Matter And Type

Posted: 17.09.2008
Updated on: 30.07.2015

According to Jainism, the universe is comprised of six “existents”. They are soul, matter, space, time, dynamic medium, and stationary medium. In contrast with standard physics where one deals with matter in time and space coordinate systems, in Jainism it is the soul which is to be studied in terms of time, space and matter. These all are regarded as “substances” which is also a helpful way of considering them.

1.0 Pudgala

Pudgala is one of the fundamental realities of the universe. The fundamental reality has been termed as ‘Dravya’ in Jaina philosophy. Six dravyas are considered in Jaina system. They are:



Medium of motion



Medium of rest












Soul/ living beings

Out of the six dravyas including Pudgala, first five are Ajivas (no life), and the sixth dravya is jiva (having life). Secondly except time, the remaining five dravyas are astikāyas, that is, they exist in continuum.


1.1 What is Dravya?

Ācārya Tulsi defines dravya as: “ Guṇa Paryāyāsrayo Dravyam”. This means, “the substratum of attributes/(guṇa) and modes(paryāyā) and dravya(substances). Umāsvāti in Tattvārtha Sutra says, “Utpāda, vyaya dhruvyam sat”. This means, “Sat means existence and existence is known to us through Dravyas. Hence that thing alone, which is associated with that is, is characterized by all the three features origination, destruction and permanence. Dravya does not deviate from its essence- that is from its specific nature. And this real nature is constant.


1.2 What is Pudgala?

The word ‘pudgala’, as found in Jaina literature is loosely equivalent to the scientific term ‘matter’. It has two parts pud and gala. The first part pud means ‘to combine’ and second part gala means ‘to dissociate’. So the etymological meaning of pudgala is that dravya (substance) which undergoes modifications by combination and dissociation.

Puraṇagalandharmatvāta pudgala iti.

The definition is significant because these processes of combination and dissociation do not occur in the other five dravyas. Succinctly, pudgala means tangible entity having four qualities of touch, taste, hue (color) and odor. Siddhant Dipika defines pudgala as:

Sparśa, rasa, gandha varṇavāna pudgala

Theses qualities provide shape or form to a pudgala. Tattvārtha sutra defines pudgala as:

Sparśa, rasa, gandha varṇa sansthāna pudgala

Pudgala is ajiva, that is, it has no conscious activity. There is an absence of cognition in pudgala.


1.3 Positive Entity

The question arises whether Ajiva is only a negative form of jiva or it is a positive entity. Jainas emphasize that Ajiva is a positive entity because dravyas have their characteristic qualities. Pudgala is nitya or eternal and avasthita or immutable.

  1. Eternal means: Pudgala does not give up its general and the specific nature.
  2. Immutable means: while retaining own nature, not to assume a nature that belongs to some other dravya.

Therefore Pudgala shall remain pudgala always. It shows that universe will remain everlasting due to the permanent presence of Jiva and Ajiva.

Limitation in existence

In addition to their characteristics qualities, there is a universal law that Jiva(soul) can never change to Ajiva(non- living) and Ajiva can never change to Jiva (living).


1.4 Characteristic modes

Schubring, an eminent German Indologist has mentioned that among all inanimate fundamental realities pudgala alone is palpable because it has four qualities. They are:


cold, hot, rough, smooth, light, heavy, soft and hard


acid, sweet, sour, bitter and astringent


fragrant, foul


black, blue, red, yellow and white

Due to these qualities pudgala can be experienced through senses; that is through touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. It addition to these quality pudgala has a form. Jainas have used the technical words rupa, murt/ tangible for the word, form of the pudgala. We find an interesting discussion in this connection. All pudgala are said to be possessed of rupa and here rupa literally means colour but Jains have described rupa of form also.

The change is magnitude and intensity of various essential attributes of pudgala causes the evolution of certain other secondary qualities. They are: sound, binding, grossness, configuration, splitting, darkness, subtleness, shadow, hot radiation and cold radiation.


