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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 2: Paramanujagadakaranatvadhikaranam: Topic 3 (Sutras 12-17)

Refutation of the atomic theory of the Vaiseshikas.

The objection against the view of Vedanta has been answered in the previous Sutra. Now the Vaiseshika system is refuted.

Ubhayathapi na karmatastadabhavah II.2.12 (183)

In both cases also (in the cases of the Adrishta, the unseen principle inhering either in the atoms or the soul) the activity (of the atoms) is not possible; hence negation of that (viz., creation through the union of the atoms).

Ubhayatha: in either case, in both ways, on both assumptions or hypotheses; Api: also; Na: not; Karma: action, activity, motion; Atah: therefore; Tadabhavah: absence of that, negation of that, i,e, negation of the creation of the world by union of atoms.

The argument against the Vaiseshika system commenced in Sutra 11 is continued.

What is the cause that first operates on the ultimate atoms? Vaiseshikas hold that the motion which is due to the unseen principle (Adrishta) joins the atom in which it resides, to another atom. Thus binary compounds, etc. are produced and finally the element of air. Similarly fire, water, earth, the body with its organs are produced. Thus the whole world originates from atoms. The qualities of the binary compounds are produced from the qualities inhering in the atoms, just as the qualities of the cloth result from the qualities of the threads. Such is the teaching of the Vaiseshika system of philosophy.

The motion in the atoms cannot be brought about by the Adrishta residing in the atoms, because the Adrishta which is the resultant of the good and bad actions of the soul cannot reside in the atoms. It must inhere in the soul. The Adrishta residing in the soul cannot produce motion in the atom. The motion of the atom is not explained on both these views. As Adrishta is insentient it cannot act. As Adrishta is in the soul, how can it operate in the atoms? If it can, such operation will go on for ever as there is no agency to control it. When two atoms combine do they unite perfectly or not? If they unite totally, if there is total interpenetration, the atomic state will continue as there will be no increase in bulk. If in part, then atoms will have parts. This is against the theory of the Vaiseshikas. Moreover, if they combine once, there cannot be separation or dissolution. Adrishta will be active to bring about creation for the enjoyment of the fruits of actions. For these reasons the doctrine of the atoms being the cause of the world must be rejected.

The Vaiseshikas may argue that the motion originates in the atoms as soon as they come in the proximity of the souls charged with any definite Adrishta. This also is untenable. Because there can be no proximity or contact between the souls which are partless and the atoms which also are partless.

An insentient object cannot move another as it is inert. All motion of objects are initiated, guided and directed by intelligence and intelligent beings.

The soul cannot be the cause of the primal motion of the atoms at the beginning of creation. Because in dissolution, according to the Vaiseshikas, the soul itself lies dormant without possessing any intelligence and hence is in no way superior to the atom.

It cannot be said also that the primal motion of the atom is caused by the will of the Lord in conformity with the Adrishta of the souls, because the Adrishtas of the souls do not mature and are not awakened. Hence the will of the Lord is not active.

As there is thus no motion in the atoms in the beginning of the creation, they cannot come together and form an aggregate. Consequently, there can be no creation as the binary compounds cannot be produced.

According to the Vaiseshikas, the universe is created by the union of the atoms. Now what causes this union? If it is a seen cause, it is not possible before the creation of the body. A seen cause can be an endeavour or an impact. There can be no endeavour on the part of the soul if there is no connection of the soul with mind. As there is neither body nor mind before creation, there cannot be any endeavour. Similar is the case with impact or the like.

What causes the union of the atoms? Adrishta or the unseen principle cannot be the cause of the first motion of the atoms because the Adrishta is non-intelligent. There is no intelligence to guide the Adrishta. Hence it cannot act by itself.

Does the Adrishta inhere in the soul or the atoms? If it is inherent in the soul, there is no intelligence to direct the Adrishta as the soul is then inert. Moreover, the soul is partless like the atoms. Consequently, there cannot be any connection between the soul and the atoms. Hence, if the Adrishta inheres in the soul, it cannot produce motion in the atoms which are not connected with the soul.

If the Adrishta is inherent in the atoms, there would be no dissolution because the atoms will ever be active as the Adrishta is always present.

Therefore there is no possibility for original motion in the atoms and so combination of atoms is not possible.

