July 25, 2015

(M. P. Rege: In THE NATURE OF MATTER © 1995 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi)
1. What may count as the Samkhya theory of matter is part of the general philosophical theory advanced by it which aims at giving a true account of the nature of all that there is.
2. Samkhya divides all things that are there into two radically different kinds:
(a) things which possess consciousness or rather are constituted of consciousness (cetana);
(b) things which are unconscious (jada) but are objects of (or for) consciousness.
The latter category includes not only inanimate physical things and physical processes, living things and vital processes, but also minds and mental acts, occurrences like sensations, wishes and feelings. For, one can be as much aware of one’s feelings and perceptions of things, as of tables and stones. Thus for Samkhya, physical things, organisms and minds fall on one side of the fundamental ontological divide, on the other side of which are to be found only subjects of pure consciousness (purusa).
Samkhya dualism may be compared with Cartesian dualism which has dominated later Western thought, according to which the basic ontological division is that between minds which are characterised by consciousness, and material things which are characterised by extension and motion.
3. The totality of jada things is called Prakrti. Prakrti is one, not only in the formal sense of being the all-inclusive set of all jada things, but also in the sense that it is one causal system. A jada thing exists, in some sense, within Prakrti. It is one form of the stuff of which Prakrti is composed and is causally linked with other such forms.
4. The ultimate constituents of which Prakrti or all jada things are composed are gunas. The commonest meaning of the Sanskrit word guna is quality. However, as used by Samkhya, guna does not mean quality. A guna is rather a substantive entity. But a guna is not something which possesses quality. Rather a guna is an entity with its own characteristic expression. A guna expresses itself in a certain quale. The total character of a particular thing or process like a pot or a tree or an emotion is the resultant of the qualia in which all the gunas which constitute that thing or process have expressed themselves. Everything or process in prakrti is composed of gunas.
5. Gunas fall into three kinds: Sattva, rajas and tamas. For Samkhya, a jada thing is something which is essentially (a potential) object of consciousness, an object for some Purusa. The consciousness of a purusa is likened to light. This metaphor needs to be taken seriously. For a purusa to be aware of an object is for the object to be illumined with a glow with the light of the purusa. The contribution which the component of sattva gunas within a jada thing makes to its nature, consists in rendering it illuminable by the light of a purusa. The sattva gunas are just those gunas which are responsive to the light of a purusa. A composition of gunas which is capable of being illumined by the light of a purusa is a mental phenomenon. It has this nature and capability because there is a preponderance of sattva gunas in its composition. When a mental phenomenon which is in itself unconscious (jada) is illumined by the light of a purusa, it becomes a conscious experience. Opposed to sattva gunas are the tamas gunas. (Tamas means darkness.) Tamas gunas resist the light of a purusa; they are opaque to it. They thus constitute the principle of materiality. A material thing is one which has a preponderance of tamas gunas in it. However, a material thing can become an object for consciousness indirectly even though not directly. Sattva gunas in addition to being translucent are plastic. As a mind is predominantly composed of sattva gunas, it can assume, because of the plasticity which it possesses, the form of a material thing. A mental formation of this sort when illumined by the light of a purusa becomes a conscious perception of the physical object.
The third kind of gunas, the rajas gunas, express themselves in motion. They constitute the dynamic principle in Prakrti. Tamas gunas in addition to resisting the light of a purusa also resist the force exerted by rajas gunas. They make for inertia. As a material thing is mainly constituted of tamas gunas it is inert. As against this, even though a mental phenomenon is overwhelmingly composed of sattva gunas it also contains a component of tamas gunas. A mental state, e.g., a perception of a pot has a determinate nature which it maintains at least for a brief while. This implies that it successfully resists being transformed into another sort of mental state. This is made possible by the presence of tamas gunas in it. Every phenomenon in Prakrti is an admixture of all the three kinds of gunas, and the proportions in which they are blended in it determine its character. Things cannot be separated from one another by assigning them to different species or sorts, each with a sharp boundary. They rather form a continuous gradation stretching from the most tamasika things to the most sattvika. Further, as each thing contains a component of rajas gunas, it is continuously changing.
The picture of Prakrti — ‘Nature’ — which Samkhya presents is not that of a totality of things each of which has its own rigid identity which it maintains for a longer or shorter duration, is endowed with a determinate nature of its own and acts uniformly on other things in accordance with its intrinsic nature. The identity of a particular thing — a material thing or a mind — is akin to the identity of a wave. Nature is like an ocean in which waves arise and subside and are continued in subsequent waves. One may note that this is largely a similar picture to that presented by Buddhism or Advaita Vedanta.
6. A human person, indeed any jiva (a living organism) consists of a purusa, and a mind-body complex to which it is related. The purusa is the transcendental element in jiva; the mind-body complex falls squarely within Prakrti. The mind, the body to which it is linked, and the environment within which the mind-body complex is set and acts, are different formations of the same stuff of which everything in Prakrti is composed. The body can function as an organ of the mind, and the mind-body complex can deal effectively with the environment because of their essential homogeneity. Thus, if Purusas are excluded the Samkhya view of things is monistic and naturalistic.
7. The last point: According to Samkhya there is a teleology inherent in Prakrti, which has a reference to the purposes of purusas. Whatever happens in Prakrti happens for the sake of purusas. Prakrti in its original state exists as an entity which was totally devoid of any specific character. This is so because the expression of every guna in it is exactly nullified by the expression of some other guna which counters it, so that no specific character emerges as the resultant. From this pristine condition Prakrti evolves into the kind of world-order which is familiar to us: a world, consisting, on the one hand, of diverse kinds of material things which change in accordance with causal laws and, on the other, mind-body complexes, each of which is associated with a distinct purusa, and by virtue of this association is capable of perceiving things, feeling pleasures and pains, and the desires they prompt, and acting in order to satisfy these desires. It is within such a world-order that the purposes of purusas can be effectively served. These purposes are of two sorts: (a) to enjoy diverse experiences (bhoga) and
(b) to be liberated from association with Prakrti (apavarga).
The teleology of Prakrti has a moral aspect. The diverse experiences which happenings in Prakrti provide to Purusas are determined by their past karmas. And the supreme end of a purusa which Prakrti serves is his liberation (apavarga or moksa). The Samkhya vision when considered in its entirety is spiritualistic in the peculiarly Indian form of spiritualism.

Space, Time and Anu in Vaisheshika

July 10, 2015

Space, Time and Anu in Vaisheshika
Roopa Narayan

Abstract: This article summarizes the main ideas related to space, time, and the fundamental particle (anu) in Vaisheshika, the ancient Indian tradition of physics. In particular, the conception of anu, the fundamental particle of this tradition, is examined at length. Kanada used his framework of defining observables (matter) through the effect of motion in a very consistent manner. When the universe ceases to be at the end of the cosmic cycle, matter is not annihilated. Rather, the collection of anu (atoms) reaches a quiescent state where they do not undergo any motion and thus become invisible to observation. The anu in itself is not observable, and is thus an abstraction. Kanada’s framework defies the usual categories of realist versus idealist, since for him matter in itself is a result of motion. In this framework, time and space arise out of the motion that anu obtains due to its interactions. To this extent, the observer is central to Kanada’s scheme.

1. Introduction
The characteristics of all that can be conceptualized and hence named and defined in the world through comparison and contrast, is the science of Vaisheshika [1],[2]. This includes a conceptual representation of space, and the gross visible matter, which is taken to be constructed out of the varying motions of anu, the most fundamental particle of matter.
Vaisheshika approaches basic concepts in a characteristic manner. For example, the division of time as past, present and future as understood by the observer is said to be a consequence of the fact that time is a function of movement. Vaisheshika is observer centric but it acknowledges that certain entities are necessary within the conceptual framework although there is no direct way of experimental verification of these entitites. For example, anu – the fundamental particle of matter – is said to be beyond direct perception irrespective of the kind of instrument that is used to view it. Nevertheless, its presence can be inferred indirectly.
In this paper, our emphasis is to examine Vaisheshika through the sutras of Kanada (we use the English translations by Sinha [3]), although the important commentary by the fifteenth century scholar Sankara Misra [4] will also be used for clarification, wherever necessary. Other important sources on Vaisheshika are references [16-21]. An early overview of Vaisheshika is to be found in the book by Seal [5].

2. Dravya – The building blocks
Kanada in his sutras enumerates real entities irrespective of whether they can be perceived through the sense organs or not. These are conceivable by the mind of the observer who is central to his world. These are the nine dravyas and these alone describe everything existing in the universe. These are the building blocks of Kanada’s world described through their gunas/attributes and karma/motion.
Space is one among these nine and Kanada recognizes it as an independent positive entity which is neither absence of matter nor an abstract concept. Every dravya has an identifier linga which helps identify the specific dravya besides which it has a unique set of guna/attributes associated with it.

Earth, water, Fire, Air, Akasa, time, Space, atma, mind are the only nine dravyas 1.1.5.

Commentary: All the nine mentioned dravyas in the sutra although are translated as earth, water, etc are not to be understood as the planet earth or the drinking water, etc.
These nine dravyas have specific gunas/ attributes associated to them like the dravya earth has smell associated as the primary guna/attribute to it. An understanding of dravyas can be arrived at by analyzing their attributes and their interactin with the rest of the world. The dravyas shall not be analyzed in this paper but it is important to understand the division of the dravyas.
The first four dravyas: earth, water fire and air are associated with a sense organ each as sense of smell, taste, sight and touch respectively. Although sound is mentioned as the identifier of akasa – the fifth dravya, which is not translated here as ether for specific reasons, that shall be dealt with separately.
Time, space, atma and mind are the eternal or nitya dravyas and none of them are perceivable by any of the sense organs is a basic definition in Vaisesika. Although, these four eternal entities can only be conceived by the mind, they are real existent dravyas or entities. Time, space and akasa are incapable of motion (by sutra 5.2.21) and it is only the first four dravyas and mind which are capable of motion. The mind is also not visible (because it is by nature an anu like-fundamental particle, which is not visible (by sutra 7.1.23). It is only the first four dravyas which compose the matter world. A sort of motion is applicable only to the matter section of dravyas which are the first four among the nine.
The dravyas are both perceivable and possess motion represent matter. Among nine dravyas, the first four compose the non-eternal matter, mind is the eternal but invisible dravya and the remaining four are eternal and incapable of motion.

3. Definition of Dik (Space) and Kala (Time)

That which gives rise to such (cognition and usage) as “This (is remote, etc.) from this,”– (the same is) the mark of space 2.2.10.

Space is identified through the fact that it can provide the context to describe objects as being separated spatially.
Spatial separation can only apply to matter since eternal dravyas which are incapable of motion can neither be separated nor brought together. Although mind can move, it is invisible. Therefore all that remains in Kanada’s classification of dravyas is matter.
The separation is an identifier and the identification is with reference to the observing mind. It is also significant that the displacement of matter is observed relative to another piece of matter.
The essence of this sutra may be rephrased as: mind recognizes space when matter is displaced relative to another piece of matter.
In Sankara Misra’s commentary of this sutra an argument is built about the similarity of space and time in terms of their guna/attributes and a question is raised about the requirement of a new entity called space to be recognized. Both space and time are characterized by their guna/attribute of – partva-aparatva/ being together – separated.
In Kanada’s definition, the dravyas are understood and defined through their gunas/attributes and each of these dravyas is non-repetitive and unique. Therefore time and space can be recognized as two separate entities if and only if their difference is established.
The guna/attribute of partva-aparatva/ being together – separated in time signifies two objects co-existing at the same point of time or being separated in time and the simultaneity in time is defined as a function of the movement of the sun. But that reflects a dependency of time on sun’s movement whereas a dravya has to have an independent existence by definition. It is explained that the concept of ‘simultaneity’ in time (in sutra 2.2.6 commentary) indicates the movement in sun and not vice-versa.
On the other hand the guna/attribute of partva-aparatva/ being together – separated, in space is reflected by conjunction and disjunction of matter and to be understood as samkalina – simultaneity in Time, i.e. the relative spatial separation of matter in the same time frame (same time frame =time measured for the same sun movement).

Questions: The commentary raises certain questions.
1. Spatial separation for objects being defined also with respect to same time frame – Does this imply that time is to be understood as changing with different suns and such different suns and time measures exist?
2. Simultaneity in time reflects the movement of sun – It means that for the observing mind, sun’s movement is a logical conclusion from the concept of what we call ‘at the same time’ in our day-to-day life.
If ‘simultaneity in time’ is relative to the position of observer (meaning with reference to the same sun) and spatial separation of objects is not, does it mean that space is absolute but time is relative.
Time is said to be _- .__/_/ a specific outcome of state of motion – which means time as a larger concept is a function of motion and therefore indicates the general state of motion of the entire cosmos (in the commentary of sutra 2.2.10 of Sankara Misra).
In Yoga Vasistha [6] which discusses Indian cosmological perspective correlated with many other works, a similar concept of varying time with different universes is mentioned. Space for Kanada is devoid of motion and therefore it is only the matter in motion when the cosmos is mentioned and space is still.
This fits with the idea of Indian cosmological model in which time is said to collapse in the rest period between the cosmic creation and dissolution, and that must be true if time is a function of ‘state of motion’ of the cosmos which comes to a rest in this period between creations and dissolutions [7-13].

4.1 Space as dravya

Dravyatva (being a dravya) and eternality (of Space are) explained by (the explanation of the same in) Air 2.2.11.

Commentary: Space is eternal (explained later). It is concluded to be a dravya and that encompasses hypothesis like – Space is an independent entity
It is existent
It is unique
It is a padartha
It has guna/attributes associated with it
It can give rise to another dravya.
It is incapable of motion.
It is homogenous.

4.2. Space homogeneity

The unity (of space is explained) by (the explanation of unity of) existence (sutra 2.2.12).

Commentary: Here is a discussion of unity of space which is explained in the commentary by Sankara Misra as /eka-pritaktvam. is a guna/attribute of space and in Shankara Misra’s commentary, he defines it as that which differentiates one from two, or it is that kind of a guna/attribute which gives a sense of discretion about the state of dravya discussed.
In the case of space, /eka-pritaktvam must refer to the fact that space is found in one state – what ever that is, and shall always be in the same state irrespective of which point in space is considered or even which point in time is considered. This refers
to the homogeneity of space. Such a guna/attribute fits in with Space being nitya/eternal or unchanging.

4.3. Directions in Space

The diversity (of space) is due to the difference of effects 2.2.13.

Commentary: karya visesena means an outcome the specific kind of work under consideration, and because space is by definition incapable of motion, work in question can only refer to the work done by matter in space. Due to the nature of matter’s behavior in space, it appears that space itself is diverse in nature. The diversity is explained in the following sutras.

4.4. Space Time as the fundamental matrix

‘aditya-samyogat, from the conjunction of the sun ‘bhutapurvat, past and gone bhavisyatah, future ‘bhutat, what has taken place or come in to existence; present ; cha, and prachi, east. (The direction comes to be regarded as) the east, from the past, future, or present conjunction of the sun 2.2.14.

