Microcosmology: Atom In Jain Philosophy & Modern Science: [4.1] Classification (1)

Published: 17.03.2008
Updated: 13.08.2008

We have already said that according to Jains, material-objects are composed of elementary particles called paramanus. There are infinite types of matter and because they are capable of infinite mutations, the entire material universe is infinitely infinite. The fundamental reason for the infinite variety is the infinite multiplicity of the four innate qualities, colour etc., of matter and the difference in the number of paramanus.

According to the modern science also, there are infinite varieties of organic and inorganic compounds constituted by various combinations of about 100 different kinds of chemical elements. The atoms of the elements are different from one another because of the difference in the number of their constituting elementary particles viz., protons and neutrons in the nucleus of the atom and the electrons orbiting round.

The infinite variety, however, can be grouped together from various aspects to form a few classes or divided into two or three types e.g.

By Science

(i) Inorganic

(ii) Organic

(i) Solids

(ii) Fluids

(i) Elements

(ii) Compounds

(i) Atoms

(ii) Molecules

By Jains

(i) Visrasa-parinata

(ii) Prayoga-parinata

(i) Badara (gross)

(ii) Suksma (fine)

(i) Paramanus

(ii) Skandha

By Science

(i) Solids           

(ii) Liquids

(iii) Gases

By Jains

(i) Paramanu

(ii) Pradesa

(iii) Skandha

Classification of matter by Jains into 23 groups called varganas in general and the matter belonging to 8 groups which interact with and serve useful purposes for the living beings, in particular, merits requires further examination.

Five out of the eight groups viz.

  1. Audarika
  2. Vaikriya
  3. Aharka
  4. Taijas
  5. Karmana groups

go to make five different kinds of gross and subtle bodies (sarira) for the living being. The first two kinds are gross and the remaining three are subtle ones.

Material of the audarika group is composed of all the organic and inorganic objects that we encounter in our ordinary life. All the necessities of our daily life, food, clothing and shelter are made up from the stuff belonging to this group. Our own bodies and the bodies of all animals and plants, in fact, of all living organisms known to us, organs as brain, heart and stomach, tissues of skin, muscles etc., and the biological atoms called cells are all made up from the audarika group. When the life becomes extinct, the lifeless body that is left behind is audarika sarira. It either becomes food for some living beings or else rots, putrefies and decomposes into its constituents.

Bodies of celestial and infernal beings are made up from 'vaikriya' group. The traditional Jain term for the word 'celestial’ beings is devas or heavenly people. According to the Jain belief, sun, moon, stars etc., are one of the four categories of devas viz. jyotiska deva meaning light-radiating or luminous deva. The life-spans of devas, though very very long compared to human beings are nevertheless finite and at the end of the life-span, the soul of deva leaves his lifeless vaikriya body behind. It is, however, believed that the stuff making up the vaikriya body does not rot or putrefy like the audarika body but disintegrates rapidly into its components. A vaikriya body does not cast shadow.

Science also considers sun, moon, planets and stars celestial or heavenly bodies. Sun is nothing else but a star, planets are members of the solar family and revolve round it in definite orbits and moons are satellites of the planets. So the most important heavenly bodies are stars. And they are no longer pin points of inscrutable light but objects of the individual personalities. Stars are 'born' and they 'die'. Their life-span is of the order of 50,000 to 1,00,000 million years. Our sun, for example, was born some 5 000 million years ago and quickly came to age assuming the characteristics it has today. For another 5,000 million years, it will continue to be in the prime of life. After that it will expand and burn away fiercely for 2,000 million years and begin to shrink and decline to a long old age. After 50,000 million years it will have turned black and heatless i.e. dead. The bodies of the stars are made up of primordial gas and dust, more than half of which is hydrogen, which is transformed into helium by nuclear fusion. The process of nuclear fusion converts matter into energy, which is radiated. The amount of hydrogen steadily decreases while that of helium increases. When the entire stock of hydrogen is used up, there is nothing to burn. The star becomes black and heatless and dies. Thus the life-span of this celestial object starts from a cloudy birth and ends into frozen extinction. Thus, if the star is a jyotiska deva [1] then the stellar dust is the stuff belonging to the vaikriya group.

Aharaka sarira is not a common body. It is very occasionally created by learned sages only. Taijas sarira and karmana sarira are the supersubtle bodies assimilated by every soul from the stuff of the appropriate group. They are permanent companions of the soul, and are abolished only if and when the s°ul is emancipated. Taijas sarira is the link between the soul and the karmana sarira. It is the source of energy required by the vital processes of all living organisms. As its name suggests, taijas stuff is probably electrical (or electromagnetical), and the electrical characteristic manifested by the bodies of living organisms are Caused by the taijas sarira.

[1] This statement should not be construed as a belief of the Jains nor that of the author. It is merely a conjecture emanating from circumstantial similarities.

  • 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. Audarika sarira
  2. Body
  3. Brain
  4. Deva
  5. Devas
  6. Paramanu
  7. Paramanus
  8. Pradesa
  9. Sarira
  10. Science
  11. Skandha
  12. Soul
  13. Varganas
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