Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
Our religious system is such that if we go to the root of all padarthas
(categories)and understand their source, the Truth will become
We must make use of all pramanas (source or instruments of knowledge)
for this purpose. (That by which we perceive objects is a pramana).
Objects that are apprehended by the senses, that is by the eyes, ears,
are not many. Others have to be known by inference.
And inference helps us in understanding the truths of the truths of the
Vedas. That is why Nyaya is called an Upanga (an auxiliary "limb") of
In Nyaya the padarthas are divided into seven categories. Of them there
are two divisions: "existent" and "non-existent" -- "bhavo abhavasca",
latter being the seventh padartha. "Bhava" or the existent is further
divided into six sub-catagories.
How does that which does not exist become a padartha? What does
"padartha" mean? In a literal sense, it is the meaning of a pada or
Is there not a word which means No? There is nonexistence
objects in some places, and not in some others. Here there are no
flowers. There, in the pavilion where the puja is performed, there are
flowers which means that the nonexistence
of flowers does not apply to
the pavilion. So there is nonexistence
[of objects] in some places and on
certain occasions. Thus the fact of non-existence [of a thing] in
places and at certain times is also to be known as padartha.
The seven padarthas are: dravya (substance), guna (quality), karma
(action), samanya (association), visesa (difference), samavaya
(inheritance) and abhava (non-existence). Dravya, guna and karma are
padarthas that belong to the category of "sat" or being. We can
demonstrate their existence but not of the other four padarthas. Dravya
can also be shown in its gross form. But qualities like jnana, desire,
happiness, sorrow, etc, cannot be shown as independent entities.
Redness is the quality of, say, the lotus and it cannot be separated
that flower. That on which it is dependent is dravya. And, though
like happiness and sorrow cannot be "shown", we can know whether a
person is happy or sad: we "see" in him happiness or sorrow. When we
see a red lotus we know what is red. Karma is work, activity. Such
as movement, running, is karma and it is also dependent on dravya.
When a man runs, his "running" cannot be separated from him. But we
do see him running and know that he is not sitting or lying down. That
means we “see" the running. Samanya is the fourth padartha and it
means "jati" ("species"). We see a number of cows. They have the
common quality of being cows. This common quality is of jati. Among
objects or individuals that have a common quality there may still be
differnces. This is what is called "visesa". Suppose there is a herd of
(they belong to the same jati): among them we will be able to tell apart
individual cows because of their distinctive characteristics.
What is "samavaya"? The quality of a substance cannot be separated
from it(the substance), nor the work associated with it. The parts of a
whole object cannot be separated if it is still to remain the object
know it to be. Here we have samavaya, the quality inhering in something.
Fire has a radiant form. But this radiance cannot be separated from it.
Here again is an example of samavaya. When one dravya or substance
combines with another substance we have "samyoga". The two can
remain independently without combining. There is samavaya when a
substance combines with guna or quality and there is samavaya again
when dravya and karma combine. The quality and the karma cannot be
separated from the substance.
I have already spoken about "abhava".
Each of the seven padarthas is now further subdivided. Dravya or
substance is divided into nine: prithvi (earth), ap(water), tejas
(air), akasa (space), kala (time), dik (direction), the Atman (Self),
manas(mind). The first five are called "pancabhutas". Corresponding to
them in the body are the five sense organs, the eyes that see, the ears
that hear, the tongue that tastes, the organ of touch that feels warmth
and cold, the nose that smells. The organ of touch is not skin alone;
entire body possesses the sense of touch. It is because it exists within
body too that we feel stomach ache, chest pain, etc.
These faculties are associated with individual parts of the body. Sight
the eyes; the ears cannot see. Music is heard by the ears; the eyes and
the nose cannot hear it. If an object comes into contact with your
you know its taste but not its smell - the nose does not know that
sugarcane is sweet. So these five qualities can be recognized
by the five sense organs. The eye recognizes the quality called tangible
form, "rupa", which means colour, size, shape, etc. White, yellow,
red, brown are some of the colours. The nose perceives pleasant and
unpleasant smells. Heat and cold are known by the skin. The tongue
apprehends the six different flavours (rasas). Thus there are five
sense organs for five different qualities and they are called
Without the sense organs or indriyas the quality of an object will not
recognised. If we had six organs we could perhaps know six gunas or
qualities and if we had a thousand sense organs we could perhaps
appreciate a thousand qualities. We have no knowledge of all objects of
the universe. If we did not possess the sense organ of touch we would
not be able to feel heat and cold. We cannot claim that we have
knowledge of cold or heat (that is we can feel heat and cold) because
they exist. We recognise qualities only be means of our sense organs.
blind and the deaf do not perceive form or sound though form and sound
do exist in the world. All the five qualities, form, flavor, smell,
sound, are known respectively with the eye, tongue, nose, skin and ear.
