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Philosophical Foundations Of Jainism (An Introduction): [05] The World And Its Creator

Published: 13.08.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015

The nature of the world, that we live in is shrouded in mystery. Since time immemorial, the philosophers and the scientists of different schools and streams have tried their best to unfold this mystery. "Who created this world? Why? When? and How!"—these questions have been asked time and again.

If we subscribe to the view that the world is a creation, then the creator has to be somebody different than the world. A question would then be asked—"from where he came and is there another world"? There is a wide difference of opinion among the philosophers about the basic attributes of 'God', who is believed to be the Creator of this world. But if the Creator is regarded to be an embodiment of pure consciousness, how come his creation should have both the characteristics i.e., sentience as well as insentience? How come this dichotomy? Another vital question would surface then. In order to make something, the Creator has to collect some raw material. Did that come from this world or from some other one? Similarly, if we believe that the world is made out of God's own properties, then it is not a new creation but only an extention or new modification of the original stuff.

The Jain philosophers did not wish to tread this futile path in imagining such questions and trying to answer them. They maintained that the world is not a Creation by anybody like God. It just exists there since infinity and would remain so for ever. However one should not confuse between the cosmic world and the physical entities like earth, sun, moon or other galaxies. They come into being and also get liquidated in order to take a new form. The 'Jagat' (World), as a philosophical terms, denotes that original entity which consists of both the living and non-living substances in cosmic sense of the term.

The Jain philosophers explained the above doctrine of 'Jagat' through three statements:-

(1) There is duality since the world is composed of both living and non-living stuff.

(2) It is 'Pañcāstikāya' i.e., it has five fundamental realities as under—

(A) Medium of motion (Dharmāstikāya)

(B) Medium of rest (Adharmāstikāya)

(C) Space (Ākāśa)

(D) Physical matter and physical energy (Pudgala)

(E) Soul (Jīva)

(3) However since 'Jagat' is composed of six 'Dravyas' (fundamental substances), so one more is added to the five astikāyas mentioned as above and that is 'Kāla' (Time).

What we can see of this 'Jagat' through our eyes is the manifestation or extention of only three of the six substances mentioned above. They are: the medium of motion, medium of rest and space, which are non-physical, and hence, imperceptible. But that does not mean that what we don't see is not 'Jagat'. In fact, we see a mixed product comprising of Jīva (the soul) and 'Pudgala' (the matter). We do not see either of them in its original form. The original form of 'Pudgala' is 'Paramāṇu' (atom). We can not see it, as it is beyond the capacity of reach of our sensory perceptive power. Similarly, there is no physical image of 'Ātmā'—the soul, which is nothing but the pure consciousness.

 The Jain philosophy believes that the 'ātmā' (soul) in its purest form is God. It does not take any human or physical form. Jainism does not recognise God as the Creator of this world. Being Ātmā, we all have the potential to become God and in that sense, all of us—the living beings, who have consciousness, are God in ourselves. Jainism can not, therefore, be placed in either of the two straight philosophical jackets—viz., 'Believers in God' or the 'Non-believers'. When 'Ātmā' and 'Pudgala' are in unison, they create vital energy—the 'Prāṇa'. It is the 'Prāṇa' which breathes, takes in food etc.. Neither 'Ātmā' alone nor 'Pudgala' alone can breathe, eat etc.. In that sense we are a composite existence of both—living and non-living substances. Our composite existence is not an independent entity. As far as the pure existence is concerned, both the 'Jīva' and the 'Pudgala' are independently existing entities. In that sense, they are at par.

The 'Vedānta' philosophy recognises only the conscious or the living element. The 'Cārvāka', speaks just the opposite of it, as it recognises only matter as the ultimate real substance. Even soul is nothing but a transformation of the matter, according to the Chārvāka. In that context, the Jain philosophy can be termed as 'dualist', as it recognises independent existence of both living and non-living elements (Jīva & ajīva including Pudgala). It says that same importance may be given to both, as they belong to the same family and also work in perfect co-ordination with each other. The doctrines of 'Ahiṃsā' (non-violence), 'Maitri' (amity) and 'Saṃyama' (self-restraint), which are the hallmarks of Jainism, emerge out of the recognition of one single aspect of substance viz., 'dravyatva', consisting of both 'Jīva & Pudgala'. One has to refrain from 'hiṃsā' of both 'Jīva' and 'Ajīva': one has to practice 'saṃyama' with respect to both 'Jīva' and 'Ajīva'. The Jain philosophers hold that not only the living beings but even non-living matter also form apart of this world. Since they work together in unison, they do not fight with each other as separate entities. There is bound to be harmony among different elements in the world, as they have to co-exist. So both independence and interdependence simultaneously work hand in glove and they bind us all into one family of existence.

Jainism pleads that one must try to know oneself. And to know that, he must know the world (Jagat) equally well. We are not only this physical body that we bear, but a combination of both—the physical matter and the consciousness. It is this consciousness which enables us to realise our ownself.

The Jain philosophical thought recommends adoption of a two-pronged strategy for self-realization: First to use the 'Jña-parijñā' (i.e., Supercomprehension) in order to acquire knowledge and thereafter to allow the 'known' to guide our actions through 'Pratyākhyāna-parijñā', (i.e., Reasoning Power of Renunciation) - the wisdom that guides our actions. It means that you have to differentiate between what could be accepted and what has to be abandoned.

The God is not a separate entity than what we are. We have him within us. What is required is that we make an endeavour to realise him and thus we attain the state of 'Sat, Cit, Ananda' (Reality, Consciousness and Bliss).


This is an edited version of the author's work:
Jain I Darshan ke Mool Sutra
Translated by Prof. M. P. Lele under the guidance of Muni Mahendra Kumar ji and Muni Dulahraj ji, Senior disciples of Acharya Mahprajna.

© Adarsh Sahitya Sangh. New Delhi Published by:
Kamlesh Chaturvedi
Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
210, Deendayal Upadhyay Marg
New Delhi - 110002 (India) Printed at:
R-Tech Offset Printer Delhi-110032

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Adharmāstikāya
  2. Ajīva
  3. Astikāyas
  4. Body
  5. Consciousness
  6. Dharmāstikāya
  7. Jain Philosophy
  8. Jainism
  9. Jīva
  10. Non-violence
  11. Pudgala
  12. Soul
  13. Space
  14. Ākāśa
  15. Ātmā
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