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Vaisheshika Philosophy Main Doctrines

 The Vaisheshika philosophy is pluralistic realism. It believes that the external world exists independently of the mind. It is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, which admit the authority of Vedas. The third aphorism of Vaisheshika Sutra confirms this by asserting that Veda, being the word of God (tat), must be regarded as valid. However, there is no mention of God anywhere in Vaisheshika Sutra. To dispose of this sort of discrepancy, it is said that many things have been left unsaid in Vaisheshika Sutra. But it does not mean that those things would be denied by it. Later on, when the commentaries were written on Vaisheshika Sutra, and Nyaya and Vaisheshika traditions became allied, gradually all the unsaid but presumed ideas came into the light. It is generally admitted that the characteristic concern of the Vaisheshika philosophy is to enunciate an ontological doctrine of padartha (categories).

A sound ontological analysis is required to take into account only those entities which are indispensible for the explanation of all that falls under the purview of human experience. The Vaisheshika doctrine of categories is the result of such an ontological analysis. Padartha (category) literally means what is denoted by a word (pada), that is, something nameable. Shivaditya defines padarthas as the objects of knowledge. Thus, all things which can be cognized and named are padarthas. The ontological analysis that results in a doctrine of padarthas thus necessarily involves the need to show in what respects the cognizable or nameable things resemble (sadharmya), and in what respects they differ (vaidharmya) from, one another.

Without this sort of classificatory and conceptual task, which goes under the name of the knowledge of ‘Real (tattva jnana) in Vaisheshika Sutra, a wide range of innumerable but cognizable and nameable things could not be dealt with in an intelligible manner, resulting in a list of a limited number of categories.

Vaisheshika Sutra provides a six-fold classification of padarthas into dravya (substance), guna (quality), karma (activity), samanya (generality), visesha (particularity) and samavaya (inherence). A category of abhava (non-being) also is mentioned in the ninth chapter of Vaisheshika Sutra. That is why the category of non-being was added explicitly later on by Sridhara, Udayana and Shivaditya.