Jain Cosmology

By Dr. Amrut Vora


From a Jain perspective, the Universe is conceived to have two parts: One is occupied by entities (all 6 dravyas) & is called Lokakash. It is of finite dimensions. The unoccupied part is called Alokakash. It has only space and has no other dravyas. It is infinite & surrounds the Lokakasha from all sides.

The occupied universe, Lokakash, is shaped as a human being with 3 parts: upper, middle and lower. A channel referred to as “Trashnali” extends in a narrow band throughout the extent of Lokakash. Mobile beings live only in within the Trashnali while immobile beings may live both inside and outside it. The Trashnali has the height of fourteen “Rajju” and the width of one ‘Rajju”. One “Rajju” is defined as the distance covered by flying nonstop for 6 months at a speed of 2,057,152 yojanas per second. One yojan is approximately equal to 6 miles. For astronomy calculations, Jains use Pramana Yojan (1000 yojanas). One Rajju is equal to 1160,000,000,000,000 miles.

The overall dimensions of the universe are immense. As per the Jain view there are many suns, moons, nakshatras and earths and there is life everywhere in Trasanali. Modern astronomy too, has identified many stars (Suns) with planetary system, some of which may have life. Panspermia, literally meaning “seeds everywhere”, is a modern theory which maintains that life-bearing protospores are prevalent throughout the universe.

The Siddhas or the liberated souls live at the top of the universe, in the area called the Siddhashila. The upper world is occupied by Celestial Beings. Humans, animals, plants, astral bodies and some heavenly beings occupy the middle world while the hellish beings reside in lower world.

Three layers viz. Dense Water, Dense Air and Thin Air, respectively, surround the whole occupied universe. Beyond this lies empty space. Lokakasha is widest at the base, being 7 Rajjus and then tapers to a constricted centre with width of 1 Rajju. From the centre upwards, it increases in width to a maximum of 5 Rajjus and then tapers again at apex which is one Rajju wide.

The Middle world is the only region where soul can attain liberation. Jambu continent, where we inhabit, occupies the centre of the middle world, being surrounded by various continents and oceans. The two and half continents viz. Jambu Dweep, Dhatki Khand, half of Pushkara dweep, Lavanya Samudra and Kalodadhi Samudra, are called, Manushyaloka where mortals reside and where liberation of the soul is possible. These are areas called Karmabhommis because the laws of Karma apply. The Karmabhoomi’s are : Bharat, Airawat & Mahavideha Kshetra. Human beings living in Mahavideha Kshetra can easily attain liberation. Twenty tirthankaras live and preach in Mahavideha Kshetra at any given time.

Jambu dweep is the region where humans reside. In its centre is Mount Meru, 100,000 yojana high, 100,00 yojana wide at the base and reducing to 1000 yojanas at the peak. There are many suns, moons, nakshatras, grahas and taras which rotate around Meru Mountain. The universe is composed of 6 dravyas or substances viz, Jiva, Pudgala, Dharmastikaya, Adhrmastikaya, Akash, and Kala. A dravya, a substance or reality is one which has characteristics of persistence through change, i.e., it undergoes a transformation and appears in new form while the origin substantiality still persists. Pudgala is a matter having physical properties like form, smell, taste, color and touch. All other dravyas are nonmaterial and formless.

Soul (Consciouness) : Soul possesses the faculty of knowing. A Soul can occupy smallest possible space as well as the entire universe under special circumstances. Actions of an embodied living beings are followed by influx of fine molecules of energy, Karman matter, towards the soul, resulting in infinite cycles of births/deaths & transmigration into 4 gatis. When karmic matter is shed off the soul by following Path of Liberation, the latter, being the lightest substance, rises to the top of universe and rests there as Pure Divine. It can not travel further owing to absence of Media of motion & rest beyond the Lokakash. Consciousness can not be explained on the basis of available scientific knowledge. Hence, the existence of soul remains unchallenged.

Dharmatikaya - Medium of Motion / Adharmastikaya - Medium of Rest : Dharmastikaya is called medium of motion. It assists the motion of a moving object akin to water facilitating movement of a fish. It does not move by itself. Adharmastikaya is medium of rest. An object is able to be at rest because of this. It does not stop a moving object but facilitates its position of rest when it has stopped moving.

These media are inactive, neutral & formless. Without these media, equilibrium in the universe would have been impossible. There could be no stable world if there were nothing to prevent the souls and atoms from flying away into infinite space. These media are present in every bit of the universe and do not interfere with the function of each other. It is like co-existence of electrostatic, magnetic and gravitational field, which, although of different characters, do not mix with or interfere each other. The modern analogy of medium of motion & the medium of rest is ‘field’. This is a medium through which binding forces of Electromagnetism & Gravitation operate and keep the microscopic as well as macroscopic world together.

If we regard our universe as infinite, it can not be stable at the same time, for in that case everything will scatter into infinity. For stability, the universe is conceived as of finite dimensions so that when the energy traveling at the velocity of 1,86,00 miles/sec reaches the confines of the universe, is reflected back & not lost into infinity. The total amount of energy will remain constant in this case. Einstein introduced the idea of finite universe by postulating that the space gets curved under the stress of matter and confines itself into finite space. The idea of space becoming curved due to presence of matter and thus closing in to form a finite world may be hard pill to swallow. Jain view explains the finite world better: according to Jain view, there are no media of motion or rest beyond a certain limit (Lokakash), so that matter or energy can not get out of this limit, resulting in finiteness of Lokakasha.This also result in constancy of total energy & mass of the universe for eternity. Jains believe that Lokakash is finite (343 cubic Rajjus) and Alokakash is infinite.

