Jainism: The Eternal and Universal Path for Enlightenment ► 09 Theory of Association and Dissociation

Posted: 07.10.2011

Everything in the universe is a result of association and dissociation


The Universe is a consequence of association of some basic constituents (tattvas) and dissociation of aggregates so formed; both of these processes are going on ceaselessly since eternity. Processes of association and dissociation is central to Jainism. The association of soul with karmānus leads the soul to manifest in various yonis and dissociation or shedding of karmānus leads to Mokṣa which is the ultimate goal of all living beings. In the material world, as we know from physics, the association and dissociation occur at various levels. There are two types of physical entities in the universe: matter and radiation. They interact due to certain forces, obeying some laws, and form all the aggregates that we see. Matter can be converted into energy and vice versa. Matter exists in forms which are massless or with mass. Those at elementary particle level, for example, in quark-gluon plasma (the ultimate particles constituting the Universe) and between protons, electron and neutrons, these processes of combination and disintegration are governed by nuclear forces, i.e. strong and weak nuclear interactions. These are dealt under the domain of physics. These continue to form atoms and molecules and they in turn form compounds and minerals. At atomic and molecular levels, i.e. formation of compounds and minerals, the processes occur electrically and these electromagnetic associations and dissociations come under the realm of chemistry. The modern chemistry postulates various types of electric bonds, depending on the nature of the elements taking their valency into consideration. The combinations of simple carbon bearing molecules (containing hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen etc.) can lead to large complex molecules. It is believed that these molecules can ultimately lead to formation of biomolecules and simple living cells. These then undergo Darwinian evolution, by interaction with the environment. The modern science has postulated matter formation of living non-living matter, but has not demonstrated that this actually happens. Therefore, so far it remains only a hypothesis. This postulate does not require the existence of soul.

As far as matter is concerned, at the level of large masses, gravitation comes in to play and formations of planets, galaxies and largest structures including the universe is primarily governed by gravitational force although within each system, electromagnetic and nuclear forces also play a role.

According to Jainism, body has a multi-layered structure; the physical body is the gross form and the karman body is the subtlest form, as mentioned in chapter 5. The various aggregates, called varganās, should be able to form the five types of bodies, Karman (causal), Tejas (energy), Āhāraka (conscious), Vaikriya (form) and Audārika (physical) bodies. These five bodies are formed by five types of aggregates, known after their names: i.e. karman varganā, tejas varganā, āhāraka varganā, vaikriya varganā and audārika varganā. Besides these five varganās, three other important varganās are manovarganā (mind vargana: for formation of thought and mind), swāchosvās (breathing varganā) and bhāshā (speech varganā). The five bodies postulated by Jains may be compared with the three bodies (Dharmakāyā (conscious body), Sambhogkāyā (transcendental body) and Nirmānkāyā (physical or experiencing body)) mentioned in Buddhism or the five bodies in Hinduism: Annamaya (Gross physical body), getting its energy from food (Anna); Prānmaya (Breathing body), getting its energy from breathing; Manomaya, (mental body) getting its energy from learning; Vijnānamaya (intelligence or discriminating body), supported by darśan and Ānandmaya (bliss body or consciousness) getting its energy from meditation. All these bodies are mutually interacting and supporting each other. All the three faiths, Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism agree that the conscious body is the ground, seed or foundation on which the edifice of the physical body stands.

The Jain universe consists of jiva and ajiva. The paramanu and soul are the smallest, separate and distinct entities, neither forming from the other, but interacting with each other, none the less, and giving rise to the whole universe by association and dissociation, by formation and breaking of aggregates. It begins with the dimensionless Paramānus forming clusters which grow sequentially. These clusters and aggregates, as mentioned above, are termed as varganās. Although varganās could be of many types, Jainism postulates 23 types of main varganās as follows:


  1. Anu varganā
  2. Sankhyātanu (numerable) varganā
  3. Asankhyātanu (innumerable) varganā
  4. Anantanu (infinite) varganā
  5. hāra varganā (for audārik (gross), vaikriyak (fluid) and āhārak (transitory) bodies)
  6. Agrāhya (non-associable) varganā
  7. Tejas varganā (for Tejas body and electromagnetic particles and waves)
  8. Agrāhya (non-associable) varganā
  9. Bhāshā varganā
  10. Agrāhya (non-associable) varganā
  11. Mano varganā
  12. Agrāhya (non-associable) varganā
  13. Karmanā varganā
  14. Dhruva (permanent) varganā
  15. Santar nirantar (discontinuous-permanent) varganā
  16. Dhruv sunya varganā
  17. Pratyek sharir varganā, used for making immobile life forms (plants)
  18. Dhruv sunya varganā
  19. Bādar nigodh varganā
  20. Dhruv sunya varganā
  21. Sukshma nigodh varganā, Audārik, tejas & karman bodies of sukshma nigodh jiva
  22. Dhruv sunya varganā
  23. Mahāskandh varganā: all visible matter is made of this varganā

It is further mentioned in the scriptures that varganās 1 to 14 are permanent, continuous and massless varganās and have four attributes (like touch, smell, taste and colour); The massless varganās have energetic associations and have specific functions such as in constructing the invisible bodies of organisms and supporting other life functions. 15 to 23 have mass and are dense; 5th to 14th varganās are formed by combination of lower varganās or dissociation of higher varganās. The interconvertibility of 15th to 23rd varganās is difficult. In view of convertibility of mass and energy (E=Mc2), it does not make much sense in talking about massless but energetic particles. In any case modern physics measures mass of particles in terms of energy (rest mass of proton is 938 MeV). The remaining types of varganās deal with particles with mass where the paramanus are bonded by their electric charge. Some of these varganās are described as sunya varganā, probably implying dissociation. The last, 23rd type of varganā, is supposed to constitute all the matter present in the cosmos.

