Scientific Vision Of Lord Mahāvīra ► [03] Space and Time in the Bh.S ► Accommodation: A Characteristic

Posted: 17.06.2009

The Bh.S regards accommodation as a specific attribute of space.[17] There is no other substance except space in transcosmos yet, it is space because it possesses the quality of accommodation. The text refers to this functional feature of space through a dialogue between Lord Mahāvīra and Gautama. The dialogue goes on as follows:[18]

"Gautama: what is the use of space for living and non-living? Mahāvīra: space provides place to sentients and insentients. Single space point can contain one, two, hundred, crorer or even—more atoms in itself.

To provide room or interpenetrability is the characteristic of space".

Here, one thing is certainly true that which provides room to the things in the universe is space. In this sense, cosmic space is really space. But the limitless space beyond the universe and which is known as transcosmic space does not accommodate anything; then why is it still recognized as space? The fact is that due to the absence of the medium of motion and the medium of rest, substances are limited up to the cosmos only, that is why transcosmos does not accommodate them but it does not mean that it loses its capacity of accommodation. It always possesses the power of accommodation.

It may also be questioned why some other substances do not accommodate space itself? The answer is that space is more extensive than all other substances; so there is no question of any other substance which can contain it in itself.[19] Secondly, in fact, space itself needs not such matrix due to its self-supporting capacity. According to the Bh.S, water is the support of the earth. Air is the support of water and space is the support of air. But space has no support outside itself. It is self-supporting and selfexistent. [20] If we accept any other supporting substance, it would inevitably lead to an infinite regress.

So far as the power of accommodation is concerned, the cosmic space accommodates infinite sentiments and insentients in its finite points. The Bh.S[21] is emphatic obvious in this connection that even one space-point can provide room to infinite material objects. Depending on its contracted or expanded condition, a cluster of one, two, three or more atoms occupies at least one space unit and, at most, as many space-units as there are atoms in the cluster. Even though the maximum expansion of the biggest cluster would not be more than innumerable space-points. If the Cluster is of infinite atoms, it cannot occupy infinite space points because of the limitation of cosmic space. Thus, the cosmic space is densely packed with infinite diverse atoms, subtle and gross clusters of matter and, infinite sentients.[22]

The commentary Sarvārthasiddhi explains that infinite atoms and clusters can penetrate each other just like the non-material substance such as the media of motion and of rest.[23] This fact is made clear through the example of lamps lighting the same space without any mutual resistance. According to Dr. Nathmal Tatia, this discussion reveals a conundrum of Jain philosophy.[24] A space unit is measured as a space occupied by one atom;yet, it is possible for an infinite number of atoms to occupy one space-unit.

So far as the living being is concerned, minimum innumerableth part of cosmic space is necessary to be occupied.[25] In fact, the soul is an extended substance with innumerable units which contract and expand to fit the body determined by its karma. However, the units of the soul are not like the units of a cluster of matter. They are non-detachable and devoid of the material qualities i.e. touch, taste, smell and colour.

In normal condition, the soul is co-extensive with the body in which it lives.[26] But during the astral projection the soul extends itself to cover the entire cosmic space in order to make sensation-producing karma (vedaniya karma) equal to life- span determining karma at once. In this state, the innumerable units of the soul coincide one-to-one with the innumerable units of cosmic space.[27] Though, this is exceptional or rare condition. Generally soul occupies minimum innumerableth part of cosmic space.

The question arises here is, why the contraction of the soul only reduces to an innumerableth part of cosmic space rather than a single space unit? Answer given is the worldly soul always accompanied by the karmic body, which is composed of infinite atoms, which must occupy innumerable space units.[28] Even the liberated soul cannot contract itself to a single space unit, because it eliminates one-third of the body occupied during its last worldly existence and that reduced size is maintained in the liberated state.[29]

One remarkable question raised and answered in Sarvārthasiddhi is that if an individual soul occupies an innumerableth part of the cosmic space, how can the infinite souls with their body be accommodated in cosmic space?[30] The answer is there are two types of soul viz; subtle-bodied and gross-bodied. Subtle-bodied souls do not offer resistance to each other and to gross bodied ones. They are able to co-exist in space whatever they find. Besides this, infinite number of souls can jointly inhabit the space occupied by the sub-microscopic body of the least developed soul.

So far as the medium of motion and the medium of rest are concerned, because of being co-existent and co-extensive they occupy the entire cosmic space.[31]

The above discussion can be summarized in the words of Dr. Nathmal Tatia as follows:

"All the substances exist and have accommodation in cosmic space. Space, however, is not contained in anything, but is selfsubsistent. It has been conceived as containing six substances because it is the locus of all the five substances and also of itself. Space is locus of itself from the conceptual standpoint but of others in the literal sense of the term. The medium of motion and the medium of rest, although they exist in the entire extent of cosmic space, are not independent of their locus. It is space which is the ultimate locus of everything."[32]