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nyAya-vaisheShika Philosophy


- by mahAmahopAdhyAya j~nAnaku~njastha shrIgopInAtha kavirAja

The nyAya-vaisheShika philosophy is generally conceived by the synthetic critics to stand on the lowest rung of the philosophical ladder, so far as the present orthodox systems are concerned. Before proceeding to discuss, in what points the two systems differ from each other, it may be well, for purposes of elucidation, to take note of the close affinity existing between them. A brief outline of this combined philosophy, and a statement of the rationale of its metaphysics, may therefore be of some use for a proper understanding of the systems as a whole and determining their points of view.

In the first place, and at the root of all, we may note the belief that there is a close correspondence between the order of our ideas and the order of extra-mental reality to which it testifies. The two orders stand to each other in a certain relation of causal sequence, whatever is present to consciousness has therefore an objective ground of reality. It is independent of consciousness in so far as its existence is prior to the existence of the phenomena of our mental life and also as a condition of the possibility of such phenomena. It may be an object of immediate perception where such a perception is possible, or else its notion may be arrived at by an indirect process of abstract reasoning or by some other valid sources of knowledge. Idea (pratIti) being a symbol of, and verbal usage (vyavahAra) being based on reality, it is assumed to be an index of its existence [samvideva hi bhagavato vastUpagame naH sharaNam, as quoted in upaskAra under vaisheShika sUtra, 7.2.26].

When we look upon the phenomena of change the question naturally presents itself, whence these changes and how do they come about? The problem is difficult and admits of a variety of solutions as we approach it from various standpoints, but to the naiyAyika, starting from the data of his common consciousness, the question of origin and destruction is involved in deep obscurity. It is believed that the observed contingency of phenomena implies that a product comes into existence which had not existed before and that when destroyed, it is reduced to nothing. Before origination and after destruction, the product has no entity whatsoever. But the matter is relatively permanent, being the unalterable substance in which the product arises, in which it resides during its term of existence and in which it is destroyed. Relatively speaking, the cause is nitya and the effect is anitya.

So the individual product is a mystery in creation, nay, production itself is an inexplicable enigma. The Universal (sAmAnya) is already there, so is the Matter; but what determines the emergence of a particular form in this matter which stands on one hand for the manifestation of the appropriate Universal and on the other for the origin of the individual in which the Universal is apprehended? The asatkArya theory is supposed to be a reaction on the part of the naiyAyika against the doctrines of Universal Flux and of Universal Void of the Buddhists. But the naiyAyika in his turn has not succeeded in avoiding the perils of abrupt recoil.

For clearing up the position, I now take up the question of Causality, as it has been discussed in these schools. It is assumed, in opposition to the theories of some of the Buddhist scholars as a fact of common experience, that nothing comes out of nothing and that pure negation is unproductive. The production of an effect implies a change of condition or movement which presupposes the presence of two factors, one passive which receives and the other active which imparts the transitive movement.

The passive element is the material or constitutive cause of the product and is relatively permanent. It is invariably a substance, positive in character. The active factor known as the operative, efficient or instrumental cause acts upon the product either directly or by virtue of its presence. It is in the latter sense only that the causality of Divine Will, Time, Space etc. has to be conceived. In both cases the efficient cause is an extrinsic (bAhya) factor in the production and bears no intimate relation to the effect concerned. This formal duality in the causal principle is, of course, everywhere recognized, but the naiyAyika insists, under the exigencies of his fundamental position, that this analysis is not complete. Besides the two classes mentioned, there is a distinct kind of cause (called asamavAyI) which is neither material nor even wholly extrinsic. Thus, for instance, when two parts are brought together resulting in the production of a whole, the conjunction of the parts is as much a cause of the product as the parts themselves. Similarly in making a blue texture, the blue color of the material is a causal antecedent to the blue color of the product. It is maintained that every positive product comes into existence under the influence of this threefold cause. Negation as a product, i.e. destruction, requires only a nimitta and nothing more.

Being an ardent devotee of the doctrine of asatkAryavAda which is necessitated by his assumption of commonsense view of reality, the naiyAyika finds it indispensible to maintain an absolute distinction (atyantabheda) between the material cause and the effect which is produced from it. The relation which holds between the two is neither abheda nor even tAdAtmya, but an Ultimate Union (samavAya or inherence) of one with the other. It is a mysterious relation.

