The Concept of Sharira as Prameya

by Elizabeth T. Jones | 2019 | 42,971 words

This page relates ‘Classification of Sharira’ of the study on the concept of Sharira as Prameya Based on Nyaya (shastra), which represents one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy. Nyaya philosophy basically represents the “science of reasoning” and primarily deals with epistemology and logic. Sharira (“body”) refers to one of the twelve Prameyas (“objects of valid knowledge”), as defined in the Nyayashastra literature.

Classification of Śarīra

According to Nyāya Vaiśeṣikas, all the creations result from the contact of paramāṇus. The destruction is caused when the disjoint each other. For Bauddhas, no new thing is born anywhere at any time. All are but a collection of Paramāṇus. Everything is momentary. But for Naiyāyikas and Vaiśeṣikas the contact of paranāṇu results in the formation of new body. Two atoms join together to form dvyaṇuka (dias) Tryaṇuka (trias) is formed by three atoms. Thus very huge materials are formed. After pralaya (destruction) there will be new creation of world by the will of God.

Though earth, water, fire, and air are non eternal due to their having a beginning their atoms are eternal. Kaṇāda divides the body in to Pārthiva (earthly), Jaleeya (watery), Taijasa (firey) and Vāyavya (airy). The Vedantins find the world as a combination of five elements. So they do not agree with this division of Kaṇāda.

Kaṇāda derives the earthly body into two:

  1. Yonija śarīra (born of womb),
  2. Ayonija śarīra (not born from the womb).

Jarāyuja and Aṇḍaja come under first Aṇḍaja is further divided into svedaja and udbhijja.

Vaiśeṣika philosophy finds the ayonija bodies as born by those heavenly sages. According to Koundabhaṭṭa, ayonija body is in contact with water, air and light.

Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika philosophies though consider the body as a combination of atoms they go ahead with the theory of Vedāntiṃs who find the cause of the body in the merits and demerits formed by the good and bad deeds of the being in the previous birth. So, in a way, all these theistic way of thoughts agree in the fact that one who has taken birth in the world should do only virtuous deeds.

Praśastapāda who wrote an authentic commentary on the Vaiśeṣika sūtras of Kaṇāda does not include plants body in the list of udbhija śarīra. He calls trees as sthāvara (not moving). Under sthāvaras he includes triṇa (grass), ouṣadhi (herbal plants), vṛkṣa (trees), lata (creepers), etc. The Vaiśeṣika philosophers consider the plants having cetana (life) on the ground that they are in contact with air and their having nourishment, deterioration, etc.

As for Vaiśeṣikas the human body is pārthiva (earthy.) They deny the argument of Vedantins who find it pancabhautika made of five elements. Vaiśeṣikas argue that the union of visible and invisible objects may result in the disappearance of the objects. It is obvious that trees are in contact with wind. But the conjunction of tree with wind is not perceptible. Similarly, among the five elements namely earth, water, fire, air and ether, the first three, earth, water and fire are visible. The other two elements namely air and ether are invisible. So if the human body is accepted as produced by the combination of visible and invisible elements it would not be perceptible to our eyes. Thus they prove the human body as earthly.

In Gautama’s Nyāya Sūtras, body which comes second in the objects to be known is defined as the abode of action, sense organs and the objects of senses. There is difference of opinion regarding the attaining of perceptive knowledge. Gautama in his Nyāya sūtras, say that first the soul unites with the mind. The mind in turn unites with the sense organs. Sense organs unite with the concerned object.

Naiyāyikas consider manas (mind) as existing in the form of an atom. But the Mīmāṃsakas mind is all pervading (vibhu). Naiyāyikas deny the theory of Mīmāṃsakas on the ground that if the mind is vibhu (all pervading) it will always have connection with all sense organs which will result in the attaining of all sorts of knowledge continuously. It does not happen only because the mind is a minute particle possessing the form of an atom. So it can unite with a single sense organ at a time and hence man gets knowledge of a particular thing at a particular time. This phenomenon is given a proof for the existence of mind beyond body and sense organs.

