Scientific Vision Of Lord Mahāvīra ► [05] Theory Of Atom ► Paramāṇu In Jain Physics

Posted: 28.07.2009

Matter exists in two principal forms: indivisible elementary particles and their combinations. In the technical terms of Jainism, the indivisible elementary particles are called paramāṇu [9] (atom) and the combinations of these particles are known as skandhas [10] (cluster). Here we should not mind some minute differences between the word atom of modern science and technical term paramāṇu. Skandha (cluster) is defined as an aggregate of atoms. It possesses gross form as well as subtle and undergoes processes of association and of dissociation.

The full name of atom is paramāṇu pudgala[11] or paramāṇu,[12] but it is generally called 'paramāṇu'. Etymologically, the word paramāṇu is made up of two terms 'parama' + 'aṇu' i.e. extreme unit. The extreme limiting unit of the process of division of any object is aṇu. Such ultimate aṇu is paramāṇu. Thus, paramāṇu is an ultimate or primary atom.[13] In this chapter the word 'atom' is used in the sense of paramāṇu. Here, the thing worthy to note is that the atom is a form of matter; therefore, it must possess the four material qualities, viz; colour, taste, smell and touch. According to the Bh.S, it is endowed with one of the five primary colors, one of the two smells, one of the five tastes and two of the four touches, i.e., either hot or cold and either dry or viscous.[14] Four other touches i.e. hard, soft, light and heavy are not found in it. Atom is the smallest particle of matter or ultimate "building block" of the physical world. It is indivisible, indestructible, impenetrable, incombustible and imperceptible to sense-organs.[15] It cannot be split or destroyed by any means whatsoever. The sharpest instrument cannot divide it into two likewise the highest temperature cannot melt it.[16]Atom does not become wet even if it is drenched by the deluge clouds. Its existence or identity will not be lost even if it enters a drop of water or whirlpool of water.[17] Thus, in Jain view 'atom' is different from the atom accepted in Physics, which is destructible and divisible.

In the Tattvārtha Rājavārtika,[18] an atom is defined as the smallest material particle. There is nothing smaller than the atom. According to the Pancāstikāya-sāra, the substance that has a single taste, a single colour, a single smell and two kinds of touch, which is the cause of sound while unsounding itself, this is different from molecules though constituting them, is called an atom.[19] Since atoms are the ultimate building block of physical universe, the four fundamental attributes of matter as mentioned above, are always associated with them. The properties of hardness and softness, heaviness and lightness are never associated with atoms. Because they are result of the different proportion the basic four touch and therefore they are qualities of molecules, not of the individual atoms. These properties are generated by the loose or compact aggregation of atoms and because all the atoms are massless, there is no room for the question of whether they are light or heavy, hard or smooth.[20] The difference in mass is found only in molecules, which are the aggregates of atoms.

Atoms are not always found in a free state; only some of them are found as separate entities and some are in combined form. Atoms are produced only by division of molecules and not by the process of union or combination of any particles, because there are no particles smaller than atoms.[21]

Moreover, an atom is a single point. It has no parts, i.e. it has no halfportion, no middle portion and no end. It has no length, no breadth and no depth. It is dimensionless and has neither beginning nor end.[22] It is truly infinitesimal. Its beginning, the middle and the end are identical with the whole of itself. Hence, the seers have observed: "that of which the start, the center and the end is the same, instead of having sensual qualities which is not perceptible, and that which is indivisible is called atom.[23]"

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Jain Vishva Bharati Ladnun-341 306 (Raj.)

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