But what is the driving factor which compels the naiyAyika to assume the doctrine of asatkArya? Does it not do violence to our belief in persistence and continuity? Why is it found necessary to posit prAgbhAva as a precondition (a general nimitta) in all production? To this the naiyAyika replies that to confine ourselves to the records of our usual experience, we are bound to assume, by the very laws of our thought, the necessity of prAgbhAva as such a condition of production. But this does not amount to a denial of a principle of Persistence altogether, for the doctrine of Conservation of Matter is an essential feature of its philosophy. The naiyAyika as much as the sAnkhya, admits that Primary Matter is eternal. The four kinds of atomic substances, viz. earth etc. and AkAsha persist through eternity (like time, space, manas and self). Being without any parts or component members, they have neither a beginning nor an end. It is only the compounds of the first four substances (kAryabhUta) as well as some qualities and all actions which are produced and destroyed, bhUtocChedAnupapatteH [nyAya bhAShya, 4.1.29]. It is pointed out that though forms (samsthAna) may change, matter as such remains constant; being eternal, it is capable neither of increase not of diminution. Form, which is nothing but a collocation of parts (avayava sannivesha), is conceived as a quality inhering in matter. The appearance and disappearance of forms is bound up with, being logically considered as antecedents of, the origin and destruction of individuals, for origin and dissolution, so far as the substances are concerned, are synonymous with aggregation and separation of parts [shrI kavirAja answers later some queries that are bound to arise at this point!].

Thus, in this view, though the individual is perishable (dhvamsa pratiyogI), the Universal is eternal. What the individual is in sAnkhya, the Universal is from this standpoint in nyAya-vaisheShika.

This Universal is revealed by a definite arrangement of the parts of the body, for though it is by nature eternal and free from spatial limitations, such is the nature of things that it inheres and manifests itself in those individuals only whose component parts are fixed in a particular spatial order. Though present everywhere it is not so perceived. It enters as a predicate in our judgment. No further question is here admissible: we are dealing with an ultimate fact incapable of further analysis. The etymological structure of the word vyakti (manifestation) shows that the individual is conceived as a manifestation only, implying that the Universal (jAti), as such is unmanifest. In this system (as much as in sAmkhya), it is therefore naturally assumed that before the commencement of the causal operation there is something already given, viz, the Universal (or the individual). The sAmkhya yoga is an advocate of satkAryavAda and denies the necessity of assuming a real independent Universal. The individual is considered to consist of a twofold aspect viz. the generic and the specific (sAmAnya visheShAtmaka) and has an eternal existence per se. What is popularly called production is only manifestation (AvirbhAva) i.e. descent as it were from the Eternal Plane into the realm of Time. And as all manifestation is relative, it means that in an absolute sense, i.e. from the standpoint of God or yuktayogI, there is nothing like production or creation. In Eternity, on the Divine Plane, there can be no motion and consequently no flux. Causality, implying succession, is a category in Time. The nyAya-vaisheShika, on the other hand, being a representative of asatkAryavAda is constrained to admit the non-existence of the individual before its production and after its destruction. But along with this, he is bound to ascribe eternal existence to the Universal. Otherwise, his position would be like that of the Buddhist, who rejects the reality of both the Concrete Individual (samghAtavAda) as well as of the Abstract Universal (apohavAda).

So then we find that before the appearance of a particular cosmic order, we have to presuppose the existence of Primary Matter, (which
in this school is understood as partly atomic, e.g. the first four elements and partly ubiquitous e.g. AkAsha), of the Principles of Time and Space and of the Universals. These atoms, which till now have been in a loose and free state (pravibhaktAH) are set in motion by a certain influence and begin to group themselves into different forms. This shows that there is no form in matter during the period of dissolution. In the sAmkhya also, matter is described in its primary state as undifferentiated and formless (avyAkR^itA prakR^itiH). According to both, it is indeterminate and super-sensuous (atIndriya).

