Scientific Vision Of Lord Mahāvīra ► [05] Theory Of Atom ► Four Types Of Atom

Posted: 30.07.2009

The term 'paramāṇu' is another name of bhāva paramāṇu or paramāṇu pudgala, as already stated. But it has also been indicated that other substances have their minutest parts which are intellectual constructs and also known as paramāṇu. In this sense, Bh.S enumerates four types of atoms. They are as given below:[32]

  1. Substantial Atom [dravya paramāṇu]—paramāṇu in the physical sense
  2. Spacial Atom [kṣetra paramāṇu]—the indivisible unit of space i.e spaceunit [ākāśa-pradeśa]
  3. Time-Atom [kāla paramāṇu]—the indivisible unit of time technically known as time-unit.
  4. One unit of intensity of any quality [bhāva paramāṇu]—the indivisible unit or quantum of intensity of sensuous qualities, viz; colour, smell, taste and touch.

Thus, an atom is a direct unit of physical substance (Pudgala) and also the indirect unit of space, time and modification. The quantitative difference in matter-space-time as well as the qualitative difference in physical objects may ultimately be traced to the constitution of an atom. Thus, being the constituent element of physical omposite bodies, an atom may be considered to be the determinant of the difference between clusters, and for the same reason, it is also their substantial cause. By its own motion (vibration, oscillation, etc.), it becomes the measure of time i.e. a time-unit (time-point) corresponds to a unit shift of an atom from one position to the next immediately. It should be remembered that time itself is quantified, and a time-unit is a quantum of time and therefore indivisible.

Since its associated space-point is the constitutive element of space, it is indirectly the cause of quantitative difference of space (kṣetra-saṁkhya).

Since its motion from point-to-point corresponds to duration of time, it is also the basis of quantitative difference of time (kāla-saṁkhya).

Again, because it is the basis of modification of physical objects through combination or separation, it is also the condition of the quantitative difference of modes (bhāva-saṁkhya).[33]

Ultimately the whole physical universe is an atom. As we have seen in the preceding chapter, atoms have the innate capacity of uniting with one another to form composite bodies. The union is subject to certain definite rules, since, all types of atoms are not eligible to participate in the union. The rules have been dealt with at length in the preceding chapter. The composite bodies are liable to the process of disintegration (again subject to rules) and the united atoms may become free atoms and thus, the association and dissociation go on eternally.[34] The atom is the ultimate cause (kāraṇa aṇu) as well as the ultimate end-product—(antya aṇu). The following verse succinctly summarizes the fundamental nature of paramāṇus:

karanameva tadantyam, sūkṣmo nityaśca bhāvati paramāṇuḥ/ ekarasa-gandha-varṇo, dvisparśaḥ kāryaliṅgaśca // [35]

  1. It is kāraṇa i.e. the cause of the creation of the physical universe.
  2. It is antya i.e. the ultimate end product of the physical universe.
  3. It is sūkṣmo i.e. infinitesimally subtle.
  4. It is nitya, i.e. indestructible. It does not lose its individuality even when participating in a union.
  5. It possesses one taste, one smell and one colour.
  6. It is dvisparśī i.e. it possesses two touches—dryness or viscosity and hot or cold i.e. it is either dry-cold or dry-hot, or viscous-cold or viscoushot.
  7. It is karyaliṅga i.e. it can be cognized by inference only through the effect of collective actions.
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