Narach Philosophy


Let us now examine the character of Nyaya as explained in the Sutras and by the early commentators. We have observed that Nyaya understands all life in the light of the senses of knowledge, and so we have the following:

"Of the different sources of knowledge, Pratyaksa ... is the most important ... Though Pratyaksa originally meant sense perception, it soon came to cover all immediate apprehension whether through the aid of the senses or not. Gangesa defines Pratyaksa as direct apprehension. ... Gautama defines sense perception as that knowledge which arises from the contact of a sense-organ with its object, inexpressible by words, unerring and well-defined. This definition mentions the different factors involved in the act of perception: (1) the senses (indriyas), (2) their objects (artha), (3) the contact of the senses with their objects (sannikarsa), and (4) cognition produced by this contact (jnanam) ... The senses are said to be five, corresponding to the five characters of knowledge visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and tactual. They occupy different sites (adhisthana), the eye-ball, the ear-hole, the nose, the tongue, and the skin. ... The five sense-organs, eye, ear, nose, tongue, and skin, are said to be of the same nature as the five elements, light, ether, earth, water, and air, whose special qualities of colour, sound, smell, taste, and tangibility are manifested by them".

Mind and Senses of Knowledge: As the senses are always associated with the Mind, we are told as follows:

"Manas (Mind) is a condition of perception ... Manas mediates between the self and the senses. . . . If the manas is in contact with one sense-organ, it cannot be so with another. It is therefore said to be atomic in dimension. If the manas were all pervading, then we cannot account for the successive character of our sense- experiences. As soon as the sense is in contact with the object, the manas comes with lightning speed to reach the sense. ...The cognitions which the soul has, except anuvyavasaya (consciousness of perception), are not self-luminous. We become aware of them as we become aware of feelings and desires, through the manas".

"Vatsyayana includes manas (Mind) under the senses. He calls it the inner sense by which we apprehend the inner states of feelings, desires and cognitions. ... The relation of knowledge is exactly the same whether the object is an external one like paper or an internal one, like desire. ... Vatsyayana holds that manas is as good a sense-organ as the eye and the like, though there are certain marked differences. The outer senses are composed of material or elemental substances, ... whereas manas is immaterial, effective on all objects, and is capable of acting as an organ, without being endowed with any specific quality".

"The definition of perception assumes the contact of self and manas, which is present in all cognitions and the contact of manas and the senses, and specifies sense object contact as its distinguishing feature. Perception follows upon or accompanies the modification of the self produced by the contact of the senses with their objects".

Purusha or God: We have explained that, according to the theory of Nyaya, God should be regarded more or less as a spectator of the work of Prakrti. His share in creation, if any, is comparatively small. The idea of God, according to the Sutras, is as follows:

"In the Nyaya Sutra we find only a casual mention of God, which justifies the suspicion that the ancient doctrine of the Nyaya was not theistic. The theory of divine causality is referred to in the Nyaya Sutra. ... Later Nyayikas as well as Vaisesikas are frankly theistic and enter into discussion of the nature of God in considering the theory of atman (individual soul). While the supreme is God, one, omniscient, the human souls are infinite in number, different in each body. God is looked upon as a special soul, possessing the attributes of omnipotence, and omniscience,, by which he guides and regulates the world".

God and Adrsta: "The trace of good action is called merit, and that of an evil one, demerit, and the two together form the adrsta (unseen energy of life), or the desert which resides in the soul of the person who performs the act. This adrsta causes happiness and misery when the suitable time, place, and object occur. ... The ancient Nyayikas ... account for the creation of the universe by the hypothesis of an original activity among the atoms, and adrsta among the souls. But a non-intelligent cause like adrsta cannot produce its effect without the guidance of an intelligent spirit. God is said to supervise the work of adrsta. ... So the unintelligent principle of adrsta, which governs the fate of beings, acts under the direction of God, who does not create it or alter its inevitable course, but renders possible its operation. God is thus the giver of the fruits of our deeds".

"The God of the Nyayikas is a personal being, possessing existence, knowledge, and bliss. ... He is omnipotent in regard to his creation, though he is influenced by the results of acts done by the beings he creates. He has obtained the results of his deeds, and continues to act for the sake of his created beings. ... God is also endowed with desire. ... Uddyotakara admits that God's activity is limited by other considerations, and yet these latter are only self-imposed limitations. ... The Isvara of the Nyaya philosophy is not the comprehensive spiritual reality of which we are the imperfect expressions. He is outside of us and the world too, however much he may be said to cause, govern and destroy it. ... God is not the creator of atoms, but only their fashioner. His reason works on the elements of the universe from without, but does not operate as a power of life within. This conception of God as beyond the world, as outside the entire frame of space, as dwelling apart in eternal self-centred isolation, is arid and empty. We cannot maintain the dualism of an infinite creator on the one side and the infinite world on the other. The two limit each other. Things which are defined each against the other cannot but be finite. ... It is true that the creation of the world is assigned to the love of God; but what is the meaning of creation on this hypothesis? If atoms and souls are both eternal, and if the world is an interaction between the two types, then there is nothing for God to create. ... The souls and atoms are co-eternal with God, who is only primus inter pares".

Prakrti or Nature; Atoms: We have explained that Nyaya examines all life in the light of (Purushic) Ether, characterised by elliptical motion, corresponding to which we have the Atom as the first form of matter. And so we have the following:

"The Nyaya ... regards the world of nature as a composite of eternal, unalterable, causeless atoms, existing independently of our thoughts. The physical conceptions of the Nyaya are almost the same as those of the Vaisesika".

