Vaisheshika is derived from the word vishesha which means particular or distinguishing feature or distinction. Vaisheshika is pluralistic realism which emphasizes that diversity is the soul of the universe. In origin it comes next to samkhya and is of greater antiquity than Nyaya. 

The founder of this system is Kanada who is also known as Kahsyapa. This system of philosophy was later on fused with Nyaya which accept the ontology of the former and developed it in the light of its own epistemology.


Founder & Commentators


Kanada’s Vaisheshika sutras is the basic text of Vaisheshika Philosophy. On this work Prasata Pada written Padartadharmasamgrah commentry, which further commented upon by Udayana and Shridhara. Later Vaisheshkha and Nyaya fused together so, Shivaditya, Laugakshi Bhaskara, Viswanatha and Annambhatha treat two systems together.

The overall naturalism of the Vaisheshika, its great interest in physics, and its atomism are all counterbalanced by the appeal to adrishta (a supersensible force), to account for whatever the other recognized entities cannot explain. Among things ascribed to this supersensible force are movements of needles toward a magnet, circulation of water in plant bodies, upward motion of fire, movement of mind, and movements of soul after death. These limit the naturalism of the system. 

Vaisheshsika is a kind of Atomism. It was proposed by Maharishi Kanaad. It postulates that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a finite number of atoms. The school deals in detail with “Padarth” or Matter. Vaisheshika system developed independently from the Nyaya, but the two eventually merged because of their closely related theories. In its classical form, however, the Vaishesika school differed from the Nyaya in one crucial respect: where Nyaya accepted four sources of valid knowledge, the Vaishesika accepted only perception and inference.

Vaisheshika is also different from the Modern Atomic Theory because Vaisheshika says that the behaviour of the atoms is guided by the Supreme being.

The Vaisheshika School classified the matter or padartha into six categories:

  • Dravya (substance): There are nine substances viz. pṛthvī (earth), ap (water), tejas (fire), vāyu (air), ākaśa (ether), kāla (time), dik (space), ātman (self) and manas (mind). The first five are called bhūtas
    (Panchabhutas) the substances having some specific qualities so that they could be perceived by one or the other external senses.
  • Guṇa (quality): There are 17 Gunas or qualities of matter. The Gunas are diferent from Dravya. While a Dravya is capable of existing independently by itself, a guṇa(quality) cannot exist so. The 17 Gunas are rūpa (colour), rasa (taste), gandha (smell), sparśa (touch), saṁkhyā (number), parimāṇa (size/dimension/quantity), pṛthaktva (individuality), saṁyoga (conjunction/accompaniments), vibhāga (disjunction), paratva (priority), aparatva (posteriority), buddhi (knowledge), sukha (pleasure), duḥkha (pain), icchā (desire), dveṣa (aversion) and prayatna (effort). To these Praśastapāda added another Gunas such as gurutva (gravity), dravatva (fluidity), sneha (viscosity), dharma (merit), adharma (demerit), śabda (sound) and saṁkāsra (faculty).
  • Karma (activity): Activity is a feature of the some of the Dravyas. Ākāśa (ether), kāla (time), dik (space) and ātman (self), though substances, are devoid of karma (activity)
  • Sāmānya (generality): When a property is found common to many substances, it is called sāmānya.
  • Viśeṣa (particularity) : By means of viśeṣa, we are able to perceive substances as different from one another. As the ultimate atoms are innumerable so are the viśeṣas
  • Samavāya (inherence): Samavaya is basically cause and the effect by two substances. Acording to Praśastapāda, it is the relationship existing between the substances that are inseparable, standing to one another in the relation of the container and the contained

One more category was later added called abhāva (non-existence). Here, the first three categories are defined as artha (which can perceive) and they have real objective existence. The last three categories are defined as budhyapekṣam (product of intellectual discrimination) and they are logical categories.




The vaisheshika believes in the authority of the veda and in the moral law of karma. Many commentators of vaisheshika gave classical arguments to prove the existence of God. God is omniscent, eternal, and perfect. He is the lord. He is the guide by the law of Karma representing the unseen power is unintelligent and needs God as the Supervisor or controller. He is the efficient cause of the world of which the eternal atoms are the material cause.


Vaisheshika also regard bindage as due to ignorance and liberation as due to knowledge. The soul due to ignorance perform actions. Actions leads to merit and demerits. These merita and demerits of the individual souls make up the unseen moral power, the adrashta. The Adrashta guide by God, imparts motion to the atoms and leads to creation for the sake of enjoyment or suffering of individual soul. To get rid of bondage the soul must stop actions. Libefrration comes through knowledge. Liberation is the cessation of all life; all consciousness; all bliss together with all pain and all qualities.

The Atomic pluralism proposed by the vaisheshika school can be cited as an important stage of the development of individual philosophy. It emphasizes scientific thinking and is an advance on the materialistic standpoint. The acceptance of negation as a separate category, and the recognition of inherence are the two real advances made by the vaisheshika system.

Further Reading

What is Yoga?

History of Yoga

Misconceptions about Yoga

Fundamentals Of Yoga

9 Principles Of Yoga

Yoga Basics

Panch Mahabhutas



Astanga Yoga

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