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Anekanta : Philosophy of Co-existence: 09.00 Transitory Eternity

Published: 04.08.2010

Chapter 9

Transitory Eternity


Abhed - Perspective of identity
Astikay - Five States of Fundamental Existence
Gun - Trait
Kramabhavi - Reality which changes successively
Ogh - General
Parinami-nityatya - Persistence-through-change
Paryayarthik - Modal
Sahabhavi - Reality which persists
Samuchit - Particular

The energy is produced through the process of change. Albert Einstein, the legendary scientist found out that matter could be transformed into energy and the vice-versa. The Jain philosophy has tried to explain this principle through Parināmi Nityatvavāda. The 'dravya' (substance) whether it is 'pudgala' or 'jīva' has infinite potential to sustain itself and that is why its existence is eternal. This potential power manifests itself through the process of change - parinamana. All the scientific exploration and experiments that are carried out happen in the realm of pudgala, which is in the form of matter and which can be transformed into energy.

Transitory Eternity

Nothing in this world is static or immortal. Everything is subject to the process of change or evolution. The Jain philosophers have given a deep thought to this phenomena and they have tried to explain it through a theory called 'Pariṇāmi Nityatvavāda' (Concept of 'Persistence through Change').

All the things in this world bear two attributes. The first is permanency of existence (dhrauvya) and the other is - its capacity to change (pariṇāman). So the cycle is - utpāda (origination), vyaya (extinction) and dhrauvya (persistence). What remains as the constant factor in the process of any change is the unifying force. It maintains the originality of the existence in spite of the continuous cycle of creation and extinction or destruction. The belief of those who have caught hold of only this view is called the theory of 'kūṭastha nitya'. On the contrary, some other philosophers see in this cycle the prominence only of 'continuous succession of changes' like the waves in the ocean. Their view is termed as 'Kṣaṇikavāda' (fluxism). The Jain philosophers have tried to reconcile both these attributes i.e. 'kūtastha nitya' and Kṣaṇikavāda' by propounding the theory of 'Pariṇāmi Nityatvavāda' - Theory of persistence through change.

Lord Mahāvīra explained each related issue on the basis of 'Pariṇāmi Nityatvavāda' when he was asked whether 'ātmā' (the soul) and pudgala (the matter) both are eternal, he said that existence never ceases 'to be', in the sense that both are 'nitya' (eternal). However, since the cycle of their modification never ends, so they are 'anitya'. In a comprehensive sense, therefore, they are neither 'nitya' nor 'anitya'. So call them 'nityānitya'. No substance ever creases to exist and it is also true that there is a constant process of change and therefore transformation from one form/shape to another is also a fact.

There are two attributes to reality - Sahabhavi or that which persists and kramabhavi or that which changes successively. The sahabhavi indicates the state of reality while the kramabhavi indicates its pace. The sahabhavi is called its trait or gun while the kramabhavi is called the mode iparyay). The famous aphorism of Jain philosophy is that no mode can exist without substance and no substance can exists without mode. One Jain philosopher asked the philosophers believing in absolute permanence, the Vedantins, "Who has seen substance without modes? Have they seen it? When have they seen it? In what form have they seen it? Let us know. In the same manner he asked the fluxists who has seen change without substance. Where have they seen it? When have they seen it? In what form have they seen it?

The sequence of change has a certain permanent principle behind it. The events of changes take place in it and not outside it. If you throw a pebble into a lake there are ripples. The form of the lake changes. The water, which was peaceful, has now become disturbed. The small ripples are in water. Without water these ripples do not have any existence; because there are ripples in water we can say that the lake is disturbed. The creation of ripples is an event. It takes place under certain conditions. If there were no lake, there would be no water. If there were no water there would be no ripple. The existence of ripples is dependent on the existence of water. It can also not be possible that there is water but there are no ripples. The existence of water is closely linked to the existence of ripples. Both are imbued with each other - water in ripples and ripples in water.

Substance is the base for modes, substance is not manifest. Modes are manifest. We are not able to see the substance. We see only the modes. All our knowledge is about the modes. There is a pudgal before me. It is a substance. I cannot know it. Out of its different modes I knew only one of them and through that modes I know that it is a pudgal. When I see its colour and form by my eyes and smell its fragrance by my nose I say it is a pudgal. I am not able to perceive it entirely. I know a mango by the smell, colour or taste. I do not have any means of knowing it completely. When the eyes are seeing then smell and taste become less important. When the sense of smell is greater then the colour is forgotten. It is in this context of totality that I say that we do not perceive the substance. We see only the modes and on the basis of the modes draw our inferences.

