Nyaya-Vaisheshika categories (Study)

by Diptimani Goswami | 2014 | 61,072 words

This page relates ‘Substance (5): Akasha (Ether)’ 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.

Substance (5): Ākāśa (Ether)

Ākāśa is the fifth of the five physical elements. Annaṃbhaṭṭa defines ākāśa, as that which has śabda (sound) as the special quality.[1] Śivāditya[2] and Viśvanātha[3] also maintains the same view. Govardhana Miśra points out in his commentary that the word guṇa is used in the definition in order to show the special quality of ākāśa and not to remove over-pervasiveness.[4] By this word guṇa, ākāśa becomes different from other substances. Sometimes rūpa and other guṇas are found in different substances e.g. gandha, the special quality of earth is found in air and water. But sound is never found in other substances except ākāśa.

According to the Mīmāṃsakas, sound is a substance. But it is not acceptable by the Naiyāyikas as according to them sound is one of the twenty-four guṇas.[5] The Nyāya-Vaiśeṣikas hold that ākāśa is only one; it is all-pervading and eternal.[6]

Madhavācārya defines ākāśa as:


The meaning of this definition is that ākāśa is the abode of viśeṣa (particularity) which co-exists with the special quality that is produced by from a cause other than saṃyoga. The self also possesses viśeṣaguṇa and viśeṣa, but the janyaviśeṣaguṇa is found only in ākāśa not in the self.[7]

Ākāśa is only one and homogeneous. There are not different kinds of sound, so ether is one. We find different degrees of loudness but these are not kinds of sound. Therefore, it is proved that ether is one.[8] Though ākāśa is one, the difference in the form of ghaṭākāśa, paṭākāśa, jārākāśa etc. are due to the upādhis.[9] The assumption of difference in ākāśa is not acceptable, because all sounds can exist in only substratum only which is the ākāśa and as such assumption of different ākāśas will cause the cumbrousness of imagination. Therefore, ether is one.[10]

Praśastapāda mentions the qualities of ākāśa in his Bhāṣya. It has sound, number, magnitude, distinctness, conjunction and disjunction.[11] Ākāśa is one and vibhu i.e., all-pervasive so it has the largest magnitude. There are qualities in ether and it does not reside in anywhere, therefore, ether is a substance.[12] Ākāśa has no inherent

The existence of ākāśa is proved by inference. The existence of ākāśa is inferred on ground of its being the substratum of sound which is its special quality. Sound cannot reside in pṛthivī, vāyu, tejas, kāla, dik etc. Viśvanātha points out that sound is a quality and not a substance. It proves the existence of ākāśa. Another prove for the existence of ākāśa is that stars and other heavenly bodies must have a substratum which is known as ākāśa.[14]

Footnotes and references:


śabdaguṇamākāśam. Ibid., p.11


ākāśasya tu vijneyaḥ śabdo vaiśeṣiko guṇaḥ. Bhāṣāpariccheda, p.59


guṇapadamākāśe śabda eva viśeṣaguṇa iti dyotanāya na tvativyāptivāraṇāya. Nyāyabodhinī on Tarkasaṃgraha, p.11


cf. Tarkasaṃgraha, p.127


taccaikaṃ vibhu nityaṃ ca. Ibid., p.11


Vandopadhyaya, Asokakumar, Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha, p. 236


śabdaliṅgāviśeṣādekatvaṃ siddham. Vaiśeṣikadarśanam with Praśastapādabhāṣya,, p. 39


Saptapadārthī, p. 21


tattvaṃ bhāvena. Vaiśeṣikasūtra, 2.1.29


ākāśasya guṅaḥ śabdasaṃkhyāparimāṇapṛthaktvasaṃyogavibhāgāḥ. Vaiśeṣikadarśanam with Praśastapādabhāṣya,, p. 36


vibhavavacanāt paramamahatparimāṇam guṇavatvādanāśritatvācca dravyam. Ibid., p.39 cause, non-inherent cause and efficient cause. Therefore, ākāśa is eternal.93 As a whole, ākāśa is one, omnipresent, eternal and imperceptible substance which has the special quality, sound.


cf. samānāsamānajātiyakāraṇābhāvācca nityam. Ibid


Gajendragadkar, A.B. and Karmakar, R.D., Tarkasaṃgraha, p.40

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