Philosophical Foundations Of Jainism (An Introduction): [06] Sṛṣṭivāda (Cosmogony)

Published: 14.08.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015

As mentioned in the earlier chapter, from time immemorial, in the annuals of human civilization, questions have been raised such as - who created this world, when and how it took its shape, what is the basic substance that it is made of and how does it remain elementally the same when there is the constant process of change and evolution? These cosmogonial questions have been constantly haunting man's inquisitiveness. Different philosophical schools have probed these questions and come out with their own theories. Jainism has also contributed its bit to explain the phenomena related to the creation of the world. Jain philosophers came to following conclusions:

(1) There is no Creator of this world. It is eternal.

(2) The world is made of two basic ingredients - Jīva (living being) and Ajīva (non-living entity). When these two intermingle, they take a certain form, which is this world.

(3) Existence of the world is a beginningless (anādi) phenomena. Nobody can assert when it came into being. Elementally or Substantially speaking, neither anything can be added to what exists nor anything can be substracted from it. The world would remain so for ever. Thus there is neither any starting point nor there would be a final stage of dissolution. No theory could, therefore, be derived out of logic or through philosophical acrobatics about the Creation of the world.

(4) How was the world formed? Jain philosophy holds that when the two ingredients Jiva-Ajīva get together, they set into motion a process of geometrical progression resulting in what we call growth or expansion, which is manifested in innumerable forms or shapes that we see in our world.

(5) What are the basic elements of the world? The answer to this question would be—both Jīva & Ajīva are basic elements. The world is their expanse. When the two ingredients get together in synthetic interaction, they generate an energy known as 'vyañjana paryāya' (synthetic transformation). 'Paryāyas' (transformations) are of two kinds i.e., 'svabhāva' (natural spontaneous type of transformation) and 'vyañjana'. The former creates new shapes out of its own independent process, whereas in the case of the latter, the change occurs due to the interplay of the substances of different nature coming together. For example, water is the result of interaction between oxygen and hydrogen. (Water is not a fundamental substane).

We see that the world is evolving every moment. This expansion manifests itself into varied forms, colours, shapes etc. It is due to the synthetic transformation—'vyañjana paryāya' of Jiva & Ajīva. The entire expansion of the world is synthetic; the fundamental substances we have innumerable things in this world. For example, a question may arise "what is a building?" It is clear that it is not a fundamental substance, but is a synthetic transformation of different substances as such as brick, stone, cement, iron etc.. Again, what is soil or earth? It is the synthetic transformation of some living organisms and some matter. In the same way, water, fire, air and vegetation—all are the synthetic transformation of some living organisms and some matter. The same is true for the insects etc. and even upto the human being. None of them are exclusively made of either living or non-living. This view of the Jain philosophy, that it tries to explain the creation with only two factors—Jīva-Ajīva, is at variance with other commonly held philosophical doctrines. Most of them hold that the creation has five basic ingredients—earth, water, air, fire and space. As per Jain terminology, out of these five, the first four are part of the duo - Jīva & Ajīva and the last one i.e., 'Ākāśa' (space) has its independent existence. In nutshell, it can be said that the whole world is an explicit synthetic transformation of jīvas and pudgalas—a play of vyañjana paryāya. Again, let us understand it by another illustration. Cow-mille is a product of grass eaten by a cow. Now, if a question is asked—"From where milk has come?" Whether milk's existence is in the cow? Or is it in the grass? If it is in the cow, it cannot be produced by the grass. If it is in the grass, then what's the use of cow? It means that milk is synthetic product in which both are inevitable—the cow and the grass.

(6) The sixth crucial question is whether the synthetic world constantly undergoes absolute change through 'vyañjana paryāya'? The Jain philosophers say—"No". Actually, there are three factors characterising every Jīva and Ajīva—'dhrauvya' (continuity), which works alongside the other two viz., 'utpāda' and 'vyaya' (creation and destruction). Everything is prone to change, there is one element that is not amenable to any change. It has been identified as the 'dhrauvya'. The Vedic philosophers believed that when creation is destroyed, the residue goes back to the basic stuff, which they regard as 'Brāhman' or 'God'. Perhaps the difference between the two expressions of the Vedic and the Jain is only the nomen-clature. Considered minutely, it is the same thing i.e., three factors, viz., 'utpād', 'vyaya' and 'dhrauvya' in Jain terminology have been described as creation and destruction, finally settling down in 'Brahma' (permanence) of Vedic terminology.

