Jain Studies And Science ► New Thoughts ► Mahapragya's Theoretical Propositions

Posted: 18.02.2009

Mahapragya is a great philosopher saint of this age. Along with carrying out the research and editing, he has carried forward the tradition of writing commentaries on Jain scriptures. By writing commentaries on Acharang and Bhagwati, he has provided momentum to the commentary writing which had come to a standstill. In Jain literature, from the point of view of metaphysical knowledge, Bhagwati is accorded the greatest importance. In his commentary on Bhagwati, the Mahapragya has provided serious discussions on several subjects, like philosophy, ethics, biology, cosmology, parapsychology, etc. In his explanations on Bhagwati and other works of Jain literature, while resolving many widely debated issues, he has given us several original propositions. He has incorporated scientific thinking in philosophical research and has commented on discoveries in the field of science. Some of the original propositions given to us by Mahapragya are presented here.

1. Independent identity of Jain philosophy

Western thinkers have stated that Jain philosophy is merely a collection of many other philosophies, that it has no independent identity of its own. Giving this observation a serious consideration, Mahapragya has said that we could not consider this view of the Western scholars entirely baseless; there was indeed some basis to it. The treatises on nyaya or logic composed by scholars in the medieval age were, in fact, a collection of Buddhist, nyayanic and other philosophies. After reading these treatises, it would be quite natural for anyone to come to the above stated opinion about Jain philosophy. In the eyes of Mahapragya, those treatises are not a representative account of Jain philosophy. Expounding on this point, Mahapragya has stated that-

(i) The first misconception was that the said treatises on logic were representing the Jain religion,
(ii) The second false impression was nourished by the above assumption, that the Jain philosophy was merely a collection of the ideas of other philosophies.

The second illusion can be wiped off if the first one is proved false. The fundamental and original treatises of Jain philosophy are Agams. These scriptures truly represent Jain philosophy. A serious scholar of these scriptures will ascertain that Jain philosophy is not merely a collection of others' ideas.

Shadjeev Nikaya, Lok-Alokvad, Panchastikaya, Parmanuvad, Tamaskaya and Krishnaraji are the novel ideas which are testimony to an entirely independent identity of the Jain philosophy. While establishing the originality of Jain philosophy, Mahapragya has quoted from Acharya Siddhsen:

"My Lord, I do not need to provide much evidence to prove Your omniscience. Shadjeev Nikayavad, expounded by You, Is the strongest evidence of Your omniscience."

2. Chronology of Jain Scriptures

Some foreign scholars, particularly Germans, believed that first Shrutskandha of Acharang scripture is the oldest composition from the point of view of language and style. Mahapragya has considered the Jain literature in its totality without dividing it in the periods of composition. According to him, Agams were composed in written form by various groups of Acharyas all of whom had the same base - the knowledge contained in 'Purvas'. In fact the 'Purvas' were the soft copies of Jain philosophy which remained stored in the supreme computer - human brain. The hard copies in the form of Agams were composed almost after a thousand years. Before writing down the vast ocean of Jain knowledge, a large group of Jain Acharyas held several meetings and concluded to distribute various subjects to different groups. This scheme resulted in faster implementation, as the work on different subjects was carried out simultaneously. Since the basic material available with all the groups was same, the 'Purvas', therefore some repeatability was inevitable. Mahapragya considers Acharang to be the first work from the point of view of this plan of action. However, he renders the actual chronology as redundant because the entire picture emerges only when all the constituents of jigsaw puzzle were placed together. With this exposition, confusions and controversies were put to rest which had originated on account of different subjects being taken up in different scriptures. According to this scheme, a particular subject was taken up in detail in one scripture, whereas, treated symbolically in another scripture. Commenting in this context, Mahapragya has enumerated various subjects being dealt with in the Dwaadshangi (Twelve organs) of Samvayang and Nandi scriptures:

(i) In Acharang, as the name suggests, life-style, precepts-mannerisms, education-language, etc. of a saint are described in detail. Other subjects find just a mention.
(ii) Subjects of Lok-alok (universe-void), animate-inanimate, philosophical topics of Jains and other doctrines are dealt with in varying degrees of depths in different Agams -
a. In Sutrakritang, information is in the form of small couplets only covering only the salient features.
b. In Vyakhyapragyapti, these subjects are explained in detail. The frequently asked questions are answered descriptively.
c.  In Sthanang, the subjects are critically examined and all theories contain their respective justifications.
d. In Samvayang, there are either definitions or brief discussion on the above mentioned subjects.

