Scientific Vision Of Lord Mahāvīra ► [05] Theory Of Atom ► Laws Of Motion And Principle Of Uncertainty

Posted: 07.08.2009

No doubt, an atom has a propensity to become dynamically active. This does not mean that all atoms are active everywhere and at all times and under all conditions. There is an element of uncertainty in the origination and cessation of the dynamic activity of atom. An atom can remain at rest on a single space-point for sometime. Maximum period of inactivity is innumerable time-units, after which it must move.[53] On the other hand, maximum period of activity is innumerableth of fraction (asaṁkhyātaṁśa) of an āvalikā.[54] Minimum period of activity and inactivity is one time-unit. In short, the dynamic activity of an atom is not continuous, that is, there are alternate periods of rest and motion.

The Bh.S, as already indicated, describes the variety of dynamic actions of an atom. Some of them are as follows:—

1] "Siya eyati

5] Siya ghaṭṭai

2] Siya veyati

6] Siya khubbhai

3] Siya calai

7] Siya udirai and so on."

4] Siya phandai


Thus, more than one type of motion could be simultaneous. Temporally, all these motions may be regular or irregular.

An atom may be self-activated i.e. may undergo self-interaction without any external influence. It may also be acted upon by other atom or composite bodies.[55]

At what speed does an atom move? At what frequency does it vibrate or if it revolves, at what rate? In this respect Bh.S clearly mentions that an atom can move from one end of the cosmos to the other in one time-point.[56] This is the maximum velocity of an atom. Its minimum velocity is one timepoint for its linear motion from one space-point to the adjacent one.[57]

Whether it moves to an adjacent space-point or crosses the whole cosmos from one end to the other, if the time taken is a time-unit, the motion will be in anuśreṇī i.e. straight and without changing the direction. If there is a turning, the time will be more than one time-unit. Turning is always due to external forces.

From the above it is clear that in some respects activity and motion of an atom follow definite rules, while in other respects they follow the principle of uncertainty. The definite rules can be summarised as under:

  1. Unless acted upon by external forces an atom moves in a straight line (anuśreṇīgati)
  2. When acted upon by external forces an atom may change direction and speed.
  3. Conscious substance has no direct influence on the motion of atom.
  4. Minimum and maximum distances travelled by an atom in one time-unit are space between two adjacent points and the entire length of the cosmos respectively.
  5. Maximum period of inactivity (rest) is innumerable time-unit.

Maximum period of activity is innumerableth of fraction of an āvalikā.[*]

In Jain atomism, the principle of uncertainty as mentioned earlier governs the following conditions:

  1. It is uncertain, after what interval of time an atom at rest will become dynamic (release energy). This time-interval may be from one time-unit upto innumerable time-units. However, after an interval of innumerable time-units, it will become active for sure.
  2. Similarly, it is uncertain upto what duration of time a dynamic atom will continue to be active. It (the duration) could be from one time-unit to an innumerableth portion of an āvalikā but it will surely cease to be active after this maximum interval.
  3. It is uncertain which direction an atom will take at the commencement of motion. It can move in any possible direction.
  4. It is uncertain what type of dynamic activity will be commenced by an inactive atom. It may just vibrate or rotate or migrate or do all these things simultaneously.
  5. It is uncertain again what will be the intensity of an atom's dynamic activity, what will be its velocity—minimum or maximum or intermediate.
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