Nyaya-Vaisheshika categories (Study)

by Diptimani Goswami | 2014 | 61,072 words

This page relates ‘Historical Survey of Vaisheshika 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 Vaiśeṣika System

The Vaiśeṣika system advocates Dualistic Realism. It is said that this system has been founded on a Ṛk ascribed to the Seer Dīrghatamas. The Ṛk narrates that two birds which are intimate friends, reside in the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruits, while the other without eating just looks on.[1] The dualistic philosophers are influenced by this Ṛk which implies the distinction between the individual self and the Supreme self.

The founder of this system is Kaṇāda. The name Kaṇāda has been variously interpreted. It is said that he had lived on grains of corn which are scattered in the field.[2] It is also assumed that Kaṇāda is a nickname which he got because of his propagation of the theory of atoms. According to his name Kaṇāda, this system is also known as Kaṇāda Darśana. The name of this system Vaiśeṣika is derived from the word Viśeṣa. Viśeṣa as a separate category is discussed broadly in this system.[3] We do not find this category in any other system of Indian Philosophy. So, Kaṇāda’s philosophy has come to be known as Vaiśeṣika system.

Max Müller says:

“It may be that the name of Vaisheshika was given to Kaṇāda’s philosophy from the differences, or Visheshas which he established between substances, qualities and action, or it may from Vishesha as a name of individual things is applicable, therefore, to atoms. But this, in the absence of decisive evidence must for the present remain undetermined.”[4]

Kaṇāda was born in a Kāśyapa family and he was the worshipper of Śiva. His another name was Ulūka. Therefore, this system is also known as Aulūkya Darśana or Kāśyapa Darśana.[5]

Radhakrishnan states that:

“The Vaiśeṣika is essentially a philosophy of distinctions, since it does not tolerate any attempt at dissipating the independence of selves and objects in a supposed more perfect individually. Its standpoint is more scientific than speculative, more analytic than synthetic”.[6]

The Vaiśeṣika system gives stress on the plurality and distinctness of physical things and finite souls. The special feature of this system is the theory of atomism.[7]

The Vaiśeṣika Philosophy aims at theoretical understanding of the universe. This system starts as a natural philosophy. Its foundation is a doctrine of elements. Then it develops the theory of atoms which make it able to understand the whole world. The world is periodically created and destroyed by the conjunction and separation of atoms. As a result a mechanistic view of the world occurs. The main tenet of categories is developed to distinguish different kinds of existence.

There is a confusion regarding the date of Kaṇāda. We do not find any direct information about the time when he flourished. According to Radhakrishnan, the date of the Vaiśeṣika system is about fifth century B.C.[8] Mahadeo Rajaram Bodas maintains that the date of this system is about fifth or fourth century B.C.[9] According to Nandalal Sinha, the date is between the sixth and the tenth century B.C.[10]

It is generally accepted that Vaiśeṣika system is older than Nyāya. Because the Vaiśeṣika Sūtras do not show any influence of the Nyāya system. But on the other hand the Nyāya Sūtras of Gautama and the Bhāṣya of Vātsyāyana are very much influenced by the Vaiśeṣika system.[11] The Vaiśeṣika Sūtra consists of ten chapters. In the first chapter the five categories, viz. substance, quality, action, generality and particularity are discussed. In chapter II we find the different substances. The mind along with the objects of the senses and the nature of inference are discussed in chapter III. The atomic form of the Universe is the main topic of chapter IV. In chapter V discusses about the nature and kinds of action. Chapter VI discusses the ethical problems. In chapter VII, there are discussions about quality, self and inherence. The last three chapters are logical and the problems of perception, inference and causality are treated here.[12]

It is said that Rāvaṇa wrote a commentary on Vaiśeṣikasūtra named Rāvaṇabhāṣya. This work is not available now. Similarly another work called Bhāradvājavṛtti on Kaṇāda’s Sūtra is also not found now.

The earliest available commentary on Vaiśeṣikasūtra is Padārthadharmasaṃgraha by Praśastapāda. It is also known as Praśastapādabhāṣya. This work does not conform to the nature of a commentary; it is like an independent work of philosophy. The date of Praśastapāda is about the end of 4th century A.D.[13] Praśastapāda specified the list of the six categories which is found in the Vaiśeṣikasūtra.[14] According to him, to know about the categories, at first their similarities and dissimilarities must be known. Hence, he mentions about these in the beginning of his work. It is stated in the Vaiśeṣikasūtra that there are nine substances[15], seventeen qualities[16] and five motions.[17] However, in Praśastapāda’s view, seven additional gunas (qualities) are to be added to the original seventeen. According to him, qualities are twenty-four. This view is accepted by all the later philosophers of this school. In this work Praśastapāda has discussed about the theory of creation and destruction of the world, the statement of fallacies, the nature of inference etc.

Saṅkara Miśra wrote a commentary named Upaskāra on the Vaiśeṣīka Sūtra. He also wrote an independent work named Kaṇādarahasya. There are four main commentaries on Padārthadharmasaṃgraha. These are: Vyomaśivācārya’s Vyomavatī. Śrīdhara’s Nyāyakaṇḍalī, Udayana’s Kiraṇāavalī and Śrīvatsa’s Līlāvatī. Vyomavatī is probably the oldest of all the commentaries mentioned above. Vyomavatī, Kiraṇāvalī and Nyāyakaṇḍalī are three well-known and excellent commentaries which contribute to the development of this system to a great extent.

