Microcosmology: Atom In Jain Philosophy & Modern Science ► 05 ► [5.2] Atomic Theory And Paramanuvada - Paramanu In Jain Physics

Posted: 02.04.2008

The limiting unit of the process of the division of aggregates is the ‘paramanu’ or the ultimate atom.
Since it cannot be further sub-divided, it is called paramanu (parama+anu).
Since it occupies a single point of space, it is 'unit'.
Since it is the permanent and inalienable substratum of corporeal bodies; it is eternal.
Since it is the constitutive basis of physical objects, it is the generator of the entire physical universe.
Since it cannot by itself generate sound vibrations, it is non-sounding or silent These are some of the characteristics of the ultimate atom [1].

The ultimate atom is not of four kinds, as some people would have, such as earth, air, fire, and water, but it is the constitutive basis of these four mahabhutas or dhatus, which are different modes of physical existence. The atom has its own essential nature, which is quite distinct from that of these four mahabhutas.

The very name paramanu (parama+anu) implies the atomic structure and the division of pudgala (physical objects), which is characterized by the sense-qualities of touch, taste, smell and the colour, all the four being concomitant. Paramanu is the beginning, the middle and the end in one. From the general principle that substance and its quality are inseparable, it follows that the space-point (pradesa) occupied by the paramanu is also the space-point accommodating its sensory qualities. And hence, on the basis of our discussion in the fifth section of the second chapter regarding the indivisible units of pudgala, space, etc. it can be emphasized that the paramanu is the direct unit of pudgala and the indirect unit of space, time, and quality. The quantitative difference in these things and also the qualitative difference in various physical objects may ultimately be traced to the constitutive, that is, paramanu.


[1] Panca, Sar. verse 77.

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