Commentary: East is recognized as the direction from which the sun rose and therefore it is in the past. The past present and future divisions of time as a result of the movement of sun are also connected to the spatial directions which are named based on sun’s movement. The directions in space are explained as relative to the position of the observer. In this sutra space and time are connected by the ‘motion’ of sun which observation is also found in many commentaries.
In the commentary of sutra 2.1.5 Sankara Misra while defining the attributes of akasha states that not only is akasha absolutely color-less but based on the same argument even time and space are devoid of the attributes of rupa, rasa, gandha and sparsha. Time and space have the same attributes associated to them (number, magnitude, pritakathva/ separateness, conjunction and disjunction). He concludes the commentary of this sutra stating that it follows that time and space are thefundamental entities of everything.
The space and time matrix are said to be fundamental because the mind perceives the world through matter which is identified through the four senses of touch, smell, taste and visibility (the eternal dravyas can only be conceptualized by the mind and not perceived).
These four guna/attributes exist in matter which always exists in a certain space and time combination.
The absence of either space or time indicates absence of motion and as is later established in this paper, no guna/attributes can exist in absolute rest or when time collapses to zero.
Space and time has to be the fundamental matrix of the matter world, and the observing mind can never escape either Space or Time during the process of observing the universe. In the Kanadasiddhantachandrika of Gangadharasuri Sastri says [14]
This division of time is said to be caused by the E_.F/intelligence and in Space it results from conjunction and disjunction of real matter and so the intelligence of the observer plays a secondary role.
In the footnote of Udayavir Shastri ‘s book [15, page 103], it is mentioned that Chandrakant Bhattacharya is of the opinion that space, time and even akasha are the same which are seen as different entities because of the nature of the effects as observed by the mind in their interactions with matter.

4.5. Directions

By this, the intervals of directions in space are explained 2.2.16.

Commentary: In these last two sutras the four main directions east, west, north, south besides which four more directions between these four directions are accounted for as relative to the position of the observer as concepts which arise only because of the nature of motion of matter in Space. Hence Space itself is homogenous and has no division of direction inherent in it.

5, 1.Eternality
The nature of both Space and, anu – the most fundamental particle of matter (sutra 7.1.8 – explained later) in Vaisheshika are said to be explained in the chapter that discusses nitya/eternal.

The eternal is that which is existent and uncaused 4.1.1.

Commentary: In this sutra Kanada begins his definition of /nityam or the ‘eternal’ but this term is a very imprecise translation of his /nityam. The term existent has a lot of significance in the school of Vaisheshika because Kanada – a realist, has set himself the task to enumerate everything in the universe through predicable – all that which can be named, expressed through words or conceptualized by the mind. Hence all that he describes are not mere theoretical concepts, but true existing entities of the real world.
The term not having a cause – is two fold. In terms of the time one must remember that Indian cosmology constantly discusses two kinds of cosmic dissolution: the primary and the secondary. There are time periods mentioned for the creation and dissolution process besides the rest period in between. The way in which Kanada links matter, space, time and mind with ‘state of motion’, the question is raised whether anything other than the anu persists through the rest period of universe when time collapses to zero and there is absolute stillness.

Questions: The question raised is, since matter, space, time and mind are all connected to one or the other kind of ‘motion’, does /eternal refer to an existence beyond these dissolutions? Is anything transferred from one process of creation-dissolution to another which are said to be cyclic in nature? Since anu cannot be reduced any further, it must exist as is through all creations and dissolutions, but since time and space are linked to ‘motion’ are they recreated after each rest period?

5.2. Anu in Real Time

The effect is the mark (of the existence) of the ultimate anu 4.1.2.

Commentary: Kanada has stated in a later chapter (sutra 7.1.8) that both anu and mahat are explained through the nitya/eternal, which must be the reason from Prashastapada to Shankar Misra all scholars explain this sutra with an extension to mean the fundamental particle – the anu.
Although in no sutra is the term paramanu mentioned by Kanada, all the other scholars talk of paramanu as the most fundamental particle of matter. We will not focus on the term, instead try to understand what anu in Kanada’s sutras is and for the purpose of this work we shall use the term ‘anu’ for the fundamental particle of matter.
Literally the sutra translates to – The work done by it is its identifier. Here ‘it’ refers to nitya/eternal as this is a section on the same. By the sutra 7.1.8 which states that both anutva and mahatva are explained by the eternal, this sutra should also refer to the two –anutva and mahtva. These terms shall be explored in detail in a later section, for now anu – refers to the most fundamental particle of matter and mahatva refers to space (mahatva – is used in the context of Vaisheshika for more than one dravya, but space is definitely one of them)
Therefore anu and space are identified by the mind of observer through the work done by these or through their effects. This must be the only way they can be identified by the mind because by definition they are not perceivable by the human sense organs irrespective of the method employed.
Sankara Misra in the commentary of this sutra discusses that the gross matter which is visible with properties like magnitude, etc implies that it must be made of smaller parts.
The parts can be further divided to reach some final indivisible entity. The final or most fundamental entity must have the least possible measure of length, mass or volume – magnitude in total, in order to avoid the infinite regression of such fundamental particle being further divisible (anu is a particle because it is capable of conjunction, later mentioned with the sutra). In the fundamental particle of matter which Sankara Misra and other scholars call paramanu there are minima of mass, volume or any measure.
Kanada does not use the term paramanu in his sutras anywhere, yet we mean the same fundamental particle of matter as other commentators who use paramanu). Kanada explores the relation between whole and its parts.
Sankara Misra states that if an enormously large piece of matter like a mountain and a small piece of matter like grain were to be composed of infinite parts of anu, then the difference in the gross size of mountain and grain being built from the same number of anu leads to logical inconsistency. This interpretation is not only used with respect to the gross form in general but in the commentary of sutra 2.1.2 there is a specific mention that the measure of a mountain and a seed would be the same in terms of magnitude, measure and volume if the relation between the parts and the whole were unlimited.
Such an unlimited whole-parts relation is not permissible because it is only during pralaya- the cosmic dissolution, the limit of the series of parts and wholes reaches a maximum. For a given whole which is the matter state of universe the maximum number of parts is reached during the time of dissolution when all matter is reduced to anu form.
This is because the only reducible dravyas of Kanada are matter which is composed of anu and the remaining dravyas are not composed of parts. This discussion of whole and parts throws light on key things.
1. Relation between whole and parts and it raises question about can infinity fit such a loose definition as – infinity added to infinity is infinity, etc.
2. Matter cannot be reduced to anything further than anu, and so matter must be conserved in the state of anu.
3. If during cosmic dissolution all matter is reduced to anu form, then it demands that anu be at rest or with zero motion. This concurs with the definition of karma/ motion in Vaisheshika which by definition is perceivable and anu by definition is not perceivable at any time, therefore anu in order to be non-perceivable must not possess any form of motion. This is exactly what is stated by the cosmological theory.
4. It further concurs with the idea of anu having an inherent potential of acquiring guna/attribute which makes sense that the four fundamental distinguishing guna/attribute of rupa/visibility, etc are associated with four distinct basic motions of anu (discussed in a later section).
5. If the maximum number of parts in to which matter can be reduced is anu which is during dissolution, then matter must not be reducible to the anu state at any other time for then the whole can be reduced to maximum number of parts at times other than dissolution too. This makes sense because Kanada does not include anu as a dravya among the only nine that exist in his enumeration of everything that exists and is conceivable. Therefore anu does not exist in real time at all or when time is non zero.
6. Anu not existing as an individual particle in real time makes sense because different scholars like Prashastapada, etc have an elaborate argument about whether anu is bound as a dvayanuka or trayanuka, etc. i.e., is anu found in conjunction with another anu in a di-anu state or tri-anu state, etc.
Once creation of universe begins time begins to click and things are no more at rest. Then the world can be perceived by the observer and some kind of motion must begin (because by definition in Vaisheshika motion is perceivable or observable). Kanada has an interesting sutra relating to motion of anu.

5.3. Initial motion of Anu

The initial upward flaming of fire, the initial sideward blowing of air and the initial action (motion) of anu, and of mind are caused by adristam 5.2.13.

Commentary: In the commentary of this sutra the initial Adyam – is said to refer to the first motion that is produced in anu by Sankara Misra when the creation of universe begins, like wise the motions of flame of fire, wind and the mind. The reason for these motions are said to be adristam – which can literally be translated as unseen (drista = what is seen and adrista = what is unseen). There are many interpretations about what adristam might mean in Kanada’s context, but we shall not dwell on it here. It is clear from this sutra that Kanada describes an initial motion for the anu and this must essentially be when time begins for time is a function of motion. This sutra implies that anu can have two states – absolute rest and a state of motion.

6. Matter and Motion

The existence (of color, etc.) in the effect, (follows) from (their) existence in the cause 4.1.3.

Commentary: The terms in the sutra ‘ and are in the saptami samasa which is a grammatical condition that implies that the sutra should be understood to mean – because of the existence (of an effect or a specific unique character) in cause it is also exhibited in the gross form. Here Kanada is specifying that anus carry some distinguishing feature in them which gets exhibited as the effect in the gross form.
Logically any thing that is not in the root cause which is the anu cannot be exhibited in the gross form of matter as well.
This is an issue about which the entire School of Vaisheshika has had constant conflict with other schools of philosophy historically. If the anu has to acquire some thing by which four distinct forms of matter – which are recognized by the observer as those with the four primary distinct guna/attributes of rupa, rasa, gandha, sparsha – visibility, taste, smell, touch, then on what basis does an anu pick up a certain attribute and what is it inherent in the anu which makes it a specific form of matter.
The anu is said to potentially have something inherent which later becomes manifested once the process of creation of universe begins.
By the above sutra of the initial movement or motion of anu which begins with creation, it is clear that the four kinds of matter are related to four distinct kinds of motion of anu which in gross form builds up to a certain kind of matter.
Also in Sankara Misra’s commentary of sutra 1.1.6 it is stated that these four attributes of rupa, rasa, gandha, sparsha – visibility, taste, smell, touch cannot co-exist simultaneously at the same point of time in the same substrate. This makes sense because an anu cannot have four distinct kinds of motion at the same time. Space too is said to be a function of samyoga and vibhaga – which is conjunction and disjunction which is declared as a kind of motion by Kanada in sutra 1.122.
Besides conjunction and disjunction are permitted for anu (sutra 4.2.4) and in Kanada’s science only real things are stated, not probable events. In sutra 1.127 it is stated that matter is formed by conjunction Kanada defines the entire creation in terms of different kinds of motion.

7.1. Visibility of Anu

External perception (takes place), in respect of an object possessing magnitude, by means of its possession of that which is composed of more substances than one, and by means of its color 4.1.6.

Commentary: Here the condition for visibility is that the perceived entity be that is be composed of more than one kind of dravya among the nine defined by Kanada, it will have a perceivable magnitude unlike the anu, and must be the substratum of color which does not necessarily mean that it must possess a color. In the commentary Shankara Misra explains that the term which is generally indicative of the magnitude due to or elision of the mutup pratyaya here becomes an adjective to indicate its greatness in its ability to conjunct with many dravyas at a time.

In substances not possessing color, they are not objects of visual perception 4.1.12.

Commentary: In Sankara Misra’s commentary it is explained that all the dravyas from air/vayu upwards do not posses color and so are impossible to be seen through the eyes or to be perceived no matter approached in which way. Yet a specific mention is made to clarify that this does not mean they are impossible to comprehend conceptually. When
the anu is in conjunction with more than one dravya, then they acquire attributes/guna and hence may be perceived. Once anu acquires guna/attribute, Time is in motion and space too must be in existence therefore anu is invariably in conjunction with these two dravyas.
It further can possess no motion or spin as in atoms, electrons or other fundamental particles as defined by modern science because by definition motion/karma is perceivable through the senses.
This is because from the sutra on different kinds of motion (1.1.7) rotation or spin is recognized as a kind of motion or action which can be perceived and if the anu were to be in a state of motion it would mean that it is perceivable which it is not.
Therefore in conclusion anu is not visible in principle with a minima of magnitude and not possessing any kind of motion.

7.2. Is anu spherical?
In chapter seven from the sutra number 7. 1. 5 to 7. 1. 19 an argument is built by Kanada as to what ‘large’ or ‘small’ generally means magnitude wise and finally he concludes about the anu in the following sutra:

The eternal is Parimandala 7. 1. 20.

Commentary: This sutra is often translated as the anu is spherical. In his commentary on this sutra Sankara Misra points out that the term Parimandala is specifically used in the context of Vaisheshika to describe the natural state of the anu which, even though cannot be perceived through the senses has to be the same from any direction or it must necessarily possess a symmetry. In the conventional two or three dimension visualization that we are used to, it is a circle or a spherical shape.
In Kanada’s definition, length or any measurement is a quality associated only with the matter and so the anu and space with its eternality is non-measurable or at least any kind of length-measurement is not applicable to it. Kanada has coined a term parimandala which is not an adjective for spatial dimension but a concept of logical deduction which is conceived by the mind and is therefore only an abstraction.
Anu therefore by definition and logical deductions are described by Kanada as the fundamental particle of matter which is discrete and not perceivable by senses, with minima of magnitude, yet with a real independent existence beyond the perceptions.
These are not further divisible in to components and hence are concluded to be neither destroyable nor created which makes them eternal.
These are not perceivable by an observer and hence are called / super-sensible which means ‘too acute for the senses’. As these are entities with no association of magnitude, it is meaningless to fix a position for the anu and hence they are /non localizable [11].
Space also is eternal, with no measurable magnitude association, not perceivable, indivisible, non-matter and yet a dravya.
Therefore ‘existent’ or real to Kanada would not necessarily mean anything that can be perceived through senses, but also extends to anything that can be conceptualized by the human mind. The role of the individual who shall understand the predicable is consequently very central and critical.

Conjunction of anu is not restricted 4.2.4.

Commentary: Therefore the term anu is used to refer to a particle which can go through the operations of conjunction. Anu is concluded to be a particle.

The contrary of this is anu 7.1.10.

Commentary: In this chapter which is discussing the magnitude of anutva and mahatva – where anutva is already established as the minima of magnitude, anu is defined as the contrast of mahat. Therefore in terms of magnitude mahat is the maxima of magnitude or Space is the maxima of magnitude and it is not necessarily infinite at least in Vaisheshika.

8. Conclusions
The examination of the various sections of the Vaisheshika Sutras reveals that Kanada used his framework of defining observables (matter) through the effect of motion in a very consistent manner. When the universe ceases to be at the end of the cosmic cycle, matter is not annihilated. Rather, the collection of anu (atoms) reaches a quiescent state where they do not undergo any motion and thus become invisible to observation. The anu in itself is not observable, and is thus an abstraction, which is why we have not used the term “atom” for it.
Kanada’s framework defies the usual categories of realist versus idealist, since for him matter in itself is a result of motion. In this framework, time and space arise out of the motion that anu obtains due to its interactions. To this extent, the observer is central to Kanada’s scheme. Kanada’s emphasis on analysis of categories is also found in the complementary tradition of logic [22-25] and the application of these two traditions to cosmological questions [26-27]. The idea of tanmatra in the cosmology of Samkhya, which is viewed as a kind of potential out of which materiality emerges, has features similar to that of anu in the Vaisheshika system.