"At the beginning of creation an activity is set up in the atoms, by which they combine so as to form material objects. ... The ancient Nyayikas ... account for the creation of the universe by the hypothesis of an original activity among the atoms. ... Combination (ayojana) is the action which produces the conjunction of two atoms, forming the binary compound at the beginning of creation. This action implies an intelligent agent (God). ... Sometimes atoms are made of the body of God ... God is not the creator of atoms, but only their fashioner".

The Individual Soul: As we have explained, Nyaya conceives of the individual soul also in the light of the senses of knowledge. Hence its idea of the soul is even more incomplete than that of the Vaisesika. According to the Sutras we are told as follows:

"The soul is a real ... substantive being, having for its qualities, desire, aversion, volition, pleasure, pain, and cognition. As a rule, the Nyayika proves the existence of the self by means of inference, though ... the reality of the self is apprehended by means of perception (Pratyaksa or sense-perception) also. ... The recognition of the different cognitions as mine proves the continued persistence of the soul. ... All our mental states ... imply the reality of a self".

"The soul exerts itself to gain or get rid of objects by means of the body, which is the seat of the senses, mind, and sentiments. ... The self is not the senses but what controls them, and synthesizes their contributions. It is the soul that confers unity on the various kinds of apprehensions. ... Nor is the soul to be identified with manas, which is only an instrument by the aid of which the soul thinks. . . .The self cannot be identified with the body, senses or manas. ... The permanent self is not Buddhi, apprehension or knowledge. ... The self is the perceiver of all that brings about pain and pleasure, the experiencer of all pains and pleasures, and the knower of all things".

"The soul is partless and eternal. It has no beginning and no end. ... It is all pervading. ... It is manas that retains the impressions of acts done in the body, and each soul has normally only one manas (Mind) which is regarded as eternal".

"The soul is unique in each individual. There are an infinite number of souls. Consciousness is not an essential property of the soul. ... As a matter f fact it is an unconscious principle capable of being qualified by the states of consciousness. Consciousness cannot exist apart from self, even as the brilliance of the flame cannot live apart from the flame; but the soul itself is not necessarily conscious. Consciousness is regarded as a quality of the soul produced in the waking state by the conjunction of the soul with manas. It is an intermittent quality of the self".

"The soul is an eternal entity which is from time to time connected with a body suitable to its desert. ... The connection of the soul with the body is called its birth and its separation from it death ... The body gives the name to the soul. The soul passes from one frame to another through the aid of manas, which is atomic and therefore super sensuous, and is not seen when it leaves the body on death".

Knowledge and Action: As the Nyaya holds that God is a mere spectator of Nature's work or else has a small share in the task, it admits the necessity of action only in extreme and essential cases, and believes that all actions should, as far as possible, be renounced, and that knowledge is the true goal of life. In the Sutras we have the following:

"All acts have for their motive the desire to obtain pleasure and avoid pain. The highest good is deliverance from pain and not the enjoyment of pleasure, for pleasure is always mixed up with pain. ... To escape from samsara is to attain the highest good. ... All activity, good or bad, binds us to the chain of samsara and leads to some kind of birth, high or low. ... The activity is due to the defects of aversion, attachment, and stupidity. ... The cause of these defects is false knowledge about the nature of the soul, pain, pleasure, etc ... When false knowledge disappears, faults pass away. With their disappearance, activity has no raison d'etre, and so there is no chance of birth. Cessation of birth means abolition of pain, which is another name for final bliss".

"The realization of true knowledge does not mean an immediate escape from samsara. The desert which is the basis of the connection between the soul and the body must be completely exhausted, thus destroying every chance of a revival of connection between the two".

"While the only good is this freedom from individuality, all courses of conduct which tend to this are said to be good, all those which lead in the opposite direction bad. ...The adoption of virtuous activities will enable one to discriminate the soul from the body and the senses. ... False knowledge and selfish attitude go together. True knowledge and unselfishness are organically related. ... Though God does not interfere, the act of devotion brings its own reward".

"Like the other systems of Hindu thought the Nyaya accepts the principle of karma (action), and believes in the persistence of the results of our activity. ... The bodies which the souls assume are determined by their past karma".

Conclusion: Thus we see that the principal idea of the Nyaya, as given in the Sutras and by the early commentators, agrees with the theory as we have outlined. The whole universe is conceived in the light of Purushic Ether, corresponding to which we have the south- seeking pole of magnetic energy, the atom, and the senses of knowledge and so the highest form of knowledge is Pratyaksa or sense-perception; and even the Mind, without which the senses cannot Function, is regarded as an immaterial sense-organ, like the ear or the eye, and spoken of as atomic. Purusha and Prakrti (God and Nature) are regarded as co-existent and co-eternal, but the whole world is believed to evolve out of the original activity of the atoms. God is not their creator, but their fashioner, and so his action in the scheme of life is of a strictly limited character. Indeed, he is outside the entire frame of things, dwelling apart in self-centred isolation. The character of the individual soul is conceived in the same light. It is not self-conscious, and owes its consciousness to the Mind, which is an immaterial organ of sense. Indeed, it can be apprehended by means of sense-perception and, when it passes away, manas (Mind) accompanies it to another birth. But it is eternal and partless, though different in each different body. It is characterised by action, but it can attain to final freedom from the sorrow and misery of life only by means of knowledge.