Hence the theory of Vaiseshikas that the universe is caused by the combination of atoms is untenable.

Samavayabhyupagamaccha samyadanavasthiteh II.2.13 (184)

And because in consequence of Samavaya being admitted, a regresssus ad infinitum results on similar reasoning (hence the Vaiseshika theory is untenable).

Samavayabhyupagamat: Samavaya being admitted; Cha: and, also; Samyat: because of equality of reasoning; Anavasthiteh: regressus ad infinitum would result.

The argument against the Vaiseshika philosophy commenced in Sutra 11 is continued.

Samavaya is inseparable inherence or concomitant cause or combining force. It is one of the seven categories of the Vaiseshika philosophy. It is the affinity which brings about the union of the atoms.

The Vaiseshikas say that two Paramanus become a Dvyanuka on account of the operation of the combining force (Samavaya) and that the Samavaya connects the dyad with its constituents, the two atoms, as the dyad and the atoms are of different qualities. Samavaya is different from the ultimate atoms and dyads which it connects. Why should it operate unless there be another Samavaya to make it operate? That new Samavaya will require another Samavaya to connect it with the first and so on. Thus their theory is vitiated by the fault of Anavastha Dosha or regressus ad infinitum.

The argument is faulty. Hence the atomic doctrine which admits Samavaya relationship for the union of the atoms is not admissible. It must be rejected as it is useless and as it is an incongruous assumption.

Nityameva cha bhavat II.2.14 (185)

And on account of the permanent existence (of activity or non-activity, the atomic theory is not admissible).

Nityam: eternal; Eva: certainly, even; Cha: and, also; Bhavat: because of the existence, from the possibility.

The argument against the Vaiseshika commencing in Sutra 11 is continued.

The atomic theory involves another difficulty. If the atoms are by nature active, then creation would be permanent. No Pralaya or dissolution could take place. If they are by nature inactive, no creation could take place. The dissolution would be permanent. Their nature cannot be both activity and inactivity because they are self-contradictory. If they were neither, their activity and non-activity would have to depend on an operative or efficient cause like Adrishta. As the Adrishta is in permanent proximity to the atoms, as the Adrishta is always connected with the atoms, they will be ever active. Consequently, creation would be permanent. If there is no efficient or operative cause, there will be no activity of the atoms. Consequently, there would be no creation.

For this reason also the atomic doctrine is untenable and inadmissible.

Rupadimatvacca viparyayo darsanat II.2.15 (186)

And on account of the atoms possessing colour, etc., the opposite (of which the Vaiseshikas hold would take place), because it is seen or observed.

Rupadimatvat: because of possessing colour, etc.; Cha: and, also; Viparyayah: the reverse, the opposite; Darsanat: because it is seen or observed, from common experience.

The argument against Vaiseshika commencing in Sutra 11 is continued.

According to the Vaiseshika philosophy, the atoms are said to have colour, etc. If this is not the case, the effects will not possess these qualities, as the qualities of the cause only are found in the effects. Then the atoms would no longer be atomic and permanent. Because that which has form, colour, etc., is gross, ephemeral and impermanent. Consequently the atoms, etc., which are endowed with colour etc., must be gross and inpermanent. This contradicts the theory of the Vaiseshikas that they are minute and permanent.

Hence the atomic theory, being thus self-contradictory, cannot be accepted. The atoms cannot be the ultimate cause of the universe. There would result from the circumstance of the atoms having colour, etc., the opposite of which the Vaiseshikas mean.

Ubhayatha cha doshat II.2.16 (187)

And because of defects in both cases (the atomic theory cannot be accepted).

Ubhayatha: in both ways, on either side, in either case; Cha: also, and; Doshat: because of defects (or difficulties).

The argument against Vaiseshikas is continued.

Earth has the qualities of smell, taste, colour and is gross. Water has colour, taste and touch and is fine. Fire has colour and touch and is finer still. Air is the finest of all and has the quality of touch only. The four gross elements earth, water, fire and air are produced from atoms.

If we suppose that the respective atoms of the elements also possess the same number of qualities as the gross elements, then the atom of air will have one quality, an atom of earth will have four qualities. Hence an atom of earth which possesses four qualities will be bigger in size. It would not be an atom any longer. It will not satisfy the definition of an atom.

