Narach Philosophy

THE VAISESIKA IN THE SUTRAS


The idea of the Vaisesika in the Sutras is as we have explained that the idea of the Vaisesika is based on the character of the Mind. Corresponding to this we are told as follows:

"Earth, water, light, air, akasa, time, space, soul and manas (Mind) are the nine substances intended to comprise all corporeal and incorporeal things. By means of manas (Mind) the soul knows not only external things but also its own qualities. ... Even in re-birth the manas accompanies the soul and gives it individuality. For all practical purposes the distinctiveness of the soul is determined by the distinctiveness of the manas which accompanies it throughout its career. There are as many of them as there are souls. As the same manas accompanies the soul throughout its career, there is the possibility of the continuity as well as the survival of character".

God and Nature; Purusha: We have explained that the Vaisesika conceives of God and Nature as equal or almost equal creators of the universe and so we have the following:

"God is the efficient cause of the world, while the atoms (Prakrti) are the material cause. ... God perceives the atoms, and in his intellect first arises the notion of duality and then the dyads (two atoms) are formed. Inference and scripture both require us to admit God. ... If we are to avoid infinite regress, we are thrown back on a first Mover as the origin and starting point. There need be only one such Mover. To admit a number is unnecessary a plurality of gods may produce discord, and so there is one creator, and he is God. ... God's intelligence, desire, and effort are eternal. ... God is not the creator of the world, since souls and atoms are co-eternal with him".

God and Desire: "To secure rest for all living beings, worried by their wanderings, the Supreme Lord ... desires to re-absorb all creation. The rise of this desire means the cessation of the operations of the unseen tendencies (adrsta) of all souls that are the causes of their bodies, sense-organs, and gross elements. Then out of the Lord's desire and from the conjunction of the souls and the material atoms, disruptions of the atoms constituting the bodies and the sense-organs occur. ... Again, for the sake of experience to be gained by living beings, the Supreme Lord desires creation. ... So every universe has its predecessor and successor, and the flow will go on forever".

Prakrti; Atoms: The ultimate constituents of the concrete things of earth, air, light, and water are called atoms. ... The things that we experience are all products, that is, discrete or made up of parts. They are therefore non-eternal. Non-eternal has no meaning apart from eternal. ... The compounds which are produced are non-eternal, while the component particles which are not produced are eternal. The invisible eternal atoms are incapable of division into parts. The atom marks the limit of division.

"The changes in the volumes of bodies are determined by the accession and withdrawal of atoms composing them. ... The atoms are naturally passive, and their movement is due to external impact. ... According to Vaisesika, the movement of the ultimate atoms arises from a peculiar dharma. ... The qualities of all products are due to the atoms of which they are composed. ... There can never come a time when there will be an utter annihilation of things. ... The individual atoms combine with others and continue in that co-operative existence for some time and again disintegrate into their original solitary being to form new combinations. The process of grouping and separation goes on endlessly. According to the Vaisesika, atoms do not exist in an uncombined state in creation. During creation they are said to possess a vibratory motion (parispanda). Singly the atoms are not productive. ... Nor can triads be productive. ... So dyads alone produce things. Both single atoms and dyads are invisible, and the least magnitude required for visibility is a triad said to be of the size of a mote in the sunbeam. ... The things produced by the union of atoms are not mere aggregates but wholes. ... The atoms which are the material causes of the dyads are eternal and cannot be destroyed. According to Kanada, the atoms are different in kind, each possessing its own distinct individuality (visesa). ... But countless millions of unthinking atoms cannot produce the marvelous unity in variety of the world. They are incapable of taking counsel together or carrying out a common plan of evolving a spiritual commonwealth. The logical minds of the Vaisesika thinkers were not favourable to the hypothesis of mere chance. They soon realized that the atoms, however immutable and eternal, were of no avail unless their activities were regulated by a presiding mind. God perceives the atoms, and in his intellect first arises the notion of duality, and then the dyads are formed. Inference and scripture both require us to admit God".

The Individual Soul: Like the supreme Soul the Vaisesika conceives of the individual soul in the light of the energy of the Mind, as characterised by Desire and associated with the senses, and atoms. It understands its true nature less than Yoga, and much less than Vedanta. Thus we are told as follows:

"The soul is one of the nine substances according to the Vaisesika. ... In its natural state the self is devoid of intelligence, as in pralaya (dissolution) It has cognition of things when it is connected with the body. Consciousness is sustained by the Atman (soul), though it is not an essential or inalienable characteristic of it. By means of manas the soul knows not only external things but also its own qualities. The soul is all-pervading, its life of knowing, feeling and activity resides only where the body is. The plurality of souls is inferred from differences in status, and variety of conditions. ... The differences among souls are due to their connections with bodies. Even in rebirth the manas accompanies the soul and gives it individuality. For all practical purposes the distinctiveness of the soul is determined by the distinctiveness of the manas which accompanies it throughout its career... a distinction is made between the individual soul and the supreme Soul jiva and Isvara (God). The two are similar but not identical".

Knowledge and Action: The Vaisesika, as we have observed, admits the necessity of action; but, inasmuch as Nature is conceived as creative in this system, it attaches more importance to knowledge and renunciation of action greater than we have in Yoga. Thus we are told as follows:

"Karma or movement is regarded as an irreducible element of the universe. ...Kanada defines activity as that which resides only in one substance, is devoid of qualities, and is the direct and immediate cause of conjunction and disjunction ... Effort as well as knowledge are qualities of the soul ... The Vaisesika makes a distinction between voluntary and involuntary activities. ... Acts due to organic life are involuntary, while those which spring from desire or aversion are voluntary ... The observance of duties results in virtue (Dharma) when they are done without a desire for gaining thereby any visible results (as wealth, etc.), and with the utmost purity of motive. ... (But) true knowledge puts an end to it (dharma). If dharma were absolutely indestructible, there can be no final deliverance. Dharma counts for progress, but must be abolished before there can be final release ... Activity motived by the feeling of separate self-existence is based on ignorance of the truth of things. ... When true knowledge dispels the motive of self-interest, selfish activities cease, no potential worth is produced, and there will be no rebirth".

Conclusion: Thus we see that the statement of the Vaisesika, as outlined in the Sutras, agrees with the theory we have explained. The basis of the whole is the creative energy of the Mind, and it is in its light that we are asked to examine the whole problem of life. Purusha and Prakrti exist together from the beginning as co-equal and co-extensive, and they create by means of the energy of the Mind the former through Desire and the latter through the atoms charged with electric or Mind-energy. The individual soul is also governed by the Mind, and it is the latter, accompanying it throughout life, which gives it its distinguishing character. The soul might or might not be self- conscious; but it certainly has a Mind and then we are told that action is necessary, but knowledge is the final goal, and it is that which puts an end to the cycle of births. All this, as we have shown, agrees with the theory of the Vaisesika.