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Jain Reality/Existence
Structural View of the Universe

Jain Philosophy does not give credence to the theory that the God is a creator, survivor, or destroyer of the universe. On the contrary, it asserts that the universe has always existed and will always exist in exact adherence to the laws of the cosmos. There is nothing but infinity both in the past and in the future.

The world of reality or universe consists of two classes of objects:

Living Beings
Conscious, Soul, Cheta, or Jiva
Non-living Objects
Cunconscious, Achetan, or Ajiva

Non living objects are further classified into five categories:

TimeKal or Samay
Medium of Motion
Medium of Rest

The five non living entities together with the living being, totaling six are aspects of reality in Jainism. They are known as six universal entities, or substances or realities.

These six entities of the universe are eternal but continuously undergo countless changes. During the changes nothing is lost or destroyed. Everything is recycled into another form.

Concept of Reality

A reality or an entity is defined to have an existence, which is known as Sat or truth.

Each entity continuously undergoes countless changes. During this process the old form (size, shape etc.) of an entity is destroyed, the new form is originated. The form of a substance is called Paryaya.

In the midst of modification of a substance, its certain qualities remain unchanged (permanence). The unchanged qualities of a substance are collectively known as Dravya.

Hence, each entity (substance) in the universe has three aspects:

  • Origination - Utpada

  • Destruction - Vyaya

  • Permanence - Dhruvya

Both Dravya (substance) and Paryaya (mode or form) are inseparable from an entity.

The same principle can be explained differently as follows:

An entity is permanent (nitya) from the standpoint of its attributes or qualities (Dravya). This is known as Dravyarthik naya.

An entity is transient (anitya) from the standpoint of its form or modification (Paryaya). This is known as Paryayarthik naya. The modification that an entity undergoes either naturally or artificially is nothing but the transformation of its various shapes, sizes, and forms.

A natural description of reality takes into consideration these three aspects:

  • Permanence in the midst of change

  • Identity in the midst of diversity

  • Unity in the midst of multiplicity


A human being through the process of growth undergoes various changes, such as childhood, youth, and old age. These changes are the natural modifications.

- Childhood, youth, and old age are transient forms known as Paryaya or mode

- Soul of a living being is permanent and known as Dravya

Clay is molded by a potter into a pot. Gold is crafted by a goldsmith into various ornaments. These changes are artificial modifications of the nonliving substances.

  Ornaments and pot are transient forms known as paryaya

  Gold and clay are permanent and known as dravya

While undergoing various modifications, either natural or artificial, the basic dravya of a substance remains unchanged and is permanent.

Six Universal Substances

As explained above Jainism believes that the universe is made from the combination of the six universal substances. All of the six substances are indestructible, imperishable, immortal, eternal and continuously go through countless changes.

Soul of Consciousness
Living Being
Nonliving Being
Medium of Motion
Nonliving Being
Medium of Rest
Nonliving Being
Nonliving Being
Kal or Samay        
Nonliving Being        

Soul (Jiva) or Living Being

Soul's essential characteristic is consciousness. This is the only knowing substance. It possesses knowledge, vision, power, and bliss. It also possesses the property of contraction and expansion like that of light. They are of innumerable numbers. Living being can not be created or can not be destroyed. The total number of living beings remains same in the entire universe at all the time. All living beings are classified into two major categories.

Liberated or Free (Mukta) Soul:

Liberated or Free soul is defined as a pure consciousness, a soul that has completely exhausted all of its karma. It is also known as Siddha. All Siddhas are defined as Gods in Jainism. All Tirthankaras and other Arihants become Siddhas at the end of their human life (death). Liberated soul has the following qualities:

  • Infinite or perfect Knowledge

  • Infinite or perfect Vision

  • Infinite or perfect Power

  • Infinite or perfect Bliss

  • Does not possess a body

  • Lives in Moksha, which is located on the top of Lokakas.