2. Other Indian Philosophies:

The term pudgala has been employed by other Indian Philosophies. The Buddhists employs the word pudgala to mean jiva, that is, conscious. It is just opposite to Jaina concept of pudgala. And in the systems like Vaiśeśika, Nyāya, Sānkhya, pudgala is known by the names like pradhāna, prakriti and parmāṇu. The Jaina philosopher does not believe in class distinction of atoms like earth, air, fire and water as the vaiseseka philosopher does. The atoms are homogeneous and give rise to different species of matter like earth, air etc. on account of the manifestation and cessation of qualities. They have proposed as follows:


touch, taste, smell, color,


touch, taste, color


touch, color




3.1 Atomic theory

Mahāpragya has put the atomic theory in historical perspective. Indian philosopher Kannad and western philosopher Democritus have widely considered as the pioneers of particle theory. Democritus represented the era of 460-374 B.C. The evolution of Kannad’s ‘Vaiśeśika Sutra’ is considered to be around 1st century A.D. Whereas, the period of Lord Mahāvīra is 599- 527 B.C. ’s atomic theory precedes those of Kannad’s and Democritus, but the historians of the philosophy have ignored this fact. The reason is neither the bias nor the discrimination; it is perhaps the unavailability of Jaina literature and lack of its serious study. Both and Vaiśeśika philosophy agree to the fact that param- aṇu is indivisible. But they disagree about the adjectival attributes of the param- aṇu. In Jaina philosophy, all param- aṇu are identical as far as their physical form is concerned. But their classification is possible on the basis of various attributes (touch, taste, hue and odor) they possess. Since the extent of these attributes may vary from one unit to infinite units, Jainas believe that there are infinite such permutations and combinations possible. It must be observed that the atomic theory is just a part of whole theory of pudgala.


3.2 Sparśa(touches) of Pudgala

Classification of Pudgal is:

1. Param - aṇu or Dion

As stated earlier, it is the smallest part of a pudgala which is further indivisible. These dions can possess two touches (sparsa) out of the basic; positive- negative (snigdha- ruksa) hot –cold (uṣṇa - śīta). Author has carefully christened them as ‘dion’ by their virtue of having two touches. Though these dions could be of infinite varieties depending upon the qualities they possess, however, they can be subcategorized in four broad types depending on which two touches they inherit out of the four available:

• Type 1

combination of positive and hot

• Type 2

combination of positive and cold

• Type 3

combination of negative and hot

• Type 4

combination of negative and cold

It must be noted here that there is a restriction on having both the touches of same pair. Another important observation is that all four broad categories mentioned above have three attributes, namely taste, hue and odor. Infinite varieties of dions stem of the fact the quantity of the attributes in them may range from one unit to infinite units.

2. Bahu - Pradeśi Skandha or Quadons

These pudgalas are one step higher in the hierarchy. Two or more dions combine to form ‘multi - touch clusters’ typically named Bahu - Pradeśi Skandha in the Jaina literature. These clusters, now, can possess all the four touches thus as christened as quadons. These quadons, since are made up of multiple dions, have all the four touches, namely, positive- negative and hot- cold. Quadons could comprise a minimum of two up to a maximum of infinite dions. When there are infinite joining together, it is known as “anant pradeśi skandha”. These quadons with infinite dions again come together to constitute an entity which is the first step of migration from micro towards macro level.

3. Anant - Anant Pradeśi Skandha or octons

From this state onwards, the state of pudgala is such that it possesses eight touches - four primary ones, positive- negative and hot and cold, four secondary touches namely, light- heavy and soft - hard. Out of the four secondary touches, the former two are responsible for the constitution of mass of the octons. It, thus turns out that the Jainas do not consider mass as the primary property of a pudgala, but it manifests only after the formation of octons from the relatively quadons and dions.


3.3 Mass of Pudgalas

This brings us to the second method of classification applicable to the pudgals which is based on the property of mass.


3.3.1 Sukśma (subtle)

As far as dions and quadons are concerned, they do not have light heavy attributes, thus are massless. They are so subtle that they do not obey certain principles of physics. One important example is that they are capable of attaining infinite speed far beyond the physical limit of speed of light.

After treating mass as essential quality of matter, even science is convinced that certain facts be explained only if massless particles are treated as realities. Scientists are already discussing some particles like photons, gravitons and gluons. Once the scientists are able to work out the entire set of physical laws applicable to such massless particles, it will revolutionize the way we understand physics. Hopefully, many enigmatic questions will be answered then.


3.3.2 Bādar (Macro)

When the pudgalas achieve their third state of octons, they start manifesting mass. From this stage onwards, they come in the realm of human perceptions and predications. Octons are, therefore, referred to as Vyavahāric parmāṇu also. In this state, they become comparable to the atoms as known to the modern science.


4.1 Pudgalas and qualities of matter

The third classification of pudgalas is on the basis of the quality they impart to other pudgalas to which they are attached. It is a very interesting Jaina doctrine that the qualities of matter life big - small, micro - macro, light - heavy, long - short, integrated - fragmented, radiant - dark, hot - cold etc. are nothing but the types of pudgalas only. Besides, these pudgalas may vary in shape also. To consider all substances and all properties as pudgalas, indicates the deep insight of Jaina philosophical knowledge.