For Vedantins, Manas or Mind is a part of intellect having not a separate entity. According to the Bauddhas that which is perceived undergoes a change at the next moment. But before varnishing from the mind the form of the objects is pasted in the mind which becomes visible to the next continuing process of mind. Modern Science also proved that only the reflection of body becomes visible to each living being. Thus explicitly the Nyāya Vaiśeṣika philosophy deals with most modern findings of science notwithstanding the earlier traditional conventions.

The Nyāya view of the body is supported by spiritual testimony. It is proved by scriptures also; let the eye go to sun, let, the body to earth. The sun is evidently the source of the eye; the earth is of the body.

The body changes from childhood to death still a new body comes into being with the rebirth of the person. The relation of the body with the self is beginning less. There is no period to be mentioned when the self acquired its first body since the self is eternal. The body is defined as the locus of gestures, sense organs, and sensual objects. Now the question arises as how the body is composed of earth. Gautama’s argument is that the characteristic attribute of earth, viz smell is also the characteristic attribute of the body. So the body is composed of earth.

Kanada classifies the ephemeral physical world into three, body, sense organs and objects. Udayana, Śivāditya, Jagadīśa, Śaṃkaramiśra, Annambhatta and Viśvanātha seem to accept this kind of division. But he does not give a comprehensive definition of the body. At the same time, Akṣapāda places the body in the second place in his enumeration of prameya and defines it as the abode of actions (ceṣṭa), sense capacities and objects. Annambhatta defines the body as the field of the soul’s experience. Śridharabhatta also considers the body as the receptacle of the experiences of the Self. The Mīmāṃsakas also agree with this definition.

The theory of Gautama, that body is constituted by earth has been challenged by many other schools of thought. Among these opposing views the most significant one is that proposed by Carakasamhita, the precursor of Nyāyadarśana. According to Carakasamhita the body is formed by the transformation of the conglomeration of five gross physical elements, viz, earth (pṛthvi), water (apah), fire (tejas), air (vāyu) and ether (ākāśa). Suśrutha along with Sāṃkhyas and others reveals the same view as that body is a conglomeration of five gross physical elements. It may not be irrelevant to describe the salient features of body given by Carakas conception of the pāṃcabhautika nature of the body since it follows a sequence as in the case of the manifestation of the five physical elements in the cosmic evolution. That is, the soul which is invariably associated with the mind first unites with ākāśa. Then it combines with air. In the same way it further unites with fire, water and earth one by one in that order and thus develops the embryo. All this happens in a very short time.

The gross body comes into existence at the time of conceptions and goes out of existence at the time of death. The scientific body is the site and channel of the sense organs and mind. When alive, the body, mind and sense organs together form the receptacle of all experiences of the five self. Though the body is spoken of as a conglomeration of the five elements, it implies all factors such as the seven dhātus that derive from it. When the dhātus like blood and flesh are normal, the body remains healthy and when they lose their normally due to any reason, it will affect in the health and lead to destruction of the body. The chief determinant of health is the interest in food for it is also constituted by the five physical elements.

The Samkhyas and Vedāntiṃs also have the same opinions. Those who follow the view argue that the body has the characteristics of the five elements. The Nyāya Vaiśeṣika not only declines to admit the pāṃcabhautika nature of the body but also strongly refute the concept that the body is a combination of five physical elements. Kaṇāda argues that one will have to admit the fact that the body would be imperceptible if it is said to have been made up of five elements.

Some argue that the human body is constituted by four elements, the three mentioned earlier and an added air. Air is an element of the body because the body inhales and exhales air. The third opponent holds that the human body is constituted by all the five elements. The four elements and ākāśa make the human body porous. Gautama had not attempted to reply to these three different forms of theories. Gautama concludes by citing scriptural authority.

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