1. R.H. Narayan, Nyaya-Vaisheshika: The Indian tradition of physics. arXiv:physics/0701077

2. S. Kak, Indian Physics: Outline of Early History; arXiv: physics/0310001

3. Nandalal Sinha, The Sacred Books of the Hindus, Vol.v1. The Panini Office, Bhuvaneswari Asrama, Allahabad, 1923.

4. Acarya Dhundhirajasastri, Vaisesikasutropaskara of Sri Sankara Misra. Chowkhamba Sanskrit series Office, Varanasi, 1969

5. B. Seal, The Positive Sciences of the Ancient Hindus. Motilal Banarasi Dass Publishers and Book sellers, Delhi, 1958.

6. Swami Venkatesananda, The Concise Yoga-Vasistha. State University of New York Press, Albany, 1984.

7. S. Kak, Yajnavalkya and the Origins of Puranic Cosmology. 2001; arXiv:physics/0101012

8. S. Kak, Early Theories on the Distance to the Sun; arXiv: physics/9804021

9. S. Kak, Babylonian and Indian Astronomy: Early Connections; arXiv:physics/0301078

10. R.H. Narayan, The theory of matter in Indian physics. arXiv:physics/0702012

11. S. Kak, Astronomy in the Vedic Altars and the Rgveda. Mankind Quarterly, vol.33, pp. 43-55, 1992.

12. S. Kak, The Cyclic Universe: Some Historical Notes. 2002; arXiv: physics/0207026

13. S. Kak, Concepts of Space, Time and Consciousness in Ancient India. 1999; arXiv:physics/9903010

14. T. Ganapati Sastri, Kanadasiddhantachandrika of Gangadharasuri. Published under the authority of the Government of His Highness The Maharaja of Travancore, Trivandrum, 1913.16

15. Udayavira Shastri, Vaisesikadarsanam. Virajanand Vaidik Samsthan, Ghaziabad, 1972.

16. S. Kuppuswami Sastri, A primer of Indian logic according to Annambhatt’s Tarkasamgraha. 1932.

17. Jagdish Chandra Chatterji, Hindu Realism. Swastika Publications, Delhi. 1975

18. Badri Nath Singh, Vaiseshika darsana. Asha Prakashan, Varanasi, 1971

19. S. Sankaranarayanan, Vaisesika Chatuhsutri. The Adyar Library and Research Center, Chennai, 2003.

20. Ganganatha Jha, PadarthadharmaSangraha of Prasastapada. Chaukambha Orientalia, Varanasi, 1982.

21. Anantalal Thakur, Origin and Development of the Vaisesika System. Centre for Studies in civilization, New Delhi. 2003.

22. S. Kak, Aristotle and Gautama on logic and physics. arXiv:physics/0505172

23. S. Kak, The golden mean and the physics of aesthetics. arXiv:physics/0411195

24. J.N. Mohanty, Classical Indian Philosophy. Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.

25. S. Kak, The Wishing Tree. Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 2001. 26. S. Kak, The Architecture of Knowledge. CRC, New Delhi, 2004. 27. R.H. Narayan, Indian cosmological ideas. arXiv:0705.1192.

Nyaya-Vaisheshika: The Indian Tradition of Physics

July 10, 2015

Nyaya-Vaisheshika: The Indian Tradition of Physics
Roopa Hulikal Narayan

1 Introduction
This paper is the first in a series on the Indian tradition of physics that while summarizing the earlier review by Kak [1], [2] will set the stage for a more comprehensive analysis to follow in later papers. In ancient India, the schools of Nyaya and Vaisheshika focused on logic and atomic approach to matter. In this paper, the idea of atomicity and other physical ideas given in Vaisheshika are reviewed in light of the central role the observer plays in Indian thought. We provide introduction to ideas that are described in greater detail in Potter’s text [10], where the focus is not on physical ideas but rather on philosophy.
The Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedic texts of India, generally assigned to the early second millennium BC or earlier, is seen within the Indian tradition as the source of its approach to reality. The Vedic sages recognized a binding unity among all that constitutes this universe. They made an attempt to reflect this pattern of interdependence among the
entities of the universe including the very structure of universe itself. This may be seen in the structure and symbolic purpose of Vedic altars, approach to language, and so on [3],[4],[5]. The observer or the experiencing subject was given a privileged state in physical thought [6-10].
By the end of nineteenth century, the place of the observer also became a part of the mainstream discourse of academic physics and psychology in the consideration of the dichotomous issues of order and disorder. The second law of thermodynamics stood for the principle of increasing disorder in physics, whereas in biology, the theory of evolution is a principle of ever-increasing order and organization [6, page 50].
Parallels to this dichotomy occur in Indian thought: the self tends toward order whereas the atoms of the body it resides in and the mind it possesses tend toward disorder. But in the analysis of Indian writings we face the problem that its terminology is not always clear in commentaries. One of the tasks of the paper is to clarify the basic terminology used in the Indian physics tradition.

2. Nyaya-Vaisheshika
It is generally accepted [1],[10] that the origin of the Indian physical thought is in the Rig Veda where the order of nature is expressed as Rta. This Rta encompasses the laws of universe which are otherwise unexplainable unless an initial cause of universe is identified. The ability of consciousness to comprehend these laws is also in the purview of Rta. Kanada, one of the primary architects of Vaisheshika, states “I shall enumerate
everything that has a character of being [1]. Vasheshika analyzes material particles through two independent means of knowledge, which are recognized as Perception and Inference. The dependence on these two means alone is evident from the fact that the Vaisheshika accepts the authority of the Vedas based on inference alone [1]. The same principle of inference is added as a prelude to the inference of the self as the basis of cognitive states.
In India, objective science and the science of the self, go hand-in–hand. The Nyaya School as the discipline of logical inference complements Vaisheshika, and the two are often called as Nyaya-Vaisheshika.

3 Brief introductions to their Sciences

3.1 The Philosophers and their philosophy
All thought systems evolve with time, and the philosophy of Vaisheshika is no exception to this rule. The two primary philosophers of interest to us are Kanada and Prashastapada, because their contributions have been remarkably significant.
Kanada, one of the early philosophers of Vaisheshika, is known for his atomic view of the world. He uses the term ‘Vishesha’ to mean particularity of an atom and also in the sense of ‘Antya Vishesha’meaning the‘final individuator the ultimate individuality of each atom which individuates it from all else. This is a unique feature of this school and hence the term vishesha in its adjective form‘Vaisheshika’ is the name of this school.
Prashastapada, who came centuries after Kanada, describes the dissolution of earth, water, air and fire in terms of its atomic constituents that excludes space since its nature is taken to be non-atomic. The conjoining and disjoining of atoms is described as a natural property of atoms but Prashastapada includes a higher will (or order) as the guiding principle of universal dissolution which over-rides the natural karma (motion) of atoms [8, page 65].
The cosmological cycle of creation and dissolution at an atomic level and the breakdown of all natural properties of atoms at such a time of dissolution until the process of creation is re-begun when such natural properties hold good once again is a remarkable insight. Initially atoms were described to conjoin and disjoin resulting in creation and dissolution of new substances which is because of the karma (laws) [8, page 65].

3.2. Inference

3.2.1 Definition and Classification
Knowledge begins with cognition through two valid means of knowledge, namely Perception and Inference. Perception is when the sensory organs come in contact with some recognizable property of a substance like color of an object. Inference is the method of reasoning. It has a sub-classification of Drshta -what can be observed and, Adrshta – what cannot be observed. Adrshta encompasses all that cannot be explained [7]. Although the inability to explain Adrshta is admitted, its significance is not under estimated. Absence of Adrishta will result in no contact between the body and self and hence result in collapse of cognition. Adrshta seems to be rejected by Nyaya. Kanada makes extensive use of this notion to explain magnetic attraction, initial motion of atoms, falling downwards [10].

3.2.2 a Priori Inference
Primarily in the early periods a priori inference was preferred for empirical observations. The a priori inference can be described as:
Thinking is a property.
A property can reside in a substance alone.
Therefore thinking must be attributed to a substance.
There is no other known substance with thinking as its property.
By elimination, a new substance with thinking as its property must exist [10, page 56].

3.2.3 Observational Inference
Prashastapada who focused on empirical inference redefines inference as observational. It is at two levels as Drishta – the observed, and Samanyato drishta – the generally observed. Observational inference is illustrated as follows:

Dewlap exists only in cow.
Dewlap is observed in an animal.
Observed dewlap is associated with memory information.
Inference about the observed object is drawn.
Therefore the animal is recognized as cow alone [10, page 66].

Here Prashastapada mentions that the Self has to contact the mind before drawing the final conclusion. A clear parallel can be seen between his method of comparing the unknown object and partly observed object in question with a recollection, to his idea of Self contacting the mind in the final step of inference. Self is the completely known and observed in the physical sense which should contact the mind/manas whose existence is known through memory of previous interactions with the same mind. The external process of observation is mirrored in the internal process of understanding. An entire section is dedicated for the establishment of the concept of self expressed as “I. An illustration for Samanyato drishta – The Generally Observed:
As the name suggests this includes substances generally observed like air, which cannot be seen but is inferred through its commonly known properties. Air possesses touch.
Touch has the attributes of motion and quality.
This substance does not inhere in any other known substance. Therefore this is a new Substance [10, page 56].
A diagrammatic view of cognition is as follows:

Perception ←———————————————→ Inference

Drshta ←——————————→ Adrshta

↓ ↓
Observed Generally Observed3.

2.4 Empirical Inference

The principle of empirical inference is explained as a cause-effect relation or any of its derivatives. The process of inference is said to occur in one of the following ways:

An object exists ≡ The object of inference exists.
An object exists ≡ The object of inference does not exist.
An object does not exist ≡ The object of inference does not exist [7, page 289].

The inference about a substance can be drawn from both the existence and non-existence of the premise. The Vaisheshika School does not recognize Upamana-analogy and Shabda-verbal testimony as ways of acquiring knowledge like the Nyaya School.

4. Atoms – The Anu

4.1 Nature of Atoms
The Vaisheshika sutra about atoms states
That which is existent and has no cause (i.e., an atom) is eternal. It is not perceived but is inferred from its effect. [10]. (iv.1.1-5) Atoms are the primordial infinitesimal particles of everything except space or Akasha. To a certain extent terms like atom, space, tend to give us the picture of current-day atom or space, but there are some differences.
Atoms in Vaisheshika are essentially of four kinds: Earth, Apa- water, Tejas- Fire and Vayu-air. These atoms are characterized by their characteristic mass, basic molecular structure such as dyad, triad, etc, fluidity (or it’s opposite), viscosity (or its opposite), velocity (or quantity of impressed motion- Vega) and other characteristic potential color, taste, smell or touch not produced by chemical operation. It is these four kinds of atoms involved in all chemical reactions while the space remains unaffected.

4.2. Atomic Combinations
Atoms may conjoin or disjoin in reactions. Conjunction and disjunction: Kanada says there are three kinds of conjunction:

a) Contact produced due to motion of one object and not the other.

b) Both may be in motion.

c) Contact by actual contact.

Prashastapada explains the last by referring to an example – consider a dyad of earth which is in contact with two water atoms which are themselves in contact and form a water dyad. Then the earth dyad’s contact with the water dyad is produced by the earth dyad’s contacts with the water atoms. It is important to note that while one ubiquitous substance like akasha (say) may contact non-ubiquitous substance, two ubiquitous substances cannot be in contact since neither is capable of motion. Disjunction is considered by the older Vaisheshikas to be a quality which inheres in a pair of substances when one has just parted contact with the other [10, page 121-122]. 4.3 Nature of Atomic Combinations
Atoms are invisible though the final substance formed by conjunction of many such atoms is visible. Several causes lead to such a multi-conjunction substance. The atoms unite in pairs and the unification continues until the visible substance is formed. As long as there is no external agent such as heat applied the properties of the atom are reflected in the binary structure as well. The atoms combine driven by an inherent tendency which is their natural property to form dyads. Although Prashastapada seems to have popularized this view of dyads, Kanada’s system maintained a different stand.
Kanada says the atoms conjoin as a result of their inherent tendency, but different atoms combine in different patterns. Some in pairs, others in triads, tetrads and so on, which may happen in two different ways,
Atoms combine ≡ basic unit /molecule with two, three or n number of units and not two three or n number of dyads where n ≥ 1.

Basic unit of n atoms ≡ 1 atom + 1 atom… n atoms where n≥1.
This essentially means
A group of n atoms fall together to form one unit. (n≥1)

Prashastapada insists on
Atoms combine ≡ only to a binary molecule, not triad, tetrad, etc. Further
Basic unit of n dyads ≡ 1 dyad + 1 dyad… n dyads where n ≥ 1
These dyad combinations further combine in different proportions to form isomeric substances. The inherent properties exhibited by these different substances is a result of the collocation process where it may mean quantitative difference or even spatial arrangement since it is only‘paramanu’ generally translated as ‘atom’ which is a point
energy with zero mass and dimension. Therefore the dyad will have a finite mass and size and hence the spatial arrangement too becomes an important qualifier of the properties of the final substance to be formed [9].
This is comparable to the current physics point- of- view of basic particles like electrons, protons, bosons, etc that are mere energy clouds which inter-combine in different combinations to form all the known matter. The properties of energy when treated as a basic unit is a constant, but it is the difference in mere combination in quantity, quality and time that qualifies the finally formed substance as‘The Substance’ with its inherent properties. Once the basic unit is formed, further conjunction results from several causes other than the basic impulse or nature of the atom. Hence the atom is different from the substance.
Prashastapada and Kanada concur on the idea of the above said process of combination of the basic unit resulting in the variety of substances which is bound by the laws of universe. Therefore an element of consciousness is considered as playing a role in what the world appears to be. 4.4 Atomic reactions
A substance may change qualitatively under the influence of heat in its course of existence. The Vaisheshika’s stand on such a change is Substance A ——application of heat——→ Decomposition in to paramanus or the basic unit with zero mass and not the unit of dyad, triad, etc. ↓
Recombination of paramanus with a new ←——application of heat basic unit arrangement and order resulting in a new substance.
The Vaisheshikas hold that under the influence of heat, substances are broken down to the most basic entity (paramanu) before being transformed in to a new substance where as the Nyaya school does not believe in decomposition in to the very basic entity. The Vaisheshikas believe that in transformation of a substance the basic properties of the atoms change and the Naiyayikas disagree [9, page 104-105]. This also establishes how meticulous the ancient schools and their philosophers were to the very last detail.
Prashastapada gives a specific example for such a reaction. He considers the fertilized ovum under the application of the animal heat or the bio-motor energy.
_____germ Both are isomeric
↑ modes of
Fertilized ovum ——action of heat—→ Earth
↓____ sperm substance
The fertilized ovum breaks down in to its constituents which in turn are reduced in to homogenous earth atoms. They are homogenous because they essentially belong to the same bhuta. These basic atoms of the bhuta earth re-combine under the influence of the metabolic heat to form the germ-plasm. The germ-plasm develops enriching itself through the nutrients of the body [9]. Germ-plasm —action of heat—→ germ —— action — radicals ↓
Of → cells and tissues

Food substance —action of heat—→ food —— heat —
constituent radicals
As can be seen at each stage heat breaks down germ-plasm in to constituent atoms which combine with the constituent atoms of food and all these basic atoms will re-combine to form the cells and tissues. All along heat is a necessary element.

