Definition - What does Vaisheshika mean?

Vaisheshika is derived from the Sanskrit, vishesa, meaning “distinction” or “distinguishing feature.” It is one of the six darshans, or ways of viewing the world, according to Hindu philosophy. The other five darshans of Hindu philosophy are yoga, samkhya, nyaya, mimamsa and vedanta.

What distinguishes Vaisheshika from the other Hindu schools of philosophy is its emphasis on metaphysics and naturalism. It is most similar to the Nyaya (logic) school - so much so that the two schools of thought are often studied together as the Nyaya-Vaisheshika school.

Yogapedia explains Vaisheshika

Vaisheshika believes in perception and inference as the two reliable means to knowledge, while nyaya followers believe in four sources of knowledge: perception, inference, verbal testimony and comparison.

Vaisheshika classifies life into seven padarthas (categories of being) and contends that all physical objects are made up of atoms, which this school of thought postulates are the smallest entity in the physical world. The seven padarthas are:

  • Dravya – substance, of which there are nine: earth, water, fire, air, ether, time, space, spirit and mind
  • Guna – quality
  • Karma – action
  • Samanya – genus
  • Vishesa – specific difference
  • Samavaya – things inseparably connected
  • Abhava – nonexistence or absence
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