Vishesa (vaishesika): The fifth category is Vishesa or particularity. It enables us to perceive things as different from one another. Every individual is a particular, a single and a unique thing different from all others.
It has got a uniqueness of its own which constitutes its particularity. It is opposed to generality. Generality is inclusive; particularity is exclusive. Generality forms the basis of assimilation; particularity forms the basis of discrimination.
It is very important to remember that the compositive objects of this world which we generally call ‘particular’ objects arenot real ‘particulars’ according to Nyaya-Vaishesika. Compound objects can be easily distinguished from one another by the differences of their parts. Thus no compound object, from the dyad to any gross object, is a particular. It is only in the case of the simple ultimate eternal substances which are otherwise alike that a need arises to postulate the category of Vishesa in order to distinguish them from one another. Thus for example, one atom is similar to another atom of the same element and one soul is similar to another soul. Now, how to account for their separate reality? Nyaya-Vaishesika, being a school of staunch realism, maintains not only quantitative but also qualitative pluralism. One atom differs from another not only in numerical existence but also in qualitative existence. The category of Vishesa or particularity is invented to defend this position and the Vaishesika derives its name from this. Each partless ultimate substance has an original peculiarity of its own, an underived uniqueness of its own which is called ‘particularity’ or Vishesa. Vishesa, therefore, is the differentium (vyavartaka) of ultimate eternal substances (nityadravyavrtti) which are otherwise alike. There are innumerable eternal Vishesa. They distinguish the substances where they inhere from other substances and they also distinguish themselves from other particularities. Though they, like qualities and actions, inhere in the substances, yet they are a distinct category. The Vaishesika emphasizes realistic pluralism. Atoms, souls, space, time and manas all have their particularities.
The sixth category is Samavaya or inseparable eternal relation called ‘inherence’. It is different from conjunction or samyoga which is a separable and transient relation and is a quality (guna). Samavaya is an independent category (padartha). Kanada calls it the relation between cause and effect. Prashastapada defines it as ‘the relationship subsisting among things that are inseparable, standing to one another in the relation of the container and the contained, and being the basis of the idea, “ this is in that” The things related by samavaya are inseparably connected (ayutasiddha). It is ‘inseparable relationship’. It is eternal because its production would involve infinite regress. It is imperceptible and is inferred from the inseparable relation of two things. The things which are inseparably connected are these: the part and the whole, the quality and the substance, the action and the substance, the particular and the universal, the Vishesa and the eternal substance. Samavaya isfound in these. The whole inheres in the parts; a quality inheres in its substance; an action inheres in its substance; the universal inheres in the individual members of the same class; the particularity (vishesa) inheres in its eternal substance. Samavaya is one and eternal relationship subsisting between two things inseparably connected.
The seventh category is Abhava or non-existence. Kanada does not mention it as a separate category. It is added afterwards. The first six categories are positive. This is negative. The other categories are regarded as absolute, but this category is relative in its conception. Absolute negation is impossibility, a pseudo-idea. Negation necessarily presupposes some affirmation. The Vaishesika, being a realist, believes that just as knowledge is different from the object known which exists independently of that knowledge and necessarily points to some object, similarly knowledge of negation isdifferentfromthethingnegated and necessarily points to some object which is negated. Absence of an object and knowledge of its absence are different. Non-existence is of four kinds: (1) antecedent non-existence (pragabhava), (2) subsequent non-existence (pradhvamsabhava), (3) mutual non-existence (anyonyabhava), and (4) absolute non-existence (atyantabhava). The first is the non-existence of a thing before its production. The second is the non-existence of a thing after its destruction. The third is the non-existence of a thing as another thing which is different from it. The fourth is a pseudo-idea, the absence of a relation between two things in the past, the present and the future. A pot does not exist before its production; nor after its destruction; nor as a cloth; nor is there a ‘liquid pot’. Antecedent negation has no beginning, but it has an end. It ends when the thing is produced. Subsequent negation has a beginning, but has no end. It begins when the thing is destroyed and has no end since the same thing cannot be produced again. Mutual negation is exclusion and is opposed to identity. It is both beginningless and endless. Absolute negation is a pseudo-idea. It is both beginningless and endless. Hare’s horn, barren woman’s child, sky-flower etc. are its classical examples. Mutual negation or anyonyabhava means non-existence of a thing asanother thing— ‘S is not P’ the other three negations— antecedent, subsequent and absolute— are called non-existence of correlation or Samsargabhava which implies the non-existence of something insomething else— ‘S is not in P’. If antecedent negation is denied, then all things would become beginningless; if subsequent negation is denied, then all things would become eternal; if mutual negation isdenied, then all things would become indistinguishable; and if absolute negation is denied, then all things would exist always and everywhere. The view of non-existence is based on this ontological conception of the Vaishesika.