5. Hetero-Bhautic compounds in action:
The Naiyayikas and Vaisheshikas agree on how atoms of different bhutas, i.e. atoms of earth, water, air and fire interact when in contact under the stress of heat. Heat alone is seen as insufficient in many such hetero-bhautic reactions and hence a medium is required to keep the reaction going. Hetero-Bhautic as the term suggests refers to reactions between atoms of different bhutas. A medium is the energizer for the atoms of different bhutas in setting up intra-atomic dynamic forces which finally results in a new substance as the end-product of the reaction. It may be easier to understand this with an analogy:
Tea leaves and sugar cannot be chewed together for the effect of tea. Instead, the two have to be boiled in water where water is the substratum, such boiled decoction with or without milk is consumed as tea. Theoretically this is the same as the tea leaves and sugar chewed together. Likewise certain hetero-bhautic atoms require a substratum to inter-bond them though in the end such a substratum remains unaltered. Milk is an example of a quasi-compound
where water is the energizer for the earth particles and when water is extracted from milk, milk retains its milky substance [9].
Although all the four bhautic atoms can act as the substratum, it is only the earth atoms which can correspond to basic changes in the atoms since, they can arrest the molecular motion which may even be the motion such as liquid flowing due to gravity and the earth atoms can also counteract the tendency of atoms to fall in to a peculiar group or order [9].

6. Action of light as a source of heat

6.1. Nature of Light

Vatsayana of the Nyaya School describes the internal heat of a substance as acting in reactions where no external heat is traceable. Such an internal heat is compounded by the solar heat which is the source of all heat stored by substances utilized in chemical changes. An example is given as the change in grass color is due to the bhuta Tejas-fire in the form of latent heat which is stored in the atoms of grass obtained from sunlight and not Tejas in the form of Agni the fire [9]. Such heat cannot be taken away from the substance even by freezing it. It is the same internal heat obtained from the sunlight which ripens a mango fruit eventually resulting in the change of its color, smell, taste not to say about nutritional value.
Light itself is described as constituting indefinitely small particles which mean something smaller and different than so far explained anu or paramanu since these particles are called neither anu nor paramanu. These particles radiate themselves in all directions rectilinearly with a conical dispersion from their source and with inconceivable velocity [9, page 105].

6.2. Action of Light
Light can penetrate the inter-atomic or inter-molecular spaces, hence light particles must be indefinitely smaller than the atoms. Such penetration does not always affect the atomic structure necessarily which is explained with an analogy of frying paddy in a pan where the heat from the fire neither affects the pan nor the paddy structure. Such a penetration and passing through of the light rays accounts for translucent and transparent objects. In other instances the light particles might rebound off the atomic surface as in reflection or simply are obstructed like in opaque objects to cast the shadows of the objects [9].
All these processes also indicate no decomposition or re-composition of the atomic structure of the object of incidence.

7. Parispanda – The fundamental Motion
The atoms possess an inherent rotary or vibratory motion – Parispanda which is the root cause of all visible or invisible action and operation involving matter. Only an ideal body is devoid of any motion [6]. Akasha –The Space is devoid of this vibratory motion since it has no atomic structure. Vayu which is matter in gaseous form is explained as a state of Parispanda in action. The Nyaya-Vaisheshika holds such Parispanda-the basic inherent motion of all atoms as the basic form of all activity in the universe because all existing matter can be reduced to such jiggling atoms. The philosophers of this school also add that the concept of “Maheshvara” or any such godly agent is included to satisfy the philosophers but not to undermine either the power of Parispanda or the material causes and effects as can be seen or perceived or inferred. Yet consciousness is excluded from those substances which are affected by physical motion of atoms. At this juncture it is important to note that although the invisible god is not seen as the cause of all unexplainable phenomena the invisible consciousness is not treated similarly. The importance of consciousness is as real as any real visible object.
A problem: A fundamental problem for Vaisheshikas was to explain how imperceptible atoms could combine to produce perceptible individuals. There is textual evidence to suggest that the early Vaisheshikas held the straight forward view that surely if one takes enough things below the threshold of perception and sets them beside each other it will produce something perceptible [10].

8. Matter Classification

8.1. Introduction
Matter classification begins with classifying everything in to Dravya, Guna and Karma roughly translated in to Substance, Quality and Action. Such a translation is limited by language since even technical terms are influenced by the philosophy of the culture they originate in. A categorization such as this indicates an organized discipline of study. A clear differentiation is made between matter and its attributes. Here Dravya – the substance is a term used in a narrow technical sense to exclude quasi-compounds which refers to compounds made of atoms from the different bhutas, i.e. poly-bhautic compounds.
8.2. Dravya – The Substance
The dravya which is all that can be perceived is sub-classified in to five physical substances as earth, air, water, fire and space which are the Pancha Bhutas. Substance is defined as the material cause of its quality and action. Kanada deals with each of the sub-categories of substance through their properties like: color, taste, smell associated with earth; color, taste, fluidity with water; so on with air and fire. It can be understood as:

Properties     Color     Taste     Smell     Touch     Fluidity     Viscosity

1. Earth            *             *           *             *              —              —
2. Water           *             *           —           *               *                 *
3. Fire              *            —          —           *              —              —
4. Air               —           —          —           *              —              —
Table 1
Fluidity is observed to occur both naturally and instrumentally. Water is in a liquid state naturally and can be converted in to gaseous state or solid state by externally applying or removing heat. Yet fluidity will be the primary state of water. Likewise butter or ghee is normally in a solid state (at least in winter) but can be melted in to a liquid state with very little application of heat. In such a case solid state would be their primary state [1].
Dravya, Guna and Karma give rise to further categories. All the three are non-eternal. They are explained through their properties. Dravya possesses in it both guna which is quality and karma which is action, e.g. Fire which is a dravya possesses both the guna of heat and the action of moving upwards as in a flame. Thus Dravya, Guna and Karma have a real objective existence since they are associated with the real substances.

8.3. Karma – The Motion
Karma, motion, is a deeper concept than mere physical displacement with respect to time. Kanada defines five kinds of motions. They are Utksepana- ejection, Avaksepanaattraction, Akunchana-contraction, Prasarana- expansion and Gamana- composite movement. Vyomashiva clearly explains that motion is not instantaneous instead it is incremental. This is true even in a process like cooking the food where the food is neither cooked instantaneously nor does a change occur in its state until a minimum energy is expended [1, page 22]. Such a minimum energy can be seen as similar to the threshold energy concept of today. Here the threshold energy is greater than the rest energy of the
final product to be obtained instead of a particle in the concept of current physics. The incremental nature of change in substances explained by Vyomashiva is what follows from today’s relativistic physics about no action being instantaneous.

8.4. Akasha – The Space
Space or Akasha is defined as that which has none of these attributes. Space is recognized as a separate category and it is clearly not earth’s atmosphere. It is conspicuously eliminated from the sub-categories of Dravya which constitute atoms and it is an entity like a being is an entity. Akasha or space has no atomic structure and it is consequently inert.
In very early times, ancient Indians had visualized the spherical nature of space and concluded it is the earth’s rotation which causes day and night [1].

8.5. Space – Time
It is interesting to note the background in which the ancient Indians propose the existence of Space and Time as entities. Bhaduri one of the philosophers summarizes this insightfully as – “We perceive pairs of objects with qualities of remoteness and nearness, spatial or temporal – inhering in them. Furthermore, we are able to make comparative judgments of this sort – we can say A is farther from B than from C, etc. What enables us to make this judgment? It is the greater number of contacts between individuals spread out between A and B than between A and C. For example, the ink bottle is nearer to the pen than to the radiator, that is, the number of contacts present in a line from the ink bottle to the radiator is greater than the number from the ink bottle to the pen. Only thus can the notion of “greater distance” be explained. But when we look for individuals whose contacts must be counted up, we do not find any belonging to other categories – or at least we do not find the right number to describe such nearness or farness. Between the inkbottle and the pen a book (say) is situated, while between the inkbottle and the radiator there is just space! Thus, in order to provide the material to explain these comparative judgments we must postulate an intervening series of entities and these are spatial.” As Bhaduri puts it, contact is not a transitive relation instead space is introduced to make it transitive and more generally to relate two otherwise unconnected things by a series of contacts postulated to lie between. This is spatial discrimination [10].
Likewise Vachaspati states that for the concept of A is older than B the entity of time needs to be introduced. Therefore, there is a particular spatial temporal relation connecting each pair of objects. Then why aren’t there as many spaces and times as there are relations of this sort? Vaisheshika talks of one space and one time since all objects in this continual space and time can be inter-related. If there were more than one space and one time, there is a possibility that an object from a certain space/time cannot be linked with another object from a different space/time [10]. The Vaisheshika atomic substances are defined in a matrix of four non-atomic substances: Time, Space, Soul and Mind [1]. A map of sizes, eternality and nature can be as follows:
Substance           Size             Eternality                 Nature
Atom                   atomic               Eternal                     Active
Manas                atomic            Non-Eternal                 Active
Time                   mahan               Eternal                     Active
Akasha               mahan               Eternal                    Inactive
Soul                    mahan               Eternal                     Active
Table. 2
The size atomic and mahan correspond to spherical structure being small and big respectively. Chandramati states that the same spherical nature resides in an atom when in minute proportion and in Akasha, time, place and self in infinite proportions. Space as a dravya that is Akasha has no absolute properties since space and time are relative in Indian science [1, page 26].

9. Samanya, Vishesha and Samavaya
The next three categories in the total six categories of Vaisheshika are Samanya, Vishesha and Samavaya. Samanya is the class concept and Vishesha is particularity. Kanada’s view about samanya and vishesha is different from that of the later philosophers.
Let us begin with Kanada. It has been suggested that translating these two terms as“genus” and “species” would render Kanada’s intent most accurately. Kanada makes a statement that a samanya may also be viewed as a vishesha in cases other than the Being. This can be understood by applying this concept to an entity such as, e.g., potness, which is a samanya-genus relative to particular pots but a species relative to the more inclusive genus clay-objectness.
The later thinker’s concept of universals is that they are real, independent, timeless, ubiquitous entities which inhere in individual substances, qualities and motions and are repeatable, i.e., may inhere in several distinct individuals at once or at different times and places. The general term used for such an entity is samanya. Either way the postulation of universals in Vaisheshika calls for the necessity of explaining the existence of natural kinds, the fact that certain entities are similar because of a true similarity and not merely because we think so [10, page 133-134].

A special feature of this school is Samavaya which is inherence referring to the special feature of individual atom of even the same element. Kanada explains inherence as the cause of notion that something is “here” in a locus and connects its function to causality. He also conceives that there is only one inherence since there is no indication that different inherences connect different pairs of things related by inherence [7, page 292].

Samanya, Samavaya and Vishesha are products of intellectual discrimination [1]. Such an idea is further emphasized by Kanada by including only Dravya, Guna and Karma under Bhava the Being.

Time is defined as the cause of all non-eternal things and time is irrelevant and therefore absent for eternal substances. In Vaisheshika, universal is taken to be ubiquitous and timeless. Whatever can be defined with respect to time and space cannot be a universal. The process that marks the passage of time on an object will thus be relative.It is only the universal which is true for all time and space and it is the being [1]. Time is clearly differentiated from space and space is not absent from eternal things. This time is associated with motion, which begins with the universe in its cyclic life of creation and dissolution. The time is at rest when the universe is in the process of creation. An analogy of this is working with a piece of clay trying out various combinations and figures in it and making such arrangements with it as will lead to certain ends and aims which are potentially in it inherently. 9. The Being or Existence

Kanada and the early Vaisheshikas view existence as the highest genus which is not a genus species lying under any superior genus. Kanada calls such a supreme universal as ‘Bhava’ from the root bhu meaning “to come to be”, and he specifically mentions that bhava includes dravya, guna and karma. Such a bhava is called Satta by the time of Chandramati and Prashastapada [10]. This indicates a clear differentiation between material or real concepts and intellectual or transcendental ideas even at the time of Kanada. The inclusion of consciousness or the Being as a variable in the studies of all matter or materialistic sciences does not hinder the understanding of matter, instead adds a new dimension to the perspective.

10. Conclusion
The Nyaya-Vaisheshika begins with the beginning of universe in an endless cycle of existence. This existence is marked by all sorts of motions- motion as microscopic as the inter-atomic vibrations and motion as macroscopic as that of the planets and stars. The motion ceases only during the rest period when the universe is preparing for the next cycle and at such a time all the atomic laws collapse. The universe can be understood as guided by the will of a personified god or the laws of nature Rta at an abstract level. The knowledge of universe, its creation, dissolution and life is comprehended by the consciousness which is an active element in all the actions of universe.

1. S. Kak, Indian Physics: Outline of Early History. 2004; arXiv: physics/0310001

2. S. Kak, Aristotle and Gautama on Logic and Physics. 2005; arXiv: physics/0505172

3. S. Kak, Greek and Indian cosmology: review of early history. In The Golden Chain. G.C. Pande (ed.). CSC, New Delhi, 2005; arXiv: physics/0303001

4. S. Kak, Babylonian and Indian astronomy: early connections. In The Golden Chain. G.C. Pande (ed.). CSC, New Delhi, 2005; arXiv: physics/0301078.

5. S. Kak, Birth and early development of Indian astronomy. In Astronomy Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Astronomy,Helaine Selin (editor), Kluwer Academic, Boston, 2000, pp. 303-340. arXiv: physics/0101063.