The Lord had invested the pancabhutas, the five elements, with these
qualities. The earth has all the five gunas or qualities. It has form
flavour. Our body, aubergines, jaggery- all are earth. Earth has smell.
fragrant flower is indeed earth. Earth has qualities like cold and heat
known by the sense of touch and it has also sound. If you drop one end
a string to earth and keep the other end of it to your ear you will hear
sound. Water has four qualities but not smell. It smells only when we
perfume in it. If we beat its surface it sounds. Though earth has all
five qualities its special quality is smell which is absent in the other
elements. The special quality of water is flavour. Without water there
no rasa. That is why the sense organ of taste, the tongue, is always
the tongue becomes dry you will not be able to appreciate any taste. As
matter of fact, the word "rasa" itself also means water. Fire has
smell nor flavour but it has form, sound and touch, form being its
quality. Vayu or air has no form, but it has sound and touch- the
is its special quality. That is how we know when the wind
blows on us. Akasa or space has only one quality, sound.
To sum up, akasa or space has only one quality; vayu or air has, in
addition to sound, the quality of touch; agni or fire has the three
of sound, touch and form; water has the qualities of sound, touch, form
and rasa; but earth has all the five qualities. Such are the pancabhutas
The remaining four subdivisions of dravya (substance) are time, dik, the
Atman and manas. Terms like "hour", "yesterday", "today", "year",
"yuga", indicate time. "Dik" means direction or area, the points of the
compass, what we mean by "here" or "there". In short it denotes "space",
"akasa". The Atman is the entity that knows all this. He or It is of two
types, the intelligent and the unintelligent, the Paramatman and the
jivatman. The Paramatman is a mere witness to all that passes in the
world while the jivatman or the individual self is trapped in it(the
and given to sorrow. The individual souls are many while the Paramatman
is one and only one. Both the jivatman and the Paramatman are spiritual
entities of jnana.
According to Vedanta, knowledge itself is the Atman; the Atman is jnana
in a plenary sense. Apart from it, and outside it, there is nothing to
known. Indeed we cannot speak of different jivatmans. According to
Nyaya, the Atman is a dravya or substance, knowledge (jnana) being its
Nyaya describes the Paramatman alone as jnana that is full since there
nothing that is not known to him. The individual self possesses only a
little knowledge. So we are called "kinjijnas", "kinjit" meaning little.
Paramatman is "Sarvajna", the One who knows all. We are in a mixed
state of being dependent both on jnana and ajnana. The Paramatman is
dependent on (or is) jnana alone. The Atman is "vibhu", all-pervading.
Nyaya also says that the Paramatman is all-pervading, but it does not
speak of the two being the same, the Atman and the Paramatman. The
reason for this is that, according to Nyaya, knowledge exists
independently in each individual as a separate factor. The place where
dwells is the mind- and it is the mind that causes sorrow and happiness.
In Nyaya guna is divided into 24 categories and karma into five. The
will be known, says Nyaya, if we have knowledge of the padarthas and
develop detachment that will lead to release. Liberation is a state in
which we know neither sorrow nor happiness. Even if we adhere to the
Vedantic concept of liberation, Nyaya affords a method to reflect upon
the instruction received from our guru. We are able to know the
pancabhutas or the five elements, the individual self and the mind. But
how are we to know the Paramatman? He alone is not known. It is to
know him that we must employ anumana, the method of inference. To
know the rest "pratyaksa pramanas" or direct sources of knowledge are
sufficient. The Vedas proclaim the existence of Isvara; Nyaya
with anumana or inference.
Let us now see a small example of inference. We know that the throne on
which I am seated must have been made by someone. Because we don't
know him, can we describe the fact of its having been made itself to be
false? We have seen other thrones being made and from that we deduce
that there must be somebody who must have made this one also.
Similarly, there must be someone who must have created this universe.
He is omniscient, omnipotent and compassionate- and he is the protector
of all. Such matters are dealt with in Nyaya: a proposition is stated,
objections raised and answered.