The Vaiseshika system forms one of the most important among six orthodox schools of early Indian Philosophy. The founder of this school was Kanada or Uluka and the philosophy was termed as Vaiseshika because in it has been discussed visesha as a category of Knowledge.
The Vaiseshika-Sutra of Kanada, the first systematic work propounding this philosophy, is divided into ten adhyayas or books, each book consisting of two ahnikas or lessons. The present English translation of the original Sanskrit text is being published along with the commentary on the text by Sankara Misra and Jaya-Narayana. Tarkapanchanana elaborating and explaining the concepts basic to the subject.
Being the basic work on this important school of Indian philosophy, the present translation is indispensable alike for the students and teachers of Indian philosophy.
The following pages will, it is trusted, facilitate to Sanskrit students the perusal of the original text, and to general readers an estimate, of one of the schools of Indian thought. Such interest as they may claim, will be historical, as a picture of a low stage of metaphysical culture. The system must be judged from its proper place in the history of philosophy; not hastily condemned from a modern point of view. The Indian cosmologies, imperfect in analysis, and hasty in synthesis, may be compared to the pre-Socratic schemes among the Greeks. In India, the Socratic reform in method has been wanting, and speculation has lapsed into a fruitless scholasticism. By these systems, however, it is that Indian thinkers are formed, and we may well remember that in mental discipline “speculation is higher than speculative truth,” and that where philosophers “have not realized truth, they, have always determined exertion.
The technical terms employed in translation are necessarily rather suggestive than reproductive of the original. The artificial groupings, or (to use Locke’s expression) mixed modes, of European and of Indian thought, intersect and overlap, rather than coincide with, one another. The reader should bear this in mind, that he may avoid the misleading associations of an English terminology.
A brief indication of the conceptions dominant in the Vaiseshika system, may be useful to the uninitiated. These are the transition of souls from everlasting through new embodiments and new spheres of being; therein reaping in pleasures and pains the fruits of merits and demerits ever reproduced as seed by plant and plant by seed; the atomic aggregates which make up the object world, eternally disintegrated and redintegrated by the efficacy of works, with or without—for it is questioned—the intervention of a creator spirit. Thus in bondage to sensuous experience, painful at the best, the soul must wait its release until, the uderstanding purified by good works, it attains to knowledge of the modes of being. This knowledge disengages the soul from its appetent and active functions, and merges it in the absolute.
English readers will find abundant information, for further guidance, in Colebrooke’s Essays on the Religion and Philosophy of the Hindus, the Rev. K.M. Banerjea’s Dialogues on Hindu Philosophy, Dr. Fitzedward Hall’s Rational Refutation of Hindu Philosophy translated from the Hindi of the Rev. Nehemiah Nilakantha, Professor Max Muller’s Essay on Indian Logic appended to Abp. Thomson’s Laws of Thought, and the articles on the “Vaieshika and other Indian philosophies” in Chambers’s Encyclopaedia, Those who read Sanskrit will find a useful epitome of the Vaieshika doctrines in the Tattva-padãrtha-sara the work of an illustrious pandit of the present day, Jayanarayana-Tarkapanchanana late professor of Hindu Philosophy in the Government Sanskrit College Calcutta, the author of the Vivrtti from which many of the comments in the following pages are reproduced.
The translation of the Vaiseshika Aphorisms is reprinted from the ‘Pandit,’ a monthly publication of the Benares Sanskrit College. It was undertaken at the instance of Mr. R.T.H. Griffith, the learned principal of the Benares College, as supplementary, in however imperfect a manner, to the text-books of the other Indian systems translated by the late Dr. Jas. Ballantyne. The text followed is that of Dr. Roer and Pandit Jayantrayaiia Tarkapañchanana published in the Bibliotheca Indica.
Its re-appearance is due to Dr. E.J. Lazarus, proprietor of the Benares Medical Hall Press, to whom Indian literature is already largely indebted for similar encouragement.
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