The Enigma Of The Universe ► 3 ►Jain Cosmology ► (1) What is Universe? ► Space: Cosmic and Supra-Cosmic

Posted: 29.10.2014

The above mentioned third substance, which is called Ākāśāstikāya or Ākāśa, is defined as[1]-the substance, which acts as a container of other substances. It may be called as “space”, because the term “space” also means the same thing. Almost all philosophies and also science accept space as a real entity.

When Gautama asked Lord Mahāvīra: “Lord! What is the use of space for living and non-living substances?” Lord replied: “Gautama! Ākāśa is the one which provides accommodation to all substances. If ākāśa were not there, where would the jīvas stay in? Where would the dharmāstikāya and adharmāstikāya pervade? Where would the motion of pudgala take place? The whole world would have been without a support.”[2]

Ākāśa is a real substance, so all the six or universal qualities are found in it. From substantial point of view, being a homogeneous continuum, it is one and at the same time indivisible entity. From spatial point of view, it is ubiquitous, all-pervading and infinite in extent. So its pradeśas are infinite in number.[3] From temporal point of view, it is eternal i.e., beginningless and endless. From point of view of nature, it is non-corporeal (amūrta) and being devoid of touch, taste, odour and colour and non-physical. Being devoid of motion, it is motionless. Being devoid of consciousness, it is ajīva, i.e., non-living.

Space is not wholly occupied by other substances, but instead, it is partly occupied so even though it is a homogeneous continuum, ubiquitous and all-pervading, due to the presence of other substances, it can be classified into two types:

  1. Lokākāśa, i.e., Cosmic Space
  2. Alokākāśa, i.e., Supra-cosmic (or trans-cosmic) Space.[4]

That portion of space (Ākāśa) which is pervaded by other substances is called loka or cosmic space. The rest of the space, which is empty or simply void, containing no other substance, is called aloka or supra-cosmic space. The number of pradeśas present in cosmic space is innumerable,[5] whereas, there are infinite numbers of pradeśas in supra-cosmic space. Cosmic space is one indivisible and finite, and surrounded in all directions by supra- cosmic space, whereas supra-cosmic space is one, indivisible, infinite and boundless.

The shape of the aloka was explained by Lord Mahāvīra to his disciple Gautama, by the illustration of an infinitely big sphere which is hollow from inside.[6]  In other words, aloka resembles a huge sphere of infinite radius. This conveys the same idea that the universe is like an island of five substances viz., dharmāstikāya etc., afloat in the infinite ocean of space. But it should be noted here that the space, cosmic and supra-cosmic, is a single entity. Only due to presence of other substances we divide space into two parts.

We can prove the existence of supra-cosmic space logically as follows: since the cosmos or universe is perceptible and graspable by everyone, so its existence is beyond doubt. So, when we accept the existence of cosmic space or cosmos, then the existence of supra-cosmos is self-evident, because, according to logic,[7]  any object whose designating term is etymologically proved and linguistically correct is definitely an object which must have its opposite. For example, the word pot designates an object; the word non-pot is its opposite. The word pot is affirmative; the word non-pot is negative. In the same way, the word loka (cosmos) is affirmative and the word aloka (non-cosmos) is negative. Both loka and aloka have real existence. We have called the space of aloka as supra- cosmic space which exists really beyond the cosmic space.

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