Application of Jainism to Science

Posted: 29.04.2010
Updated on: 02.12.2010 Chand Jain and Dr.Tansukh J Salgia have drawn our attention to heritage, potentialities, prevailing circumstances, shortcomings and scope of Jainism in today’s world. Shraman tradition, as it was known in ancient times, had profound influence on the lives of the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent. Jains were known for their strict code of conduct, honesty and virtues, just social dealings, charity, loyalty and faithfulness.  Many rulers were Jains and many other rulers preferred Jains for important positions in the hierarchy of their court and administration.

Traditionally Jains have been good workers but not good leaders. They have largely confined to practicing their religion and rendering social service as a part of the religion. This is because of the very nature of the Jain religion, which preaches emancipation as the ultimate goal of life and discourages involvement in the worldly affairs. Most of the Sadhus have been prompting householders to take to ascetic life for proceeding on the path of emancipation. The institution of Jainism was earlier dominated by Sadhus; the householders played limited independent role in the area of social and national activities. Even today our Sadhus wield great influence in the society, but now this cannot be considered as a restraint on the part of householders to assume leading role in social matters. However, the tradition seems to outweigh the demand of the changing time and the Jains are not coming forward to assume a leading role in guiding the society to march on the path of building a just and happy society, which their religion has been preaching since ancient times. We do not find a Jain social reformer of the repute of Bhagwan Mahavira, his teachings have been interpreted to relate to personal spiritual progress and we find more or less an attitude of indifference towards social development. This view is reflected in the social outlook of Jains today, who in spite of the rich heritage of their religion have contributed so less in the social and political development of the country. No wonder, therefore, that they prefer spending on temples rather than on social upliftment of people through ethics, education and enlightenment.

Times have rapidly changed reflecting on social practices, methods of livelihood, facilities for transport and communication, education and health care services and the general political and global environment. Jains as individuals have kept pace with the change and have excelled in various fields but have made no impact as a community on the social fabric, business practices, monetary system, legal processes, education pattern, global relations, political thinking and other activities of human concern.

Dr.Sullekh Chand Jain and Dr. Tansukh Salgia have made a strong case for applying principles of Jainism to various disciplines of human activity. Jains as householders must realize the importance of social and political matters vis-à-vis development of their personal goal of emancipation and must accept the fact that building a better world to live help create an environment which is more conducive to pursuing the very goal of emancipation itself. They should live in the present and try to improve the prevalent conditions rater than live in future and think of emancipation alone and live now in non-harmonious and non-peaceful conditions.  A change in outlook of this kind can produce a significant impact on the lives of the people in general and on the socio-political environment in the world and thus deliver the benefits of Jain teachings to the vast majority.

What Dr Silekh Jain is suggesting is the extension of the core principle of Jainism, Ahimsa. This of course, is very relevant today and must be pursued with all vigor and zeal. Bur this is not the limit of the powers of Jainism, Jainism being a scientific philosophy has a lot to offer even to the hard core science. In this article I would like to draw attention of the readers to the vast possibility of application of Jainism to the hard core science.

Science has made tremendous progress in the last one and half century but yet is groping in dark in respect of main issues of human inquisitiveness. Who are we, what is our real identity, what is the source of origin of life and evolution of species on Earth, who governs the life, who created this universe, what is the form and fate of the universe, what is the structure of cosmos, who rules the world, etc are the questions which are still waiting for answers. Here Jain philosophy can help find answers which are logical and satisfy the scientific mind. I shall illustrate this through some examples but would like state that finding answers to new problems or finding new interpretations to existing problems involves speculations on the part of imperfect individuals, who lack perfect knowledge of an omniscient. But this should not deter us from making an attempt, which science has been doing all along through observations, experiments and hypotheses. I am convinced that Jainism and science together can unfold secrets of nature which neither of them can do individually. This is for the reason that reality consists of both the subtle and the gross parts; Jain philosophy has explored the subtle world in great detail and the science has mainly confined to the gross world. Let Jain scholars and scientists join hands to discover the truths that stand not only the scientific scrutiny but also the philosophical arguments.

