Jain Metaphysics and Science ► 2 ►The Intangible substances – Dharma, Adharma, Akasa and Kala. ► 2.7 Comparison of Jaina and scientific concepts

Posted: 07.12.2017

Akasa of Jains is a substance which accommodations all other substances stationary or moving. So all objects, including light particles, move in it, Akasa is non material, one indivisible unit having infinite pradesa. Its pradesa do not move like the particles of fluids and therefore, akasa provides a solid like continuum (at least for paramanus& varganas) in which transverse waves can travel. Thus akasa is the medium of propagation for light, were it photons or waves. The travel of light, however, like any other movement, requires the passive assistance of dharma. The akasa does not become an effective medium of propagation in the absence of dharma. The presence of any other substance like ether is not necessary in Jain scheme. The akasa serves the purpose of ether the scientists talk of. The akasa, dharma and adharma being non-material fulfill the needs of travel of both jiva and pudgala. Dharma and adharma must also be solid like substances so that their pradesa do not move, they superimpose on akasa pradesa in one-to-one manner. Both are present in loka and have the same shape as lokakasa.

The space of Newton is similar to akasa in some respects. Both are independent objective realities which are immobile and indivisibly whole entities. The Newton's space is void and requires the presence of ether but akasa does not need it to be a medium for propagation of light.

The time defined by Newton appears to be a fact rather than a substance. It measures the intervals of time like the conventional kala of Jains. Newton did not accept any limit on the velocity of light thus denying an inter relationship between space and time. According to the Jain philosophy also speeds higher than velocity of light are possible as happens in the case of paramanu and some varganas. This aspect of speed is further discussed in chapter 5.

The Einstein's theory of relativity surmises that all speeds are relative and that the absolute velocity of any object can not be determined by any means. This generally is interpreted to mean that absolute space does not exist. If this is true then the Jaina concept of akasa does not agree with the theory of relativity. But before coming to such a conclusion we must ascertain that the impossibility of determining the absolute velocity sis due to subjective limitation of the observer or it is a real impossibility. It is by limitation of the observer then existence of the absolute speed can not be denied. In view of Jain philosophy such a limitation is indeed due to the observer. An omniscient observer perceives the substances in their absolute state as he does not face the limitations imposed by material sense organs. He can perceive the absolute velocity and the absolute space.

Werner Heisenberg clarifying the above situation said that the ether which was a requirement of Maxwell's equation has been disapproved by theory of relativity. This is sometimes interpreted to mean that there is no absolute space. But one must be careful in accepting such a statement. Although Heisenberg did not clearly accept the existence of independent immobile space but he did accept that rejection of ether does not imply rejection of absolute space. He also posed questions to critiques of theory of relativity. According to these critiques "the special theory of relativity in no way establishes the non-existence of absolute space and time. This theory only says that absolute space and time do not participate in common experiments. But it appropriate time standards are used in this theory, there may be no objection to acceptance of absolute space. The critiques of relativity theory may also say - "we hope that future advancements in standards will enable us to clearly define the absolute space... and then we shall be able to oppose the special theory of relativity." Thus it is seen that denial of the existence of absolute space on the basis of special theory of relativity may prove wrong.

Let us consider now the four dimensional continuum of space and time. It is difficult to comprehend the exact meaning of this concept. Clearly, it shall be wrong to say that for dimensional continuum means that time is one dimension of space. The Jain philosophy is very clear in this regard. If pudgala, akasa and kala are treated as separate entities then there is no objection to the theory of relativity. Jain philosophy also supports that gravitation and other effects produced by matter are also material entities. So all changes in space due to matter are also matter and have no connection with the space.

The confusion of scientists is further cleared by the doctrine of space propounded by Bertrand Russell. Concluding a philosophical proposition he writes - "in this way there are two kinds of space - one relative space and other absolute space. The first is known by our experience and the second is imagined or postulated. But this makes no difference in our ability to perceive space and the things like colour, sound etc. All of these are expressed by cause and effect principle and experienced by us. Our knowledge of space can not be different from our knowledge of colour, sound and smell." The two kinds of space mentioned by Russell can be called perceptual space and conceptual space. The akasa is the conceptual space of Russell and scientists are concerned with the perceptual space. But existence of perceptual space depends on the conceptual space. Thus it is seen that the concept of akasa is not only supported by the theory of relativity but is also logical. The lokakasa is the perceptual space or simply space considered by scientists. This space contains matter and its effects like gravitation etc. According to Jain philosophy this space can be regarded as alienated intrinsic modification of akasa i.e. modification experienced by akasa due to the presence of matter.

The 'time' defined on the basis of movement of sun and moon or some event of matter is meaningful only for pudgala that is the physical world. It has no relevance to non-corporal substances like dharma, adharma, akasa and liberated soul. Consider now the connection between spaces (perceptual) and time as suggested by general theory of relativity. The perceptual space (finite) is influenced by matter. The time defined by events of matter must also be a property of pudgala. Since both space and time are related to pudgala an interconnection between them is indicated for the specific purpose of describing states of matter in space and time. Jain philosophy has therefore no objection to the concept of four dimensional continuums of space and time and the relationship between space, time and matter as provided by general theory of relativity in that specific context.

A final note on the role of four intangible substances is in order. The non-physical substances dharma, adharma, akasa and kala are four essential components of the scheme of loka which also contains the other two physical components, soul and matter. The actions and functions of the physical components are possible due to the existence of the four non-physical components. The intangible substances in fact provide a stage on which the physical actors, soul and matter, act and play. And for this act and play to take place no other thing except the six substances is required, that is, there is no need to presume the existence of any super power like God to create the stage and guide, control and prompt the actors in their play. The souls are self-motivated; they guide and control their own course, under the influence of pudgala, on the stage provided by the four intangibles, without any obligation. All the six substances are infinitely powerful and maintain their individual and distinct identity and existence; mutual cooperation among them makes the loka a coherent, purposeful and meaningful place where we experience the consciousness that guides our daily life and future.

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