Our world of modes is very large whereas our world of substances is very small. The number of modes is infinite in proportion to the number of substances. Each substance is hidden in its modes. It is impossible for the senses to look beyond the modes and see the true substance. Change takes place both by nature and by use. Intrinsic changes are in-built in the existence of the substance. Empirical change takes places due to external stimuli. It is not true that such changes take place only when the external stimulus is found. The process of change is continuing. Time is its major reason. Time is a dimension of all existence. It is an intrinsic cause for change and so is found in all existence and makes the nature of all existence transitory. The change intrinsic to a substance is subtle. The senses are not able to comprehend these changes at the level of knowledge gained from senses. This change cannot be explained. We see the gross changes that take place due to the mutual stimuli of the soul and matter and define them accordingly. People die due to illness, due to injury, or being killed by somebody and so on. Some die naturally. One who is born will necessarily die.

That is only a change. The internal process of death lies within life. The process of dying begins with birth. The one, who does not die in a first moment, never dies. One who is able to live for one moment will remain immortal? The definition of death as it takes place due to external stimuli is very simple. The death that takes place due to mental or physical weakness is more difficult to describe but the death that takes place in full health can be understood only by scientists or through intuitive perception.

Some philosophers give theological explanations to creation. But Jain philosophy explains it in terms of the changes that take place in the soul. Creation, development or destruction -whatever happens that happens due to the mutual reaction between matter and soul. Time supports both of them. In a certain event external stimuli also contribute. The seed for both the expressed and non-expressed changes exists within the objects. Changes can be collective or individual. Mix sugar with water and it becomes sweet. This is collective change. When the clouds thunder in the sky and a new state is created. Different kinds of molecules got together and the cloud was formed. Some changes already exist within the substance. Such changes are generally individual changes. There are five states of fundamental existence (astikay). Dharmastikay, Adharmastikay and Akashastikay - in these, there is intrinsic change. In the soul and in matter both the types of changes are found, intrinsic and empirical. In them the intrinsic changes are individual. But the collective changes can be empirical also. The entire gross physical world is created due to the collective changes in these two substances. All that is visible has been brought to shape by living beings. We can also say this in different words that all that we are seeing is either the body of beings or body created by beings.

Every existence has an extension, a body, a cluster of indivisibles and a size. Apart from matter all the other four astikays have a continuous texture. Both fusion and fission take place only in physical existence, that is in pudgal (matter). Through fusion of molecules, atoms are created and through fission of molecules, atoms get separated; all that remains is the atom in the real sense. Collective changes take place only in pudgal. Only pudgal has visible existence. Different aspects of the world are created through matter. This is the theatre of the world. If anybody has the prime role it is pudgal. This single actor comes before us in different roles. Even though the soul also contributes to this, the main actor remains pudgal.

Existence has the capacity to change. That which does not have the capacity to change looses its power to remain in existence the next second. To ensure its existence in the next moment, matter changes itself and only then is able to ensure its existence. One atom, which is infinitely black, becomes slightly black and that which is slightly black becomes infinitely black. This change is not an outer change. It is taking place within substance itself, spontaneously. The degree of change depends on the loss of the number of infinite units and the gain in them. In the stream of infinite moments in infinite time and infinite number of events, any substance whatsoever it may be, has to undergo infinite transformations in order to keep its fundamental existence intact. If its changes were not infinite, it will not be able to keep its existence forever.

Existence has many attributes. Some expressed, some not expressed. The question arises, "is grass also clarified butter?" The answer would be that there is clarified butter within the grass but it is not fully expressed. Does milk have clarified butter? Yes, it does but it is not fully expressed. When the fat from the milk is extracted then butter can be reclaimed. That which was not expressed now becomes expressed. Substance has two types of strength - general (ogh) and particular (samuchit). The ogh is the governing energy. On its basis the law of cause and effect is established. The cause is always harmonious with the effect. The cause is not expressed; the effect finds expression. Now you will ask, "does the grass have clarified butter or not?" Answering from the perspective of ogh energy, it has butter. But from the perspective of samuchit energy it does not have. We find colour, smell, taste and touch in all substance, pudgal. The rose flower smells fragrant, but it also has an equal amount of bad smell. The fragrance has found expression while the bad smell has not found expression. Sugar is as bitter as it is sweet. Its sweetness has found expression not its bitterness. There is fragrance in rot as there is stench.