  • Never returns again into the cycle of birth, life, and death

  • Innumerable in numbers

Worldly (Samsari) Soul:

Worldly soul is defined as a soul that is covered by the karma particles. Hence it qualities are changed from the liberated soul as follows:

  • Limited Knowledge

  • Limited Vision

  • Limited Power

  • Limited Bliss

  • Possesses a body (plants, hellish, animal, human, or angel)

  • Wanders into the cycle of life and death

  • Suffers from birth, death, pain, and pleasure

  • Doer of all kinds of karmas (actions)

  • Enjoyer of the fruits of the karmas

  • Innumerable number of worldly souls

  • Capable of becoming free from worldly life

Worldly souls are divided according to the number of senses they possess. There are total five senses; touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing a living being may possess.

One sense (Ekendria) living being:

  • Possesses one sense only - touch.
  • It cannot move own its own accord
  • They are subdivided into five categories:
    • Soul possesses Earth as its body - Prithvikaya
    • Soul possesses Water as its body - Apakaya
    • Soul possesses Fire as its body - Agnikaya
    • Soul possesses Air as its body - Vayukaya
    • Soul possesses Vegetable as its body - Vanaspatikaya
    • The living beings of vegetables are further classified into two groups:
      • Pratyek Vanaspatikaya - Individual soul has its own body of vegetable (e.g. Cabbage, Okra, Banana, Tomato)
      • Sadharan Vanaspatikaya - Many souls share one body of vegetable (e.g. Potato, Onion (root vegetables))

Two sense (Be indriya) living being:

  • Possesses two senses - touch and taste
  • e.g. worms, leeches

Three sense (Tre indriya) living being:

  • Possesses three senses - touch, taste, and smell
  • e.g. ants, lice

Four sense (Chau indriya) living being:

  • Possesses four senses - touch, taste, smell, and sight
  • e.g. flies, bees

Five sense (Panch indriya) living being:

  • Possesses five senses - touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing
  • e.g. animals, birds, human, heavenly and hellish beings, etc.

A soul with one to four senses does not a possess mind. A soul with five senses may or may not possess a mind.

Matter (Pudgala):

Matter is a nonliving substance. It is the only substance which possesses physical body consisting of mass and volume. Its qualities are as follows:

  • Possesses physical body

  • Have senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing)

  • Possesses color

  • Does not have consciousness

  • Does not have any knowledge

  • Are of infinite number

The smallest particle of matter is known Parmanu (atom). It occupies only one unit of space called Pradesa.

There are four divisions of matter:

  • Skandha (whole matter):
    • Any object, which has a mass of matter
    • e.g. stick, stone, knife, a particle of sand
  • Skandha desa (portion of matter):
    • A part, portion, or division. An undetached portion of skandha is called skandha desa. When a part of the skandha (skandha desa) is separated from the whole, it also becomes another skandha.
    • e.g. A hand of a statue is known as a skandha desa but when separated from the statue is known as skandha.
  • Skandha pradesa (smallest particle of matter):
    • The smallest undetached portion of skandha, which cannot be further divided
  • Paramanu or Anu (atom):
    • When the smallest portion of the matter is separated from its skandha, it is called paramanu or anu. Parmanu matter can not be further sub divided, cut, or pierced.
Karma or Karmic Matter (Karma Pudgala): Karma is one of the categories of matter. It is known as karmic matter (karma pudgala). Karma particles are of very fine matter not perceptible to the senses. The entire universe is filled with such karmic matter.

Every living being is covered by karmic matter from the beginning of time. It is the karmic matter that keeps the soul away from realization of its true nature. It is due to karma one feels pleasure and pain, reincarnates in the different form of life, acquires certain types of physical body, and the duration of life.

