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Chapter 24 – Nyaya and Vaisesika

The philosopher Gautama was the Aristotle of India, and his system of Nyaya is the Hindu logic, which is still studied in India along the traditional lines, even though the number of teachers and pupils is growing less year by year. The date of Gautama is not known, but he lived in the Philosophic Period, probably a century after Kapila. The Nyaya Sutra, which is ascribed to him, is divided into five books, each subdivided into two “days,” or diurnal lessons, and these are again divided into articles, each of which consists of a number of Sutras.

The Nyaya system starts with the subjects to be discussed, which are fourteen in number: proof, problem, doubt, motive, instance or example, determined truth, argument or syllogism, confutation, ascertainment, controversy, jangling, objection, fallacy, perversion, futility, and controversy.

Proof is of four kinds: Perception, inference, analogy, and verbal testimony. Cause (karana) is that which necessarily precedes an effect, which could not be without the cause; and effect (karya) is that which

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necessarily ensues and otherwise could not be. For the relation of cause and effect, the connections might be twofold – simple conjunction (samyoga), and constant relation (samavaya). Hence cause may be of three kinds: immediate and direct, as the yarn is of cloth; mediate or indirect, as the weaving is of cloth; and instrumental, as the loom is of cloth.

The problems are soul, body, the senses, the objects of sense, intellect, mind (or the internal organ), production, fault, transmigration, retribution, pain, and emancipation.

The soul, which is the seat of knowledge, is different in each person, and is separate from the body and the senses. Each individual soul is infinite and eternal, and transmigrates according to the works performed in life. So far we see an agreement with Kapila’s philosophy. But the Nyaya adds that the Supreme Soul is one, the seat of eternal knowledge, and the maker or former of all things. The body is earthly, the five external senses are also material, and the mind is the organ of the senses.

Intellect is twofold, including memory and concept. A concept is true if derived from clear proof, and is wrong if not derived from proof. Similarly, memory may be right or wrong. The objects of sense are odour, taste, colour, touch, and sound.

Acts are the causes of virtue or vice, of merit or demerit; and the only motive to them is the hedonistic desire to attain pleasure or to avoid pain.

Transmigration is the passing of the soul to successive

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bodies. Pain is the primary evil, and there are twenty-one varieties of evil which are causes of pain. The soul attains its emancipation by knowledge and not by action.

The specialty of Nyaya is its development of inference by the construction of a true syllogism, which, in its Hindu form consists of five parts, which are called the proposition, the reason, the instance, the application of the reason, and the conclusion, as may be illustrated by the following example:–

The hill is fiery.

For it smokes.

Whatever smokes is fiery.

The hill is smoking.

Therefore it is fiery.

Logic has always been a favourite study with learned Hindus, and neither the Ancient Greeks, nor the Mediaeval Arabs, nor the European schoolmen of the Middle Ages displayed more acuteness and subtlety in reasoning, or more rigid and scientific strictness in their discussions, than is witnessed in the numerous works of the Hindus on logic.

Kanada’s atomic philosophy is supplementary to Gautama’s logic, as the Yoga is supplementary to the Sankhya, and therefore need not detain us long. The cardinal principle of Kanada is that all material substances are aggregates of atoms, whence the name kanada, “atom-eater,” by which he is known. The atoms are eternal, the aggregates only are perishable by disintegration.

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Indian scenery

The first compound is of two atoms; the next consists of three double atoms, and so on. The mote visible in the sunbeam is thus a compound of six atoms. In this way two earthly atoms acting under an unseen law constitute a double atom of earth; three binary atoms constitute a tertiary atom; four tertiary atoms make a quaternary atom; and so on to gross, grosser, and grossest masses of earth. In this manner the great earth is produced, the great water is thus produced from aqueous atoms, great light from luminous atoms, and great air from aerial atoms.

Kanada recognizes seven categories of objects: substances, quality, action, community, particularity, coherence, and non-existence.

Under the first of these categories, the nine substances of Kanada are earth, water, light, air (all eternal in atoms, but transient and perishable in aggregates), ether (which transmits sound, and which has no atoms, but is infinite, one, and eternal), time, space (neither of which is material, and therefore is not compounded of atoms), soul, and manas (or the internal organ). Light and heat are considered as only different forms of the same essential substance. Ether (akasa) conveys sound; and manas, or the internal organ, is supposed to be extremely small, like an atom.

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The second category, quality, embraces seventeen varieties or qualities of the nine substances enumerated above. The qualities are colour, savour, odour, tangibility, number, extension, individuality, conjunction, disjunction, priority, posteriority, intellections, pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, and volition.

The third category, action, is divided into five kinds, upward and downward movement, contraction, dilation, and general motion.

The fourth category, community (genus), denotes qualities common to many objects, and also implies species. These common qualities and species have a real and objective existence, according to Kanada, but not according to the Buddhists, who affirm that only individuals have existence, and that abstractions are unreal conceptions.

The fifth category, particularity, denotes simple objects, devoid of community. They are soul, mind, time, place, the ethereal element, and atoms.

The sixth category, coherence, is connection between things which must be connected so long as they exist, as yarn and cloth.

The seventh category, non-existence, is either universal or mutual.

It will be seen from this brief account that the Vaisesika system of Kanada, in so far as it is an original system, is physics rather than philosophy. It was the first attempt made in India to inquire into the laws of matter and force, of combination and disintegration.

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In every system of Hindu Philosophy (except Vedantism) matter is supposed to be eternal, and distinct from soul. The Vedantists alone regard matter as the manifestation of the One Supreme Soul who comprises all and is all. Of this system we shall speak in the next chapter.

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