This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007


Nyaya-Vaisesika theory of mind (manas) and the conscious (atman)

V.N. Jha — Centre of Advanced Studies in Sanskrit, Pune


The Nyaya and Vaisesika systems were two distinct orthodox systems of Indian Philosophy in the beginning. But in course of time, by the 10th century AD, they merged into a single system of Indian philosophical thought because they shared very many common worldviews.

The underlying presupposition of these systems is this that the world of our experience is plural because the source is plural. Both, the source and the experienced are Real (sat). It is neither the case that there is One Ultimate Reality and that Reality ‘appears’ as many as Sankara thought, nor is it the case that the One has ‘become’ many as Vallabha propounded. The plural world of our veridical experience is ultimately Real. The existence of such a world is revealed only when this world is internalized through various processes of internalization. We behave with such a plural world all through our life. This world is partly external and partly internal: external in the form of trees, leaves, flowers, gardens etc. and internal in the form of cognition, pleasure, pain, desire, emotion, etc. etc.

We experience both the types of this world. In the process of internalization of both the types of the world, ‘mind’ (manas) is postulated as a necessary factor to establish a link between the experiencer agent (the conscious) and the experienced. Both, the mind and the conscious, are matters (dravya). One of the marked differences between the two is this that while ‘mind’ is atomic (anu) in size, the conscious is all-pervading (vibhu). The agent (the all-pervading conscious, delimited by a body) uses the mind as an instrument to gather experience of the world, the unconscious. The agent is conscious because he is the locus of cognition of the world. Mind can neither be the locus of cognition nor an agent and hence it cannot be the conscious. There are as many agents as conscious entities or souls or atmans.

In the light of this theory the present papers wants to discuss the nature and function of Mind and the Conscious as presented in the Nyaya –Vaisesika sytem of Indian Philosophy.

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