṅgamiśritāḥvedāḥ sthānāni vidyānāṃ dharmasya ca caturdaśa/ Yājñavalkyasaṃhitā, 1.3


anantarañca vaktrabhyo vedāstasya viniḥsṛtāḥ/


nyāyatantro anekāni taistairuktāni vādibhiḥ/ hetvāgamasamācārairyaduktaṃ tadupāsyatām// Mahābhārata, Sāntiparva, 21.22


nyāyatattvātmavijñānasampannair vedapāragaiḥ/ nānāvākyasamāhara samavāya viśāradaiḥ// Mahābhārata, Ādiparva, 70.42


cf. Reyana, Ruth, Dictionary of Oriental Philosophy, Vol. 1, p.136


Vidyabhusana, S.C., A History of Indian Logic, p.40


pramāṇairthaparīkṣaṇaṃ nyāyaḥ/ Nyāyabhāṣya, 1.1.1


cf. prameyādīnāṃ tāvatpadārthānāṃ … tatvajñānaṃ pramāṇatatvajñānādhīnam. Nyāyavārtikatātparyatīkā, 1.1.1


Dasgupta, S.N., A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. I, p.277


upalavdhisādhanāni pramāṇāni/ Nyāyabhāṣya, 1.1.3


Nyāyavārtika, 1.1.10


cf. pramāṇe pramātṛprameyoścaritārthatvāt … acaritārthaṃ tu pramāṇam atastadevopalavdhisādhanamiti. Ibid


pramāyogavyavacchinnaṃ pramāṇam/ Saptapadārthī, p. 73


Shastri, D.N., The Philosophy of Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika and Its Conflict with the


cf. Dasgupta, S.N., A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. I, p.307


cf. Radhakrishnan, S., Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, p.38


Potter, Karl H., Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, p.239


cf. Vidyabhusana, S.C., A History of Indian Logic, p.124


Vidyabhusana, S.C., Ibid., p.125


cf. Radhakrishnan, S., Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, p. 40






cf. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, p. 523


Radhakrishnan, S., Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, p. 26


cf. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, p. 396


Radhakrishnan, S., Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, p. 27

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