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Microcosmology: Atom In Jain Philosophy & Modern Science: [5.5] Atomic Theory And Paramanuvada - Suksma (Transcendental) Paramanu

Published: 05.04.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015

The suksma (transcendental) paramanu, as defined by Jain philosophy, on the other hand, is a truly indivisible fundamental unit of pudgala and therefore has no components. It is not composed of any particles and is dimensionless. Like a true geometrical point, it has no length, no breadth, and no thickness. Its centre is identical with its ends. Thus, it has no extension and occupies only a single space-point. It has no shape and it has no mass. It is however, not an abstract piece of matter deprived of the qualities of colour, smell etc., like the atom of Democritus. It has a real objective existence and does possess colour, smell, etc. Inspite of this, a paramanu by itself is not perceivable by sense-organs and can only be cognised by inference through the effects of collective actions or by direct experience of a transcendental knowledge. This apparent paradox of being in possession of sensuous qualities like colour, etc., on the one hand and yet not being an object of sensuous cognition on the other is beautifully resolved by the principle of uncertainty. Quantum physicists do not concern themselves with the properties of an individual electron because it is impossible to ascertain them. On the other hand, electron behaviour can be accurately defined when dealt with collectively in great numbers. The individual electron is indeterminate and the indeterminacy is not a symptom of immature science but an ultimate barrier of nature. For, by the very act of observing its position, its velocity is changed, and conversely, the more accurately its velocity is determined the more indefinite its position becomes. Thus, it is impossible to determine the position and velocity of an electron at the same time.

A paramanu in its unattached free state is as real as a paramanu within material aggregate and the qualities of colour, etc., are as much real in a free paramanu as they are in an attached one. A free paramanu when captured by an aggregate loses its free state and is changed to become a component of the aggregate. Similarly its qualities also undergo changes of intensity. Thus the same paramanu (as substance), which possessed one unit blackness, can change to become infinitely black.

Two or more paramanus mutually combine together to produce composite bodies and the entire physical world is composed of paramanus. The aggregates composed by paramanus have shape and extension is space although the paramanu itself is devoid of shape and has no extension. By this it is meant that single free paramanu does not occupy two or more space-points. The subatomic particles of modern science are presumed to be spherical in shape. Their diameters though very small are measurable and, therefore, their extension in space, cover innumerable space points. This, according to Jains means that the subatomic particles of science viz., protons, electrons, etc., are not indivisible but composed of innumerable paramanus.

As stated above, theoretical considerations have already established that protons are made of quarks and the question 'what are the quarks made of?' looms large before the physicists. Thus, the subatomic particles are not the paramanus - the ultimate or primary atoms - but are infinitely more gross particles than a paramanu.

  • 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. Democritus
  2. Jain Philosophy
  3. Paramanu
  4. Paramanus
  5. Pudgala
  6. Science
  7. Space
  8. Space points
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