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As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school. But there are five other Astika or orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy: Purva Mimamsa, Samkhya, Yoga, Vaisheshika, and Nyaya. My question is about Vaisheshika, according to which atoms are the cause of the Universe. The defining text of the Vaikeshika school is the Vaisheshika Sutras, composed by the sage Kanada Kashyapa.

My question is, what is the oldest surviving commentary on the Vaisheshika Sutras? So far I've only come across one commentary on the Vaisheshika Sutras, at least in English: Shankara Mishra's Upaskara, which was composed in the 15th century or later and which you can read here. Are there any older commentaries?

By the way, apart from the Vaisheshika Sutras themselves, the two oldest surviving texts of the Vaisheshika school are Prashastapada's Padartha Dharma Sangraha, which I uploaded here, and Chandramati's Dashapadartha Shastra, which you can read here. But neither of them are actual commentaries on the Vaisheshika Sutras; instead they're independent expositions of the views of the Vaiseshika school. So what is the oldest surviving verse-by-verse commentary on the Vaisheshika Sutras?

  • Other than what you have said there doesn't appear to be any. Chandradhar Sharma in his book "A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy" mentions Prashastapada commentary which he also says is really an independent treatise, but mentions no other. – Swami Vishwananda Aug 1 '17 at 12:52
  • @SwamiVishwananda I find it strange that the oldest surviving commentary on the Vaisheshika Sutras would be written in the 15th century or later. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 1 '17 at 13:39
  • @SwamiVishwananda It turns out there are two commentaries older than Shankara Mishra's Upaskara; see my answer. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 1 '17 at 14:51
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Chandrananda's Vritti is the oldest commentary. On pages 74-75 of this book, Bimal Krishna Matilal discusses two commentaries on the Vaisheshika Sutras discovered in the 20th century, Chandrananda's Vritti and Vadindra's Vyakhya, which are both older than Shankara Mishra's Upaskara:

Thanks to the labour of modern researchers, we now have before us at least two commentaries on the Vaisheshika-sutras, written earlier than the Upaskara. Perhaps, the earliest available commentary is the Vritti by Chandrananda.... But this is the only commentary available that was written in the pre-Navya-nyaya period.... He might have belonged to the eighth or ninth century A.D.... Another commentary belonging to the twelfth or thirteenth century A.D. has now been discovered and edited by A. Thakur. Unfortunately the name of this commentary is not known to us. But Thakur conjectures that it may be from the pen of Vadindra.

Now as far as I can tell, Vadindra's Vyakhya has never been translated into the English. But the portion of Chandrananda's Vritti commenting on the first two Adhyayas (out of ten Adhyayas) of the Vaisheshika Sutras has been translated into English in this journal paper.

It should be noted that even Chandrananda's Vritti is not as old as Prashastapada's Padartha Dharma Sangraha, but as I said the latter is not an actual commentary on the Vaisheshika Sutras.

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