Thus we find that fundamentals have been discussed in all the scriptures, though at some places there is only an incidental reference, at another place there is a brief discussion and at yet another place, a detailed treatment is given. Therefore, the knowledge of a subject becomes complete only when they are all taken together. So, to point out inconsistencies between one scripture and another is not a desirable exercise. Mahapragya had already made it clear that to evaluate scriptures from a historical periodic perspective would not be meaningful since they have been composed in a schematised manner. An example below brings home this view point.

3. Concept of Lok-Alok

According to Pundit Dalsukh Malvania, Panchastikaya and Shaddravya were conceived of after nav tattva (nine categories in Jainism) or saat tattva. Commenting in his book Jain Darshan ka Adikaal (The Initial Period of Jain Philosophy), he observes that by the time of Sutrakritang no discussion of Panchastikaya and Shaddravya had found place in the contemplation of tattva (real entities). In his view, only classification into living (jiva) and non-living (Ajiva) was mainly prevalent. Critically examining the above observation, Mahapragya offered the explanation that Lord Mahavira had envisaged the concept of Lok (universe) and Alok (void) prior to that of jiva-ajiva. Hence it is not possible that Panchastikaya and Shaddravya were conceived after nav tattva or saat tattva. The very list in Sutrakritang, which for Malvaniyaji is the basis of seven substances or nine (real) entities, mentions 'universe and void' prior to the 'living and non­living'. Therefore, we will have to accept the fact that Lord Mahavira conceptualised 'Lok-Alok' prior to the categorisation of 'living and non-living'.

Malvaniaji had mainly relied on an interesting question cited in Bhagwati Sutra as evidence - whether or not, standing at the boundary of the Lok (universe), a deity can wave his hand in the Alok (void)? The answer given therein rules out this possibility on the ground that the pudgal (matter), regarded as the' source of motion' in the living and non-living, does not exist in the void outside the universe. According to Malvaniaji had the notion of Lok-Alok('Dharmastikaya - catalyst of motion' and 'Adharmastikaya - catalyst of rest') prevailed, then the answer should not rest on pudgal, rather it should be based on the non­existence of Dharmastikaya outside the universe. Undertaking a serious examination of this interpretation, in the preface to Bhagwati, Mahapragya has made an important observation-

"Soul and living-being have been discussed in Acharang in the context of conduct and not as an independent subject. In Sutrakritang too, comments on substances appear incidentally. Its detailed treatment is available only in Vyakhya-Pragyapti. In Vyakhya-Pragyapti, the explanation of universe has been based on Panchastikaya. It has been stated that the space has two constituents: Lok (universe) and Alok (void). Dharmastikaya, adharmastikaya, lokakashtikaya, jeevastikaya and pudgalistikaya - these five bear the testimony to universe. Accordingly, Universe or Lok is that part the space where these five entities suffuse, and the rest of the space where they are not found is void or Alok."

It is true that there are no living beings or matter in Alok, but this is just one aspect of definition of Lok-Alok. It is, therefore, more plausible that in Jain philosophy the use of word 'astikaya' was prevalent in the earlier literatures while the word 'dravya' was introduced at a later date. Hence, panchastikaya was established along with universe and void, living and non-living and the principle of salvation; it is not justifiable to regard it as belonging to the later period.

4. The Relationship Between Soul and Karmic Pudgal- a Myth or Reality?

In Jain philosophy, the soul is regarded as ethereal and the karmic pudgal as corporeal. During the temporal phase, the soul and karma remain bound to each other. These two statements of Jain philosophy raise a spontaneous and genuine question - as to why and how the soul and the matter are related to each other despite the fact that the two have extreme difference and perpetual independence? Another relevant question is whether the bondage they share is physical or spiritual?