Jain philosophy propounds the theory of existence and states that all life forms are jivas in different stages of development. Jiva changes form in accordance with well defined rules and undergoes transformation as dictated by these universal laws. Jiva is an eternal substance that, like all other substances in nature, can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change form. Life on Earth did not originate from inorganic matter, as some scientists believe; it came into existence from the substance jiva. Biological evolution on Earth can be traced to the sensual and spiritual evolution of jiva as compelled by the environmental conditions. Both the soul and the environmental conditions are deciding factors in biological evolution, neglect of any one of them shall not find the true answer to the problem. Science not recognizing the existence of soul cannot solve the riddle alone.

What governs the transformation of the soul? Jain philosophy propounds the universal Doctrine of Karma, which explains how jiva migrates from one form to another.

Scientists have discovered some phenomenon taking place in all life forms that strongly supports the karma doctrine. There are also scientists who have come to the conclusion by their long research that there is a source of intelligence in every cell, which governs the functioning of the cell and the body. Thus scientific evidence is mounting to validate what has been proposed in Jain philosophy.

How the universe came in existence? In spite of plethora of discoveries made by scientists and astronomers no definite answer has yet been found. Although scientists are expecting new discoveries from the recent experiments going on in Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the final answer may yet elude the scientists in the absence of perfect knowledge. Lord Mahavira on the basis of his perfect knowledge gave description of shape and structure of loka that is yet to be discovered by science. The concepts of space and time have undergone change in the scientific history and leave many questions unanswered. The Jain concepts in this regard need to be further explored to satisfy the scientific enquiry. Jaina supports the theory of steady and finite universe and offers answers to questions posed by concepts like big bang, big crunch, heat death of the universe and the like.

Science has discovered many fundamental laws for matter and energy and has explored nature in macro and microstate. This is a tremendous achievement and as a result we have thousands of new products and the number is mounting everyday. Yet science knows only a small fraction of matter in the universe, the majority, about 95-96 percent escapes scientific observations. Jain philosophy describes three types of matter only a fraction has mass the rest is subtle and mass less, that is yet unknown to science.

Jain philosophy on the basis of activities of subtle matter indicates yet another set of rules which are likely to be different from those discovered for microstate of matter. Jain philosophy can help understand the nature of total matter in the universe.

One of the difficult problems before philosophers and scientists is to understand the nature of mind and to distinguish it from soul. A large research effort is being made by both these communities to explore the nature of mind but a clear view is yet far from reach. Jain philosophy presents a definite view about mind and soul that helps solve the problems facing the philosophers and scientists and then proceeds further to understand the psychological behavior of human beings and their mental states.

 Medical science has suggested norms for food intake in terms of calorie, contents, etc. for good health. Jainism on the other hand proposes fasting and less food, accompanied by spiritual power, for good health. Bhagwan Mahavir lived for 42 years almost without food and had a physique with unparallel energy and vigor. Resolution of these contradictory findings is a challenge to medical science.

I have cited only a few examples; many more can be identified and studied from the point of view of Jainism, science, philosophy and psychology. This opens up a new dimension of study of Jain philosophy that remains unexplored. I have tried to write on some of these aspects but this is not enough. Like all other studies in science and philosophy only a continuous study by a large group of people, making claims and counterclaims, can discover truths, rather relative truths which are open to questions as new discoveries are made. But this is how the science has progressed in the absence of perfect knowledge.

I would like to take this opportunity to call upon all Jain scholars, scientists and philosophers to join hands and take advantage of scriptural knowledge to find satisfactory answers to questions which are increasingly being posed by both the known and the unknown. This kind of application of Jainism is waiting for enthusiastic people who see real Jainism not in stones but in exploration of knowledge and an enlightened view of life to know the truth.

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