Padartha or Categories:
Just as the Nyaya philosophy is devoted to the almost exclusive study of the sources of valid knowledge, vaisesika philosophy devotes itself to metaphysical reflections. According to it, all the objects of the universe can be divided into seven categories or padarthas, the latter term denoting those objects which are known through the medium of a word. In this way these seven categories of reality comprehend all those objects in the world which can be named. These seven categories are- (1) Dravya or substance, (2) Guna or quality, (3) Karma or action, (4) Samanya or generality, (5) Visesa or particularity, (6) Samavaya or inherence and (7) Abhava or non-existence. In these seven categories there are two distinctions – (1) have Padartha, and (2) Abhava Padartha. The first distinction denotes those categories which have an existence, or those which are present. The first relates to being. The second distinction, non-being, is a later addition to the Vaisesika philosophy be later commentators and is not originally discussed. The other six categories, with the exception of bhava, are all existent and are included in being.
Dravya or Substance:
According to the vaisesika view, dravya or substance is the substratum of action and qualities, and the material or constitutive cause of composite things produced from it, just as the cotton five is the cause of cotton cloth produced from it. Even though being different from quality and action substance is their substratum. Without it, quality and action can have no existence. Substances are of nine kinds – (1) earth or prithvi, (2) water or jal, (3) fire or tej, (4) air or vayu, (5) ether or akasa (6) time or kala, (7) space or idk, (8) self or atma, and (9) mind or manas. Among these, the first five are called Panchabhuta. In each of these there is one such specific quality which can be perceived by one of the external sense organs. The earth has the quality of smell, water that of taste, fire of form, air of touch and ether that of sound. These are perceived by the nose, tongue; eyes, skin and ears respectively. These sense organs are also believed to have orginated in the earth, water, fire, air and ether. With the exception of ether, the other four physical elements are eternal, or nitya, in the form of cause and non-eternal or anitya in the form of effect.
Accordingly, the atoms of earth, water, fire and air are beginning less because they are not composite , and consequently are eternal, but all the substances formed by the conjunction of these atoms, which, therefore, are effects are not eternal because their constituent atoms can be separated or even destroyed. The fifth substance, the ether, is the basis of sound. The ether is not perceived because it does not satisfy the conditions of external perception, is not being possessed of either a perceptible dimension or of any color. It is inferred from the perception of sound, and every quality must have a substratum and none of the other, earth, air, water or fire can be its bearer. There are two reasons for this. In the first place the qualities of these substances, smell, taste, form and touch, are not heard whereas sounds of words are heard and are audibly perceived. In the second place, sound is created even where these elements are absent. Sound cannot be the quality of space, time, mind and soul because they continue to exist even when there is no sound. In this way, either is the basis of sound. Being partless, the ether is one and eternal. It is cosmic, all pervading and infinite because its quality sound is perceived in all directions.
Like the ether, space, and time are also not perceptible. They are one, eternal and all pervading. Space is inferred by knowledge of concepts such as her, there, near, far etc. Time is inferred on the basis of concepts such as past, future, present, old and ancient. In this way, then, the earth, space and time are qualities differ, and even their parts appear to be different.
Soul or Atman:
The opinion of the vaisesika philosophers is the same as that of the Naiyayikas on the subjects of soul. The soul is the basis of the phenomenon of consciousness, and it is eternal and all pervading.
It is perceived by the mind and is thus known. The souls in different bodies are also different. In this way there are many souls. Besides the soul fo human beings called the Jiva the other form of the soul is the paramatma who is one and the creator of the universe.
Mind or Mana:
The existence of the mind can be external from the following two factors – (1) As in the case of external substance of the universe, for the perception of which external sense organs are required, so is an internal sense organ required to perceived the internal categories composed of knowledge, desire, pain, pleasure, etc., and this internal sense is the mind. (2) In spite of there being contact between the object and the external sense organ knowledge does not occur without a mind. And even when all the five senses come into contact with their respective qualities in different objects simultancously, there is knowledge of only one in one particular moment. In this way, this not only proves the existence of the mind, it also proves that the mind is atomic and partless. Had the mind not been an infinitesimal and atomic entity, it was possible for its various parts to come into contact with different sense organs simultaneously and for many perceptions to manifest themselves at the sametime. But we find in practice that this does not occur. Hence, it follows that the mind is a partless or atomic form and is that internal sense of perception. The soul receives its knowledge of the objects through the medium of mind.
Visesa or Particularity:
Visesa is the very opposite of generality. Visesa is the term indicating the unique or specific particularity or individuality of eternal substances which have no part. These substances are – space, time, ether, mind, soul and the atoms of the four elements. It is because of particularity that individuals are distinguished from each other and the atoms of the same substance considered separately. Particulars are those forms of substances by means of which they are known distinct from each other. Particulars are needed to distinguish between composite and non-eternal objects, which are effects, such as chair table etc. The particular is in partless and eternal substances which are innumerable. Hence the particulars are also eternal, partless and innumerable. They are themselves recognizable. There can be no perceptual cognition of them because like the atom, they too are invisible.
Samavaya or Inherence:
According to prasatpad, inherence is that relation which exists in invariably conjoined objects, between which there is the relation of subsisting and substatum elements, and which is the middle term of the concept that is in them. In this way, objects connected by inherence are so conjouned that they are inseparable. The following are conjunctions of inherence- quality and substratum, action and the doer, individual and class, particular and eternal, element and substance, part and whole . In this way, there is cloth in cotton fibres, smell in the flower, motion in water, humanity in human being, and these are due to samavaya.
Inherence and conjunction:
Vaisesika has accepted two types of relationship inherence and conjunction. These two differ from each other in the following respects.
- Conjunction is momentary and non-eternal, while inherence is an eternal relationship.
- Conjunction is the relationship which results from the connection of two substances. Inherence does not results from the conjunction of substances.
- Conjunction results from the activity of elements or two objects. Inherence is always present in substances. The relation of conjoined substance is mutual.
- Conjunction is an relation whereas inherence is an internal relation. Conjoined substance are capable of existing apart. But substance related by inherence cannot exist separated. The part and the whole cannot remain apart.