What is the relationship between man, the universe and their creator? This question has always intrigued philosophers and thinkers. Between 600 B.C. and 200 A.D. there were several attempts by Indian philosophers to find an answer to the question.
One of these was Kanada, who, in about 600 B.C. at Prabhasa propounded the Vaisesikasutra (Peculiarity Aphorisms). Today, we realize that these sutras are a blend of science, philosophy and religion. Their essence is the atomic theory of matter. If Kanada’s sutras are analysed, one would find that his atomic theory was far more advanced than those forwarded later by the Greek philosophers, Leucippus and Democritus. In fact, he gave the name paramanu (atom) to an indivisible entity of matter.
According to Kanada, everything is made up of paramanu. When matter is divided, then further divided, till no further division is possible, the remaining indivisible entity is called paramanu. This entity does not exist in a free state, nor can it be sensed through any human organ. It is eternal and indestructible.
Kanada added-and it is here that he took a lead over other philosophers-that there are a variety of paramanu as different as the different classes of substances then believed to exist, namely, earth, water, air and fire. Each paramanu has a peculiar property which is the same as the class of substance it belongs to. It is only because of this peculiarity of paramanu that the theory was called Vaisesikasutras.
Kanada also claimed that an inherent urge made one paramanu combine with another. If two paramanu belonging to one class of substance combined, a dwinuka (binary molecule) was produced, which had properties similar to those of the two original paramanu. Paramanu belonging to different classes of substance could also combine in large numbers.
The idea of chemical change was also put forward by Kanada. He claimed heat was responsible for any change. The properties of paramanu also changed when heated. He gave the examples of the blackening of a new earthen pot and the ripening of a mango to illustrate the action of heat. All things seen in the universe were, therefore, formed, Kanada said, because of the peculiarity of paramanu, their variety, the variety of ways in which they combined and the action of heat.