Philosophical Foundations Of Jainism (An Introduction): [10] Pariṇāmi Nitya (Transitory Eternity)

Published: 18.08.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015

Nothing in this world is static or immortal. Everything is subject to the process of change or evolution. The Jain philosophers have given a deep thought to this phenomena and they have tried to explain it through a theory called 'Pariṇāmi Nityavāda' (Concept of 'Persistence through Change').

All the things in this world bear two attributes. The first is permanency of existence (dhrauvya) and the other is - its capacity to change (pariṇāman). So the cycle is—utpāda (origination), vyaya (extinction) and dhrauvya (persistence). What remains as the constant factor in the process of any change is the unifying force. It maintains the originality of the existence in spite of the continuous cycle of creation and extinction or destruction. The belief of those who have caught hold of only this view is called the theory of 'kῡṭastha nitya'. On the contrary, some other philosophers see in this cycle the prominence only of 'continuous succession of changes' like the waves in the ocean. Their view is termed as 'Kṣaṇikavāda' (fluxism). The Jain philosophers have tried to reconcile both these attributes i.e. 'kῡṭastha nitya' and 'Kṣaṇikavāda', by propounding the theory of 'Pariṇāmi Nityatva-vāda'—-Theory of persistence through Change.

Lord Mahāvīra explained each related issue on the basis of 'Pariṇāmi Nityatvavāda' when he was asked whether 'ātmā (the soul) and pudgala (the matter) both are eternal, he said that existence never ceases 'to be', in the sense that both are 'nitya'(eternal). However, since the cycle of their modification never ends, so they are 'anitya'. In a comprehensive sense, therefore, they are neither 'nitya' nor 'anitya'. So call them 'nityānitya'. No substance ever ceases to exist and it is also true that there is a constant process of change and therefore transformation from one form/shape to another is also a fact. Any element has two 'dharmas'(attributes)—(1) 'sahabhāvī' (persisting) and (2) 'krama-bhāvi' (successive). The former is called 'guṇa' and it implies that the 'dravya'(substance) is the eternal substance. The latter is called 'paryāya', which denotes movement or capacity to change.

'Dravya' is the basis of 'paryāya'. What we perceive through our senses is only the 'paryāya' and not the basic element of anything, because we know a thing based on what we see, hear or touch through our senses. Thus there are infinite varieties of 'paryāya' that we encounter in this world without ever coming across the 'dravya' in its elemental form. There is an eternal element (dravya) in which the process of transformation takes place. It is not outside that element.

When we consider pariṇamana (the process of change), we find that either it is caused by its own nature or by the external intervention, in which case the cause and effect relationship works. 'Pariṇamana' is a continuous process correlated to 'Time' which is the intrinsic factor governing the changes in modes. Some of them are microscopic and we cannot perceive them through our senses. Some philosophers believe that our world is God's Creation. But on this issue, the Jains believe that it is the outcome of inter-relationship between 'jīvana tattva' (living or conscious element) and the pudgala (physical matter). Whatever manifests to us, whether it is creation, development or the destruction, is 11 ic effect of this relationship between conscious element (Jīva) & the physical matter (Ajīva), which is effected by kāla (time). What is manifested through changing modes or situations is influenced by the external causes also. The entire phenomena of change that is the one which is manifest or non-manifest is encompassed into the existence as a single entity.

Pariṇamana (Process of change) happens on both levels—(1) individual and (2) collective, e.g. (i) when you pour sugar in water, it becomes sweet (ii) certain atoms associate together in space and the clouds are formed. Some changes accrue out of the existence of dravya itself. Since they happen to be the products of dravya, they have their individuality. Out of five realities (astikāyas), three i.e. the media of motion, rest and space are amenable to natural change only. While the remaining two viz. Jīva & Pudgala are amenable to both kinds of change i.e. individual and collective. Whatever is manifested in the world is the result of interaction of Jīva and Pudgala. The visible world consists of the bodies of the Jīva whether they are living bodies or the dead ones.

Every reality has an extension in space—it is a conglomeration of pradeśas (i.e., indivisible units). Out of the five realities (astikāyas), only the pudgala has the capacity to divide and unite; the rest four neither unite nor divide. The phenomenon of association and dissociation of paramāṇus goes on in pudgala. The world that is manifested is the result of the collective process of association and dissociation of paramāṇus, which happens only in pudgala, although the living element also contributes to that process. Thus, we can conclude that the astitva (existence), which is an eternal substance also has the potential to change, which inter-alia gives it the energy to maintain itself over the infinite period of time i.e., upto the eternity. The spontaneous changes within all realities have different degrees, varying from the slightest upto the infinity. Without this, any reality cannot maintain its existence.

The Astitva (existence) has infinite dharmas (attributes). Some of them are manifested, while others are not. When we see milk, the curd or ghee (which are milk's transformations) can be a possibility but not a reality as far as we can see at a given time. Such a possibility exists even in the grass that the cattle graze. (It is the grass that later on gets transformed into milk, curd or ghee). Each dravya has two kinds of potential powers—(1) ogha (potential energy) and the other (2) samucita (kinetic energy). The former is the controlling power—niyāmaka śakti, while the second is only situational i.e. what we see or sense only at a given time. Thus if one asks: "Is there ghee in grass?", the answer will be yes (from the point of view of ogha energy) and not from the point of view of samucita energy.

The energy is produced through the process of change. Albert Einstein, the legendary scientist found out that matter could be transformed into energy and the vice-versa. The Jain philosophy has tried to explain this principle through Pariṇāmi Nityatvavāda. The 'dravya' (substance) whether it is 'pudgala' or 'jīva' has infinite potential to sustain itself and that is why its existence is eternal. This potential power manifests itself through the process of change—pariṇāmana. All the scientific exploration and experi-ments that are carried out happen in the realm of pudgala, which is in the form of matter and which can be transformed into energy.

In nutshell, the Jain philosophy has tried to explain 'jagat' (the world) through both the view-points—'dravyārthika' (based on substance) and 'paryāyārthika' (based on modifications). The first is 'abheda dṛṣṭi'—holistic view and the second is 'bheda dṛṣṭi' - differential view, through which we can comprehend this world with all its distinctive features.

Whatever we see in this world is nothing else but only 'paryāya' - one of the many modal forms. We don't encounter the 'dravya' in its basic elemental form. Acharya Hemachandra lias put this very succinctly in the following couplet:

"Aparyayaṃ vastu saṃśyamāṇaṃ
Adravyaṃ etat ca vivicyamāṇaṃ."

- "If we look at the world thourgh the 'abheda' (synthetic) view-point, we get only 'dravya' and lose all its distinct modes, and their complex varieties. But when we consider this through 'bheda' (analytic) point of view, we can see only paryāya alongwith their expanse and variety as manifested in the world.

Both jīva and pudgala are subject to the law of transmutation, but the variety of forms and shapes that we see in the world is due to the unlimited capacity of pudgala to transform itself. So pudgala is the main element in all the manifest modes—'vyakta paryāya'.


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:
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Hemachandra
  3. Ajīva
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Astikāyas
  6. Astitva
  7. Dhrauvya
  8. Dravya
  9. Einstein
  10. Ghee
  11. Hemachandra
  12. Jain Philosophy
  13. Jīva
  14. Kāla
  15. Mahāvīra
  16. Paramāṇus
  17. Pariṇāmi Nityatvavāda
  18. Paryāya
  19. Pradeśas
  20. Pudgala
  21. Soul
  22. Space
  23. Vyaya
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