The king Jitashatru was going out of town. His minister Subudhi was with him. He crossed a canal. It was full of garbage. Corpses of animals were rotting in it. The stench from it was unbearable. The King blocked his nose with his handkerchief. "What a stench!" The King told the minister. The minister was a philosopher. He said, "Sir, this is the nature of matter." He was able to reduce the disgust being experienced by the King. The matter ended there. After some days, the minister invited the King at his home for a meal. The King drank a glass of water. It was sweet, very clear, and very fragrant. The King said, "Minister, where did you get this water from? I want to drink one more glass of water. I do not think of you as different from me, but you obviously do not think so about me. You drink such nice water but you never get it for me." The minister smiled and then said, "Sir, I bring this water from that canal the stench of which you could not bear." The King said, "This cannot happen. How can this water be from there?" The minister stood his ground. The King wanted proof. The minister asked for a glass of water from the canal. The water was brought. It was as pure, as sweet and as fragrant as the King has drunk in the minister's house. Not only water, everything changes. The cycle of change is forever on. And all objects can keep changing. From the perspective of ogh energy, we cannot label any object as black or yellow, bitter or sweet, fragrant or otherwise, oily or dry, cold or hot, light or heavy, soft or hard. A neem leaf has all the attributes that are found in the world. But from the samuchit perspective, it is not so. From that perspective, a neem leaf is moist and green. It has its own perfume, it is light and delicate. All our knowledge is empirical and subjective.

A number of events take place in every object through transformation. Energy may increase or decrease. Energy is expressed through change. The famous scientist Einstein established the principle that mass can be converted into energy. This principle of equivalence of mass and energy can only be explained through the principle of changing permanence. Before Einstein, the world of classical physics believed that matter cannot be changed into energy or vice-versa. After Einstein this theory changed. It was accepted that matter and energy are not different but the transformations of a single reality. If one pound of coal is taken and its mass is converted into energy then two billion kilowatts of electricity can be obtained.

According to Jain philosophy, substance has infinite energy, whether it is soul or matter. In the infinite flow of time only that substance can be in existence, which has infinite energy. This energy is expressed through change. Today the world of science is basing all its experiments in the world of pudgal. Matter can be reduced to that state where its gross attributes disappear, its mass disappears and what remains is in the form of energy.

Jain philosophy has explained the world in terms of substantial (dravyarthik) and modal (paryayarthik) naya or perspectives. When we look at the world from the perspective of identity (abhed) we see only substance. Neem, house, man, animal are all different expressions of substance. When we look at the world from the perspective of differences (bedh) then all matter disappears and we see only modes and modes. Change and more change. What is man? He is not a substance. What is he? Even if you search the world you will not get any substance in the name of man. Man is a mode. Neem is not a substance, it is a mode. All the objects we see in this world are modes none of them are substances. Substance does not come before us. It remains imperceptible. Acharya Hemchandra expressed this truth in the following words:

Aparyayam vastu samasyaman Madravyametachcha vivichiyamanam

When we look at things from the perspective of abhed, then modes disappear and everything is substance. Then our world will be very small. Expanse will be nullified. If we look at differences then substance disappears and what remains are the modes. Our world becomes very expansive. Differences will swallow up the similarity. There will be only expansion and more expansion.

As far as transformation is concerned both soul and matter have to undergo transformation but the expression pudgal has found in this world, nothing else has. The protean capacity to change which pudgal has, nothing else has. If there is any fundamental substance for the manifested form of modes it is pudgal.


Doors are closed, windows are closed,

lights are also put off, so the room is dark.

If you desire light, open the doors of your mind.

Open the window also and open the third eye also.

Then the room will not be dark


Let us not think of changing only the system.

If the driver is not good,

what is the use of changing only the car?


Anekanta: Philosophy of Co-existence Publisher:  JainVishwa Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan, India Editor: Muni Akshay Prakash

Edition:  2010 (1. Edition)

ISBN:  817195140-6

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Abhed
  2. Acharya
  3. Acharya Hemchandra
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Astikay
  6. Body
  7. Dhrauvya
  8. Einstein
  9. Gun
  10. Jain Philosophy
  11. Kramabhavi
  12. Mahāvīra
  13. Naya
  14. Neem
  15. Ogh
  16. Parinami-nityatya
  17. Paryayarthik
  18. Pudgal
  19. Pudgala
  20. Sahabhavi
  21. Samuchit
  22. Science
  23. Soul
  24. Third Eye
  25. Utpāda
  26. Vedantins
  27. Vyaya
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