It has already been mentioned that the earliest commentator on Padārthadharmasaṃgraha was Vyomaśiva. The time of his work Vyomavatī is about 1000 A.D.[18] The name of Vyomaśiva indicates that he was a follower of Śiva. He was a resident of Kashmir. Vyomaśiva has reviewed in his work the opinions of the different schools about Mokṣa. Praśastapāda discusses six categories. According to him, non-existence is subordinate to the positive categories and as such he has not included it in the innumeration of categories. But Vyomaśiva has discussed all the seven categories. The definitions of these categories and their subdivisions given by Praśastapāda are analysed and explained in this work. Moreover, there is a detailed discussion about non-existence. Vyomaśiva proves the existence of atoms through inference. Vyomavatī was further commented upon by Paḍmanābha Miśra (1600 A.D.) in the commentary named Setu. It has another commentary named Sūkti by Jagadiśa Tarkālaṃkara (1700 A.D.).

Another important commentary on Praśastapāda’s Bhāṣya is Nyāyakaṇḍalī written by Śrīdhara. According to his own proof, he flourished in 991 A.D.[19] He was a native of the village of Bhurisṛsti in Bengal. Gopinath Kaviraj mentions that Śrīdhara wrote four works. These are: Advayasiddhi, a Vedāntic work, Tattvaprabodha, a Mīmāṃsā work Tattvasaṃvādinī and Nyāya-Kaṇḍalī.[20]

Among the commentaries on Padārthadharmasaṃgraha,

Nyāya-Kaṇḍalī of Śrīdhara on account of its simplicity of style and elaborate nature of exposition is probably the best for a modern student of Vaiśeṣika.”[21]

Śrīdhara accepts the existence of God and the category of non-existence. He again mentions in his work that Yogins get knowledge through their internal organ. He made clear Praśastapāda’s view of the relation between an instrument of knowledge and its result. Perception is also an instrument of knowledge. In this work, detailed discussion of the seven categories is found. In the conclusion he states the name of the village in which he lived, the names of his parents and the date of the composition of his work.[22]

Udayana’s Kiraṇāvalī is another important work on Praśastapāda-bhāṣya. The date of Kiraṇāvalī is about 10th century A.D.[23] Kiraṇāvalī was further commented upon by Vardhamāna (1400 A.D.) under the name of Kiraṇāvalīprakāśa and by Padmanābha Miśra under the name of Kiraṇāvalībhāṣya.[24] Udayana was contemporary of Śrīdhara. Unlike Praśastapāda who omitted non-existence, Udayana maintains that non-existence is a well-established category.Udayana does not accept the view of the Sāṃkhya, the Vijñānavādins and the Bhāṭṭas about the concept of Mokṣa. He discusses in detail seven categories and four Pramāṇas. He gives arguments to prove the existence of God.

Daśapadārthī is another work of Vaiśeṣika system. Candramati is the author of this work. He adds in this work four new padārthas to the six recognized in the Vaiśeṣikasūtra. The padārthas added by Candramati are: potentiality, nonpotentiality, commonness and non-existence.[25] He discusses in a systematic manner the categories from beginning to end.

The new additional four categories are:

  1. causal efficacy (śakti),
  2. lack of causal efficacy (aśakti),
  3. limited universal (sāmānyaviśeṣa) and
  4. absence (abhāva).

Footnotes and references:


dvā suparṇā sayujā sakhāyā samānaṃ vṛksaṃ parisaṣvajāte/ tayoranyaḥ pippalaṃ svādvatyanaśnannanyo abhi cākaśīti// Ṛgveda, 1.164.20


Chatterjee, S.C. and Datta, D.N.. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy, p.223




Vide Bahadur, K.P., The Wisedom of Vaiśeṣika p. 32


Saptapadārthī, p. v (Introduction)


Radhakrishnan, S., Indian Philosophy, Vol.II, p.157


Ibid., p. 158


Ibid., p. 160


Vide, Bahadur, K.P., The Wisdom of Vaiśeṣīka, p. 31


Vide, Ibid., p. 32


Radhakrishnan, S., Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, p.158


cf. Ibid., p.159


Sinha, Jadunath, Indian Philosophy, Vol. 1, p. 306


dravyaguṇakarmasāmānyaviśeṣasamavāyānāṃ padārthānāṃ sādharmyavaidharmyabhyāṃ … Vaiśeṣikasūtra, 1.1.4


pṛthivyāpastejo vāyurākāśaṃ kālo digātmā mana iti dravyāṇi. Ibid., 1.1.5


rūparasagandha sparśaḥ saṃkhyāḥ parimāṇāni pṛthakātvaṃ saṃyogavibhāgau paratvāparatve vuddhyāḥsukhaduḥkhe icchādveṣau prayatnāśca guṇāḥ. Ibid., 1.1.6


utkṣepaṇamavakṣepaṇamākuñcanaṃ prasāraṇaṃ gamanamiti karmāṇi. Ibid., 1.1.7


Sinha, Jadunath, Indian Philosophy, Vol. 1, p. 306


cf. Potter, Karl H., Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, p.485




Dasgupta, Surendranath, A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 1, p. 306


tasmād viśuddhaguṇaratnamahāsamudro vidyālatāsamavalamvanabhūruho’bhut/ svacchāśayo vividhakīrtinadīpravāhapraspandanottamavalo valadevanāmā// tyadhikadeśottaranavaśataśakāvde nyāyakandali / racitā śripāṇḍudāsayācitabhaṭṭaśrīsrīdhareṇeyam//


Sinha, Jadunath, Indian Philosophy, Vol. 1, p. 306


Ibid., p. 307


cf. Thomas, F.W., Vaiśeṣika Philosophy According to the Daśapadārtha-śāstra, p.94

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