On this point, giving an original explanation, the Acharya says that from the point of view of Anekanta, the animate and the inanimate are not entirely different from each other and so there can be a relationship between them. The problem becomes complicated only when -

  • We regard active-karma and inert-soul as entirely different.
  • We start treating the soul as entirely pristine and karma as entirely contaminated.

He gives a detailed explanation as:

In the temporal phase, soul is not entirely non-physical and so the relationship between soul and matter can be regarded as physical. In this relationship neither is dominant but both have equal role to play. We learn about it from 'SNEH PRATIBADDH' (affection committed). Soul and karma (finer form of matter), both the basic mattereals possess a common property - capacity of attraction termed as 'affection' in Jain literature. A mutual relationship comes into being through this affection on both sides. The relationship between soul and matter has been expounded as having five forms: bond, touch, immersion/pervasion, sneh pratibaddh (affection) and ghataa (unification). Drawing upon Jain philosophy for an exposition of this issue, it has been clearly stated that the soul, despite being ethereal, is not entirely separable from matter or body. There exists a spontaneous relationship between the two. They react and interact freely and share a bondage which is not easy to break.

In Jain religion, summarily, the soul is intangible - without any form and the karma is tangible - has a definite form or structure. One of the tenets of Jain philosophy is that soul is enclosed or imprisoned within the karma pudgals.

In Western philosophy too, the problem regarding the relationship between the concealed mind (seat of perception and passion) and the exposed body has perplexed the psychologists for a long time. Referring to the assumptions of Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz, the Acharya has stated in relation to psychology that -

"In psychology too there is curiosity about the relationship between mind and body? Does body influence mind or vice-versa? Exactly the same question was before Jain philosophers, whether the body influences the consciousness or is it other way round? What is the interrelationship between the two? The answer is - both influence each other and the two are inseparable. If we regard body and consciousness as completely independent entities, we cannot explain the relationship between the two and their mutual influence upon each other. Conclusion thus can be drawn:

(i) From the point of view of anekanta, soul and body both possess the qual ity
of affection; therefore, a relationship between the two is possible.
(ii) In this world, the existence of soul is not free from matter; worldly life is
not pure, but composite.
(iii) Only if we regard animate and inanimate as entirely different from each
other and regard soul as pure, the problem of relationship gets complicated.
(iv) From the spiritual point of view, the difference and relationship between
corporeal and ethereal is of great importance. Similarity and disparity
between the two form the very basis of the Jain philosophy.

5. Principle of Karma-transformation

In karmavad there is a description of ten states/forms/conditions of karmic bondage-the energy that brings about karmic influx. Karma as attached to the soul, can be shed, modified, downgraded or transformed by the conscious efforts. The process of modification of one type of karma into another within its own group with the help of a special energy is called transformation. A pertinent question therefore arises, whether transmutation from the positive karma (Punya) to negative karma (Paap) and vice-versa is possible or not? With regard to transition it was believed that positive karmas do not change into negative karmas. Positive karmas are of many types and may change into one another and similarly negative karmas into other negative types.

5.1. Transmutation

Giving a new explanation in relation to this belief, Mahapragya has stated that it would be justifiable to say that purushartha (soul's prowess) is capable of bringing about a change in the category of karma. Living beings have the capability to change punya (advantage) into paap (disadvantage) and vice-versa. The principle of transmutation of karma finds acceptance in Jain philosophy. The positive type of karma is modified into the negative type of karma and the converse is also true. The four forms - category, duration, intensity and amount - can undergo transition from one form to another. Changes take the following forms:

i.  A loose bond changes into a strong bond.
ii. A strong bond changes into a loose bond.

This is a change in the intensity of the bond. As a result of a negative current, a loose bond of negative type changes into an intense bond, and similarly on account of a positive/wholesome transformational current, an intense negative bond weakens substantially. For instance, a person is experiencing pleasure and at such a moment the influx of negative karma will transform it into an experience of pain.