4.2 Pudgalas and association with soul

A fourth classification is based on the various groups of octons which remain attached to the jiva(soul). In Jaina philosophy, there are eight sets of quadons and octons which are related to the bio.

• Set of octons forming mortal body

Audārika vargaṇā

• Set of octons forming transformational body

Vaikriya vargaṇā

• Set of octons forming projectile body

Āhāraka vargaṇā

• Set of octons and quadons forming respiration

Swāśoswāsa vargaṇā

• Set of quadons forming thought

Vacana vargaṇā

• Set of quadons forming radiance

Taijasa vargaṇā

• Set of quadons forming karmic body

Kārmic vargaṇā

In Jaina philosophy the relation of jiva, that is soul and substance has been elaborately discussed. Whereas, in vaiśeśika philosophy, individual param - aṇu is classified in four types only, viz. earthly, aquatic, irradiating, aerial.

The difference in classification has given rise to atomic theory which is unique to the Jaina school of thought.


4.3 Functions

There are numerous functions of pudgalas. Some are beneficial to jivas body, speech, manas, or internal organ, in breath and out breath - these benefits due to pudgala, that is, these are functions of pudgala. Distress, pain, death - these too are due to pudgala which are harmful to jiva.

All the five bodies, namely audārika etc are made up pudgala, karmic body is supra sensuous, it yields fruits like pleasure and pain etc. when conjoined with another murta substance of the type of audārika etc. (five bodies).

The activities of speech and mana (mind) are also operated by pudgala. Jainas have put forward the karma theory in which they explain that due to manifestation of some type of karma, the activities of the body take place. Bhāṣā, mana, prāṇa, these are all found to suffer obstruction and suppression through the instrumentality of pudgala.


4.4 The Definition of Pudgala on the basis of its Function

Body, speech, manas - or internal organ, in-breath and out-breathe - these are benefits due to pudgala, that is, these are functions of pudgala.

Of the numerous functions of pudgala some are enumerated here which prove beneficial or harmful to the jivas. All the bodies of the types audārika etc. are certainly paudgalika that is, are certainly made up of pudgala. And though the karmic body is supra-sensuous it yields fruits like pleasure, pain etc when conjoined with another murta substance of the type audārika etc.- just as paddyseeds yield fruit when conjoined with water etc; hence it too should be considered to be paudgalika.

Of the two types of bhāṣā or speech that of the bhāva type is a specific capacity which is acquired as a result of the particular type of the karmas, since it is dependent on pudgala, is paudgalika. And the aggregates belonging to the material grouping of the form of speech that are converted into speech when impelled by a soul possessed of the capacity in question constitute speech of the dravya type.

Manas of the bhāva type in the form of labdhi and upayoga is paudgalika because it is dependent on pudgala. On the other hand, those aggregates belonging to the material groupings of the form of manas which, as a result of the particular type of the karma prove beneficial to a soul in its task of considering the merits and demerits etc. that is, which stimulate the capacity of this soul- constitute manas of the dravya type. Similarly, prāṇa that is out-breathe which a soul expels outwards from the abdomen and ucavāyu or apāna that is in-breathe which a soul conveys inwards into the abdomen are both paudgalika; and as much as they are life-giver they prove beneficial to a soul.

Bhāṣā, manas, prāṇa and apāna these are all found to suffer obstruction and suppression. Hence just like body they are all doubtless paudgalika.

The transformation of a jiva of the form of easement is pleasure and it is produced through an internal cause of the form of special type of karma and an external cause of the form of the concerned substance, place etc. Distress, verily is pain and it is produced through an internal cause of the form of impure karma and an external cause of the form of the concerned substance etc.

The continuance of out-breathe and in-breathe in the case of an embodied soul as a result of the manifestation of āyu-karma is like the discontinuance of out-breath is death. All these modifications pleasure, pain etc. are produced in jivas through the instrumentality of pudgala. Hence in relation to jiva they are treated as benefits due to pudgalas.


5.1 Pudgalāstikāya

The expression astikāya with pudgala is significant. According to Schubring the liberal version of astikāya is, ‘mass of all that is’. The Jaina philosophers postulate six dravyas (substance) of which the five, namely jiva, dharma, adharma, ākāśa and pudgala are astikāya. Astikāya means a substance that has a continuation of indivisible space points has an extended body. The other interpretation of the term astikaya is the particle ‘ast’ indicates the persistent nature of a substance, whereas the expression “kāya” stands for the aspects of utpāda (origination) and vyaya (cessation). The term “kāya” has also been interpreted to indicate the plurality of pradeśas (points) in the substances, kāya means an aggregate.

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