Medium of Motion (Dharma):

Jainism considers the Medium of Motion a nonliving substance. Its primary function is to help in the movement of soul and matter. It possesses the following qualities:

  • Helps in the movement of soul and matter

  • Does not possess senses, color, or body

  • Does not have a consciousness or knowledge

  • Exists in the entire universe (Lokakas)

  • e.g. Water provides a medium for fish to move

Medium of Rest (Adharma):

Jainism considers the Medium of Rest a nonliving substance. Its primary function is to help to rest the movement of soul and matter. It possesses the following qualities:

  • Helps to rest soul and matter

  • Does not possess senses, color, or body

  • Does not have consciousness or knowledge

  • Exists in the entire universe (Lokakas)

  • e.g. People rest in the shade of a tree

Space (Akasa):

Space provides room to all other substances of the universe. Its qualities are as follows:

  • Provides room to soul, matter, medium of motion, and medium of rest

  • Pervades everywhere (infinite)

  • Supports everything and thus it is self supported

  • Have no form, color, taste, smell, and touch

  • Does not perform any active action (inactive)

  • Provides accommodation to soul and matter of their actions

  • Is one and whole

Space is divided into two parts:
  • Lokakas - Where medium of motion and rest substances exist

  • Alokakas - The remaining space, which is empty and void

Height of Lokakas = 14 rajlok or rajju

The volume of Lokakas = 343 cubic rajlok or rajju (Digambar)

The volume of Lokakas = 239 cubic rajlok or rajju (Swetambar)

The Alokakas is infinite.

Units of Measurements

1 Danda or Bow = 6 feet

2000 Danda or Bow = 1 Kosha

4 Kosha = 1 Yojan (approx. 9.0 miles)

1000 Yojans = 1 Mahayojan

1 Rajju or Rajlok = approx.1.15 x 1021 miles

One Rajju or Rajlok is defined as:

  • A deva flies in six months at a rate of 2,057,152 Yojan in one samay (where samay is a unit of time = approx. 1/4 second). -OR-
  • The distance traveled in six months by a ball of iron weighing 1,000 bhar or tolas (@ 25 lbs) let fall freely from Indralok (heaven).

Time (Kal or Samaya):

The changes in living being and non living substances (from one paryay to another paryay of a substance) are measured in the units of time. However time is not the cause of such changes.

There are two views that exist in Jainism with regards to time:
  1. Time is an imaginary thing; it has no real existence.
  2. Time has a real existence consisting of innumerable time atoms.
The smallest indivisible portion of time is called Samaya. Combination of samayas are called moment, second, minute, hour, day, month, year, etc.

Innumerable samayas
One avali (time required to blink an eye)
16,777,216 avalis
One muhurt (48 minutes)
30 muhurts
One day
15 days
One fortnight
2 fortnights
One month
12 months
One year
5 years
One Yuga
8,400,000 x 8,400,000 years
One Purva (70,560,000,000,000 years)
Innumerable years
One Palyopama*
10 x 10,000,000 x 10,000,000 Palyopamas
One Sagaropama
10 x 10,000,000 x 10,000,000 Sagaropamas
One Avasarpini or Utsarpini (Half Cycle)
20 x 10,000,000 x 10,000,000 Sagaropamas
One Time Cycle

*One Palyopama = The time required to empty Sixty Four cubic Gau (512 cubic miles) deep well completely filled with hairs of a seven day old newly born baby and one hair is removed every 100 years.

Time is a continuous Cycle of Decline Era (Avasarpini kal) and Rise Era (Utasarpini kal). During declining era, human virtues, natural conditions decline over the time, while during rising era, improve over the time.

Each era is divided into six parts. The duration and the name of its part is defined as follows:

Six parts of Declining Era (Avasarpini) Time Cycle:

1. Happy - Happy
4 x 1014 Sagaropamas
2. Happy
3 x 1014 Sagaropamas
3. Happy - Unhappy
2 x 1014 Sagaropamas
4. Unhappy - Happy
1 x 1014 Sagaropamas
5. Unhappy
21,000 years (present Era passed at 2,500 years)
6. Unhappy - Unhappy
21,000 years

Six parts of Rising Era (Utsarpini) Time Cycle:

1. Unhappy - Unhappy
21,000 years
2. Unhappy
21,000 years
3. Unhappy - Happy
1 x 1014 Sagaropamas
4. Happy - Unhappy
2 x 1014 Sagaropamas
5. Happy
3 x 1014 Sagaropamas
6. Happy - Happy
4 x 1014 Sagaropamas

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