Akasa or Space : Akasha or space has function of accommodating all other dravyas. The occupied world (Lokakasha) is surrounded by unoccupied world (Alokakasha) which is nothing but pure space. There is no other dravya there. Pradesa is the unit of space occupied by one indivisible atom of matter. Such one pradesa of space can accommodate, one pradesa of Dharma, one pradesa of Adharma, one particle of Kala, and innumerable atoms of matter.

The totality of space is so curved that a ray of light, after traveling in a direct line for a long enough time, would come back to its starting point. Roughly, it will take 10 trillion years for a round trip in the totality of curvature of the unuverse. Space, if there is matter inside it, bends round until it closes up. The more matter there is, the smaller space there must be. The space could only be infinite if it contained no matter. This closely agrees with Jain view of finite Loka with matter inside and infinite Aloka with no matter inside.

Following is the view of modern physics (Reader’s Digest Sept 2004) : Universe goes only as far as light has traveled in the billions of years (13.7 billion yrs) since the universe was formed as per Big Bang Theory. The visible universe - the universe we know and can talk about- is a million million million million (that is 1000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) kilometers across. But according to most theories, the universe at large-the meta-universe, as it is sometimes called- is vastly roomier still. According to Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, the number of light years to the edge of this large, unseen universe would be written not ‘with ten zeros, not even with a hundred, but with millions’. Isn’t it something similar to Jina-vani ?

Time or Kala : Time is divided into Apparent & Absolute time. Apparent time that which assists substances in continuing to exist is the auxiliary cause of different kinds of modifications in them & is measured by some conventional units.

Absolute Time : It has no beginning or end. It is one-dimensional having only longitudinal direction. All other dravyas are multidimensional. It has no beginning or end. Time is absent in Alokakasha ( so are other dravyas too, except Akasha)

Jain Concept of Time : It is imagined as a wheel moving in clock-wise direction and divided into cycles each of 2 equal parts – the descending cycle (Avasarpini) and the ascending cycle (Utsarpini). Each cycle is divide into 6 aras. Present time is 5th Ara of Avasarpini Jala. In Avasarpini Kala, amount of good pudgala diminishes but that of bad pudgala becomes abundant. Converse is true for Utsarpini Kala. Present time is 5th ara of Avasarpini Kala.

Pudgala or Matter : Pudgala means ‘the entity which manifests itself in various forms by the process of integration and disintegration’. Physical manifestations of pudgala are matter and energy. Jain view regards every form of energy as a manifestation of pudgala, and hence one form of energy could be intra-converted into another. That every form of energy has mass and that there is no difference between matter and energy but that of form, has been proved by Einstein only in recent past while jain view is old.

Pudgala is smallest, indivisible particle (Parmanu) of the matter something akin to, say, electron, neutron or quark (ultimate building block of the universe). It is the subject of sense perception as it has a form in contrast to other 5 dravyas which are formless. In conformity with modern kinetic and electronic theories of matter, the Jain philosophy also regards elementary particles inside an atom to be in a state of constant motion. Also called Karmic matter, pudgala is responsible for dragging soul from one gati to another in infinite births till liberation on shedding all the karmas is attained. Activities of mind, body and speech are followed by influx of pudgala to soul causing bondage. As per jain view, matter and energy are different phases of the same entity viz Pudgala. According to Theory of Relativity of Einstein, mass and energy are essentially the same. It is well known that when an electron meets a positron, their entire mass is converted into gamma-ray energy - example of mass converting into energy.

Conclusion : As per Jain view, the universe has no beginning and no end. It is permanent, eternal & self-perpetual. There is neither a creator nor a destroyer. One will note great contrast between the never changing laws of Nature enunciated by Jain Tirthankaras and the ever changing theories of modern science. Einstein has quoted thus : ‘We can know only the relative truth, the Real Truth is known only to the Universal Observer’.

What is the relevance of this Universe to the Soul, for which, liberation is the only aim?

It is shown that soul develops bondages by attracting karmic matter on activity of mind, body and speech. It transmigrates through all 4 gatis viz Hellish, Tiryanch, Human and celestial. These gatis have particular position in the universe. The beings born in lowest order viz Hellish suffer the most. As one ascends in order from Hellish to Tiryanch, then human and finally celestial one, the level of happiness and happiness increases. One does not, of course, rise in that particular order of Gatis. Celestials may have most physical comforts, but liberation of the soul is possible only from the human gati. By following the Path of Liberation, the soul ultimately sheds of all karmas in human life and ascends to siddhashila as pure soul. The Path of Liberation is to achieve samyak gyan, darshan and charitra by positive efforts of mind, body and speech, This is the only way of liberation of the soul to achieve eternal bliss.



Article Courtesy : Ms. Raksha Shah, E-Mail : shahraksha99@yahoo.com


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