Let us now consider the Vaishesika theory of Atomism. Unlike the Sankhya-Yoga, the Nyaya-Vaishesika believes in the doctrine of Asatkaryavada which means that the effect does not pre-exist in its cause. The effect is a new beginning, a fresh creation. Of course, it presupposes a cause. But it is not contained implicitly in the cause nor is it identical with the cause. The doctrine is also known as Arambhavada or Paramanukaranavada. We find that the material objects of the world are composed of parts and are subject to production and destruction. They are divisible into smaller parts and the latter are further divisible into still smaller parts. By this logic we have to accept the minutest particle of matter which may not be further divisible. This indivisible, partless and eternal particle of matter is called an atom (paramanu). All physical things are produced by the combinations of atoms. Creation, therefore, means the combination of atoms in different proportions and destruction means the dissolution of such combinations. The material cause of the universe is neither produced nor destroyed. It is the eternal atoms. It is only the atomic combinations which are produced and which are destroyed. These combinations do not form the essential nature of the atoms nor do they pre-exist in them. Hence the Nyaya-Vaishesika advocates Asatkaryavada.
The atoms are said to be of four kinds— of earth, water, fire and air. Ether or akasha is not atomic. It is one and all-pervading and affords the medium for the combinations of the atoms. The atoms differ from one another both in quantity and in quality. Each has a particularity of its own and exists as a separate reality. The atoms of earth, water, fire and air differ in qualities also. Their qualities too are eternal. The atoms of air are the finest of all and have the quality of touch. Theatoms of fire possess touch and colour. The atoms of water possess touch, colour and taste. The atoms of earth possess touch, colour, taste, and smell. Besides these all atoms have velocity, number, distinctness etc. The qualities of compositive products are due to the qualities of the atoms. The atoms possess the primary as well as the secondary qualities. They are said to be spherical or globular (parimandala). They are co-eternal with the souls and are the material cause of the world. They are inactive and motionless in themselves. During dissolution, they remain inactive. Motion is imparted to them by the Unseen Power (adrsta) of merit(dharma) and demerit (adharma) which resides in the individual souls and wants to fructify in the form of enjoyment or suffering. They are supra-sensible. The atoms combine in geometrical progression and not in arithmetical one. They increase by multiplication and not by mere addition. When motion is imparted to them by the Unseen Power, they begin to vibrate (parispanda) and immediately change into dyads. A dyad is produced by the combination of two atoms. The atoms are its inherent cause; conjunction is its non-inherent cause; and the Unseen Power is its efficient cause. An atom is indivisible, spherical and imperceptible. A dyad (dvyanuka) is minute (anu), short (hrasva) and imperceptible. Three dyads form a triad (tryanuka) which is great (mahat), long (dirgha) and perceptible. And so on by geometrical progression till the gross elements of earth, water, fire and air arise.