6. S. Kak, The Nature of Physical Reality. Peter Lang, New York, 1986.

7. S. Dasgupta , A History of Indian Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, 1922. 14

8. B.K. Matilal, Nyaya-Vaisesika. Otto Harrassowitz, Weisbaden, 1977.

9. B. Seal, The Positive Sciences of The Ancient Hindus. Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi. 1958.

10. K.H. Potter, Indian Metaphysics and Epistemology. Princeton University Press, Princeton. 1977.


March 18, 2015

The 20th century gradually saw emergence of a variety of new paradigms simultaneously in various scientific fields that forced philosophy to re-examine the reductionist approach resulting in the emergence of holistic thinking in philosophy. In the scientific field, some new paradigms have been major influences in emergence of holistic thinking. Important amongst these are Relatively Theory, Quantum Mechanics, Big-Bang theory of the origin and evolution of Universe, General Systems Theory, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, mathematics of chaos and fractals, Gaia-hypothesis etc. In primary healthcare, the term ‘holistic’ has been used to describe approaches that take into account social considerations and other intuitive judgements. The term holism, and so called approaches, appeared in psychosomatic medicine in the 1970s (Lipowski, Z. j), when they were considered one possible way to conceptualize psychosomatic phenomena. Instead of charting one-way causal links from psyche to soma, or vice-versa, it aimed at a systemic model, where multiple biological, psychological and social factors were seen as interlinked. Other, alternative approaches in the 1970s were psychosomatic and somatopsychic approaches, which concentrated on causal links only from psyche to soma, or from soma to psyche, respectively. At present it is commonplace in psychosomatic medicine to state that psyche and soma cannot really be separated for practical or theoretical purposes. A disturbance on any level – somatic, psychic, or social – will radiate to all the other levels, too. In this sense, psychosomatic thinking is similar to the biopsychosocial model of medicine. Many alternative medicine practitioners adopt a holistic approach to healing. The new approaches in philosophy together with new paradigms in various scientific and other fields have provided the basis of modern holistic philosophy.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has introduced the concept of noosphere. It has been introduced within the broader evolutionary conceptual framework. The life is explained in terms of natural evolution of self-organizing matter. The evolution, however, is viewed as purposive, leading via man to an eventual ‘Omega point’, a sort of convergence between mankind, the noosphere, and God. John Smuts (1926) had given an evolutionary and spiritual approach to holism having links with such concept of ‘noosphere’.
A.N. Whitehead, in his book SCIENCE AND MODERN WORLD (1925) developed the theory of Organic Mechanism and proposed that the human life history is a part within the life history of some larger, deeper, more complete pattern (p. 109). In his book ADVENTURES OF IDEAS (1933), he developed integrated philosophical apparoach and pioneered a move towards systems thinking which views science and philosophy as different aspects of the human mind.
J.G. Bennett in his four-volume book THE DREAM UNIVERSE (1956-1966) attempted to bring all scientific knowledge within the scope of one comprehensive theory of existence. Dealing with all branches of science, the theory shows the relations between them in terms of a set of fundamental categories derived from empirical observation, a geometry of six dimensions and a set of existential hypotheses defining the subject matter of the chief scientific disciplines.
Oliver Reiser in the book THE INTEGRATION OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE (1958) sought techniques for the integration of all human knowledge and offered a basis for both individual philosophy and a world philosophy. He advocated a synthesis of science and philosophy, and a re-evaluation of man’s knowledge of himself and of the sciences to develop a system of thought linking man to the universe. In COSMIC HUMANISM (1966), he presented a theory of an eight-dimensional cosmos, based on integrative principles from science, religion and art. In COSMIC HUMANISM AND WORLD UNITY (1975) he further developed the concepts of cosmic humanism stating that it “is a complete world view, a theory of knowledge, a cosmology and a possible universal religion”
Ludvig von Bertalanffy, the founder of General Systems Theory, in his book PROFILES OF LIFE (1952) proposed an organic theory of life. He expressed the view that the phenomenon of life can not be resolved into elementary units, but depends upon interactions, organization and dynamic order.
Arthur Koestler in rejecting the reductionist philosophy developed the concept of ‘HOLON’ as a system consisting of subsystems, which is also a subsystem of some supersystem. He further developed the concept of SOHO (Self-regulating Open Heirarchic Order), which is an explanation of a form of dynamic equilibrium (‘homeostasis’) that will occur only if the self-assertive and integrative tendencies of the components of holons counterbalance each other. If this does not happen, there will be disorder and chaos. His theory has profound implications for society and for understanding the human health in totality.
The shift from reductionist to holistic thinking is obvious in various fields of knowledge but what about the consequent social change? Social change is usually evolutionary, but occasionally it is revolutionary and is accompanied by a social paradigm shift. A social paradigm is a constellation of attitudes, beliefs, values and experiences, shared by most of the members of a society and enabling them to communicate successfully and effectively with one another (Kirk McNulty, 1989). The last shift of social paradigm in Europe, from the ‘Medieval Paradigm’ to the ‘Industrial Paradigm’ started during Renaissance. The next shift seems to be a ‘Consciousness Paradigm’ that is underway now (Willis Harman, 1988). The direct observation of a variety of new paradigms provides an evidence for this paradigm shift. In addition, evidence for such shift is also provided by sample survey data about people’s attitudes and attitude shifts. The ‘Consciousness Paradigm’ seems to be very like the new holistic paradigm.


March 18, 2015

The early Greek atomism of Leucippus and Democritus (fifth century B.C.) was a forerunner of classical physics. According to their view, everything in the universe consists of indivisible, indestructible atoms of various kinds. Change is a rearrangement of these atoms. This kind of thinking was a reaction to the still earlier cocepts of Parmenides. Indian Vaisheshik and Nyaya philosophies were also earliest atomistic worldviews.
In the seventeenth century, at the same time that classical physics gave renewed emphasis to atomism and reductionism.
Parmenides, a very early Greek philospher, had argued that at some primary level the world is a changeless unity. According to him, “All is One. Nor is it divisible, wherefore it is wholly continuous…. It is complete on every side like the mass of a rounded sphere.”
The ideas similar to modern holism have ancient roots and its examples can be found throughout human history in the most diverse socio-cultural contexts as has been confirmed by many ethnological studies.
Similar concepts also played a pivotal role in philosophy of Spinoza and more recently in that of Hegel and Husserl.
Spinoza developed a philosophy reminiscent of Parmenides and proposed that all the differences and apparent divisions we see in the World are Really only aspects of an underlying single substance, which he called ‘God’ or ‘Nature’.
Hegel rejected “the fundamentally atomistic conception of the object,” arguing that “individual objects exist as manifestations of indivisible substance-universals, which cannot be reduced to a set of properties or attributes; he therefore holds that the object should be treated as an ontologically primary whole.” In direct opposition to Kant, therefore, Hegel insists that the unity we find in our experience of the world is not constructed by us out of a plurality of intuitions. In his ontological scheme a concrete individual is not reducible to a plurality of sensible properties, but rather exemplifies a substance universal. His point is that it is a mistake to treat an organic substance like blood as nothing more than a compound of unchanging chemical elements, that can be separated and united without being fundamentally altered. In Hegel’s view, a substance like blood is thus more of an organic unity and cannot be understood as just an external composition of the sort of distinct substances that were discussed at the level of chemistry. Thus, in Hegel’s view, blood is blood is blood and cannot be successfully reduced to what we consider are its component parts; we must view it as a whole substance entire unto itself. This is most certainly a fundamentally holistic view. Hegel, too, had mystical visions of the unity of all things, on which he based his own holistic philosophy of nature and the state. Nature consists of one timeless, unified, rational and spiritual reality. Hegel’s state is a quasi-mystical collective, an “invisible and higher reality,” from which participating individuals derive their authentic identity, and to which they owe their loyalty and obedience. All modern collectivist political thinkers stress some higher collective reality, the unity, the whole, the group, though nearly always at the cost of minimizing the importance of difference, the part, the individual. Against individualism, all emphasize the social whole or social forces that somehow possess a character and have a will of their own, over and above the characters and wills of individual members.
Jan Smuts, a South African statesman, in his book, Holism and Evolution (1926) coined the modern term ‘holism’ and defined it as “The tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution”. He believed that the new thinking and convergence in science and philosophy would lead to emergence of new points of view. There would be shift from mechanistic world-view to a wider view of finding ways to link concepts together. It would thus be possible to explore further the relationship between mind, matter and knowledge. Smuts worked out an ascending order of wholes culminating in final values, which, when set free from human personality, are seen as the creative factors in developing ideas and spiritual values.
Alfred Adler (1927) believed that the individual (an integrated whole expressed through a self-consistent unity of thinking, feeling, and action, moving toward an unconscious, fictional final goal), must be understood within the larger wholes of society, from the groups to which he belongs (starting with his face-to-face relationships), to the larger whole of mankind. The recognition of our social embeddedness and the need for developing an interest in the welfare of others, as well as a respect for nature, is at the heart of Adler’s philosophy of living and principles of psychotherapy.
Maurice Leenhardt (1947), a French Protestant missionary, coined the term ‘cosmomorphism’ to indicate the state of perfect symbiosis with the surrounding environment which characterized the culture of the Melanesians of New Caledonia. For these people, an isolated individual is totally indeterminate, indistinct and featureless until he can find his position within the natural and social world in which he is inserted. The confines between the self and the world are annulled to the point that the material body itself is no guarantee of the sort of recognition of identity which is typical of our own culture.
Gestalt psychology was a major holist movement in the early twentieth century. Its claim was that perception is not an aggregation of atomic sense data but a field, in which there is a figure and a ground. Background has holistic effects on the perceived figure.
Logical holism is the belief that the world operates in such a way that no part can be known without the whole being known first.
In philosophy, any doctrine that emphasizes the priority of a whole over its parts is holism. Some suggest that such a definition owes its origins to a non-holistic view of language and places it in the reductivist camp. Alternately, a ‘holistic’ definition of holism denies the necessity of a division between the function of separate parts and the workings of the ‘whole’. It suggests that the key recognizable characteristic of a concept of holism is a sense of the fundamental truth of any particular experience. This exists in contradistinction to what is perceived as the reductivist reliance on inductive method as the key to verification of its concept of how the parts function within the whole. In the philosophy of language this becomes the claim, called semantic holism, that the meaning of an individual word or sentence can only be understood in terms of its relations to a larger body of language, even a whole theory or a whole language. In the philosophy of mind, a mental state may be identified only in terms of its relations with others. This is often referred to as “content holism” or “holism of the mental”. This notion involves the philosophies of such figures as Frege, Wittgenstein, and Quine. Epistemological and confirmation holism are mainstream ideas in contemporary philosophy. Ontological holism was espoused by David Bohm (1980) in his theory of The Implicate Order.
Holism as an idea or philosophical concept is diametrically opposed to atomism. Where the atomist believes that any whole can be broken down or analyzed into its separate parts and the relationships between them, the holist maintains that the whole is primary and often greater than the sum of its parts. The atomist divides things up in order to know them better; the holist looks at things or systems in aggregate and argues that we can know more about them viewed as such, and better understand their nature and their purpose.
Based on pantheistic religious experience, this emphasis on an underlying unity is reflected in the mystical thinking of most major spiritual traditions. It also reflects developments in modern quantum field theory, which describes all existence as an excitation of the underlying quantum vacuum, as though all existing things were like ripples on a universal pond. The twentieth century has seen a tentative movement toward hoilism in such diverse areas as politics, social thinking, psychology, management theory, and medicine, systems theory, and concern with the whole person in alternative medicine. All these have been reactions against excessive individualism with its attendant alienation and fragmentation, and exhibit a commonsense appreciation of human beings’ interdependency with one another and with the environment.
Where atomism was apparently legitimized by the sweeping sucesses of classical physics, holism found no such foundation in the hard sciences. It remained a change of emphasis rather than a new philosophical position. There were attempts to found it on the idea of organism in biology – the emergence of biological form and the cooperative relation between biological and ecological systems – but these too were ultimately reduced to simpler parts, their properties and the relations between them. Even systems theory, although it emphasizes the complexity of aggregates, does so in terms of causal feedback loops between various constituent parts.
It is only with quantum theory and the dependence of the very being or identity of quantum entities upon their contexts and relationships that a genuinely new, “deep” holism emerges. Relational Holism in Quantum Mechanics is of the view that ‘Every quantum entity has both a wavelike and a particlelike aspect. The wavelike aspect is indeterminate, spread out all over space and time and the realm of possibility’. The particle-like aspect is determinate, located at one place in space and time and limited to the domain of actuality. The particle-like aspect is fixed, but the wavelike aspect becomes fixed only in dialogue with its surroundings – in dialogue with an experimental context or in relationship to another entity in measurement or observation. It is the indeterminate, wave-like aspect – the set of potentialities associated with the entity – that unites quantum things or systems in a truly emergent, relational holism that cannot be reduced to any previously existing parts or their properties. If two or more quantum entities are “introduced” – that is, issue from the same source – their potentialities are entangled. Their indeterminate wave aspects are literally interwoven, to the extent that a change in potentiality in one brings about a correlated change in the same potentiality of the other. In the nonlocality experiments, measuring the previously indeterminate polarization of a photon on one side of a room effects an instantaneous fixing of the polarization of a paired photon shot off to the other side of the room. The polarizations are said to be correlated; they are always determined simultaneously and always found to be opposite. This paired-though-opposite polarization is described as an emergent property of the photons’ “relational holism” – a property that comes into being only through the entanglement of their potentialities. It is not based on individual polarizations, which are not present until the photons are observed. They literally do not previously exist, although their oppositeness was a fixed characteristic of their combined system when it was formed. In the coming together or simultaneous measurement of any two entangled quantum entities, their relationship brings about a “further fact.” Quantum relationship evokes a new reality that could not have been predicted by breaking down the two relational entities into their individual properties. The emergence of a quantum entity’s previously indeterminate properties in the context of a given experimental situation is another example of relational holism. We cannot say that a photon is a wave or a particle until it is measured, and how we measure it determines what we will see. The quantum entity acquires a certain new property – position, momentum, polarization – only in relation to its measuring apparatus. The property did not exist prior to this relationship. It was indeterminate. Quantum relational holism, resting on the nonlocal entanglement of potentialities, is a kind of holism not previously defined. Because each related entity has some characteristics – mass, charge, spin – before its emergent properties are evoked, each can be reduced to some extent to atomistic parts, as in classical physics.
The modern holism is not the extreme holism of Parmenides or Spinoza, where everything is an aspect of the One. Yet, because some of their properties emerge only through relationship, quantum entities are not wholly subject to reduction either. The truth is somewhere between Newton and Spinoza. A quantum system may also vary between being more atomistic at some times and more holistic at others; the degrees of entanglement vary.
The primitive societies have an instinctive holistic view, which is derived from their knowledge of the local ecosystems in their environment. Each such society treats the local ecosystem as dominant and makes all human activities subservient to it. This approach is also observed in ancient and oriental civilisations. The holistic thinking continued to prevail in the western world in some or the other form up to the Renaissance Period. However, with the rise of scientific movement in the mid-17th century, the materialistic-mechanistic world-view and the reductionist approach to analysis became dominant. This led to shifting of focus from the whole to parts and the holistic thinking was gradually abandoned. The non-holistic nature of much of the modern education leaves most the people with conceptual frameworks that are too narrow to allow holistic thinking. However, there was a decline in reductionist thinking in the last few decades of 20th century. Serious attempts were made to build a synthesis of ideas and evolve holistic paradigms in every field.