The process of transformation has a few exceptions too. For example, the four UTTAR types of 'lifespan determining' (Ayushya) karma do not transform into one another. Similarly, the two main types of moh (deluding) karma - darshan moh (perception) and charitra moh (conduct) - do not transform into each other. Barring such few exceptions, the transformation of different karma categories is a necessary concept which upholds the importance of human dexterity (purushartha).

6. Personality Transformation Through Close-Loop Mechanism

Similar to the dilemma of relationship between the soul and the karmic body, another perplexing question of interaction between the macro and micro bodies, specifically, the sthula sharir and shukshma karmic sharir has been very ingeniously answered by Mahapragya. Various methods prescribed in Jain literature for the refinement of the soul like fasting, meditation and prayer, all are conducted at the level of macro-body but their effect is manifested in the form of weakening of karma bonds of micro-body. The good or bad actions of body are fed back as the detachment or accumulation of karma, and they, in turn, ultimately refine or confine our soul. This link forms the true essence of Jainism.

Elaborating the close-loop mechanism between the macro and micro-bodies, Mahapragya cites a stanza from Acharang Sutra, which broadly means, "Ascetic should vibrate his karmic-body by the prayer". For a spiritual seeker, the statement is a gold-mine of salvation. This states that the activities at macro body level are fed-back to the shukshma sharira. Similar references are found regarding the effect of karmic sharira on the well-being and overall state of the sthula sharira. This incessant to and fro transaction of activities completes a close-loop which ensures that if good activities and thoughts are pursued, they get reinforced within this close-loop. Thus, a healthy cycle is formed. Contrarily, the bad activities may generate bad vibrations and when fed-back to the karmic body may further result in dire consequences. A vicious circle is thus said to be complete. Having understood this cycle, Mahapragya suggested two experiments to avoid the formation of vicious circle and to reinforce the healthy cycle -

(i)  Use of Breath - Concentration of attention towards the natural breathing cycle sends refining vibrations to our inner karmic body. It is an example of how outer body actions feed back the reactions to inner body.
(ii) Use of Determination - Our resolutions set in a wave of vibrations within our karmic body. These vibrations are fed back to the outer macro body which starts acting accordingly. Our emotions and actions are thus modified. A benign resolution therefore can initiate refinement of karma. It is an example of close-loop association of inner and outer units of a body.

Dissociation and Refinement of Karma

Penance and fasting are often associated with the soul-refinement. A prudent view needs to be taken on this account. Mahapragya has clarified a popular belief prevailing with his disciples regarding the 'hardship undergone' and the 'resolve maintained' during the fasting. He says there are two aspects involved in the process of fasting - firstly, our mortal body is deprived of food and secondly, our conscience is privileged by the vibrations of the underlying resolution. While the former is the cause of bodily suffering, latter is responsible for the refinement of karmic body. It would be a grave mistake to link the associated suffering with the dissolution of karma. Jain religion does not preach to inflict pain to the body. It would be paradoxical to seek the ultimate pleasure of salvation through the process of anguish and distress. If the fasting lacks resolution and is observed only because of competition, social pressure or allurement, it will not be able to initiate the vibrations necessary to have effect at micro level. But a resolution which renders the food redundant will surely be strong enough to create an ambiance for karma refinement. Bottom line for the dissipation of karma, therefore, is the strength of resolution and not the magnitude of suffering.

One of the steps towards the right resolution is Kayotsarg. It puts the body in such a favourable state of mind that the self-suggestions start becoming effective. Kayotsarg involves breathing and this exercise connects the mortal body with the karmic body by establishing a bridge between the fine atoms of breathing and finer constituents of consciousness. Our karmic body is constituted of such fine atoms (sukshma pudgals) which have quadruple properties
(chatusparshi-quadons). These micro atoms can be altered only by the action of atoms which are similar in nature. Variations in our thoughts and emotions affect our breathing which, in turn, affect our body. Reverse is also true - our control on breathing patterns alters our thoughts and emotions. Therefore, penance and breath-meditation must be associated with resolve and dexterity.

