In its early stages, the Vaiśeṣika was an independent philosophy with its own metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics, and soteriology.
Over time, the Vaiśeṣika system became similar in its philosophical procedures, ethical conclusions and soteriology to the Nyāya school of Hinduism, but retained its difference in epistemology and metaphysics.
The epistemology of Vaiśeṣika school of Hinduism, like Buddhism, accepted only two reliable means to knowledge:
Vaisheshika school is known for its insights in naturalism. It is a form of atomism in natural philosophy.
It postulated that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to paramāṇu (atoms), and one’s experiences are derived from the interplay of substance (a function of atoms, their number and their spatial arrangements), quality, activity, commonness, particularity and inherence.
Everything was composed of atoms, qualities emerged from aggregates of atoms, but the aggregation and nature of these atoms was predetermined by cosmic forces.
Ajivika metaphysics included a theory of atoms which was later adapted in Vaiśeṣika school.
According to Vaiśeṣika school, knowledge and liberation were achievable by a complete understanding of the world of experience.
Vaisheshika espouses a form of atomism, that the reality is composed of five substances (examples are earth, water, air, fire, and space).
Each of these five are of two types, paramāṇu and composite.
A paramāṇu is that which is indestructible, indivisible, and has a special kind of dimension, called “small” (aṇu).
Parama means “most distant, remotest, extreme, last” and aṇu means “atom, very small particle”, hence paramāṇu is essentially “the most distant or last small (i.e. smallest) particle”.
A composite is that which is divisible into paramāṇu.
According to Vaishesika School, All things that exist, that can be recongnized are named as padarthas – and these can be categorised in to 6 categories –
The first three categories are defined as artha (which can perceived) and they have real objective existence.
The last three categories are defined as budhyapekṣam(product of intellectual discrimination) and they are logical categories.
Later Vaiśeṣikas added one more category abhava (non-existence)
Views on God
Even though they advocate for scientific thought, they believe in god and see him as the driving principle.
Inactive and motionless in themselves, the atoms are put into motion by God’s will, through the unseen forces of moral merit and demerit.
All physical things are a combination of the atoms of earth, water, fire, and air.
God determines the merits and demerits of our conduct, and man is sent to either heaven or hell as a result.
They also believe that theprinciples of karma govern this Universe, implying that everything is determined by human deeds.
They believed in redemption as well, but it was in tandem with the cyclic process of the Universe’s creation and destruction, which was determined by God’s intentions.