March 17, 2015

Ontology is the theory of being and ontological questions are concerned with existence, reality and the true nature of things. Realism is the ontological position that the external world is real and it ‘exists’ independent of the human observer. This position also takes the view that the ‘really existing’ objects, structures and mechanisms of that world stimulate the sense perceptions of human observer giving their perceptual knowledge. On the other hand, anti-realist position professes complete agnosticism as regard to ontological questions.
Epistemology is the theory of knowledge and epistemological questions are concerned with what can be known about the world and methods of knowledge. Empiricism is the epistemological position that ultimately all the knowledge stems only from the sense experience. On the other hand, rationalism is the position that, besides sense experience as source of peceptual knowledge, reason is true source of real knowledge of reality.
Empiricism on the epistemological level is usually associated with anti-realism at ontological level. On the other hand, justification of realism on the ontological level requires rationalism on the epistemological level. Empiricist philosophy
The rise of empiricist philosophy in Europe in 17th and 18th century was result of the changed intellectual climate following the ‘scientific’ achievements of men like Kepler, Galileo, Harvey, Newton etc. This school of philosophy is largely associated with philosophers like John Locke, George Berkeley and Auguste Comte. In the 20th century, the logical positivists of Vienna Circle and their successors analysed the logical consequences of empiricist thinking. Though there is disagreement on several important points, all the empiricists share the fundamental belief that all knowledge is derived from experience.
Empiricists accept the laws of purely deductive disciplines of logic and mathematics but assert that logical and mathematical deductions are analytic, which means that these do not generate new knowledge and serve to only analyse the existing knowledge. Anti-realism of empiricists makes it necessary to redefine the concepts like causality and objectivity in such a way that they do not presuppose any reality beyond observation. Empiricists do not accept the generative theory of causality that implies that causal relation takes place in the external world independently of our observations. They propose the alternative succession (Humean) theory of causality in which idea of causality is explained in psychological terms. This theory points out that if we observe one event followed by second event several times, our expectation of the occurrence of second event after the occurrence of first event increases. The causal relationship is this expectation, a mental habit, which we erroneously extrapolate to an external world. The succession theory may be refined by analysing in detail the logical relationship between cause and effects.
From the point of view of empiricism, the laws of nature do not tell us what really goes on in the world. Their function is the ‘mnemonic reproduction of facts in the mind’ i.e. these laws are only mental constructions that serve to describe as concisely as possible, the observations made.
The term objectivity is used by empiricists in a very restricted sense. The term has ontological implications and refers to phenomenon believed to exist independently of the observer. Since empiricist position denies this interpretation, empiricists equate objectivity with inter-subjectivity. They assert that if exactly same observation is made by two different observers then the observation statement is said to be objective meaning that it is inter-subjective, public or verifiable. This assertion lead logical positivists of 20th century to formulate a demarcation criterion, which may serve to distinguish those propositions, which are meaningful from those that are not. They proposed a criterion of verifiability according to which only those statements are meaningful, which in principle could be labelled as verifiable. However, this criterion leads to quite serious consequences and difficulties:
According to this criterion, all attempts to discuss moral issues rationally are considered futile. This nihilistic attitude to moral philosophy is called emotivism.
The criterion itself is not verifiable and, therefore, must be regarded as meaningless by empiricist standards themselves. Thus, the criterion is self-defeating.
The criterion leads to the classical problem of induction since the criterion may well be applicable to singular statements. The leap from experience, which always consists of singular observations, to a ‘law of nature’ can not be logically defended as the law can allways be proved false by next observation and this possibility can never be excluded. This logical problem has always vexed empiricist philosophers. Despite much effort by logical positivists in the last century, it has yet not been possible to logically define the jump from singular observation statements to general theory.
Importance of empiricist philosophers’ teaching regarding the importance of empirical evidence is undoubtedly great. However, it is obvious that from a purely philosophical point of view the radical empiricism leads to a dead end and creates insurmountable problems. It imposes a view of the world that is quite counter-intuitive. The empiricist belief that all knowledge is derived solely from the experience has not been established up till now to be fully consistent. The empiricist denouncement of realism has been unsuccessful in clarifying many of the philosophical problems. This forced inquiry along the lines of weakening the empiricist position.
Immanuel Kant did not accept the Locke’s idea that mind was originally like a blank sheet of paper. According to him, space and time are preconditions for the perception of something as an object and, therefore, human beings are ‘programmed’ to think in categories of quantity, quality, casualty, possibility, necessity, existence etc. A human being’s picture of the actual world reflects this a priori organisation of his sense perceptions and his actual observations. Kant, is thus, a rationalist asserting that the empirical knowledge is organised according to a priori principles but, like empiricist, he does not accept the possibility of knowledge of things-in-themselves. Contemporary philosophers and psychologists have also given up the idea that the mind was originally a ‘blank sheet of paper’. They also deny the existence of anything like pure observation. In many scientic examples, theory-dependence of observations can quite obviously be demonstrated. Philosophy of science
It has been dominated by empiricist thinking for the last few centuries. The role of empiricist philosophy in the development of science should be viewed in historical perspective. The metaphysical theories of pre-empiricist era were far too extravagantly rationalistic and realistic. Therefore, it was only natural that empiricists felt that science must start afresh with systematic observations and establishment of the Laws of Nature.
The ontological scepticism of empiricists, though seemingly counter-intuitive, is quite acceptable in advanced science. The empiricism asserts that scientific process starts with observation. Scientists are generally concerned with the study of natural ‘entities and phenomena’, which are not directly observable. They ‘observe’ these by the use of ingenious instruments. It is always debatable whether such ‘entities and phenomena’ exist really or they are just creations of scientists’ imagination that only serve to organise their ideas.
The usefulness of succession (Humean) theory of causality can be shown in discussion of the causation of in many scientific fields . Further, science is generally concerned with general statements, which can not be verified with absolute certainty by experience alone. In view of the empirist analysis of ‘Laws of Nature’ in light of their epistemological positiom leading to the classical problem of induction, Bertrand Russell has simply concluded that ‘induction is an independent logical principle incapable of being inferred either from experience or from other logical principles and that without this principle science is impossible’.
Karl Popper (1965, 1968, 1976) has been the most influential philosopher of science of this century. He has made very important point that observation is always selective. It needs a chosen object, a definite task, an interest, a point of view, a problem. He asserts that the first step in scientific process is not observation but the generation of hypothesis, which may then be tested critically by observations and experiments. The goal of scientific effort is not verification but falsification of the initial hypothesis. As empiricists use the criterion of verifiability to distinguish between meaningful and non-meaningful statements, Popper used the criterion of falsifiability to distinguish between those theories that fall within province of science and those that may be labelled as pseudoscience. This thought and the criterion of falsifiability has influenced the modern scientific methodology to a very large extent. However, the criterion of falsifiability, despite its importance from the logical point of view, is not easy to handle in practice. Popper himself has pointed out that there is no such thing as pure observation. Therefore, a scientist who conducts an experiment and contradicts a theory can not be sure whether the theory has been falsified or the observation (or the experimental set-up) was at fault. Further, scientists mostly have to subject their observations to a statistical analysis. Here the final analysis depends not only on the observations but also on the convention as regards the choice of statistical tests and the accepted level of significance. Thus, Popper instead of solving the problem of induction, in a sense, has tried to bypass the problem. The scientists undoubtedly in many cases try to falsify hypotheses but in many other cases, they try to reason inductively. Scientic research papers contain numerous statistical calculations that reflect inductive reasoning. Popper has asserted that we can never be quite sure about our theories being true. The efficacy of modern technology, which is based to some extent on scientific theories, proves beyond doubt that in some areas Popper’s ‘approximation to truth’ has been achieved.
It is quite true that the development of modern science is inextricably bound up with empiricist philosophy, but philosophical reflections and the results of modern science in many areas suggest that the position of classical empiricism is quite untenable. It is seems more appropriate to accept the view of:
realist position on the ontological level that the purpose of science is to explore what really goes on in the world and on the epistemological level, accept existence of pure observations but deny that the observations are the only source of knowledge,
the existence of causal relationships and deny the empiricist succession theory of causation,
existence of a laws of nature being indicated by a causal relationship existing between the two events if one event generates another event through some or the other mechanism (as is quite obvious in some bio-medical situations) and
objectivity of causal relationships and laws of nature in the sense that they exist independently of observation.
Though the realist position does not solve the problem of induction, the knowledge of underlying mechanism sometimes makes the problem less troublesome.
Teething phiosophical problems with the empiricism domiated philosophy of science prevalent for the last few centuries have prompted many philosophers (Smart, J.J.C., 1963; Harre., R., 1970; Hacking, I., 1983; Bhaskar,R., 1975) to favour a realist theory of science. These philosphers point out that scientific knowledge has both a transitive and an intransitive aspect. Knowledge in the form of a scientific theory should be regarded as a changeable social product, and as such, it is transitive. However, the object of that knowledge that does not depend upon the existence of observer, is intransitive.
The importance of this observation is that it reveals the deficiency of two different views of science. On one hand extreme realists disregard the transitive aspect of scientific knowledge while on the other hand extreme empiricists disregard the intransitive aspect. It may be proposed that a balanced philosophy of natural science must take into account both the aspects and the relationship between them. Emergence of ‘Holistic’ thinking in science may lead to a balanced philosophy of science.


March 12, 2015

Religious scriptures may be used to evoke a deeper connection with the divine, convey spiritual truths, promote mystical experience, foster communal identity and to guide individual and communal spiritual practice. Many religions believe that their scriptures originated from divine inspiration. The monotheistic faiths view their sacred texts as the ‘Word of Ultimate Universal’ and ‘Divine Revelation’.

The scriptures of the world’s religions have provided humanity with some of the most sublime and profound philosophical insights, spiritual ideals and values that have shaped the moral and spiritual development of humankind. The lofty ideas found in religious texts have shaped the identity of entire peoples, provided the content for their legal codes, offered individuals as well as communities meaning to life and explained the purpose along with the destination of life’s journey for countless followers. The impact of scriptures on world cultures has been and still is immeasurable.
Religious Scriptures in oral form have been an important part of human culture since the beginning of civilization. From the dawn of humanity, humans have attempted to make sense of the cosmos and to explain humanity’s place in it. Sacred stories arose to account for the bewildering variety of phenomena and feelings that comprise the human experience. Such stories developed cosmic significance and gave rise to the different religions and mythologies of the world’s cultures.
Thus, the earliest use of scriptures was not in the form of written texts but ancient oral stories handed down from one generation to the next. Many ancient preliterate cultures (and some modern ones) did not place a strong emphasis on recording their ‘truths’ in written documents, preferring instead to honour their sacred stories through oral memorization and transmission. In ancient India, for example, the body of sacred literature known as Smriti was handed down orally among the Hindus before eventually being written down.
In the time before literacy was widespread, the average lay adherent of any religion would likely come to know the sacred stories of their own tradition through folklore, worship and ritual practices or from literate members of the clergy who would read passages from their scriptures. While those able to read and explain the scriptures were held in high esteem, those who could recite them from memory even more so. Religious instruction in the ancient Brahmin caste of India included a set of mnemonic tools that helped students to memorize the ritual formulae found in the Vedas, which were written down relatively late in history. Similar (but unrelated) systems were used in the recording of the Qua’ran. The Hebrew Bible, recorded in the ancient Hebrew language, is in its original rendering written in such a way that it is recited with a most pleasing rhythm. The ascendancy of written scriptures in the world’s religions developed along side the continuation of oral traditions.


March 12, 2015

Ever since language began, people have used narrative to organize human experience, to orient life in the cosmos. Narrative is part of humanity’s brilliance. Narrative in its broadest sense means stories, the recital of accounts, information and teachings, including scriptures; the framework of worldviews as told in the words of authoritative oral/written texts. In this sense, all scriptures are largely narratives. Each master narrative is a scenario orienting people to some sort of order. Scriptures (from Latin ‘scritura’ meaning ‘writing’) literally are the sacred written texts but in broad sense also include oral ones that serve a variety of purposes in the individual and collective lives of a society, culture and most significantly a religious tradition. These are examples of narrative par excellence telling origin stories, offering expositions of teachings, injunctions, lyrics and wisdom. Scripture narratives, in all their many forms, are so ubiquitous because every coherent life is invariably shaped by some story. Scriptures can thus, be seen to function as ‘attractors’, dynamic system patterns channelling human energies, reminder to people of their place in the scheme of things and thus, channel the passions. At their best, sacred narratives i.e. Scriptures serve as revered repositories storing societal, cultural and religious wisdom. They seem to mirror life, generate order and provide recognizable structures i.e. enduring answers about life’s meanings along with allowing some flexibility for new interpretations and applications as needs arise. They also store information about ideals and make the meanings available and applicable to a great variety of situations by different people over the centuries. Scriptures are kept relevant by commentaries, new translations and adaptive reiterations. At their worst, scriptures can be used to promote unthinking and irrational behavior. With all the research the modern age has accumulated, people still feel growing pains of alternating pride of knowledge power and dismay at ignorance and chaotic change beyond control. Human beings while able in solving some mysteries, continue to face mysteries in the universe that were always in existence since our ancestors started. Common men as well as scholars are still wondering: 1. What is a civilization-founding scripture, and how does it remain significant? 2. How can we begin to better understand the implications of scripture’s global pervasiveness. 3. What new awareness of common bonds and possible cooperation might grow out of respectful encounters with the sacred texts of others? Woefully, even with science growing and new information in every sphere being continuously discovered, meaning of ‘being a person’ is still as elusive as ever was. Perhaps updating current human understanding of the role of scriptures that for so long have oriented so many human lives with ever increasing new knowledge may be a helpful. Assessing anew the importance of scriptures and their meaning in human life. Better understanding of the processes by which they are elevated to authoritative positions and processes involved when they are lowered or lessened in status is also necessary. Perhaps because scientific modernity started treating scriptures, particularly religious scriptures, very shabbily, fundamentalists now upholding them with a vengeance; the pendulum swings both ways. The impact of religious scripture on human behavior has not always been positive. Most of the religions themselves are critical of those who hold to a literal reading of scriptures, which can block comprehension of the ‘Ultimate Universal’. Buddha in his Parable of the Raft spoke about the scriptures as a raft, useful on the path to Enlightenment but ultimately to be abandoned on the other shore as true enlightenment transcends conceptual knowledge (Majjhima Nikaya 1.134-35). Another issue that confounds religious scriptures is whether these contains the whole truth or only a part of the truth. Adherents who believe their scriptures are the complete and full revelation of Ultimate Universal Truth may well have difficulty appreciating the value of other religions’ scriptures. Yet the scriptures themselves counsel humility on this score. Buddha warned his follower Malunkyaputta not to question the philosophical questions that the Buddha had not elucidated, as a person shot with an arrow does not stop the doctor from removing it with questions about who shot it (Majjhima Nikaya 1.426-31).