Thus the Jain theory of combination deals with the interaction of soul with soul, soul with matter, and matter with matter and is wide in scope.

Now we discuss each varganā separately. The summary given above, based on scriptures, may not be consistent with the following discussion which appears more logical. As the combination proceeds, aggregates of matter are formed and when they exceed a critical number or mass, qualities of consciousness, mind and speech are acquired by interaction with their respective varganās (āhārak, mano andbhāshā). Thus the Jain theory of varganā is a step wise, sequential, progressive advancement for acquiring various qualities, we see in ajiva as well as in jiva.

The smallest material entity is paramānu. It is extremely small, dimensionless, mass-less, cannot be further subdivided, occupies one "unit" of space (one pradesha) and possesses high energy. Clusters of Paramānus, containing a very large (innumerable) number of paramānus, form atoms known as anu varganās. Thus according to Jainism, an atom is made of innumerable paramanus. On comparing with what we understand by modern physics, the formation of anu varganā must be governed by nuclear forces. The second category consists of skandha or composite bodies, which contain two to innumerable anus. This may be compared with molecules and compounds, which may have two (as in inorganic molecules i.e. O2, N2, CO2 etc.) to innumerable atoms (as in organic molecules of proteins to amino acids, sugars etc.).These combinations must be governed by electric bonding (valency, bonds).The third category is composite bodies, made of innumerable atoms. These may be compared to minerals, which are made of innumerable molecules. When infinite atoms unite then large structures (planetary bodies, stars, galaxies etc.) are formed, which come under the fourth category, probably controlled by gravity. These four varganās can form the whole universe (minus jiva), and this is a progressive theory of association from the smallest paramānu, to molecules, minerals and structures where the four forces of nature i.e. strong (nuclear), electromagnetic and gravity come into play. But to form jiva, with consciousness, speech, breathing etc., different types of interactions are required. The above four categories are incapable of being attracted, assimilated and transformed by psychic forces. To provide them with psychic attributes, āhāraka varganā (5th varganā) is required and this results in āhāraka (conscious) body. This interaction requires an infinite number of anus to provide it a quality defined as "associability" and provides matter with psychic attributes. This conscious varganā also develops capability of vaikriya (transformation of shape and size of body) and swāchosvās (breathing). The next (6th) category is defined as the first unassociable (sunya varganā) category. The next, i.e. tejas varganā (7th) results in association of energy with matter and leads to tejas body, which provides metabolic energy, paving way to the animate world. Taijas Varganā may be responsible for formation of electromagnetic waves or particles. The next category (8th) is another type of sunya vargana. Further association leads to bhāshā varganā (9th) followed again by sunya varganā (10th). The next association leads to mano varganā (11th), required for formation and functioning of mind and its thoughts. This interaction may enable neurons to get organized and function. This is again followed by sunya vargana (12th) and then comes the interaction of soul with subtle matter (karma vargana, 13th). Only the aggregates of this karma varganā have the capability of interacting with the soul. The 14th to 22nd varganās are described below. These are followed by the last varganā called mahāskandha varganā, responsible for the large structures, where all forces and interactions in nature may simultaneously come into play. These structures pervade the whole universe.

In this scheme, one of the important points to understand is the role of the four sunya varganās. They have been variously interpreted by scholars. Some say that they do not always result in new aggregates. We try to understand them in the frame work of known physics. We interpret them as the varganās which destroy (annihilate or dissociate) the aggregates. The first non-usable or non-associable varganā (6th) may, from simile with physics, be considered as antimatter, which on interaction with matter annihilates it and turns into radiation. Likewise every alternate varganā after 7th, i.e. 8th, 10th and 12th are non-associable, that is they dissociate the psychic aggregates of Tejas, bhāshā- and mano- associations. By their interaction, capability of metabolic activity, speech and mind is destroyed. Thus energy, consciousness, mind and speech varganās may interact with themselves but would not lead to new aggregates; only when they interact with matter varganās, they develop associability and result in new types of aggregates. The 15th is termed as discontinuous-permanent varganā which may represent wave-particle duality. The 16th, permanent sunya varganā may imply that all associations are permanently destroyed as in pure souls. Thus we see that 1 to 6 aggregates are related to matter, 7th to 13th to consciousness and 17th to 22nd to soul. The last (23rd), embodies everything in the universe.

Some of these interactions may also be interpreted as resulting in sunya varganā, but the explanation given above of annihilation or dissociation appear more logical. One thing is clear from the above discussion that psychic aggregates can only be formed after matter has attained a finite critical size or mass.

Modern physics and chemistry deals with combination of matter with matter from smallest particles to large compounds. Combination of the minutest particles known i.e. quarks and gluons to protons, neutrons and electrons etc. and then their combination to form atoms comes under the purview of nuclear physics. Atoms to molecules to compounds (and minerals) is the subject which comes within the purview of chemical combination through electric bonding although lots of physical process are also involved. Large structures (planets, stars, galaxies etc.) are governed by gravitation and within these structures other forces (e.g. magnetism) also play their role. It is a challenging task to reconcile the theories of modern physics and chemistry with the Jain theory of varganā, although we note that 7th to 22nd varganās deal with certain aspects of consciousness and soul which is not a subject matter dealt with by science.

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