Concept of Physical Substance (Pudgala) in Jain Philosophy

Posted: 19.03.2009
Updated on: 02.12.2010

Mahavir Saran  JainThe technical term for physical substance in Jain Philosophy is “Pudgala“. This word in the Sanskrit language is a compound word consisting of two words 1. Pud + 2. Gala. The term ‘Pud' connotes the process of combination / integration and the term ‘gala' signifies dissociation/ disintegration. So the expression ‘Pudgala' means one in the constant process of combination / integration and dissociation/ disintegration. In the scientific language, it can be expressed that Pudgal is a combination of pud (fusion) and gala (fission).  Pudgala is that which undergoes constant outward change in form. Besides, pudgala has form and extension, it is devoid of consciousness and life, it is eternal in its nature, constant in quantity (i.e. neither increasing nor decreasing) and it pervades the whole of lokakasa.

The Jain philosophers have divided the ‘Pudgala' substance up to the stage where further division is not possible. This is called ‘Parmanu'. In science, the term “anu” means an atom. Modern scientists have already realized that atom itself consists of number of neutrons and protons, which are also not indivisible. Parmanu, however, is the indivisible minutest particle of the matter. Pudgalas are of variegated types with innumerable atoms. Different paramanus of different types of Pudgalas combine, dissolve and again combine in different and variegated forms. This process of combination gives rise to different and variegated molecules, referred to as ‘Skandha'.  From this view, pudgala can be divided in two types:

  1. Paramanu
    the minutest and indivisible part, separate from a skandha. It is the smallest and minutest form of a Pudgala, which cannot be cut, pierced, grasped, burnt and divided. Kundakunda Acharya described Paramanu as that substance which is the beginning, the middle and the end by itself, inapprehensible by the senses, and is indivisible. (Niyamasar 2/26)

  2. Skandha
    Aggregate of atoms. Though the smallest particles, the parmanus, are very minute, they can combine with each other thus forming different combinations of huge proportions.

Characteristic qualities are those, which distinguish it from other substances and are found in all modifications of pudgala.

According to Jain canonical literature (Tattvartha Sutra – 5/23), physical substance (Pudgalastikaya) is characterized by four qualities viz.

These qualities are possessed exclusively by pudgala, which distinguish it from the other substances. Out of these, some qualities may be apparent in some modes and modifications of a particular pudgala, while some qualities may not be apparent in some modes of that particular pudgala.

Due to of these qualities, pudgal is perceivable by sense-organs of an animate organism. Pudgala is perceivable by one or more sense-organs. Out of the five astikayas, which constitute the universe, pudgala is the only one, which possesses the quality of murtatva (Materiality), that is, it is perceived by the sense-organs.

Five main attributes of pudgala:

  1. Varna (color),
  2. rasa (taste),
  3. gandha (odor),
  4. sparsa (touch) and
  5. samsthana (shape)

In Jain philosophy, a typically frequent method of describing the character of an object is the use of fourfold determinant: substance (dravya), location in space (ksetra), time (kala) and attributes (bhava).

On this norm, the character of pudgala can be described as follows:

  1. Substantially, pudgala is infinite in number, that is to say, there are infinite number of different physical entities.

  2. Spatially, pudgala fills the whole cosmic space.

  3. Temporally, pudgala is eternal i.e. without beginning and without end. It is distinct and separate from self. It has no beginning and no end. It is indestructible, though it is constantly changing in form. . It combines and changes its modes but its basic qualities remain the same. According to Jainism, it cannot be created nor destroyed.

  4. Qualitatively, pudgala possesses color, taste, odor and touch.

Pudgal is classified as solid, liquid, gaseous, energy, fine Karmic materials and extra-fine matter or ultimate particles. The physical world is thickly packed everywhere with material bodies, subtle and gross, capable of being received or not (by the soul). The liberated soul is capable to view all the modifications of all pudgalas because of being omniscience (Kevala Jnana). The gross entities or molecules ( Gross-gross, Gross, Gross-fine, Fine-gross ) which have two or more space-points come to have different shapes according to their modifications. Thus the earth-water-fire-air bodies come to have different shapes according to their modifications.

There are six forms of recognized ‘Skandhas':

  1. Gross-gross: Solids like earth, stone, consist of gross-gross molecules.
  2. Gross: Liquids like ghee, water, consist of gross molecules.
  3. Gross-fine: Shade, sunshine, etc, consist of gross-fine molecules.
  4. Fine-gross: Objects of the four senses (of touch, taste, smell and hearing) are of fine-gross   molecules.
  5. Fine: Karmic molecules, in the condition of being bound up with soul are fine. These Karmic molecules are beyond sense-perception of touch, taste, smell and hearing.
  6. Fine-fine: Karmic molecules, in the condition of being bound up with soul are fine and which are of fine-fine molecules.

The association of matter with a soul is beginning less but once they are divorced it is a final separation. There can be no further association of matter with a liberated soul. However, the matter cannot associate itself with the soul sue motto. It is the soul itself, which attracts the pudgals which bind it. It is again for the soul to free itself from the bondage of pudgals by its activity. When the embodied self enjoys sensual objects, it gets tarnished with these Karma particles. From time immemorial, pudgala is associated with self and gives its own color to the self. Just as the gem called the quartz is pure and transparent, the soul also is pure and transparent in its original form. If we place near the quartz any color, it acquires that color and radiance. The soul also assumes various forms in accordance with the effect of the various Pudgals on it. It keeps wandering through various conditions. The Jain Dharma gives the name Leshya to the various transformations that the soul undergoes to denote the color characteristic of paudgalic effect on the soul. The effect of one’s thinking, of the environment, and of food falls on the body and mind. The color of the body also changes in accordance with that effect. The face of an angry man grows red; and blood seems to rush out of his eyes. The face of a man, who is in despair or dejection, grows pale. The brightness of his face fades away. The face assumes a different color under the impact of love or infatuation. All these changes take place on account of Leshya. The Leshyas have been properly classified on the basis of the colors that appear or disappear in the face, on account of the effect of propensities, and thoughts.