7. Sangyanyen-OGH & LOK

By Sangya (epistemology) is meant the tendency/inclination or instinct of the soul and the mind. It is the quality which empowers perception and acquisition of knowledge. In Jain scriptures, ten Sangyanyen have two broad classifications - aaveg (samvegatmak - obtained from sense impulses) and psychology (beyond sensory organs). Of the ten kinds of Sangyanyen, the first eight are samvegatmak (attributed to senses) and the last two are knowledge oriented. First eight have their origin in external and internal excitement/agitation of our senses. Hunger, fear, lust and jealousy - all these emotions are known to be related to one set of senses. Similarly, anger, pride, affinity and greed are linked with the state of mind. But. Mahapragya has especially expounded those tendencies uhich are beyond human senses and conscious mind namely, Ogh-Sangya and Lok-Sangya. His descriptions on this subject reveal that while accepting the two broad categories of ancient texts, he has actually established that the ten sangyanyen can be best categorised in three ways - sensory (samvegatmak), instinctive (oghsangya) and interactive (loksangya).

There are two ways of acquiring knowledge: knowledge acquired by means of our sensory organs and that acquired sans them. We perceive touch, taste, smell, form, and sound with the help of our sensory system. Knowledge perceived without the help of our senses is of two types: (i) ogh knowledge and (ii) intellectual knowledge.

7.1. Oghsangya

Knowledge gained through our senses is departmental, for example, smell is perceived by the nose, vision by the eye etc. Ogh knowledge is comprehensive. It is not perceived either by the senses or the mind. Perception of this type of knowledge is separate from and is independent of our senses or mind. Like every new-born knows where to get its first food from.

Ogh consciousness can be elucidated with the help of another illustration: our process of body growth, respiration, digestion all have an in-built intelligence. It is an independent process of the unfolding of consciousness minus senses.

Scientists of the present times have established beyond doubt that a vast amount of intelligence is stored in our genes. All our life supporting activities are coded within them. Scientists call this intelligence - instinct. Jains call it ogh.

Mahapragya cautions that instinct must not be confused with the sixth sense also called ESP (Extra-Sensory Perception) in scientific terminology. Many thinkers believe that nature had endowed the sixth sense to us. Our ancestors and several animals and birds are said to possess sixth sense. In humans this power (of the sixth sense) was found in its natural form only during the primordial stage, but as civilization developed, man gave up exercising this faculty. In several animals and birds, the existence of the sixth sense can be seen even now. For instance,

  1. Sensing an impending earthquake or storm, animals and birds take shelter in their holes, nests or other protected places.
  2. Several fish cannot see. But by means of minute electric current they negotiate their way through, avoiding obstacles present in the water.

In the modern age, the sixth sense is also found to exist in the aboriginal people. For instance,

  1. The aboriginals of Australia say that they use smoke as a signalling device only to draw the attention of a particular/the desired person. After that an exchange of ideas between the two of them takes place only at the level of mind.
  2. American aboriginals have a special name for the sixth sense - shimfo.

All these examples do point towards the existence of sixth-sense, but the scientists have found that these are activities related to sensory organs only and are not trans-sensory. For example, bats have a hearing mechanism which operates at 40-50 kHz of acoustic frequencies, whereas, human ears can respond only up to 20 kHz. Extra sniffing prowess of dogs too is a well known fact. Similarly, some birds and animals can feel the very low frequency vibrations which precede an earthquake. These activities may look like Extra-Sensory Perception, but in reality these are examples of refined senses only.

