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Microcosmology: Atom In Jain Philosophy & Modern Science: [2.1.8] Atom In Jain Philosophy - Metaphysical View - (3) AKASASTIKAYA (SPACE)

Published: 12.08.2007
Updated: 06.08.2008
[1] Bhagavati Sutra, 13-4-60.
[2] Pravacanasaia, Pradipika Vrtti, 2-36.

According to the Jains, space is a real substance, because it satisfies the requirement of substance as well as a real. It is the container of all other substances. It is boundless/infinite. Ethers and other substances do not occupy the whole space, as they are finite. That portion of space which is occupied by other substances is called loka (cosmos).[1] Loka is finite and is surrounded in all direction by aloka which is inert, empty pure space - a boundless void.[2] Beyond loka, there is no object - animate or inanimate. Not a single tiny atom of matter nor a Jiva would be able to cross the boundary and go beyond the limit of loka. Actually, the space is one indivisible entity. The ethers determine the boundary of the loka-akasa by their own finiteness.

Before proceeding further, let us emphasize the utmost importance of the three reals mentioned above viz. Dharmastikaya, adharmastikaya and akasastikaya (space). Dharmastikaya and adharmastikaya are mutually inter-penetrating and concomitant with loka-akasa. They are real constituents of the cosmos. Their existence and influence do not extend beyond the loka-akasa, but within cosmos they are all-pervading and co-extensive. Their separate existence cannot be inferred from their difference of locality as there is no such difference, but they have fundamentally different functions. In other words, they have a unity of locality with diversity of functions. Being devoid of physical qualities as well as consciousness, they can be distinguished by their respective functions.

Conception of these is essential to the conception of motion. If one accepts the reality of the physical object, one must also accept the reality of motion. Although looked upon with suspicion by idealistic metaphysicians, the doctrine of reality of motion is accepted by both, realistic philosophers as well as scientific thought.

In order to accept the reality of motion of physical objects, the reality not only of space but media of motion and rest must also be postulated. None of the Non-Jain Indian schools of thought has paid attention to this problem. Vedanta uses the term akasa rather indifferently to denote space and ether. It is to the credit of the ancient Jain sages alone that they boldly attacked the problem with significant success.

In the scientific world, the problem of motion was first dealt with by Galileo, considered as father of modern science and later on by Newton. Before them, Aristotelian tradition of absolute rest was generally believed. But Newton's theory got rid of the idea of absolute rest and introduced conception of a substance called the "ether", that was present everywhere, even in the empty space. Einstein pointed out that the conception of ether was unnecessary provided that one was willing to abandon the idea of absolute time.

The discoveries of modern science - the dual nature of matter, the standing wave-patterns of electrons - are all associated with the reality of space and its contents. Now the space itself, according to the Jains, is infinite extension and only a portion of it is filled with other real substances. It is this finite portion (which must curve upon itself as per Einstein's suggestion), which is the theatre of all the drama of cosmic dance. And the finiteness of the cosmos is due to the two other substances viz. media of motion and rest. Without these two, the systematic structure of the cosmos would have been a chaos. We shall have occasion to revert to this in the following chapter.

  • 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. Adharmastikaya
  2. Akasa
  3. Akasastikaya
  4. Aloka
  5. Bhagavati Sutra
  6. Consciousness
  7. Dharmastikaya
  8. Einstein
  9. Ether
  10. Jiva
  11. Loka
  12. Newton
  13. Science
  14. Space
  15. Sutra
  16. Vedanta
  17. Vrtti
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