- Nyaya and Vaisheshika represent two of the six “orthodox” systems of Indian philosophy. Ortho-dox here simply entails an acceptance of the VEDAS as an ultimate authority. In practice, even this requirement is observed only nominally in the case of one system, the SAMKHYA.For many centuries these two schools have been integrated in a single philosophical system. However, certain of their distinctive and separate features are worth noting.Vaisheshika, from the term vishesha (distinc-tion), is usually thought of as the earlier of the two systems. There is strong evidence that this system began to take shape as early as 400 B.C.E., though the earliest extant texts are probably a little later. The 10 chapters of the Vaisheshika Sutra, by the sage Kanada, date around the sec-ond century C.E. They teach that salvation can be obtained only by “real knowledge” of things, as outlined in this SUTRA.Vaisheshika admits of six philosophical cat-egories, with a seventh controversial category added later. The six original categories are (1) substance, which consists of nine eternal realities that compose the foundation of the universe; sub-stance is divided into (a) “atoms” of each of the five main elements or MAHABHUTAS and (b) time, ether, space, and soul; (2) attribute, of which there are 24; (3) karma, action or motion; (4) samanya, “generality,” that which characterizes all the members of a given class; (5) vishesha or particularity, which distinguishes one member of a class from another; and (6) samavaya, “rela-tion,” or combination, that is, the relationship that exists between substance and its qualities. A seventh category, “non-existence” (abhava), was added later to deal with certain philosophical dif-ficulties of the system.Most important in the system of Vaisheshika is the understanding of the atomic nature of all the elements. This philosophy was originally realist and nontheistic in orientation. Only later was the notion of God imputed to it.Nyaya was founded by Gautama (or Gotama) (c. 100 C.E.), who composed the Nyaya Sutra. Other famous philosophers of the Nyaya school are Vatsyayana and Gangesha. Nyaya can be loosely translated as “logic” or “argumentation,” which is indeed the central thrust of the Nyaya tradition. Because it also had a strong realist bias, it was easily merged with the earlier Vaisheshika school.Whereas the focus of Vaisheshika was the nature of things and how to categorize them, the focus of Nyaya is on the method of argument, syl-logism, and the reliable means for knowing. The syllogisms that Nyaya constructed were similar, but not identical to those of Aristotle. Whatever the similarities, Nyaya developed a rigorous philo-sophical basis that makes it quite comparable to Western analytical philosophy.The school of Navya Nyaya, or New Nyaya, that emerged in eastern India around the 14th century was particularly sophisticated philosophi-cally. Nyaya developed proofs of the existence of God (which are not found in the Vaisheshika), which compare quite well to those developed in Christian theology. Though Nyaya-Vaisheshika has very few adherents today, it developed philo-sophical tools that all the other Hindu traditions used. They were particularly useful in refuting the heterodox Jains and Buddhists.Further reading: Kisor Kumar Chakrabarti, Classical Indian Philosophy: The Nyaya Dualist Tradition (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999); S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 1 (Delhi: Motilal Banar-sidass, 1975); Wilhelm Halbfass, On Being and What There Is: Classical Vaisesika and the History of Indian Ontology (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.