7.2. Loksangya

In Acharangvratti, Sheelanksuriji has described it as mundane (laukik) belief. It is this ability of humans which separates them from any other form of life. It is interactive intelligence - loksangya. If our knowledge base is left to our genes and senses only, our conscience will never rise beyond that of an animal; we would kill whenever hungry and sleep whenever tired. It is our soul's ability - loksangya - to acquire and ingest the knowledge from others' experience. Humans have the skill to acquire the collectively accumulated information by way of verbal or written communication. Though it involves the usage of our senses (samveg), it also involves our intuition (ogh) to assimilate only the truth and filter out the trash. Our senses do not undergo the direct experience, but we accept the collective experience of generations together. Therefore, Mahapragya says that this kind of knowledge should not be considered as entirely mundane, but it is interactive - between sensory and intuitive.

Having explained the entire gamut of Sangyanyen, Mahapragya has inculcated its psychological implications and repercussions in alleviating the human stress and experiencing a peaceful state of mind. He states that in the present context some psychological facts are also relevant. In psychology, mental processes are regarded as having two forms: Bhaav and Samveg. Bhaav is a simple and primary mental process. Samveg, on the other hand, is complex. Fear, anger, love, exhilaration, laugh, jealousy, etc. are called Samveg. Their origin lies in a psychological condition/state/circumstance and it affects the physical and mental system.

Samveg brings about external and internal changes. Among the external changes, the three main changes are:

  1. Facial expression
  2. Vocal expression
  3. Bodily posture.

Internal changes are:

  1. Changes in respiration
  2. Changes in heart beat
  3. Changes in blood pressure
  4. Changes in gastro-intestinal or digestive function
  5. Chemical changes in blood
  6. Changes in psycho galvanic responses and brain waves
  7. Changes in the activities of the glands.

In psychology, hypothalamus is regarded as the place of origin of Samveg. Hypothalamus is the middle part of the brain. It is this part that regulates and controls Samveg. Bhaav evokes two kinds of emotions: delight and grief. No external excitement/stimulus is needed to experience Bhaav.

Mahapragya evolved a very effective methodology of Preksha Meditation using this analysis. With reference to Ogh and Lok consciousness, Mahapragya has given us a new perspective, from the points of view of science and psychology. This has immensely helping the over-stressed and tension-ridden young generation to shed their grief and experience the inner happiness.

8. Paramanu versus Atom

In Anuyogdwar scripture, atoms are said to be of two kinds: subtle/minute (sukshma) and conventional (vyavaharic). In Jain literatures, Pudgals are described with clarity and scientific depth, accordingly -

Parmanu - the tiniest particle is further indivisible. Multiple parmanu when combine to form either energy packets or vyavaharic parmanu, become practically useful. A parmanu is mass less and does not obey the laws of gravity or relativity. These sukshma parmanu are capable of achieving infinite velocity and can travel space irrespective of time.

Skandh - union of two or more parmanu. When a particular skandh comprises infinite parmanu, it is called 'anant pradeshi skandh' which is treated as the vyavaharic parmanu.

Vyavaharic parmanu - a cluster of infinite parmanu. This entity has practical utility and is the basic building block of pudgal or matter. Vyavaharic parmanu are bound by the laws of physics. While a parmanu cannot be further divided by 'any' possible means, a vyavaharic parmanu too is indivisible by weapons which may be sharper than the edge of a sword. However, there is a possibility of a vyavaharic parmanu being divided into either infinite parmanu or multiple skandh.

Since vyavaharic parmanu has properties which are comparable with 'the atom' as described by the science, Mahapragya has said, "There is a striking similarity between the vyavaharic parmanu and the atom. Though it is said that even a weapon sharper than the edge of a sword cannot disintegrate a Vyavaharic parmanu, yet it can be divided under special conditions. Even an atom cannot be divided by any weapon but is said to be constituted of protons, electrons and neutrons, which in turn are divisible into quarks etc. Vyavaharic parmanu, as described in Jain scriptures is actually a unique skandh comprising infinite parmanu. It is quite possible that other skandh which have finite, multiple parmanu may form intermediate particles like quarks, electrons etc." This aspect opens new possibilities for science to ponder upon.

9. Tenam Kalenam Samayenam (that time and that moment)

In the Jain scripture, Bhagwati, while describing any incident or place, time and moment have been mentioned like this: 'at that time and that moment.'

