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Vishaya In Hindu Philosophy

Vishaya loosely means object and in Hindu philosophy it is the term used to define all creations of this universe. Vishya is associated with both living and nonliving things.
As per Hinduism, Panchamahabutas or the five elements (sky, air, fire, water and earth) create all the things available in this world. Out of these five elements, Mayashakti or the imaginary effect of the supreme power, has created the sky (akasha). From the sky, vayu (air) was born. From the air, tejas (fire) was born. Fire energy gave birth to water, and from water earth was formed.

The eternal substances in which visheshas inhere are the atoms of the first four substances, namely earth, water, light and air.

Each of these five elements individually is called tanmatra. All the five should be mixed in a proper way to give an achit rupa. With the entry of ‘chit’ into this, life is introduced. Only then do these mixed bhutas become visible to our sense organs. This mixture is called sthula bhutas meaning visible elements.

These five elements have their own individual qualities and individual organ sense to them. For the sky, sabda guna (sound) is the quality. The ears grasp the sound. Likewise, vayu or air has the quality of sparsha (touch) and this is sensed by the skin. The natural quality of tejas (fire) is sensed by the eyes in the form of rupa (sight). Rasa (or taste) is the quality of water, and this is tasted by the tongue. Gandha (smell) is sensed by the nose, and this is the quality of earth. In this way all the five gunas namely sabda, sparsha, rupa, rasa and gandha are felt by the these five sense organs, namely, ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose, respectively.

These panchedriyas or five sensitive organs experience all the five qualities. Anything and everything is being sensed by these organs. To sense these Vishaya objects, our will (antahkarana), which is tejomaya, that is, full of light/energy, is required, and the action of this inner sense is called vritti. Actually, we enjoy or experience the Vishaya by these vrittis or actions of will.

The water stored in a tank goes out through a channel and reaches the basin or trench of an agricultural farm, and the water takes the shape of that basin, whatever the shape may be. Just like this, the powerful inner will goes out from the body through sensitive organs and takes the shape of that object or vishaya.

In the phrase “I saw you”, the word ‘you’ becomes an object to my eyes. One Vishaya felt by one organ cannot be felt in the same way by another organ, and therefore the experiences differ. For example, ears or skin or nose cannot feel the sight, which can be noticed only by the eyes. We can experience one quality at a time; however, we can feel another quality of a thing by another organ at the same time. Like this, all the Vishyas or the objects in the world, are being felt or realized by our inner sense through five sensitive organs.

Source - Encyclopedia of Hinduism - volume XI page 385 - 86 - IHRF