The Vaishesika Atomism is not materialistic because the Vaishesika School admits the reality of the spiritual substances— souls and God— and also admits the Law of Karma. The atoms are the material cause of this world of which God, assisted by the Unseen Power, is the efficient cause. The physical world presupposes the moral order. Evolution is due to the Unseen Power consisting of merits and demerits of the individual souls which want to bear fruits as enjoyments or sufferings to be experienced by the souls. The Vaishesika atomism agrees with the Greek atomism of Leucippus and Democritus in regarding the atoms as the indivisible, partless, imperceptible and ultimate portions of matter which are eternal and are the material cause of this physical universe. But further than this there is hardly any agreement. Leucippus and Democritus maintain only quantitative or numerical differences in the atoms and regard them as qualitatively alike. The Vaishesika maintains both quantitative and qualitative differences in the atoms. The atoms of earth, water, fire and air possess different qualities. Secondly, the Greek atomists regarded atoms as devoid of secondary qualities, while the Vaishesika regards them as possessing secondary qualities also. Thirdly, the Greek atomists believed that atoms were essentially active and motion was inherent in them, but the Vaishesika regards the atoms as essentially inactive and motionless. Motion is imparted to them by the Unseen Power. Fourthly, the Greek view held that atoms constituted even the souls, while the Vaishesika distinguishes between the souls and the atoms and regards them as co-eternal distinct entities, each possessing a particularity of its own. Fifthly, the Greek view was materialistic and the evolution was thought of as mechanical, while the Vaishesika view is guided by the spiritual and the moral law and the later Vaishesikas frankly admit God as the efficient cause.
The Jaina conception of the atom, like that of the Greeks and the Vaishesika, regards it as one, eternal and indivisible unit of the material elements. But it differs from the Vaishesika view and agrees with the Greek view in that it maintains no qualitative differences among the atoms. The atoms are all homogeneous and become differentiated into heterogeneous elements by different combinations. Moreover, the Jainas do not regard the qualities of the atoms as permanent, while the Vaishesika does.
The Vaishesika believes in the authority of the Veda and in the moral law of Karma. Kanada himself does not openly refer to God. His aphorism— ‘The authority of the Veda is due to its being His (or their) Word’, has been interpreted by the commentators in the sense that the Veda is the Word of God. But the expression ‘Tadvachana’ may also mean that the Veda is the Word of the seers. But all great writers of the Vaishesika and the Nyaya systems, including Prashastapada, Shridhara and Udayana, are openlytheistic and some of them, Udayana, give classical arguments to prove the existence of God. We cannot, therefore, treat the founder of the Vaishesika as an atheist. Moreover, Kanada believes in spiritualism and makes the physical universe subservient to the moral order. The Veda is authoritative, but it is neither eternal nor authorless. It is the Word of God and this makes it authoritative. God is omniscient, eternal and perfect. He is the Lord. He is guided by the Law of Karma representing the Unseen Power of merits and demerits. The Unseen Power is unintelligent and needs God as the supervisor and the controller. He is the efficient cause of the world of which the eternal atoms are the material cause. Atoms and souls are co-present and co-eternal with God. He cannot create them. He simply gives motion to the atoms and sets the ball rolling. He is responsible for the first push, the original impetus, and then the atoms go on combining.
Bondage and liberation
The Vaishesika also regards bondage as due to ignorance and liberation as due to knowledge. The soul, due to ignorance, performs actions. Actions lead to merits or demerits. They are due to attachment or aversion and aim at obtaining pleasure or avoiding pain. If actions are in conformity with the Veda’s injunctions, they lead to merit; if they are prohibited by the Veda, they lead to demerit. The merits and demerits of the individual souls make up the unseen moral power, the adrsta. According to the law of Karma, one has to reap the fruits of actions one has performed whether they are good or bad according to the karmas one performed. This adrsta, guided by God, imparts motion to the atoms and leads to creation for the sake of enjoyment or suffering of the individual souls. As long as the soul will go on performing actions, it will be bound. To get rid of bondage, the soul must stop actions. Liberation comes through knowledge. When actions stop, new merits and demerits do not get accumulated and old merits and demerits also are gradually worn out. The soul is separated from the fetters of the mind and the body and realizes its own pure nature. That is liberation which is absolute cessation of all pain. The individual soul is treated as a substance and knowledge, bliss etc. are regarded as its accidental qualities which it may acquire when it is embodied. Hence in liberation these qualities cannot exist because the soul here is not connected with the mind (manas) and the body. Liberation is the cessation of all life, all consciousness, all bliss, together with all pain and all qualities. It is the qualityless, indeterminate, pure nature of the individual soul as pure substance devoid of all qualities. The liberated soul retains its own peculiar individuality and particularity and remains as it is— knowing nothing, feeling nothing, doing nothing.