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Vaiseshika Sutra

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Title: Vaiseshika Sutra  
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Subject: Hindu philosophy
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Vaiseshika Sutra

Vaiśeṣika Sūtra or Kanada sutra is the standard text of Vaisheshika school of philosophy. The sutra was authored by Kanada, who is thought to have flourished before the advent of Buddhism.[1] Number of scholars have commented on it since the beginning of Christian era, the earliest commentary being Svartha Dharma Sangraha of Prashastapada.[2]


The Vaiseshika sutra proclaims the futility of life in the temporary world (maya) and proposes that an understanding of god can free an individual from Karma, following which liberation will ensue. Major ideas contained in the Vaisheshika Sutra are:[2]

  • There are nine classes of realities: four classes of atoms (earth, water, light and air), space (akasha), time (kāla), direction (dik), infinity of souls (Atman), mind (manas).[3]
  • Individual souls are eternal and pervade material body for a time.
  • There are seven categories (padārtha) of experience — substance, quality, activity, generality, particularity, inherence and non-existence.

Several traits of substances (dravya) are given as colour, taste, smell, touch, number, size, the separate, coupling and uncoupling, priority and posterity, comprehension, pleasure an pain, attraction and revulsion, and wishes.[4] God is not mentioned in the sutra, but later commentators add it to complete the system.[2]


The Vaiseshika Sutras are divided into ten sections, eight of which are divided further into two subsections called āhnikas:[5][6]

  • In the first section, Kanada describes categories. In the first āhnika he defines those which possess genus (jāti), while in the second āhnika genus or generality itself and particularity are discussed.
  • Second section contains discussions on substance. First āhnika describes the characteristics of the five elements and the second āhnika establishes the existence of space and time.
  • In the third section soul and the internal sense are defined.
  • In the fourth section discusses the body and its adjuncts are explained.
  • In the fifth section action connected with the body and action connected with the mind are investigated.
  • In the sixth section merit (puṇya) and demerit (pāpa) are examined as described in the Sruti. The first āhnika discusses the merit of giving, receiving gifts etc. and the second elucidates the duties of the four periods of religious life.
  • In the seventh section qualities of two kinds, those independent of thought and those dependent on it are discussed.
  • In the eighth section indeterminate and determinate perception, and the means of proof are examined.
  • In the ninth section characteristics of intellect are made clear.
  • In the tenth section the different kinds of inference are established.



  • O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism (Textual Sources for the Study of Religion). ISBN 0226618471.
  • Knapp, Stephen. The Heart of Hinduism: The Eastern Path to Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination. iUniverse, Inc. (June 20, 2005). ISBN 0595350755.

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