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Jain Biology: Zoology I

Published: 22.10.2009
Updated: 02.07.2015

We now come to the discussion of different class of organisms, which are endowed with the power of voluntary locomotion and which possess organic-bodies. The organisms which arc dealt with here are those mobile ones which are very Intimately associated with the trees, creepers, grasses, herbs, and shrubs etc, be they grown from earth or water and which were dealt with in the preceding paras. These mobile organisms are born on them and live and grow on them obtaining their nourishment from the different pails roots, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, etc.,—of these trees etc. They also ingest earth bodies, water-bodies etc, as described before and digest and assimilate the nutrients from them.

Though the text is spread over 30 sūtras (paras)[1] these organisms are not classified or subdivided. On the contrary different paras repeat the same things and in nearly the same words all the different classes of earth-based and water-based plants


Only one sūtra (pārā)—no. 76—deals with humans in this canon. Humans are classified into three kinds on the basis of their habitats—(a) born in karmabhūmi, (b) born in akarmabhūmi and, (c) born in interjacent islands.[2] They are also classified as Aryans and Non-aryans. Sex of each human is determined in accordance with one's karman and the seed from which one is born. The womb of the mother in which the fertilization of the female seed—ovum—by the male sperm takes place, plays an important part in the process of reproduction of a human being. The entire process is briefly described but there is insufficient information for us to make a coherent story.


Living organisms perpetuate their species from one generation to another through the process called reproduction. It is a duplication and transmission of characteristics from parent to offspring. In lower organisms, reproduction is often a simple matter of division of cells. In five-sensed organisms including humans, sex comes into operation, i.e., reproduction requires two parents—a male and a female. Reproductive cells called gametes, which are produced in the reproductive organs of both sexes, are a special variant of cell. The female gamete is called ovum (rajaḥ) and the male gamete is called sperm (śukra).


The incredible sequence of events that occur before birth, resulting in the formation of a perfect human being, is one of the most amazing parts of the human story. Fertilization is the union of the ovum with the sperm which takes place in the mother's womb. In humans, a mature viable ovum is surrounded by a barrier (tough membrane). An estimated 35 million sperms are needed to break a large enough hole in the barrier for a single sperm to enter the ovum. As soon as this is accomplished, the ovum fuses with the sperm and prevents the entry of additional sperms. Now the male pronucleus with 23 chromosomes unites with its counterpart—the female pronucleus—and the full complement of 46 chromosomes align themselves in 23 pairs in the fertilized ovum. The single integrated cell is ready to receive a soul.

Precisely at this instant a transmigrating soul, which is conscious substance enveloped in a microbody—karma śarīra—arrives in the womb (transmigrating from its previous life) and animates this fertilized ovum which becomes its physical body through a stage by stage biological process called paryāpti [3]. A new human being has been conceived.

The above process of fertilization and conception is referred to by the following terms:

Terms, 'ahābīena', 'ahāvagāseṇa' and 'kammakaḍāe joṇie' refer to the above. Here in the case of humans, bīja, i.e., the seed means the ovum fertilized by the sperm. It is popularly believed that when the sperm is more powerful, the issue will be a male, when the ovum is more strong, the issue would be a female and both are equal in strength, the issue would be a eunuch. The second term 'yathā avukāśa' refers to the reproductive organs of the female, i.e., the womb. For a successful reproduction, the womb must be active and efficient as also there should be the seed. The third term is complementary to the two above. It indicates that the effort would not be successful if the womb is unsatisfactory. The child-bearing age of a woman is from 15 to 50 years.

Term 'mehuṇavattiyāe' means the sexual intercourse. Sperm, the male gamete, must be delivered into the womb of the mother where the ovum would be awaiting fertilization. This is done by the actual act of copulation. The Cūrṇikāra says that embracing, kissing and caressing may precede the act of copulation but conception will occur only if the sperm is delivered by ejaculation within the womb. The phrase 'te duhao vi siṇehaṃ saṃciṇaṃti' refers to the entry of the sperm into the mature ovum by penetrating the surrounding barrier and fusing of the pronuclei of both gametes as described above. It is only then that the integrated cell is ready to receive the animating conscious principle, the soul. If there is no entry of an animating soul upto a short specific period, the cell would decompose and would be excreted.