But what is this influence which imparts the initial motion to the atomic matter without and to the atomic manas within? The problem is extremely complicated. The atoms and the manas being inert by nature have to be moved from without. The Self in itself cannot be a source of motion, for it is a continuum. The only active principle, if there could at be anything deserving of this name in this system, is adR^iShTa which resides as a specific quality in the Self. It is maintained that when the Self, charged with this adR^iShTa, comes in contact with the atoms, the latter are impelled to action. The occasion for such contact is determined by the maturity of adR^iShTa which is effected by the passage of time. But adR^iShTa in itself, as being a link in the chain of causation, cannot be a final and adequate explanation of the origin of motion. The ascription of causality, in this case to the human will (mAnuShIya prayatna), is out of the point. The human will, in so far as it is a product, is occasional i.e. an event in time and is itself determined by adR^ishTa. As a result of this analysis, therefore, our system finds compelled to reject both the hypotheses as ultimate solution. We have, it is urged, in the last resort to fall back on the Divine Will (IshvarIya prayatna), which being eternal, is not determined by anything external to it and requires no further explanation. This is what in the scholastic language we may designate as the doctrine of the Divine Concursus.

The origin of Motion is therefore to be explained by the operation of the Divine Will in the first place and by that of the human will and of mechanical necessity implied in previous karma in the second. All the principles work concurrently though prominence is given in all theistic philosophy to the Will of the Divine without which nothing can be actuated. The process of the formation of organic and inorganic bodies is a question to which we cannot advert here but it may just be noted that the same karma which brings about a contact between the self and the manas is also instrumental in bringing together the atoms so as to form different collocations capable of exhibiting a variety of specific characters. In other words, the manas and the material particles are stirred into activity by one and the same force conceived as a quality present in the Self. The external world, including the organism, is held to be a field for the experiences of pleasure and pain resulting by way of natural reaction from the karma-forces of the past, and has only a moral value. Apart from karma, i.e. from the standpoint of the liberated Self, wrapped in the glory of its isolation, the existence of the world and of its life is without any significance. Hence the same moral End (viz. bhoga) which occasions the rise of subjective phenomena acts also as a motive for the origin of the objective order.

A word or two may be useful in connection with this vexed question of adR^iShTa or karma. Uniformity of Nature and the Principle of Causality are invariably assumed. There is no room for chance (AkasmikatvavAda) in philosophy. The different doctrines of chance viz. niyativAda, kAlavAda, yard^icChAvAda and svabhAvavAda have been rejected. That is, whatever comes into being is supposed to do so from an adequate cause. Granting this, it remains to take note of the facts of pleasure and pain and justify their existence. Evidently, they must be traced to distinctive causes which cannot be extrinsic or bhUtaniShTha as the materialists (lokAyatikAH) would contend. The same external object is the source of pleasure to one and of pain to another, causes pleasure to a man at one time and pain to the same man at another time. These differences of experiences have, therefore, to be explained on intrinsic grounds. That is to say, once assuming that pleasure and pain, which are facts of mental life and belong to the Self, are occasioned by causes also belonging to and existing in the same Self, the question becomes simplified. The conclusion becomes irresistible that these causes are the nature of tendencies or subconscious forces resulting from conscious efforts in the past and lying dormant in the Self. They lie dormant ot unseen for a definite period of time proportionate to the intensity of the strain originally put forth. They are then released so to say, and give rise to pleasure and pain, indeed to the whole panorama of phenomenal existence. For the world itself, as already mentioned, is justifiable only on moral grounds as the field wherein the Self has to work out its destinies. It can have no other meaning.

The materialists, who rejected the efficiencies of karma, explained that a living organism (sharIra), just like an inorganic substance, is produced from matter under purely mechanical influences. The assumption of karma is declared unnecessary. But the naiyAyika remarks that while the mechanical causes are indeed admissible, they do not go very far; they are subject to the operation of a governing principle of Justice or Moral Retribution in the world. The mechanical theory is open to several objections:

1. The analogy of inorganic substances is ill-founded, for there is no evidence testifying to the fortuitous character of their origin.

2. On the contrary, the origin of organic bodies is known from experience to follow generally (e.g. in the case of sexually generated bodies) from the fusion of two principles, male and female (retaH and lohita), but this involves previous karma, both of the person to be born and of the parents, capable of bringing about the fusion. And even where such a fusion is not a necessary pre-condition, as in the case of the ayonija (asexually generated) bodies of a. devas, rishis on one hand and b. of the Infusoria etc. on the other, the action of karma is held to be indispensible.

