The four types of entities in nyāya

All objects or entities are classified into four types according to nyāya. This understanding is essential to grasp Śrī Jīva’s explanations in the Sandarbhas of the nature of our existence. The classifications are based on whether the object has a beginning and an end.

To describe objects, it is useful to classify them based on the presence or absence of their non-existence. Non-existence is called abhāva in Sanskrit.

These are listed below (reproduced from Śrī Babaji’s commentary on Anuccheda 30 of the Bhagavat Sandarbha).

  1. Those which have no beginning but have an end. For example, before an object, say a sweet ball, is created, it does not exist. The non-existence of the sweetball has no beginning. But this non-existence comes to an end when the ball is produced. This is called prāg-abhāva, or pre-non-existence; it is anādi, or beginning-less but has an end.
  2. Those which have a beginning but no end. If a sweet ball is consumed, it will then become non-existent. This is called post-non-existence or pradhvaṁsa-abhāva; the non-existence has a beginning but no end, so it is ananta [an: without, anta: end]. Liberation, or mukti, is another example of this.
  3. Those which have no beginning and no end. Such objects are called nitya, or eternal. They neither have pre-non-existence nor post-non-existence [i.e. they have neither prāg-abhāva nor pradhvaṁsa-abhāva]. Bhagavān, the jīva and Vaikuṇṭha are such nitya objects.
  4. Those which have both a beginning and an end [i.e. they have both prāg-abhāva and pradhvaṁsa-abhāva]. Such objects are called anitya, or temporary. Material bodies and all other visible objects around us fall into this category.

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