March 9, 2015

The unity of experience, the being in becoming has alway been an enigma for all. However, its solution does not need introduction of a Platonic demiurge to tie up things. Buddha’s supreme enlightenment gave a new twist to the whole matter and was the beginning of a radical ontology of experience, one which turned our ordinary understanding of substance-oriented ontologies into a new phenomenon of unencumbered existence through conception of Buddhist reality based on the central doctrine of dependent origination (pratiitya-samutpaada) and its implications.
The compounded term ‘dependent origination’ has the dependent nature expressed in Sanskrit by ‘pratiitya’, which breaks down etymologically to prati + ii, which means ‘to go toward’ and ‘to go to meet’ but also means ‘to come back’ and ‘to return’.(26) Thus, the meaning here is inclusive of both the ‘going toward something’ and ‘returning with that something’. In the momentary existence, each moment can be taken to be a singular ‘act’ or movement i.e. a phenomenon of ‘going-returning’ or ‘reaching out-bringing in’. From the initial or incipient condition of dependence (pratiitya), there is a total arising of the moment of existence (samutpaada). This is experiential becoming at its most fundamental level. Our one- or two-dimensional bias in the perception of things would normally assign a single movement, either ‘to go’ or ‘to return’, without being mindful of the nature of continuity. The two movements, furthermore, cannot be conceived together because one movement has to cease before the other takes over. In this way, the continuum of existence is broken off or vitiated but this is a very common understanding issuing forth from the empirically oriented realm. In a way, it shows up the Humean dilemma on giving up on causal connection.
The rise of the moment in its incipient dependent stage (asymmetric nature) shows up the reflexive character, without which the doctrine of dependent origination will lose any sense of continuity in the nature of becoming. Thus, dependent origination is a multidimensional phenomenon which depicts the asymmetric-symmetric nature in the growth of the moment but each currently appearing moment is a vital part of the continuum of existence. The exact nature of the moment or the territory that it occupies cannot be really known. Such knowledge relies on perceptual memory of past events in order to derive some semblance of the characteristics of those events. But how do we intimate with any of the characteristics? The answer to this question was found by early thinkers in the concept of ‘suunyatva’ (emptiness).This concept is neutral in the sense that it does not participate with the elements in the empirical realm. It is pervasive in the sense that it permits the elements to be what they are but at the same time serves as a kind of universal ground for momentary existence.
‘Emptiness’, ‘voidness’, ‘nothingnes’ and so forth are weak translations for the original term, ‘suunyataa’. It does not, mean nonentity in the literal sense. It means empty of content i.e. non-substantive nature but at the same time it connotes the swelling of the locus of reality. Taken in this dual sense, non-substantive nature and swelling, it refers to the fullness of existence. Moreover, both connotations reveal the potency and pregnancy of the moment of existence. The role and function of emptiness are inestimable.(27) It has opened up the floodgates to an understanding of human existence in all its aspects. With its later refinement, it only confirmed the radical ontology ushered in by the Buddha’s momentous experience.
In Mahaayaana Buddhism, the liberal or ‘radical’ wing of Buddhism, the implications of emptiness fostered the development of different schools of thought. However, in all phases of the development, the focus remained rooted in the momentary nature of things, and any of the basic doctrines of early Buddhism was never forsaken. Respective novel doctrines of diverse systems such as Tantrism, Pure Land, Ch’an (Zen), Hua-yen, and so forth, brought their ideas together in the basic context of dependent origination. In time, Mahaayaana Buddhism identified four types of dependent origination. In a way, the four types give a sweeping view of the whole of Mahaayaana development.
1. Dependent origination by karma (action or volitional force). This is the basic type seen in the twelve-linked dependent origination of early Buddhism. In each linking process, there is a karmic effect, which causes the linkage. For example, based on ignorance (avijjaa) the dispositions (sa^nkhaara) arise, and so forth in either a forward or a backward cycle. Mahaayaana Buddhism kept this basic dynamics of becoming.
2. Dependent origination by aalayavij~naana (storehouse consciousness). All phenomena originate from the interplay between the aalayavij~naana and manas (discriminative consciousness). The aalayavij~naana contains the potential or seeds for the manifestation of phenomena (experiential) and the manas provides fresh seeds by perfuming them into the aalayavij~naana. The original impressions for the seeds come to the manas by way of the five sense-consciousnesses and the integrative consciousness (manovij~naana). Vij~naanavaada (Consciousness-only School) subscribes to this type of dependent origination.
3. Dependent origination by tathaagatagarbha (matrix of thus-come). All phenomena originate, regardless of the unenlightened status of mundane beings, from the involvement of the realm of thus-ness that is the enlightened pure realm. In brief, this means that the Buddha-nature is ubiquitous, residing even in insentient beings. This type is expounded, for example, in the Awakening of Truth in the Mahaayaan (Mahaayaana sraddhotpaadasaastra). The Pure Land School makes optimum use of this conception.
4. Dependent origination by dharmadhaatu (realm of factors or elements of existence). All phenomena arise based on the interdependent, interrelated, and interpenetrative natures of the factors of being. In this sense, all phenomena mutually identify each other. This conception was crystallized in the Chinese Hua-yen School, although its rudiments are already found in Indian Buddhism, even in the Buddha’s teachings. Ch’an (Zen) makes liberal use of this idea in its teachings as well as in awakening the devotee to the reality of things.
Despite these four types appearing separate and distinct, are actually expounding on the selfsame reality of dependent origination that is the dynamic cocreative momentary process. The concept of emptiness is the common thread running through them. Emptiness may have various uses in the four types, but all variant forms have the distinct Buddhist quality of leading to or aiming at the nirvaa.nic realm. The T’ien T’ai School in China, for example, uses the emptiness of phenomenal existence in the unique sense of provisional conception and then the emptying of emptiness itself to bring forth the middle way. All three conceptions viz. emptiness, provisionality, middle way are in the final analysis interpenetrative of one another. The variant forms of emptiness only make obvious the extent to which the implications of Buddhist reality or ontology has ranged. With a focus on dependent origination, the Mahaayaana development can generally be seen in terms of two strains: (a) self-realization of the basic nature of momentary existence and (b) self-realization through other-realization.
The first (a) is basic to the Buddhist conception of relity. The second (b) is a new perspective on the total nature of things and gives a distinctive Mahaayaana flavor to the conceptulization of reaity.
The nature of dependent origination becomes expanded or more extensive based on the reflexive character. The realm of the wheel of becoming has been widened to include everything on earth. This is the genuine use of the words Mahaa (great) and yaana (wheel). The term Tathaagata is used in a distinctive sense to refer to the Buddha himself. With the reflexive nature, the Mahaayaana has brought forth a new dimension, a greater cosmological extension and effect. That is, the term can be seen in two dimensions, Tathaa + gata (Thus-gone) and Tathaa + aagata (Thus-come). Buddha’s life is then interpreted as one that has gone forth to the nirvaa.nic realm and at once returned to the sa.msaaric realm to save sentient beings. This reflexive interpretation has opened up the realm of existence to include sentients as well as insentients and has given a new meaning to the concept of compassion (karu.naa). In essence, the Mahaayaana not only has moved toward more inclusive philosophic implications for the acts of man and nature, but has provided man a new sense of belonging to the community or of understanding the social nature of things. It has fired up the spirit of community action in terms of the universal dimensions of all actions.
Pure Land Buddhism expands on this reflexive nature of existence by speaking of the Other Power of Amida Buddha manifesting by virtue of the Original Vow to save all sentients. All of this seems mythical, beyond comprehension and is of the nature of faith (`sraddhaa). However, returning to self-realization of the basic nature of momentary existence, Self-realization or self-power is inherent in all Mahaayaana Buddhism, except that some schools will not bring it out into the open as a central issue as may be the case in Pure Land Buddhist practice. But it is fundamental and attractive precisely because it does not deviate from the basic teachings of the Buddha. It entails the discipline necessary to realize the truth of existence. Thus, the Mahaayaana tradition emphasizes meditation, dhyaana or praj~naapaaramitaa, as central thrust for the perfection of personhood.
In Far Eastern Buddhism, the pursuit of life has somehow brought about an amalgamation of self-and other-power elements. In the field of aesthetics, finally, the implications of Buddhist reality (ontology) have propelled Far Eastern art collectively into the status of one of the wonders of the world. In all of this, the role and function of emptiness, couched in the basic, dependently originating nature of things, have played no small part in this development. Thus, however slowly or quickly the wheel of becoming may be turning, the goal is the selfsame realization of the Buddhist Dharma. NOTES:
26. Monier Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1963), p. 673. In the Prasannapadaa (The Clearworded), Chandrakiirti comments on Naagaarjuna’s meaning of pratiitya-samutpaada thus: The first part of the term consists of the gerund of the root ‘i’ and the preposition ‘prati’. The root ‘i’ means motion, the preposition ‘prati’ means ‘reaching’. But the preposition (when added to a verbal root) modifies its meaning. It has been said that ”the meaning of the verbal root is changed by the preposition as if it were violently dragged into another place just as the sweet waters of the Ganges (change their savour when reaching) the waters of the ocean”. Therefore, the word ‘pratiitya’, being a gerund, means ‘reaching’ in the sense of being dependent (or relative). The word ‘samutpaada’ means ‘appearance, manifestation’. It comes from the verbal root ‘pad’ which with the preposition ‘samut’ has this meaning. Thus, the term pratitya-samutpada (in our system) conveys the idea of a manifestation of (separate) entities as relative to their causes and conditions ( quote is taken from Th. Stcherbatsky, The Conception of Buddhist, revised and enlarged edition with comprehensive analysis and introduction by Jaideva Singh (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1977), p. 89 (on chap. 1, ‘Examination of Causality’).
27. Naagaarjuna brought the basic Buddhist doctrines in line in a most sweeping manner by emphasising on the traditional concept of emptiness.
Whole realm of human experience could now be glimpsed from both the unenlightened and enlightened nature of things. In Buddhaghosa’s analysis of dependent origination, a verse depicts the voidness of the wheel becoming. This verse also confirms Mahaayaanistic employment of the concept of emptiness in the experiential dynamics of becoming. To this extent, the concept was given a new meaning by Naagaarjuna and heralded the possibility of further developments in Buddhism. There is strong suspicion that there may have been an unknown author or authors of the earliest praj~naapaaramitaa thought or other seminal works who had originally spawned the idea of the uniqueness and power of emptiness.


