Vaisheshika Darshana and Ayurveda: Relation and Similarities

By Prof. Vd. Rangaprasad Bhat
Maharshi KaNAda is the propounder of the vaisheshika darshana. It is also called KaNAda darshan and Oulukya darshan. The vaishesika darshana has 370 verses which have been divided into 10 chapters.The commentaries available on vasihesika darshana are – VyomavatI TeekA, Nyaya kandali, NyAya leelAvatee, KaNAda rahasya, Sapta padArthI, NyAya sUtravrtti etc.

KaNAda and early VaisheShika scholars were non-theistic. However, this was common for his times since several major early versions of Hindu philosophies such as SAmkhya, NyAya, and MimAmsa along with sub-schools of Yoga and Vedanta, as well as non-Vedic schools such as Jainism and Buddhism, was similarly non-theistic. KaNAda was among the sages of India who believed in man’s potential to understand existence and attain salvation (moksha) on his own, without God.

In the fifth chapter of Vaisheshika Sutra, KaNAda mentions various empirical observations and natural phenomena such as the falling of objects to ground, rising of fire and heat upwards, the growth of grass upwards, the nature of rainfall and thunderstorms, the flow of liquids, the movement towards a magnet among many others, asks why these things happen, then attempts to integrate his observations with his theories on atoms, molecules and their interaction. He classifies observed events into two: those caused by volition, and those caused by subject-object conjunctions

The concept of Anu

KaNAda came up with the idea that aNu (atom) was an indestructible particle of matter. An interesting story states that this theory occurred to him while he was walking with food in his hand. As he nibbled at the food in his hand, throwing away the small particles, it occurred to him that he could not divide the food into further parts and thus the idea of a matter which cannot be divided further came into existence. He called that indivisible matter aNu. He also stated that aNu can have two states — absolute rest and a state of motion.


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 they alone can influence everything existing in the universe. These are the building blocks described through their guNAs/attributes and karma/action. Space is one among these nine and KaNAda recognises it as an independent positive entity, which is neither absence of matter nor an abstract concept. Every dravya has an identifier the linga, which helps identify the specific dravya, besides which it has a unique set of guNA /attributes associated with it.

पृथिव्यापःतेजो वायुराकाशं कालो दिगात्मा मन इित द्रव्याणि॥ १।१।५॥
पृथ्वि (earth)
आपः (water)
तेजः (fire)
वायुः (air)
आकाशं (space)
कालः (time)
दिक् (direction)
आत्मा (AtmA)
मन (mind)
are those nine dravyas highlighted by KaNAda.

Dravyas have specific guNAs attributed to them, for example, Prthvi dravya (earth element) has smell associated as the primary guNA to it; Ap dravya (water element) has taste attributed as the primary guNA.

Earth element  (Pruthvi) is related with Olfaction – smell perception.
Water element (Jala or Ap) is related with gustation – taste perception
Fire element (Teja) is related with vision
Air element (Vayu) is related with touch perception.
Ether / vacuum is related with hearing.

Time, space, soul and mind (Dik, kAla, Atma, manas) are the eternal or nitya dravyas. None of these could be perceived and sensed by any of the sensory organs, so specifies the Vaisheshika darshana.

In sutra 5.2.21, he states that Mind alone is capable of perceiving the dik, kAla & Atma by being in constant motion inter-dependent with each other.

The mind too, being aNu, (imperceptibly small) is not visible to one’s naked eyes – verse 7.1.23 states as above.

Dik and Kala

इत इदिमित यतः तद् दिश्यं लिङ्गं ॥ २।२।१०॥
That which gives rise to cognition as “This is from this,”  denotes the  direction – 2.2.10

The guNAs of paratva – aparatva (proximity – remoteness), with relevance to kAla / time can signify two objects co-existing at the same point of time or being separated by the factor of time. It can be illustrated with the movement of the sun. Where in the object remains in the same place, but the movement of the sun which denotes the time, gives an visual effect as if the object has moved from its stationary position, when one looks into the shade of the stationary (paratva) object moving to a distant place (aparatva).

Though it reflects that the time/ kAla is dependent on sun’s movement, the dravya has to have an independent existence by definition. The concept of ‘simultaneity’ in time (as in sutra 2.2.6 commentary) indicates the movement in sun and not that of the dravya.

Karya karana bhava

कारणभावात कार्यभावः ॥४।१।३॥
The existence (kArya) is the result of cause (kAraNa).

Shad Padartha

The saDpadArthAs – 6 components:
धर्मविशेष प्रसूतात् द्रव्य-गुण-कर्म-सामान्य-विशेष-समवायानां, पदार्थानां साधर्म्य वैधर्म्याभ्यां तत्व ज्ञान निःश्रेयसं ||  वै.द.१/४ ||
Vaisheshika Darshana mentions 6 components – 
Dravya – object
Guna – quality/attribute
Karma – function/action
Samanya – similarity
Vishesha – dissimilarity
Samavaya – combination

The commentators added Abhava – absence/non-existence as the seventh Padartha.
Dravya, guna and Karma are called Ashraya (abode);
Samanya, vishesha and samavaya are called Ashrayi (resident).                               

Prof.Vd.A.Rangaprasad Bhat
[email protected]


Triguna – Three Qualities of the Mind:
Three qualities of the mind are
Satva – reflects knowledge of an individual
Rajas – represents all actions, movements and activities which happen in body
Tamas – balances and controls above mentioned qualities from their over-expression


Two means to attain knowledge (Pramana):
He explained two means to attain valid knowledge
Pratyaksha – perception
Anumana – inference


5 types of Actions (Karma):
He explained 5 types of actions
1. Utkshepana – abduction
2. Apakshepana – adduction
3. Akunchana – flexion
4. Prasarana – extension
5. Gamana – Locomotion.

Vaisheshika Guna

24 Vaisheshika qualities (Gunas):
24 types of qualities (Gunas) were explained in Vaisheshika Darshana (17 original and 7 added by commentators) –
1. Rupa – form or appearance
2. Rasa – taste
3. Gandha – smell
4. Sparsha – touch
5. Shabda – sound
6. Sankhya – calculations
7. Parimana – measurements
8. Prutakatva – distinguishing factor
9. Samyoga – combinations
10. Vibhaga – separation / division
11. Paratvam – important
12. Aparatvam – less important
13. Guru – heaviness
14. Drava – liquidity
15. Sneha – unctuousness
16. Buddhi – knowledge
17. Sukha – comfort
18. Dukha – discomfort
19. Iccha – desire
20. Dvesha – hatred
21. Prayatna – attempt
22. Dharma – performing actions as mentioned in the Vedas
23. Adharma – performing actions which are against those mentioned in the Vedas
24. Samskara – potentiating the qualities of other things.

Relevance in Ayurveda

Relevance of Vaisheshika Darshana in Ayurveda:
Ayurveda accepts the atomic theory, the concept of Triguna etc of Vaisheshika Darshana.
The principle mentioned in Vaisheshik Darshan on how to treat aggravated factors by making use of opposite factors is accepted and utilised in Ayurvedic treatment.
Ayurveda accepts the theory of 6 factors (Shat padarthas).
The five types of actions (karmas) stated by Vaisesik Darsan is accepted by Ayurveda.
Both Ayurveda and Vaisheshika Darshana believe in the eternity of soul (Nityatva of Atma) and minuteness of the mind (Anutva of Manas).

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