by Jayaram V
Strange it may seem, thousands of years before the west came out with its
quantum theory, the ancient Indians thought of the existence of atoms as the building block of matter. Reference to matter consisting of atoms appear not only in some schools of Hindu philosophy such as the Nyaya Vaisheshika School, but also in Jainism, which regards matter as the aggregate of atoms and as the source of bondage and the cause of all karma.
The original nature of Jiva is a pristine state, a mass of pure consciousness, devoid of any coarseness or grossness which it develops as it enters the mundane world and becomes subject to the laws of karma. Since matter carreid such an important influence in the lives of the individual jivas, the Jain monks considered it as their duty to study matter in its various aspects and work out a possible solution to over come its impact.
The atomic theory of Jainism was thus a product of deep enquiry into the mysteries of the material world, not just some idle curiosity of some bored monkhood, for in that revelation was also hidden the solution to the problem of the suffering humanity. Some details of the atomic theory of Jainism are mentioned below.
The matter is referred as pudugala in Jainism. It is considered to be an aggregate of individual atoms (paramanu) coming together. Depending upon the nature of atoms involved, matter assumes varying degrees of fineness or coarseness and accordingly impacts the lives of various jivas which are caught in the mire of samasara and the inviolable laws of karma.
An atom is without any point, without a beginning and without an end. It is eternal, can neither be created nor destroyed. It is invisible, imperceptible. Only the adepts can perceive it through their all knowing vision.
Atoms of unlike nature come together to form a skanda or a kind of compound atom. All the objects in the world are various types of compound atoms only, while the world itself is a much bigger
aggregate of atoms and skandas. The atoms are subject to two types of motion, a simple motion from one one point to another and a motion from one condition to another or one state to another.
Sometimes atoms can travel with incredible velocity and traverse the entire universe in the blink of an eye. The Jains believe that atoms are uniform in nature, but by coming together in varying degrees and combinations they produce a multitude of material things.
The souls are not made up of matter, but are bound by it in their mundane state. They cannot escape from the contact with matter till they liberate themselves through good conduct, performance of austerities and pure living. The ultimate aim of every follower of Jainism is to become free from all possible contact with matter.
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