To explain: the immediate material which enters into the constitution of all organisms (whether ayonija or yonija) is the atomic ubstance, but the efficient cause, viz. the unseen agency of differentiation or the factor which determines their varieties (i.e. the different forms of organic structure) is karma. The former is passive, but it yields to the impulse communicated to it by the latter, the active principle, and takes on a corresponding form. Unless the agency of such an unseen principle be admitted, it seems hard to explain how the same primordial cells which are uniform in character and do not exhibit the slightest indications of difference either in physical or psychical activities should gradually evolve themselves into different organisms altogether.

Karma is conceived as bringing about a twofold union:

1. The aggregation of the atoms resulting in the production of the body,
2. The union of the particular Self, in which it inheres as a quality, with this body.

These two actions are indeed not two different actions, but rather two complimentary phases of the same action, and are simultaneous. For the body being considered to be the vehicle of bhoga, and bhoga explained as the experience of pleasure and pain (sukha-duHkha samvitti), it is apparent that its relation to the Self is already implied. To clear up, the same karma which resides in a particular Self creates for it by a process of atomic combination (aNusamghAta), its vehicle of experiences. If this be not conceded, a great difficulty would follow. That is to say, if it be supposed that the efficient cause of the body does not pertain to the Selves severally i.e. is not pratyAtmanIyata, the problem arises: why should one individual Self experience his pleasures and pains through one body and through that alone, rather than through any other? Since all the Selves are by nature Omnipresent and related to all bodies alike, what determines the sense of possession (svasvAmibhAva, bhoktR^i-bhogyabhAva, mamatva) in regard to a particular Self and a particular body as expressed in the judgment, this body is mine? It is a universally admitted fact that such a restriction or niyama of personal experience really exists, one cannot enjoy or suffer in another’s body. Hence there must be a ground of restriction. This is karma. This excludes the case of yogins who are able to experience the pleasure and pain of anybody whatsoever as if they were their own! But then this experience would not be called bhoga at all, and is not the result of his prior karma. Hence, bhoga is svasukhaduHkha sAkShAtkAraH [nyAyavArtika tAtparyatIkA].

From what has been said above, it follows that karma is the force which helps to build up a particular body and unite it and the manas to the Self to which it attaches, so that it lies at the root of the entire phenomena of mundane existence. The assumption of bodies and senses, not once but through a beginningless series of births, is the only means by which the experience of pleasure and pain is possible, for a disembodied soul is free from pleasure and pain, in fact from every form of mental life, e.g. cognition, desire, volition etc. Now, for one who wants to be rid of pain and consequently of mental life, including what is popularly esteemed as pleasure, the one thing needful is to destroy the the accumulated force of karma, this destruction alone being capable of leading to a discarnate state.

But what is it that can destroy karma? To this question, one has to answer by asking a cross-question, viz. what is it that produces karma or rather makes its origin or possibility. All the systems of Indian Philosophy agree in the main in replying to both these questions. They hold, irrespective of the individual standpoint from which each of them looks at Reality, that ignorance leads to karma, or makes it productive while knowledge serves to destroy it or to sterilize its forces. Let is confine ourselves to the special views of nyAya-vaisheShika. Ignorance is said to consist in thinking that the Self is the kartA and bhoktA and that it is identical with the body and senses or at least is their owner. True knowledge enables the Self to realize that in itself, as dissociated from the action of the specific qualities which inhere in it under the influence of adR^iShTa during its term of embodied life, it is absolutely pure and indifferent (svarUpatashchAhaM udAsInaH). It reveals the truth that all real agency or efficiency belongs to the Lord and that man is, and considers himself, to be an efficient cause in so far as he identifies himself, though falsely and unknowingly, with the Lord. This false sense of efficiency (kartR^itvabodha) on the part of man, which is necessitated for the working out of his past karma, disappears with the disruption of karma by the fire of Knowledge, so that in reality the human soul is not a free agent (kartA) nor even a patient (bhoktA) but is neutral (udAsIna). The notion that the soul is active or passive springs only from ignorance or misapprehension of its real character.