There are six leshyas:

  1. Krishna Leshya (black).
    The characteristic of this leshya is a person who shows no compassion at all, and does not show even a slightest mercy.  Everyone is afraid of him. His anger soon turns into violence.  He always burns with jealousy and anger.   He is filled with animosity and malice.  He does not believe in the religion.

  2. Neel Leshya (blue).
    The characteristic of this leshya is a person who is burning with pride and is very haughty.  He is not reliable.  People avoid his company.  He is a lazy, a cheater, and a hypocrite. He avoids the religious lectures. He is a coward and filled with passions.

  3. Kapot Leshya (brown).
    The characteristic of this leshya is a person who is always sad, and gloomy and dejected.  He finds fault in others and is vindictive.  He does not spare even the noble souls.  He boasts of himself.  He is excited over small matters. He lacks mental balance.

  4. TeJo Leshya (red).
    The characteristic of this leshya is a person who is very careful about his actions, and discriminates between good and evil.  He is afraid of doing bad deeds.   He is kind, benevolent, and religious. He has a balanced personality. He leads a harmonious life. 

  5. Padma Leshya (yellow).
    The characteristic of this leshya is a person who is kind and benevolent and forgives even his enemies. He observes some austerities.  He is very conscious and vigilant in keeping his vows. When asked for the help even by his enemy, he helps them. He does not lose his balance in pleasure or pain. He is always cheerful.

  6. Shukla Leshya (white).
    The color of Shukla leshya is white like cow's milk or conch shell. When the Jiva is firmly rooted in this Leshya that person becomes omniscient; becomes totally free from attachments and aversion and becomes immersed in soul- experience and self-realization.

Interaction wise, pudgala is capable of being taken in and transformed by embodied soul (psychic order of existence). Pudgala interacts with and influences psychic order of existence. It has been stated earlier that the known lokakash is composed of two fundamental categories of substances - embodied soul and Pudgala, the former having consciousness and life, the latter being the physical existence devoid of consciousness and life. Both of them work in unison. Now the question is: Who is the consumer and what is that which is consumed or used? Or in other words, who is the master and who is the subordinate? When the question under discussion was put to Bhagwan Mahavira, he said, "It is the embodied soul which consumes the physical substance (pudgala). The embodied soul first appropriates the pudgala and then consumes it. The process of consumption is in the form of five sense-organs, mind, speech, body and breathing. The embodied soul uses these powers selectively. It is the consciousness in the embodied soul, which uses pudgala as the raw material for consumption.

The process of consumption has three stages - 'grahaṇa', 'pariṇamana' and 'utsarga' i.e., to acquire, to transform and to abandon. To start with, when any category of Pudgala is acquired, the transformation takes place in the same category. For example - if the pudgala skandhas are in the form of bhāṣā vargaṇā (i.e. physical structure which has the capacity to be used as speech), after their transformation, the utsarga (abandonment) would also be in the same form, which is then communicated as a spoken language. The embodied soul has both the capabilities- consciousness as-well-as capacity to acquire whereas the pudgala is non-conscious but has the properties to get attracted. This is the interrelationship between the embodied soul (the bhoktā) and the pudgala (the bhogya). Integration can be divided into two kinds from another aspect:

  • 1.Integration of one kind of pudgala with another pudagala.
  • 2.Combination of pudgala with living beings.

It is pointed out that body, mind and speech are constituted of material substances; and the material substance, in turn, is a lump of atomic substances.   

The primary atom has no space-points; being arid or cohesive it comes to have two or more space-points.

It is said that the points of aridness or cohesiveness of an atom, because of transformation, increasing by one form onwards, attain infinity. 

Material objects possessing the qualities of color etc., mutually bind on account of their qualities of touch (viz., cohesiveness and aridness); the (nature of the) soul is quite opposed to this; then how is it that material Karmas bind it?

The soul, which is without color etc., perceives and knows objects endowed with color etc. and the qualities; similarly the (case of) bondage is to be understood.   

Bondage between material bodies is due to their qualities of touch etc. (i.e., cohesiveness and aridness); and that of the soul is due to attachment etc.; mutual interpenetration is said to be the bondage of soul and matter.  The soul has space-points, and in those space-points material bodies penetrate and remain as it may be possible; they pass away (according to their duration) or remain bound.

When the soul develops attachment and aversion, Karma binds; when it is without attachment and aversion, karma does not bind the soul.

The interaction between the living beings and the pudgala is threefold:

  1. Karma:
    A specific group of matter called karmavargana is attracted and assimilated by an embodied soul. Each embodied soul, during its worldly existence, con­tinuously interacts with karma-pudgala.

  2. Body:
    Each embodied soul must have a body as the instrument for the experience of pleasure and pain during its world­ly existence.

  3. Vital Functions:
    Breathing, nutrition, speech and thought  - all these physiological functions of a living organism are possible only with the help of different groups of pudgala possessing specific properties useful for specific function.

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