Essay on ‘Padartha’ and ‘Abhava’ according to Vaisheshika Philosophy

The vaisesika system is regarded as conducive to the study of all systems. Its main business is to deal with categorises and to unfold its atomistic pluralism. A category is called padartha and the entire universe is reduced to six or seven padarthas.

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Padartha literally means ‘the meaning of a word’ or ‘the object signified by a word’. All objects of knowledge or all reals come under padartha. Padartha means an object which can be thought (Jneya) and named (abhidheya).

The Aristotelean categories are the more modes of prediction and represent a logical classification of predicates. The kantian categories are the moulds of the understanding under which things have to pass before becoming knowable.


The Hegalian categories are the dynamic stages in the development of thought which is identified with reality. The vaisesika categories are different from them all. While the Aristotelian categories are a logical classification of predicates only, the vaisesika categories are a metaphysical classification of all knowable objects or of all reals. They are not, as the knatian categories are, mere moulds of the understanding. Nor are they, as the Hegelial categories are, dynamic stages in the development of thought.

Hegel’s is a philosophy of Absolute Idealism, a dynamic and concrete Identity-in-difference. The vaisesika system is a pluralistic realism, a philosophy of identity and difference, which emphasizes that the heart of reality consists in difference. It is a mere catalogue of the knowledges, an enumeration of the diverce reals without any attempt to synthesize them.

Originally the Vaisesika believed in the six categories and the seventh, that of ‘Abhava’ or negation, was added later on. Though Kanada himself speaks of abhava, yet he does not give if the status of a category tea which it was raised only by the later Vaisesikas.

The Vaisesika divides all existent reals which are all objects of knowledge into two classes- bhava or being and abhava or non-being. Six categories come under bhava and the seventh is abhava.


All knowledge necessarily points to an object beyond the independent of it. All that is real comes under the object of knowledge and is called a padartha. Th e seven padarthas are : substance (dravya) quality (Guna), action (Karma), generality (Samanya) partimerity (Vishesa), in herence (Samavaya) and non-being (abhava).

Abhava or Non-Existence:

Being entirely different from the foregoing six substances, non­existence is regarded as the seventh category.

Kanada has accepted only six categories, but in the Vaisesika sutra, non-existence is mentioned in prameya form. This category has been dealt with at length in the authoritative text of Vaisesika philosophy, the Prasasthapada bhasya, non-existence is the absence of an object.


Nobody can demy the absence of the moon on dark nights. Hence it is necessary to include non-existence.

Distinctions of Non-existence:

There are two main distinctions of non-existence:

1. Sansarga bhava or the absence of one entity in another, such as the absence of heat in the moon.

2. Anyone bhava or one object not being another just as the moon is not the sun.

Distinctions of Sansarga bhava:

This typae of non-existence sansarg bhava, also has three distinctions:

(1) Pragabhava or antecedent non-existence:

Which means absence of the substance which is effect before it is created, just as the absence of the substance of the pot in the clay before the clay is made in to a pot.

Antecedent non-existence has no beginning but it has an end. There was always the absence of the pot in the clay but with the construction of the pot the beginningless non­existence comes to an end.

(2) Dhvamsabhava:

Or non-existence on the destruction of substance which is an effect just as the absence of the pot in its pieces after the pot has been destroyed. Dhvamsabhava has beginning but it has no end. When the pot breaks dhavamsabhava has a beginning in time but the pot can never come back or de recreated. Thus, this non-existence can have no end.

(3) Atyantabhava or absolute non-existence:

Meaning that non-existence between two objects which expends over the entire temporal expanse, past, present, future, such as the absence of coolness in fire. And absolute non-existence has neither a beginning nor an end. It is always there. The absence of coolness in fire will continue over all time. In this way, absolute non-existence is neither born nor destroyed.

Differences between Sansargabhava and Anyonyabhava :

Sansargabhava and anyonyabhava differ from each other in the following respects:

1. Sansargabhava is the absence of relation between two objects. The latter is the absence of something in some other objects.

2. Sansargabhava is the absence of relation whereas anyonyabhava is the absence of identity. A rabbit does not have any horns : in this example there is absence of relation between the rabbit and the horns and it is an example of sansargabhava. The donkey is not a horse, in this relation there is the non-existence of identity and it is an example of anyonyabhava.

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