Normally time and moment are regarded as/said to be synonymous. It has always been a matter of curiosity as to why these two different words have been used. It appears that the word 'time' inclines towards an era and 'moment' indicates a definite period of time.

According to a commentator on the scripture, kaal (time) indicates the fourth section (fourth Aara) of AVASARPINI (the regressive half-cycle) and samaya (moment) indicates the period when Lord Mahavira gave a sermon.

Along with time and moment, direction and place too are mentioned:
i.   At that time and moment there was a town called Raajgrahi.
ii.  At that time and moment there was a town called Tungiya.

A question thus arises, whether the stating of place and time before any description was a matter of some writing convention or a requirement based on a certain principle? Mahapragya has compared it to the notion of space-time in the present-day science. He states that according to Einstein's theory of relativity it is not possible to understand any event independent of space and time. German philosopher Immanuel Kant also has laid a great deal of stress on space and time. Acharya Siddhsen too has considered time and region essential for the proper understanding of meaning/significance of an event.

9.1. Concept of Kaal (Time)

In the scientific world, time is a linear concept. It always moves forward like an arrow. In this linear scenario, the line has a beginning and it has a finite length up to the present moment. The future is empty. The other concept of time is cyclic. According to this concept, time moves forward as well as backward. For instance, rebirth after death is a backward movement of time. The principle of rebirth is based on the principle of cyclic movement of time. In the Jain concept of time, the wheel of time has been accepted in the form of regressive and progressive half-cycles. According to this principle, time returns and there is also a recurrence of events associated with the past. There is nothing new in this world; there is nothing that has not happened before.

By clarifying the cyclic concept of time, Mahapragya has given us a new dimension which is quite useful. Professor Hawking too is not far from the conception that if time can be treated independent of space, then theoretically and mathematically, time can assume negative values meaning thereby that time returns to the past. In Jain philosophy space and time are treated as fundamentally separate substances, and thus the possibilities of negative time calculations are wide open.

10. Electricity - Animate (live) or inert (lifeless)

This topic has resulted in such a hot discussion that it has itself flared up as Agnikaya! To pour cold water on this burning topic and to extinguish, once and for all, the fire created by it, Mahapragya has authentically answered the two pertinent questions -

(i)     Can electricity be classified as Agnikaya (fire)?
(ii)    If yes, is it live or lifeless?

If these questions are answered beyond doubt, any confusion regarding the usage of electrical appliances will be rendered redundant. The salient relevant points of Mahapragya's essay on this subject are presented here.

10.1. What is Sachitt-Agni and Achitt-Agni?

What is fire? Scientifically, it is the fourth state of matter beyond solid, liquid and gas - called plasma. In this state, matter is present neither as atom nor as molecule but as electrons and ions. In Jain canon, there is a fine distinction between 'fire as a jiva' (Agnikaya) and 'fire as a group of Pudgals (matter) without soul'. The essential difference lays in the presence of intelligence (jiva or soul) in the former, while its absence in the latter. According to Jains, a jiva is one who possesses the necessary intelligence to self-perpetuate oneself. In Shadjivanikaya six classifications of jiva are mentioned. Their elaboration in Sthanang-Sutra clarifies that the first five of them namely, prithvikaya, aupkaya, tejaskaya, vayukaya and vanaspatikaya are stationary in nature and can exist in both states of sachitt (with intelligence) and achitt (lifeless).

So, the million dollar question is - can electricity be classified as sachitt-Agnikaya or not? Before answering this question, let us answer another question first - what are the characteristics of Agnikaya (live fire)? As we all know, fire starts as a spark - its infant state. It gathers its food (aahar) from the surroundings and grows. It lives as long as the food-energy is available to it. That is, when the entire inflammmale material is consumed, it dies. This is broadly the life cycle of fire. The above description suggests that it follows a typical pattern of self perpetuation as is done by any other animated form of life. These patterns are visible to us in fire existing in stars, fire in inflammable materials, fire in woods etc. In Jain Agams also, it is clearly mentioned that the sachitt-Agni exists in Triyak-lok only. Fire exists in upper and lower loks also, but is achitt. What is achitt-agni then? It is actually the heat. Modern science has proven that extreme heat can be generated even without fire. Such examples are microwave ovens, exothermic chemical reactions and nuclear fission and fusion. In all these cases, heat is generated even without fire. Tejas-vargnas are present but the animated fire is absent. Now let us examine whether the electricity falls under the category of sachitt-Agni?