Now the single cell with a full set of 46 chromosomes, (23 from the mother and 23 from the father) divides into two duplicates of itself. This is the first in the series of many divisions and the cells divide again and again in a long process of development in which many changes occur in a precise sequence. Using the instructions spelled out in the DNA blue­prints contained in the nucleus of the fertilized and animated cell, the embryo produces all the different organs in a precise sequence following a harmoniously regulated lime-schedule. The growing embryo is attached, first by a stalk and then by a rope like umbilical cord to the placenta.[4] It receives nourishment from the mother's humers through the placenta via its umbilical life-line.

The passage, "te jīvā māuoyaṃ piusukkaṃ tadubhaya-saṃsaṭṭhaṃ kalusaṃ kibhisaṃ tappaḍhamayāe āhāramāhāreṃti. tao pacchā jaṃ se māyā nānāvihāo rasavaīo āhāramāhāreṃti, tao egadeseṇaṃ oyamāhā-reṃti. aṇupuvveṇaṃ vuḍḍhā palipāgamaṇupavaṇṇā, tao kāyāo abhiṇivaṭṭamānā itthiṃ vegayā jaṇayaṃti, purisuṃ vegayā jaṇayaṃti, napuṃsagaṃ vegayā jaṇayaṃti. te jīvā ḍaharā samāṇā māukkhīraṃ sappim āhāreṃti, āṇupuvveṇaṃ vuḍḍhā oyaṇaṃ kummāsaṃ tasathāvare yapoe—te jīvā āhāreṃti puḍhavisarīraṃ āusarīraṃ teusarīraṃ vāusa-rīraṃ vanassaisarīraṃ tasapānasarīraṃ. ṇāṇāvihāṇaṃ tasathāvarāṇaṃ pānāṇaṃ sarīraṃ acittaṃ kuwamti. parividdhaṭṭham taṃ sarīraṃ puvvāhāriyaṃ tayāhāriyaṃ vipariṇayaṃ sāruuvikaḍaṃ saṃtaṃ (savvappanattāe āhāreṃti?)."

When a human body is born, it is already about nine months old. It has spent these nine months of life, since conception, living as a parasite within the body of its mother. During this period it increases from a microscopic single cell to 3 to 4 kgs. mass of protoplasm composed of nearly 10 trillion cells, integrated into various functional systems.


Birth inevitably brings a certain amount of trauma for the infant. For nine months, it has rested in gently supporting fluids. The sheltering environment is suddenly replaced by air. The oxygen supply from the mother is cut off. With a convulsive gasp the newborn draws in air and fills its tiny lungs for the first time. A baby's existence and growth is dependent partly on hereditary programmed instructions contained in its DNA and partly in the instructions from the fruition of the body-making (nāma) karman. Organ-building, joint-building, structure-building, survival, and growth would be the outcome of the joint action of the DNA and various sub-species of the body-making (nāma) karman.


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Edited by:
Prof. Muni Mahendra Kumar

Ladnun-341 306 (Rajasthan, India)

First Edition: 2008 Printed at: Shree Vardhman Press, Naveen Shahdara, Delhi- 110032

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Airāvata
  2. Akarmabhūmi
  3. Bhāṣā
  4. Body
  5. DNA
  6. Devakuru
  7. Environment
  8. Indriya
  9. Jambūdvīpa
  10. Karma śarīra
  11. Karmabhūmi
  12. Karman
  13. Lakh
  14. Mana
  15. Meru
  16. Mount Meru
  17. Nāma
  18. Paryāpti
  19. Soul
  20. Sūtra
  21. Sūtrakṛtāṅga
  22. Āhāra
  23. Śarīra
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