The Enigma Of The Universe ► Appendices ► Appendix II ► Time-Units In Jain Philosophy ► Units of Countable Time

Posted: 19.03.2015

Samaya:

The ultimate indivisible unit of time is called samaya. It is the smallest time-unit. The time taken by a paramāṇu, travelling with the fastest velocity, to reach from one end of the loka to the other end in a straight line is called a 'samaya'. It should be borne in mind that samaya is an indivisible unit of time. Hence, the paramāṇu, which travels 14 rajjus (which is the total distance of the universe from one end to the other end) would travel 7 rajjus also in 1 samaya and not ½ samaya, for half samaya is meaningless. (In a way, we may say that time itself is quantized). The subtlety i.e., very very small duration of the samaya is explained through a very simple easy to understand illustration[1]:

"Then what is the instant (time-point)? I shall here explain the instant (thus):

"Suppose there is a particular person, a son of a tailor, who is young, strong, is at a proper period of time, youthful, without disease and with steady forearm; has strong hands, and feet, with developed sides, back and thighs, has the two arms just like the bolt of a twin and a pair of tāla tree (palmyra tree); has the skin of his body made massive (by) hitting by means of leather-stick (cammeṭṭaga), wooden club and fist; is capable of physical exercise of scaling, swimming and running quickly; is possessed of internal energy; knows what to do, is clever, learned, proficient, wise, skillful and expert in minute arts. He takes up a big piece of cotton cloth or a silken cloth and quickly (sayarāhaṃ) tears a cubit of it. Here a questioner asked the teacher thus: 'Is the time, taken by the son of a tailor quickly to tear a cubit of the big piece of cotton cloth or the silken cloth, equal to one (time) instant?' (The teacher replied): 'Such assertion is not possible. Why? Because one piece of cotton cloth is produced by the integration of the assemblage of groups of numerable number of threads. While the upper thread is not cut, the lower thread cannot be cut. The upper thread is cut at a time which is different from the time when the lower thread is cut. Therefore this is not one instant'.

"To the teacher explaining thus, the questioner again asked thus: 'Is the time taken by the son of a tailor in cutting the upper thread of the big piece of cotton cloth or silken cloth one instant?' (The teacher replied): 'No, it is not. Why? Because one thread is produced by the integration of the assemblage of groups of numerable number of fibres. While the upper fibre is not cut, the lower fibre cannot be cut. The upper fibre is cut at a time which is different from the time when the lower fibre is cut. Therefore this is not one instant.

"To the teacher explaining thus, the questioner again asked thus: 'Is the time taken by the son of a tailor in cutting the upper fibre of threads one instant?' (The teacher replied): 'No, it is not. Why? Because one fibre is produced by the integration of the assemblage of groups of infinite number of (atomic) conglomerates. While the upper conglomerate is not broken, the lower conglomerate cannot be broken. The upper conglomerate is broken at a time which is different from the time when the lower conglomerate is broken. Therefore this is not one instant. Finer still than this, O young ascetic, is the (time-) instant stated to be'."

Āvalikā:

Jaghanya-Yukta-Asaṃkhyāta (a category of innumerable number which is calculated through a definite geometric series) samayas (smallest (ultimate indivisible) time units instants) make one āvalikā (a micro-unit of time-measurement, which consists of innumerable samayas). The value of jaghanya-yukta-asaṃkhyāta is equal to jaghanya-parīta-asaṃkhyāta (it is also a category of innumerable number which is calculated through a definite geometric series)[2] raised to the power

jaghanya-parīta-asaṃkhyāta. (16777216 āvalikās make one muhūrtta (48 minutes)).

Prāa:

(one complete breath, i.e., one inhalation and exhalation of air): 4446 2458/3773 āvalikās make one Prāṇa. Time consumed in a single breath, i.e., inhalation as well as exhalation of air, by a young, healthy and (physically) powerful man is known as one prāa.

Footnotes:
[1]
[2]
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