Microcosmology: Atom In Jain Philosophy & Modern Science: [2.2.01] Atom In Jain Philosophy - Pudgala - Attributes - Definitions

Published: 03.09.2007
Updated: 02.07.2015

Pudgala: Remarkably Meaningful Nomenclature

The terms physical existence or pudgala used in the book stand for the entire range of sub-atomic particles, atoms/elements, molecules and material bodies as well as all forms of material energy of science.

Physical substance is called pudgala by Jains. The etymological meaning of the word pudgala is that it has the property of intergration and disintergration. It has the following derivation [Sabdakalpa-druma-kosa]:

'Pud' means to combine/integrate and 'gala' means to separate/disintegrate.
Hence, the basic meaning of the word pudgala is:

"That which undergoes modifications by integration and disintegration."

In the words of the modern science, we can say that "what is fissionable and fusionable is 'pudgala'."


[1] ‘Aspect' implies that the perception of an object is a quality inherent in the thing perceived - a quality that is drawn out into focus by the percipient.

Many definitions of pudgala are possible on the basis of numerous varied qualities possessed by it and also numerous aspects[1] from which it is perceived.

There are particular qualities possessed exclusively by pudgala, which distinguish it from the other substances. Out of these, there are some qualities which are found in all forms and modifications of pudgala, while some of them are found in some forms of pudgala and are obsent in other. Characteristic qualities are those, which distinguish it from other substances and are found in all modifications of pudgala.

According to Jain canonical literature, physical substance (Pudgalastikaya) is characterized by four qualities viz.

  1. colour
  2. taste
  3. odour
  4. touch

Possession of these qualities makes pudgala perceivable by sense-organs of an animate organism. Out of the five astikayas, which constitute the universe, pudgala is the only one which possesses the quality of murtatva, that is, it is perceivable by the sense-organs.[Brhad-dravya-samgraha, verse 15]

In Bhagavati Sutra, which is one of most ancient and important canons, pudgala is elaborately described from many aspects. In Jain philosophy, a typically frequent method of describing the character of an object is the use of fourfold determinants: substance (dravya), location in space (ksetra) time (kdla) and attributes (bhava).

  1. Substantially, pudgala is infinite in number, that is to say, there are infinite number of different physical entities.
  2. Spatially, pudgala fills the whole cosmic space (Jokakasa).
  3. Temporally, pudgala is eternal i.e. without beginning and without end.
  4. Qualitatively, pudgala possesses colour, taste, odour and touch.
  5. Interactionwise, pudgala is capable of being taken in and transformed by jiva (psychic order of existence). The interaction between the psychic order and the physical existence is threefold:

      1. Karma:
        A specific group of matter called karmavargana is attracted and assimilated by jiva. Each individuai jiva, during its worldly existence, con­tinuously interacts with karma-pudgala.
      2. Body:
        Each jiva must have a body as the instrument for the experience of pleasure and pain during its world­ly existence. Four groups of pudgala aire assimilated by jiva for this purpose. They are:
        • auddrika
        • vaikriyd
        • aharaka
        • taijas. [See, also section IV of this chapter]
      3. Vital Functions:
        Breathing, nutrition, speech and thought —all these physiological functions of a living oranism are possible only with the help of different groups of pudgala possessing specific properties useful for specific function.

Besides, pudgala has form and extension, it is devoid of consciousness and life, it is eternal in its nature, constant in quantity (i.e. neither increasing nor decreasing) and it is a fundamental constituent of the universe. It pervades the whole of lokakasa [Bhagavati Sutra, 1/10/129]

  • Jain Vishva Barati Institute, Ladnun, India
  • Edited by Muni Mahendra Kumar
  • 3rd Edition 1995

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Bhagavati Sutra
  2. Bhava
  3. Body
  4. Consciousness
  5. Dravya
  6. Jain Philosophy
  7. Jiva
  8. Karma
  9. Lokakasa
  10. Murtatva
  11. Pudgala
  12. Pudgalastikaya
  13. Science
  14. Space
  15. Sutra
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