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Microcosmology: Atom In Jain Philosophy & Modern Science: [00.01] Introduction

Published: 25.05.2007
Updated: 06.08.2008

Where did the universe come from and where is it going? Did it have a beginning? How and why did it begin? What happened before that? Will it come to an end, or not? Did anybody create the universe? Is it static and unchanging or dynamic and mutable?

These and many other questions regarding space, time, animate and inanimate orders of existence have been before mankind ever since man became capable of thinking. Theories about the origin of universe and its contents have been put forward by theologises, met physicists, philosophers as well as modern scientists. In the orient, philosophers mostly dealt with such questions.

History of Western Philosophy, p. 13

The enigma of the physical universe has also been pondered alike by religion (theology), philosophy, and science. The fundamental problems, no doubt, remained the same from one age to another, but the point of view from which they were attacked varied with the viewer as well as the age. It would, therefore, be not surprising if the answers to the problems are found to be radically divergent. Answers given by theology, for instance, are based mostly on dogmatic belief that we have knowledge, where, in fact, we have ignorance. Science, on the other hand, cannot answer many questions of great interest raised by the inquisitive human mind. "Philosophy is intermediate between theology and science" says Sir Bertrand Russell, "and it is the business of philosophy to study such problems in order that we do not become insensitive to many things of great value." [1]

India's philosophical culture is characterised by a sincerity of purpose and seriousness of outlook as well as freedom of thought which was unknown in the western countries. State persecution and censorship of thought was conspicuous by its absence because Indians did not seek to make political capital out of their religious persuasion.

At the same time, unlike in the West, science has never been able to completely subjugate the religious sensitivities. In India, at least, mystery, ambiguity, and transcendence remain as important as rationality, logic and sensible perception. Here, man's personality is not entirely denatured by the scientific objectivity nor has mystery and sacredness been taken away by its rationality. In short, science, in spite of its spectacular achievements, did never become a new religion here as it in effect did in the West.

Systematisation of Jain philosophy is comparatively a recent event though it has its moorings in the canonical literature i.e. Agamas. According to Jain belief, the doctrines promulgated by Bhagavan Mahavira, whose 2500th Nirvana was celebrated 15 years ago, are even more ancient and were preached by a succession of 23 Tirthankaras thousands of years before him. The earliest Jain literature, though not extant, is much more ancient than Bhagavan Mahavira. Commentaries on Agamas and independent treatises by great savants between 8th to 12th centuries systematised and connected the divergent elements into logical doctrines remarkable for their originality, acuteness, and subtlety.

From Preface to Jain Philosophy of Non-absolutism by Prof. Dr. Satkari Mookerjee. Introduction

Jain philosophy does not swear by mysticism, though it culminates in it. But the mysticism is not the result of dogmatic faith. Philosophical speculation is a necessary discipline of the mind for attenuating doubts. But the ultimate truth cannot be realised by philosophical discipline alone. The terminus of philosophy is the beginning of spiritual career. The plenum, of knowledge can be attained by the development of a superior power of vision, which is not satisfied with the negative findings of reason and seeks infinite perfection. "The Jains are emphatic that omniscience is the condition as well as the result of perfection and however much we may advance in our philosophical enquiry and scientific pursuit, which are not antagonistic in their aim in spite of their difference in method and lines of approach, it cannot by itself unlock the mystery of ultimate reality and bring about the final consummation." [2]

Eastern mystics in general and Jains in particular emphasize the systematic unity of Reality which does not mean that all things are identical, but they are aware that all differences and contrasts are relative (and not absolute) within an all-embracing unity. It is difficult to accept the paradoxical unity of opposites in our normal state of consciousness and even some philosophies either bypass or conceal the problem. Jain philosophers, on the other hand, by their remarkable insight, reveal the relativity and polar relationship of all opposites, which not only include unity and multiplicity, motion and rest, but also the fundamental attributes of existence and non- existence. The Jain doctrine of non-absolutism (anekantavada) solves the problem by affirming the possibility of diverse attributes in a unitary entity. A thing exists in some context and does not exist in some other context In atomic physics, we can never predict the absolute existence or absolute non- existence of a subatomic particle. We can never say that it does not exist, but the particle has tendencies or probabilities to exist in various places and this manifests a strange kind of physical reality between existence and non-existence. In this book, we shall briefly discuss the Jain philosophy of non-absolutism and how it can be applied to properly understand the paradoxical behaviour of subatomic particles. Readers will recognise many parallels between the notions of atomic physics and Jain views.