10.2. What is Electricity?

Electricity has the capacity to ignite, Light has the similar capacity, and Friction too can create fire. But this capacity does not mean that the electricity, light and friction are themselves fire. In fact they are not in the state of plasma. Electricity is nothing but the movement of electrons. Like, air flows under pressure gradient, electricity flows under potential. It cannot self sustain itself. It does not grow by itself.

If electricity is treated as agnikaya, then we are creating a jiva every time we switch on a bulb and destroying it by switching off. Not only that, our entire thought process is based on transfer of tiny electrical signals, if they are jivas then the entire basis of Jain philosophy will collapse. Like many other characteristics of a pudgal such as weight, colour, etc., the electrical charge is just one attribute of dions and quadons (sukshma pudgal). It is by virtue of this property only that a dion combines to form quadons and octons. They keep on combining in innumerate forms of skandhs to create this pudgalic world around us. Wind energy makes a flag to flutter; it does not mean life has been infused in the flag.

Man employed his intelligence to utilise pudgals to his own use. For us, both knife and pen are made from matter, how to use it as per Jain practices is a different story. Similarly, electricity is a set of pudgals (matter), how to deploy it judiciously rests on the prudence of the user.

11. Kalpa-Vraksha (Kalpa-tree)

Mahapragya has taken pains to restrain the followers of Jainism to become dogmatic. Wherever he finds that any interpretation of events described in our ancient literature is leading to superstitions, he intervenes and explains the real motive behind the traditional belief. One of such dogmatic belief is about the kalpa-tree. According to one school of thought, these trees were associated with the divine powers of fulfilling the wishes. It is also believed that these kalpa-trees disappeared along with the YOGALIK (male-female pair) tradition.

Mahapragya has opined that this traditional belief is without any basis. In Samvayang and Sthanang scriptures, there are mentions of ten kinds of special trees existing in the YOGALIK age. Abhayadev Suri. renowned commentator, had regarded these trees as mere means of fulfilling the limited needs of the YOGALIKS. Analyzing this, Mahapragya has stated that the in YOGOLIK era the human needs were very limited and those were easily fulfilled by the products available from these trees. Since all the essentials of life, like eatables, fluids, shelter so on, could be obtained from these trees, they were nick-named as kalpavraksha (kalpa-tree). These different kinds of trees had different uses, but it would be ridiculous to propose that these trees fulfilled all the desires of the humans. Had this being the case, all jiva would have got the emancipation from karma bondage simply by desiring!

In Indian literature, three things are often mentioned as means of fulfilling one's desires - kaamdhemi (a celestial cow), chintamani (a mythical gem) and kalpavraksha (a divine tree). These symbolise that the desires can be fulfilled by expressing, contemplating or imagining. In reality, all these three are one, and they just symbolise a hypothetical shortcut to circumvent the efforts. This explanation of Mahapragya rules out any divine disposition in a kalpa-tree and re-establishes the faith in the karma and dexterity.

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  • ISBN: 13 - 978 - 81 - 89667 - 00 - 9
  • Publisher:
    Jain Vishva Bharati Institute,
  • Financial Assistance:
    Sh. R. L. Parakh, Churu (Raj.)
    In memory of Late Grand Mother Smt. Sunder Devi and Mother Smt. Laxmi Devi
  • Edited and Translatated by:
    Piyush Jain, Ahmedabad
  • © Author:
    Prof. Dr. Mahavir Raj Gelra Jaipur.
  • First Edition: 2007
  • Price: Rs. 400/-
    For Foreign Countries $ 15
  • Printers:
    Sheetal Offset Printers, Jaipur

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