Vaisheshika or Vaiśeṣika (Sanskrit: वैशेषिक) is one of the six Hindu schools of philosophy in Ancient Vedic India.
They were originally proposed by the sage Kaṇāda (or Kana-bhuk, literally, atom-eater) around the 2nd century BC.
Vaishesika sutras espouses a form of atomism and postulates that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a finite number of atoms.
Vaisheshika is one of the six Hindu schools of philosophy of India. Historically, it has been closely associated with the Hindu school of logic, Nyaya (syllogism, inference).
The philosophers of this school used to debate on various subjects and try to achieve a conclusion.
Acharya Kaṇāda (Sanskrit: कणाद) was a Hindu sage and philosopher who was born in Prabhas Kshetra (near Dwaraka) in Gujarat, India.
He composed his Sutras around 600 BCE.
His primary area of study was Rasavādam, considered to be a type of alchemy. He is said to have believed that all living beings are composed of five elements: water, fire, earth, air, ether.
Vegetables have only water, insects have water and fire, birds have water, fire, earth and air, and Humans, the top of the creation, have ether—the sense of discrimination (time, space, mind) are one.
He theorized that Gurutva (Hindi/Sanskrit for Gravity) was responsible for the falling of objects on the Earth.
Thus, he was the first person to identify and describe gravity (much ahead of Newton) after Prasnopanishad described it around 6000 BC.
Literature of Vaisheshika
The earliest systematic exposition of the Vaisheshika is found in the Vaiśeṣika Sūtra of Kaṇāda (or Kaṇabhaksha). This treatise is divided into ten books. The two commentaries on the Vaiśeṣika Sūtra, Rāvaṇabhāṣya and Bhāradvājavṛtti are no more extant.
Praśastapāda’s Padārthadharmasaṁgraha (c. 4th century) is the next important work of this school.
Though commonly known as bhāṣya of Vaiśeṣika Sūtra, this treatise is basically an independent work on the subject.
The next Vaisheshika treatise, Candra’s Daśapadārthaśāstra (648) based on Praśastapāda’s treatise is available only in Chinese translation.
The earliest commentary available on Praśastapāda’s treatise is Vyomaśiva’s Vyomavatī (8th century). The other three commentaries are Śridhara’s Nyāyakandalī (991), Udayana’s Kiranāvali (10th century) and Śrivatsa’s Līlāvatī (11th century). Śivāditya’s Saptapadārthī which also belongs to the same period, presents the Nyāya and the Vaiśeṣika principles as a part of one whole. Śaṁkara Miśra’s Upaskāra on Vaiśeṣika Sūtra is also an important work.
3 Vaishesika Sutras proposed 1800 years before Newton’s Three Laws of Motion
- वेगः निमित्तविशेषात कर्मणो जायते |
Translation : Change of motion is due to impressed force.
(The law stated that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.)
- वेगः निमित्तापेक्षात कर्मणो जायते नियतदिक क्रियाप्रबन्धहेतु |
Translation : Change of motion is proportional to the impressed force and is in the direction of the force.
- वेगः संयोगविशेषविरोधी |
Translation : Action and reaction are equal and opposite.
The Categories or Padārtha
According to the Vaisheshika school, all things which exist, which can be cognised, and which can be named are padārthas (literal meaning: the meaning of a word), the objects of experience. All objects of experience can be classified into six categories, dravya (substance), guṇa (quality), karma (activity), sāmānya (generality), viśeṣa (particularity) and samavāya (inherence). Later Vaiśeṣikas (Śrīdhara, Udayana and Śivāditya) added one more category abhava (non-existence). The first three categories are defined as artha (which can perceived) and they have real objective existence.
The last three categories are defined as budhyapekṣam (product of intellectual discrimination) and they are logical categories.
1.Dravya (substance): The substances are conceived as 9 in number. They are, pṛthvī (earth), ap (water), tejas (fire), vāyu (air), ākaśa (ether), kāla (time), dik (space), ātman (self) and manas (mind). The first five are called bhūtas, the substances having some specific qualities so that they could be perceived by one or the other external senses.
2.Guṇa (quality): The Vaiśeṣika Sūtra mentions 17 guṇas (qualities), to which Praśastapāda added another 7. While a substance is capable of existing independently by itself, a guṇa(quality) cannot exist so. The original 17 guṇas (qualities) are, rūpa (colour), rasa (taste), gandha (smell), sparśa (touch), saṁkhyā (number), parimāṇa (size/dimension/quantity), pṛthaktva (individuality), saṁyoga (conjunction/accompaniments), vibhāga (disjunction), paratva (priority), aparatva (posteriority), buddhi (knowledge), sukha (pleasure), duḥkha (pain), icchā (desire), dveṣa (aversion) and prayatna (effort). To these Praśastapāda added gurutva (heaviness), dravatva (fluidity), sneha (viscosity), dharma (merit), adharma (demerit), śabda (sound) and saṁkāsra (faculty).
3.Karma (activity): The karmas (activities) like guṇas (qualities) have no separate existence, they belong to the substances. But while a quality is a permanent feature of a substance, an activity is a transient one. Ākāśa (ether), kāla (time), dik (space) and ātman (self), though substances, are devoid of karma (activity).
4.Sāmānya (generality): Since there are plurality of substances, there will be relations among them. When a property is found common to many substances, it is called sāmānya.
5.Viśeṣa (particularity): By means of viśeṣa, we are able to perceive substances as different from one another. As the ultimate atoms are innumerable so are the viśeṣas.
6.Samavāya (inherence): Kaṇāda defined samavāya as the relation between the cause and the effect. Praśastapāda defined it as the relationship existing between the substances that are inseparable, standing to one another in the relation of the container and the contained. The relation of samavāya is not perceivable but only inferable from the inseparable connection of the substances.
The atomic theory
An interesting story states that this theory occurred to him while he was walking with food in his hand. As he nibbled at the food in his hand, throwing away the small particles, it occurred to him that he could not divide the food into further parts and thus the idea of a matter which cannot be divided further came into existence. He called that indivisible matter anu, i.e. atom. He also stated that anu can have two states – Absolute rest and a State of motion.
The early Vaiśeṣika texts presented the following syllogism to prove that all objects i.e. the four bhūtas, pṛthvī (earth), ap (water), tejas (fire) and vāyu (air) are made of indivisible paramāṇus (atoms): Assume that the matter is not made of indivisible atoms, and that it is continuous.
Take a stone. One can divide this up into infinitely many pieces (since matter is continuous). Now, the Himalayan mountain range also has infinitely many pieces, so one may build another Himalayan mountain range with the infinite number of pieces that one has. One begins with a stone and ends up with the Himalayas, which is a paradox – so the original assumption that matter is continuous must be wrong, and so all objects must be made up of a finite number of paramāṇus (atoms).
According to the Vaiśeṣika school, the trasareṇu (dust particles visible in the sunbeam coming through a small window hole) are the smallest mahat (perceivable) particles and defined as tryaṇukas (triads). These are made of three parts, each of which are defined as dvyaṇuka (dyad). The dvyaṇukas are conceived as made of two parts, each of which are defined as paramāṇu (atom). The paramāṇus (atoms) are indivisible and eternal, they can neither be created nor destroyed. Each paramāṇu (atom) possesses its own distinct viśeṣa (individuality).
The measure of the partless atoms is known as parimaṇḍala parimāṇa. It is eternal and it cannot generate the measure of any other substance. Its measure is its own absolutely.
Ofcourse, knowledge of Atoms and Molecules was given through Bhagavata Purana and in Rig Veda, where cloning incidents were described.