If we suppose them all to possess the same number of qualities, in that case there cannot be any difference in the qualities of the effects, the gross elements because the attributes of the cause (the atoms) are reproduced in its effects (the gross elements).

If the atom is one and the same and has only one quality, then more than one quality should not be found. Fire should not have form in addition to touch as so on.

Hence, in either case the doctrine of the Vaiseshikas is defective and therefore untenable. It cannot be logically maintained.

Aparigrahacchatyantamanapeksha II.2.17 (188)

And because (the atomic theory) is not accepted (by authoritative sages like Manu and others) it is to be totally rejected.

Aparigrahat: because it is not accepted; Cha: and; Atyantam: altogether, totally, completely; Anapeksha: to be rejected.

The argument against Vaiseshika is concluded.

At least the Sankhya doctrine of Pradhana was accepted to some extent by Manu and other knowers of the Veda but the atomic doctrine has not been accepted by any person of authority in any of its parts. Therefore, it is to be disregarded entirely by all those who take their stand on the Veda.

Further, there are other objections to the Vaiseshika doctrine. The Vaiseshikas assume six categories or Padarthas viz., Dravya (substance), Guna (quality), Karma (action), Samanya (generality), Visesha (particularity) and Samavaya (inherence). They maintain that the six categories are absolutely different from each other and possess different characteristics just as a man, a horse and a hare differ from one another. They say that the categories are independent and yet they hold that on Dravya the other five categories depend. This contradicts the former one. This is quite inappropriate. Just as animals, grass, trees and the like, being absolutely different from each other, do not depend on each other, so also the qualities etc., also being absolutely different from substance cannot depend on the latter.

The Vaiseshikas say that Dravya (substance) and Guna (quality) are inseparably connected. At the same time they say that each begins its activity. The threads bring the cloth into existence and the whiteness in the threads produces the whiteness in the cloth. "Substances originate another substance and qualities another quality" (Vaiseshika Sutras I.1.10). If the thread and its quality occupy the same space and are inseparably united, how can this take place? If the substance and the quality are inseparably together with reference to time, the two horns of a cow would have to grow together. If there is inseparability in the nature of the substance and its quality, why can you not say that both are one and identical. Hence the theory that the quality depends upon substance and that the quality and substance are inseparable, is untenable and inadmissible.

Further, the Vaiseshikas make distinction between Samyoga (conjunction) and Samavaya (inherence). They say that Samyoga is the connection of things which exists separately and Samavaya is the connection of things which are incapable of separate existence. This distinction is not tenable as the cause which exists before the effect cannot be said to be incapable of separate existence. What is the proof of the existence of Samyoga or Samavaya apart from cause and effect? Nor is there any Samyoga or Samavaya apart from the things which become connected. The same man although being one only forms the object of many different names and notions according as he is considered in himself or in his relation to others. Thus he is thought and spoken of as man, Brahmana, learned in the Veda, generous boy, young man, old man, father, son, grandson, brother, son-in-law, etc. The same digit connotes different numbers, ten or hundred or thousand, according to its place.

Moreover, we have not seen Samyoga except as between things which occupy space. But mind is Anu and does not occupy space according to you. You cannot say that you will imagine some space for it. If you make such a supposition, there is no end to such suppositions. There is no reason why you should not assume a further hundred or thousand things in addition to the six categories assumed by the Vaiseshikas.

Moreover, two Paramanus which have no form cannot be united with a Dvyanuka which has form. There does not exist that kind of intimate connection between ether and earth which exists between wood and varnish.

Nor is the theory of Samavaya necessary to explain which, out of cause and effect, depends on the other. There is mutual dependence. Vedantins do not accept any difference between cause and effect. Effect is only cause in another form. The Vedantins acknowledge neither the separateness of cause and effect, nor their standing to each other in the relation of abode and the thing abiding. According to the Vedanta doctrine, the effect is only a certain state of the cause.

Moreover, Paramanus are finite and so they will have form. What has form must be liable to destruction.

Thus it is quite clear that the atomic doctrine is supported by very weak arguments. It is opposed to those scriptural texts which declare the Lord to be the general cause. It is not also accepted by sages like Manu and others. Therefore, it should be totally disregarded by wise men.