Time (Weekly Magazine)

"Modern science has made tremendous progress during the last hundred years. Few people have been more publicly admired than scientists, engineers, and technologists. Together they discovered the secrets of the microcosm and perfected the ways of controlling and tapping colossal stores of nuclear energy, they probed the vast spaces of the universe and pried into the mysteries of the macrocosm, discovered the mechanisms of heredity and compounded the miracle of modern medicine. With utmost daring and immense resourcefulness, they capped their achievements by landing man on the moon to gather first-hand knowledge of the earths nearest celestial body. [3]

"Ironically this very age of unprecedented scientific progress has also become the dawn of a new age of doubts, regarding the future benefits to the human race of bold new scientific ventures, because technological advances seem to accompany environmental ravages. On the philosophical level, there is a new mood of scepticism about the absolute objectivity and utter rationality of the scientific methods. Says Harvard Biologist- Historian E. I. Mendelssohn, 'Science, as we know it, has outlived its usefulness.' There is a new fascination with the mystical and even irrational. In the recent years, there is a loud and insistent chorus for antiscience. Declares Richard H. Bube, a professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Stanford, 'One of the most pernicious falsehoods ever to be almost universally accepted is that the scientific method is the only reliable way to truth.' Insisting that there is also spiritual knowledge and power besides reason, Theodore Roszak pleads for a return of submerged religious sensitivities. 'Here is a range of experience that we are screening out of our experience in the name of what we call knowledge', says Roszak. The late psychologist Abraham Maslow said that we have learned to think of knowledge as verbal, rational, logical, and sensible but transcendental experience is equally important

Recently, however, some eminent physicists like Geoffrey Chew and David Bohm find it necessary to regard consciousness as an essential aspect of universe, which will have to be included in a future theory of physical phenomena.

Physics and Philosophy, p.161
Albert Einstein: Foreword to The Universe and Dr. Einstein.

And so, perhaps this is the most appropriate time to make an attempt to compare the findings of philosophical enquiry with the results of scientific pursuit. "In the history of human thinking" says Werner Heisenberg, "new, interesting and the most fruitful developments frequently take place when two different lines of thought - lines having their roots in quite different parts of human culture, in different times, or different religious traditions - meet and mutually interact." [4] Synchronising the presentations of scientific facts with those of philosophical findings is, however, a very difficult task. The writer may "either succeed in being intelligible by offering only superficial aspects of the problem and thus arousing in the reader the deceptive illusion of comprehension or give an account in such a fashion that the reader is unable to follow the exposition and becomes discouraged from reading any further." [5] I do not know whether I have been successful in making this presentation both readable and intelligible, the reader who honours me by perusing my humble efforts has to decide this for himself. I have derived much assistance from the following publications for compiling this monograph:

# Publication Author
1 One, Two, Three … Infinity George Gamow
2 Jain Padartha Vinana Men Pudgala Mohanlal Banthia
3 History of Western Philosophy Sir Bertrand Russell
4 Physics and Philosophy Werner Heisenberg
5 Vishva Prahelika Munishri Mahendra Kumarji
6 Studies in Jain Philosophy Dr.N.M. Tatia
7 The Tao of Physics Fritjof Capra
8 The Dancing Wu Li Masters Gary Zukav
9 The Jain Philosophy of Non-absolutism Dr. Satkari Mookerjee
10 A Brief History of Time Stephen W. Hawking

I am extremely grateful to Acharya Shri Tulsi, who has been the main source of inspiration and but for his blessings, the present work would not have been accomplished.

I am also grateful to Munishri Mahendra Kumarji (my son in worldly relation) for his valuable assistance.

17th October, 1991 (Dushera)
263, SION (East) Bombay-400 022

  • 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. Acharya
  2. Acharya Shri Tulsi
  3. Agamas
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Anekantavada
  6. Bertrand Russell
  7. Body
  8. Consciousness
  9. Discipline
  10. Einstein
  11. Gary Zukav
  12. Heisenberg
  13. Jain Philosophy
  14. Mahavira
  15. Nirvana
  16. Non-absolutism
  17. Objectivity
  18. Pudgala
  19. Russell
  20. Satkari Mookerjee
  21. Science
  22. Space
  23. Tirthankaras
  24. Tulsi
  25. Werner Heisenberg
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