March 9, 2015

Buddhist conception of reality or ontology is dynamic, focused on the process i.e. on ‘becoming’ and its locus is in the momentary nows. The Four Noble Truths indicate the universal nature of suffering and the way out of it. This universality establishes the fact that the nature of suffering and the cessation of suffering take place in the reality of existence. In both, the ontological status has remained relatively stable throughout the process. Consistent with this understanding and, expanding on it, Buddha stated ”Whatever is of the nature of arising, all that is of the nature of cessation”. This statement reveals one of the great philosophic insights. The term ‘all’ refers to the dhammas (dharmas), the factors of existence/experience, which manifest themselves in the momentary existence. But the same passage goes on to say that there arose the “dustless, stainless vision of the dhamma.”(9) The factors of existence are now seen from the enlightened standpoint. Both the unenlightened and enlightened natures belong to the momentary existence. The arising and cessation of dhammas are two aspects of the dynamics of the moments as they are relative to the state of suffering and the state of release. Arising has to do with the compounding (sa^nkhaara) or grasping (upaadaana) nature of the dhammas and cessation with the non-compounding and non-grasping phenomena. There is parity of existence and this can be labelled the ontological parity for it is centered on momentary existence, whether in the enlightened or unenlightened sense. The fact that the same term dhamma can be seen from two different perspectives means that Buddhist reality is not separated or alienated from our common experiences. On the one hand, common experience functions with the pluralistic dhammas, which are by their very grasped nature are already stained or tainted. On the other hand, that selfsame realm of common experience could function without the pluralistic dhammas or could be envisioned as dustless, stainless dhammas, the singular unified nature of existence. It means that our ordinary sa.msaaric life, as tangled as it is, has all the necessary ingredients for the transformation into the inordinate nirvaa.nic life. This spells out the saving truth of mundane existence and so the Udaana, in a very cryptic way, summed it up as follows:
”There is, O Bhikkhus, an unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed. Were there not, O Bhikkhus, this unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed, there would be no escape from the world of the born, originated, created, formed.(10)”
The passage clearly indicates that there is a way out of the normal conditioned or compounded realm of existence (sa.msaara) because of the functioning parity principle that is intrinsic to momentary existence. The unborn, unoriginated, and so forth is not somewhere aloof or transcendental of the born, originated, and so forth but constitutes the pure realm realizable when the compounding elements are no longer in force. With this concept of the ontological parity of existence in place, the nature of momentary existence may be explored further.
After repeatedly asserting the impermanent nature of things i.e. reference to the five skandhas, Buddha launched into a series of fundamental doctrines. One of the finest philosophical expressions made by the Buddha reads:
”On two things, Kaccaana, does this world generally base its view, on existence and on non-existence. Now he who with right insight sees the arising of the world as it really is, does not believe in the non-existence of the world. But, Kaccaana, he who with right insight sees the ceasing of the world as it really is, does not believe in the existence of the world.’l(11)
The passage is clearly focused on the dynamics of momentary existence. Enlightened, Buddha very well knew that conventional understanding works in devious and dichotomous ways, that is, the extremes of existence (bhava) and nonexistence (abhava), two terms earlier seen on the thirsts of life (ta.nhaa). Within the context of the impermanent nature of things, he saw that these dichotomous terms are the most dominant extremes that human beings are attached to and that, thus conditioned, they are not able to intimate with their own momentary existence. He also saw that without proper vision, the dichotomy will remain and that from this basic dichotomy other dichotomies will arise.
Here he revealed what right insight will do. If one envisions the arising of the world i.e. the rising of a moment, as it really is, then one will not fall into nihilistic tendencies or understanding. On the other hand, if one envisions the ceasing of the world i.e. the ceasing of a moment, as it really is then one will not fall into materialistic or substantive understanding. ‘To envision the world as it really is’ precisely describes the relational dynamics involved in the momentary nature of life, that is, experiencing in a natural mode. In failing to realize that mode, the dichotomous nature swiftly takes over and overwhelms the experiencer but despite the snares of dichotomy, the ontological parity remains nascent and shows a way which is made possible by meditative discipline. The Buddha went further to clarify the first part, thus:
”He who does not go after, does not grasp at, does not take his stand on this system-grasping, this dogma, this mental bias, such an one does not say ‘it is my soul (self, attaa).’ He who thinks, ‘that which arises is but ill (suffering, dukkha), that which ceases, it is ill,’ such an one has no doubts, no perplexity. In this matter, knowledge not borrowed from others comes to him. Thus far, Kaccana, goes right view.(12)”
Buddha points out that in our ordinary views on life and the world, we are prejudiced by ‘dogmas’ and ‘mental biases’ such that we are no longer able to view our existential flow correctly. Thus, we must forsake any metaphysical conceptions, such as the self. Clearly, the right view (sammaa-di.t.thi) expounded by the Buddha is not a mere intellectual alignment, but a truly existential transformation of the primary order. Budhha ends the passage with a series of most profound statements:
“‘All exists’, Kaccaana, that is one extreme. ‘Nought exists,’ Kaccaana, that is the other extreme. Not approaching either extreme, Kaccana, the Tathaagata (Buddha) teaches you a doctrine by the middle way: ‘Conditioned by ignorance comes the activities: conditioned by the activities comes consciousness, and so forth.’ Thus is the arising of this whole mass of ill (suffering). By the utter fading away and ceasing of ignorance comes the ceasing of the activities, and so forth. Thus is the ceasing of this entire mass of ill.”(13)
By not approaching the two extremes of existence and non-existence, Buddha now introduces the doctrine of the middle way (majjhimaapa.tipadaa). And this doctrine is another way of expressing the famous doctrine of dependent origination (pa.ticcasamuppaada). Here a virtual identity of the two doctrines may be noted. Naagaarjuna (150-250 A. D.)later makes the same equation except that he interposes the concept of emptiness (suunyataa).
The foundation suutra that sets in motion the Wheel of Dhamma (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta), popularly known as the First Sermon, identifies the middle way with the Eightfold Noble Path of right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. It also says that the middle way gives vision and knowledge thus, leads to calm, insight, enlightenment, and finally Nibbaana (
The identity of the middle way and the Eightfold Noble Path is plausible and acceptable in light of the previous passage on the right view, which constitutes the first step of the path. The right view is the initial and primary corrective measure in which it is necessary for the devotee to engage himself so as to proceed with the rest of the steps in the path ending in right concentration (sammaasamaadhi).
The much neglected middle way is a unique doctrine in Buddhism found nowhere else in either the East or the West. It has nothing to do with the workings of the rational or logical mind, that is, the logical entities with which we carry out logical functions. It is not subject to mensuration or calculation, nor is it subject to a moderating process a la Aristotle or by common sense. It is rather a truly dynamic doctrine delineating the supreme momentary nature of things. It denies all functions of contingent matters or factors of experience. It avoids these elements or factors in order to issue forth the underlying pure, untainted nature of momentariness. If anything, it underlies without involving itself with those elements or factors. However, this should not be construed to mean that the middle way is a receptacle of being or a catchall doctrine. It still remains a strong guiding principle, indescribable by means of contingent elements, and functions like a border guard who checks for contraband but permits the normal flow of traffic. In brief, the middle way is another means of exhibiting things (moments) as they really are.
The dependent origination also depicts Buddhist reality is seen in the following assertion by the Buddha:
”Who sees Conditioned Genesis (pa.ticca-samuppaada) sees Dhamma; who sees Dhamma sees Conditioned Genesis.”(14)
Foremost amongst several implications of this passage is the identity of the Dhamma and conditioned genesis or dependent origination but the identity holds true only from the enlightened realm. Another implication is that conditioned genesis has two facets, the nonempirical (enlightened) and empirical (unenlightened). A further implication is that the two facets are possible and function together because of the ontological parity of existence. Moreover, the parity is assumed in the movement from the empirically oriented dependent origination to the Dhamma. In many respects, empirical dependent origination depicts the rise and fall of experiential events and provides the vital link to the realm of Dhamma. In its empirical mode, the pet formula for dependent origination is: If this is, that comes to be; from the arising of this that arises; if this is not that does not come to be; from the stopping of this that is stopped.(15) At first glance, this formula reminds the general criterion of pragmatism, that is, if certain conditions are met, then certain results will follow. The formula further reveals the subtle empirical dynamics of the rise of suffering and its cessation. The first part of the formula refers to the incessant conditioning or compounding nature of ordinary experience. Ignorance conditions karma-formations; these condition consciousness; which then conditions mind-and-body; etc.(16) With this series of conditionings, the existential continuum will go on forever, that is, the sa.msaara or the wheel of life. The Buddhist naturally seeks to resolve the situation but, once again, the reality of suffering is the ground for an ontological shift, that is, from the rise of sa.msaaric conditions to the cessation thereof. Thus, the second part of the formula precisely describes this shift. From the stopping of ignorance is the stopping of the karma-formations, then the stopping of consciousness and then the stopping of mind-and-body; etc. in series from one another(17)
The suutras rarely elaborate on the specifics of this aspect of cessation. In the Sa.myutta-nikaaya,(18), for example, it says that the Eightfold Noble Path is the course leading to the stopping of karma formations. Right view, the first of the path, is a most profound insight into reality but a tortuous path to take up, much less to understand. Naturally, meditative discipline is prescribed to remove the initial ignorance, the hindrances, and the graspings. The twelve-linked dependent origination has a clockwise flow (anuloma) from ignorance (avijjaa) to aging-death ( and a counter-clockwise flow (pa.tiloma) from aging-death to ignorance. This is another instance of the dimensional nature inherent in momentary existence that depicts the rise and cessation of suffering. We go back necessarily to momentary existence and the uniqueness of each moment, although there is no way to avoid the conditions (paccayas) that must be present or absent, as the case may be, in the flow of momentary existence. The focus is still on that moment which is supremely and vitally ‘appearing’. It is like watching a spot in the ocean where a wave appears and disappears but only to be ‘replaced’ by another wave, ad infinitum.
There is another important dimension in momentary existence. The linking phenomena of dependent origination are linked in serial order, each condition is contiguous to the next and each condition is involved with the immediate past and present in a mutually penetrative sense. In this way, the flow of momentary existence is not limited to a serial order (merely seriatim), but proceeds in a rhythmic asymmetric-symmetric flow, where the present happenings have a backward thrust (asymmetric penetration) before appearing as a present moment. The range of Buddhist reality is seen clearly in these microscopic present happenings. Thus, the concept of dependent origination, by its very compounding nature, shows the asymmetric (dependent) nature as well as the symmetric (origination) nature. This novel asymmetric-symmetric relationship is known only within the framework of the empirical nature of things, the sa.msaaric realm.
The dependent origination in the empirical sense forces the continuity of the process of suffering. This is the wrong path(19) and must be stopped. In the empirical realm, things are going on in truncated ways and only glimpses of the total happenings are available. Only the rim, axle, and spokes of the wheel are seen but not the full function of the wheel itself. Something seems to be missing or lacking in the dynamics. A revealing statement on the fullness of being is found in the Discourse on Complete Purity for Alms-Gathering. The conversation between the Buddha and Saariputta runs:
”Your faculties are very bright, Saariputta, your complexion very pure, very clear. In which abiding are you, Sariputta, now abiding in the fulness thereof? Abiding in (the concept of) emptiness do I, revered sir, now abide in the fulness thereof. It is good, Saariputta it is good. You, Saariputta, are now indeed abiding in fulness in the abiding of great men. For this is the abiding of great men, Saariputta, that is to say (the concept of) emptiness.”(20)
The concept of emptiness (su~n~nataa) adds a new dimension to Buddhist reality. It has revealed at once
(a) the limited nature of empirical functions, that is, empirical dependent origination and
(b) the way out to the unlimited realm in which the dependent origination can resolve itself.
Simply put, the self, mind, chariot, wheels, and so forth are more than their respective constituent parts. They come alive as they are in reality, but their imposed natures have made them into static entities, metaphysically and ontologically speaking. Buddhaghosa, the great Theravaada interpreter, gave an authoritative account of this situation when he brought back a verse depicting the wheel of becoming. Becoming’s wheel reveals no known beginning; No maker, no experiencer there; Void with a twelvefold voidness, and nowhere It ever halts; forever it is spinning.(21) His interpretation was made in the fifth century A.D., but the idea of voidness goes back to the earliest period and may even have filtered back from Mahaayaana developments. Naagaarjuna (150-250 A.D.) had been giving final touches to the elusive concept of momentary existence prior to Buddhaghosa in the Mahaayaana tradition. He had been exposed to the ideas found in the early Mahaayaana suutras, such as the Praj~naapaaramitaa, Avata^msaka, Saddharmapu.n.dariika and Vimalakiirti suutras and his great work, Verses on the Fundamental Middle Doctrine (Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa, hereafter Kaarikaa), is actually a philosophic confirmation of the dynamics of dependent origination as the locus of Buddhist reality. In order to establish this, he had to discuss matters from the standpoint of the middle way, hence the namesake in the title of the work (madhyamaka), to involve (a) the most inclusive view of reality and
(b) the most systematic denial (prasa^nga) of self-existent nature (svabhaava).
By reference to the famous Kaatyaayanaavavaada (Karccaayanagotta Sutta), which is foundational to the understanding of the Middle Way concept, the basic idea on the radical ontology and methodology is kept intact. In his analysis, Naagaarjuna utilizes the concept of emptiness (`suunyataa) to clarify both the epistemological and metaphysical traps into which ordinary beings are prone to fall giving the concept a distinctive ubiquitous quality.
Epistemologically, emptiness keeps at bay any attempt to impose a self-nature or self-existent nature on any externally existing entity or on its image or impression derived thereof in the mind. In this sense, it signifies the function of epistemic nullity. Metaphysically, emptiness disallows any reference to being or nonbeing, or a combination of both. It also disallows any causal order or relationship applied to momentary existence because that would sunder the process in dichotomous ways and thereby strain or distort the dynamics of dependent origination. Naagaarjuna in first chapter of the Kaarika analysed the inanity of causal or relational condition(pratyayas) in terms of establishing the nature of the dependent origination dynamics. It turned the causal conditions themselves against the position inherently subscribing to the concepts of being (sat, bhaava) and non-being (asat, abhaava). The doctrine of momentariness became an issue with the Abhidharma systems because of the element of justifying temporal dimensions in existence i.e. explaining the continuity of the moments of existence. On this matter, the Sarvaastivaada seems to rely on the persistence of factors (dharmas) to describe the moments in question. The Sautraantika, on the other hand, tried to sneak in a specious self (pudgula) to act as an ‘overlord’ of the momentary process. Naagaarjuna sensing the pitfalls of these systems pointed out the inner contradictions that would invariably sink them deeper into the conundrum of existence. He was intensely interested in justifying the present dynamics of momentary existence as expressed in the doctrine of dependent origination. Opponents, including the average intellect do not understand the microscopic process of these dynamics because of the understanding framed within a network of huge chunks of temporal and spatial dimensions. Like Buddha, he also saw that the dynamics reveal more than what is seen in ordinary perception. In this, he was not introducing an entirely new conception of things for he went right back to the fundamental Buddhist doctrines to analyze in a truly philosophic maner the pregnant dynamics of dependent origination. They are said too be ‘pregnant’ in the sense that
(a) they do not focus on a finished product or effect (phala). which would invariably reduce to the hypostatization of an inherent self-nature in the process, but rather
(b) they focus on the very making of the product or effect, the very fiber of dependent orgination.
Yet that product or effect in question is not cognized until consciousness of the conditionality (pratiityasamutpanna) of the event itself i.e. ex post facto understanding. It is perceiving the nature of a conditionality that describes the transpired event. It is understanding the mode of existence of an event in the immediately transpired past tied to the present becoming. Backward dependence as normal perception and immediate memory revealing the presence of events in the rapidity of becomingnessprovide an understanding of events by metaphysical descriptions. The crucial point, however, is that an event is always transpiring in the immediacy, in this present momentary existence and that at that point all descriptions are mute. In this situation, the reality of an event cannot be in the past, howsoever immediate in time it is but it must reside in the present dynamics. It is here that the ‘pregnancy’ of the event takes on an important meaning.(22) To elaborate on the ‘pregnancy’ of an event, revisit to the concept of asymmetric dimension is needed. How the asymmetric relationship occurs is a large problem. Though it is difficult to discuss the borders between symmetric and asymmetric natures yet our common understanding seems to suggest their function. To define or describe the momentary becoming with the symmetric and asymmetric dimensions in mind is clearly to attempt another tortuous trip down the dichotomy lane, a blatant contradiction of the middle way. Further, the meditative discipline should clear away the webs of our inherent dichotomous understanding of things. It is only the middle way that avoids the poles of dichotomy and at once affirms the reality of the rise and cessation of current becomings. The four relational conditions (namely, hetu-pratyaya, aalambana-pratyaya, anantara-pratyaya, adhipateya-pratyaya) are neat ties that cement the elements (svabhaava natures) in the dynamics but on the other hand, they impede rather than foster the current becomings. Thus, Naagaarjuna denied their function in the dynamics of becoming. The famous Eight Noes or Negations (namely, non-extinction, non-origination, non-destruction, non-permanence, non-identity, non-differentiation, non-coming into being, and non-going out of being) are asserted to hold in check any misunderstanding based on the reification of sense impressions or the reification of reification, as the case may implicate itself to be.
Buddhist reality, in brief, is much too dynamic to stay in view in a certain holding pattern (upaadaana effect) and to establish its identity at any time or in any manner. Self-identity is no identity in the becomingness of things. Naagaarjuna answered to the symmetric-asymmetric dimensionality by reaffirming the concept of emptiness in order to ‘cross the borders’ of the alleged dimensions. Like the middle way, emptiness avoids the dichotomy and at once affirms the rise and cessation of current becomings. Emptiness is said to be a provisional concept (praj~napti) pointing at the middle way.(23) It expresses the dynamic open ontological process that has no truck with epistemic and metaphysical entities. It opens up both sides of the borders and in terms of emptying the factors (dharmas) of the wheel of becoming (dependent origination), it serves to identify the realms of sa.msaara and As Naagaarjuna says, emptiness should not be falsely grasped, for it is in reality that which makes momentary becoming possible and without it, momentary becoming would be meaningless and without vitality.(24) The concept of emptiness, to be sure, was central in praj~naapaaramitaa suutras and other Mahaayaanistic works. The Diamnnd Suutra and Heart Suutra present a capsuled accounting of the identity of the five skandhas and emptiness and vice versa.(25) being the clearest expressions of the ontological parity of experiential reality seen in Buddhist literature. In reality, it is not only an expression but a guide and goal in meditative discipline. From the corporeal nature to the conscious realm, the empty nature is basic and confirmed in the dynamics of dependent origination. Being an heir to this tradition, Naagaarjuna simply incorporated the emptiness idea into his own analysis of the fundamental concept of dependent origination, bringing into play rare insight into the dynamics, and thereby he set a high-water mark in Buddhist philosophical understanding. NOTES:
9. Majjhima-nikaaya, 3.280; see The Middle Length Sayings, trans. I. B. Horner (London: Luzac & Co., 1959) vol. 3, p. 330. See also Kindred Sayings, vol. 4, p. 66.
10. The Udaana (The Solemn Utterances of the Buddha), trans. D. M. Strong (London: Luzac & Co., 1902), p. 112. 11. Kindred Sayings, vol. 3, pp. 113-114.
12. Ibid., p. 114.
13. Ibid.
14. Edward Conze, ed., Buddhist Texts Though the Ages, trans. by I. B. Horner (New York: Philosophical Library, 1954), p. 65. 15. Ibid., p.66.
16. Ibid., The twelve links of dependent origination are: ignorance, karma-formation, consciousness corporeality-mentality, six bases of sense, impression feeling, craving, clinging or attachment, becoming, rebirth, and aging-death. Treatment of dependent origination by Buddhaghosa, Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification), translated by Bhikkhu ~Naanamoli (Colombo. Ceylon: R. Semage, 1956, XVII, pp. 592-678. 17. Edward Conze, ed., Buddhist Texts Through the Ages, pp. 66–67. 18. Sa.myutta-nikaaya, 2.42-43, Kindred Sayings, vol.2, p. 33. 19. Buddhaghosa, Visuddhimagga, p. 593.
20. Majjhima-nikaaya, 3.294; The Middle Length Sayings, vol. 3, p.343.
21. Buddhaghosa, Visuddhimagga, p. 666. Abiding in the concept of emptiness is also the main theme in two short texts, Lesser Discourse on Emptiness (Cu.lasu~n~nataa Sutta and Greater Discourse on Emptiness (Mahaasu~n~nataa Sutta), in Majjhima-nikaaya, 3.121, 122; see The Middle Length Sayings, vol. 3. pp. 147-162.
22. In the pragmatic tradition, George H. Mead emphasized the preparatory and anticipatory stages of the act, a great insight in expanding on the dimensions of the pragmatic act, although it may
be problematic when applying the pragmatic criteria to Buddhist momentary existence. The dimensions may not coincide on all points. 23. Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa, XXIV. 18
24. Ibid., XXIV. 11, 14.
25. Edward Conze, trans., Buddhist Wisdom Books (London: George Alien & Unwin Ltd., 1958).


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