(7) The seventh question is—when did this world come into being? The answer is—it exists since the existence of 'Jīva—Ajīva'. The cosmos is composed of innumerable galaxies and planets. Modem science has testified to all this. Similarly, life on earth has also undergone changes many a time. Creatures, who had lived on our earth millions of years back have become extinct. The animal world must have undergone innumerable changes. Even the man must have undergone many changes before his present shape and size has been achieved. In Jain scriptures, we get description of some species which have bizaree shape and size. For example, at a particular place called "56 islands", there were humans who had a partial body like a house with a tail, while the remaining portion like humans.

According to the modem science, matter is composed of molecules, which are made out of transmutation of atoms. According to the Jain philosophy a thing is created either by 'saṅghāta' (integration) or by 'bheda' (disintegration). The Jain philosophers have developed their own terminology to explain all these phenomena—such as 'anādi pāriṇāmika' and 'sādi pāriṇāmika'. While the first denotes eternity as the continuous process of transformation, the second term means the transient nature of things, which takes a certain shape at a certain time. The first is 'viśva' (the universe) and the second is 'sṛṣṭi' (the creation).

The ultimate cause (mūla hetu) of all 'sādi-pāriṇāmika' creations could be covered in eight types of 'vargaṇās' (categories of matter) as under:

(1) Audārika (Organic or gross body of creatures)

(2) Vaikriyā (Protean body)

(3) Āhāraka (Micro-telecommunication body)

(4) Taijas (Bio-electrical energy)

(5) Kārmana (Subtlemost body made of karma pudgala)

(6) Śvāsośvās (Micro-matter useful for breathing)

(7) Bhāṣā (Micro-matter useful for speech)

(8) Manovargaṇā (Micro-matter useful for mental processes such as thinking, etc.)

 Some Jain philosophers who in later periods wrote commentaries on the "Jain Āgamas" have given different counts about the number of 'vargaṇās' in their works like 'dhavlā', 'Viśeṣāvaśyaka Bhāṣya' etc..

Ācārya Kundkunda has made six divisions of the 'skandha' (aggregates of matter):

(1) Ati sthula (Super gross e.g. earth)

(2) Sthūla (Gross e.g. water)

(3) Sthūla sūkṣma (Gross-cum-minute e.g. shadow)

(4) Sūkṣma sthūla (Minute-cum-gross e.g. Feeling created by 4 sense-organs other than the eye).

(5) Sūkṣma (Minute e.g. Kārmaṇa vargaṇā skandha)

(6) Ati sūkṣma (Super minute e.g. the ultimate atom of paramāṇu)

As per the modern science, all matter is corpuscular (composed of particles), while the energy is in the wave-form or undulatory in nature, that is, which is in the form of the waves like the waves in flowing water. Both can transform themselves into each other. According to the Jain philosophy, 'kaṇa' i.e. particle or 'skandha' is a mode of the pudgala dravya and therefore it is subject to change. In each substance, after a certain period, change is inevitable. Sometimes the change is the result of the external cause or the 'nimmitta' i.e. circumstantial, whereas at other times, it is just a natural phenomena. Through this process a myriad variety of forms and features are created in this universe.


This is an edited version of the author's work:
Jain I Darshan ke Mool Sutra
Translated by Prof. M. P. Lele under the guidance of Muni Mahendra Kumar ji and Muni Dulahraj ji, Senior disciples of Acharya Mahprajna.

© Adarsh Sahitya Sangh. New Delhi

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Kamlesh Chaturvedi
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ajīva
  2. Anādi
  3. Bhāṣā
  4. Body
  5. Dravya
  6. Jain Philosophy
  7. Jainism
  8. Jiva
  9. Jīva
  10. Karma
  11. Kārmaṇa vargaṇā
  12. Paramāṇu
  13. Paryāya
  14. Protean Body
  15. Pudgala
  16. Science
  17. Skandha
  18. Space
  19. Vargaṇā
  20. Vedic
  21. Ācārya
  22. Āgamas
  23. Āhāraka
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