Jain cosmology is the description of the shape and functioning of the Universe (loka) and its constituents (such as living beings, matter, space, time etc.) according to Jainism. Jain cosmology considers the universe, as an uncreated entity, existing since infinity, having neither beginning nor end. Jain texts describe the shape of the universe as similar to a man standing with legs apart and arm resting on his waist. This Universe, according to Jainism, is broad at the top, narrow at the middle and once again becomes broad at the bottom.
According to Jains, the Universe is made up of six simple and eternal substances called dravya classified as follows:
Conventional time (vyavah?ra k?la) is perceived by the senses through the transformations and modifications of substances. Real time (ni?caya k?la), however, is the cause of imperceptible, minute changes (called vartan?) that go on incessantly in all substances.-- Dravyasa?graha (21)
The Jain doctrine postulates an eternal and ever-existing world which works on universal natural laws. The existence of a creator deity is overwhelmingly opposed in the Jain doctrine. Mah?pura, a Jain text authored by ?c?rya Jinasena is famous for this quote:
|"||Some foolish men declare that a creator made the world. The doctrine that the world was created is ill advised and should be rejected. If God created the world, where was he before the creation? If you say he was transcendent then and needed no support, where is he now? How could God have made this world without any raw material? If you say that he made this first, and then the world, you are faced with an endless regression.||"|
According to Jains, the universe has a firm and an unalterable shape which is measured in the Jain texts by means of a unit called Rajju which is supposed to be very large. The Digambara sect of Jainism postulates that the universe is fourteen Rajju high and extends seven Rajjus from north to south. Its breadth is seven Rajjus at the bottom and decreases gradually till the middle where it is one Rajju. The width then increases gradually till it is five Rajju and again decreases till it is one Rajju. The apex of the universe is one Rajju long, one Rajju wide and eight Rajju high. The total space of the world is thus 343 cubic Rajju. The svetambara view differs slightly and postulates that there is constant increase and decrease in the breadth and the space is 239 cubic Rajju. Apart from the apex which is the abode of liberated beings, the universe is divided into three parts. The world is surrounded by three atmospheres: dense-water, dense-wind and thin-wind. It is then surrounded by infinitely large non-world which is absolutely empty.
The whole world is said to be filled with living beings. In all the three parts, there is the existence of very small living beings called nigoda. Nigoda are of two types: nitya-nigoda and Itara-nigoda. Nitya-nigoda are those which will reborn as nigoda throughout eternity where as Itara-nigoda will be reborn as other beings too. The mobile region of universe (Trasandi) is one Rajju wide, one Rajju broad and fourteen Rajju high. Within this, there are animals and plants everywhere where as Human beings are restricted to 2.5 continents of middle world. The beings inhabiting lower world are called Naraki (Hellish beings). Deva (roughly demi-gods) live in whole of the top and middle world and top three realms of lower world. Living beings are divided in fourteen classes (Jivasthana) : 1. fine beings with one sense. 2. Crude beings with one sense. 3. beings with two sense. 4. beings with three sense. 5. Beings with four sense. 6. beings with five sense without mind. 7. beings with five sense with a mind. These can be under-developed or developed which makes it a total of fourteen. Human beings get any form of existence and are the only ones which can attain salvation.
The early Jains contemplated the nature of the earth and universe and developed a detailed hypothesis on the various aspects of astronomy and cosmology. According to the Jain texts, the universe is divided into 3 parts:
The following Upanga ?gamas describe the Jain cosmology and geography in a great detail:
Additionally, the following texts describe the Jain cosmology and related topics in detail:
Upper World (Udharva loka) is divided into different abodes and are the realms of the heavenly beings (demi-gods) who are non-liberated souls.
Upper World is divided into sixteen Devalokas, nine Graiveyaka, nine Anudish and five Anuttar abodes. Sixteen Devaloka abodes are Saudharma, Aishana, Sanatkumara, Mahendra, Brahma, Brahmottara, Lantava, Kapishta, Shukra, Mahashukra, Shatara, Sahasrara, Anata, Pranata, Arana and Achyuta. Nine Graiveyak abodes are Sudarshan, Amogh, Suprabuddha, Yashodhar, Subhadra, Suvishal, Sumanas, Saumanas and Pritikar. Nine Anudish are Aditya, Archi, Archimalini, Vair, Vairochan, Saum, Saumrup, Ark and Sphatik. Five Anuttar are Vijaya, Vaijayanta, Jayanta, Aparajita and Sarvarthasiddhi.
The sixteen heavens in Devalokas are also called Kalpas and the rest are called Kalpatit. Those living in Kalpatit are called Ahamindra and are equal in grandeur. There is increase with regard to the lifetime, influence of power, happiness, lumination of body, purity in thought-colouration, capacity of the senses and range of clairvoyance in the Heavenly beings residing in the higher abodes. But there is decrease with regard to motion, stature, attachment and pride. The higher groups, dwelling in 9 Greveyak and 5 Anutar Viman. They are independent and dwelling in their own vehicles. The anuttara souls attain liberation within one or two lifetimes. The lower groups, organized like earthly kingdoms--rulers (Indra), counselors, guards, queens, followers, armies etc.
Above the Anutar vimans, at the apex of the universe, is the Siddhasila, the realms of the liberated souls also known as the Siddhas, the perfected omniscient and blissful beings, who are venerated by the Jains.
Madhya Loka, at the centre of the universe consists of 900 yojans above and 900 yojans below earth surface. It is inhabited by:
Madhyaloka consists of many continent-islands surrounded by oceans, first eight whose names are:
|Jamb?dv?pa||Lavanoda (Salt - ocean)|
|Ghatki Khand||Kaloda (Black sea)|
|Puskarvardv?pa||Puskaroda (Lotus Ocean)|
|Varunvardv?pa||Varunoda (Varun Ocean)|
|Kshirvardv?pa||Kshiroda (Ocean of milk)|
|Ghrutvardv?pa||Ghrutoda (Butter milk ocean)|
|Ikshuvardv?pa||Iksuvaroda (Sugar Ocean)|
Mount Meru (also Sumeru) is at the centre of the world surrounded by Jamb?dv?pa, in form of a circle forming a diameter of 100,000 yojans. There are two sets of sun, moon and stars revolving around Mount Meru; while one set works, the other set rests behind the Mount Meru.
Jamb?dv?pa continent has 6 mighty mountains, dividing the continent into 7 zones (Ksetra). The names of these zones are:
The three zones i.e. Bharat Kshetra, Mahavideh Kshetra and Airavat Kshetra are also known as Karma bhoomi because practice of austerities and liberation is possible and the Tirthankaras preach the Jain doctrine. The other four zones, Ramyak, Hairanyvat Kshetra, Haimava Kshetra and Hari Kshetra are known as akarmabhoomi or bhogbhumi as humans live a sinless life of pleasure and no religion or liberation is possible.
The lower world consists of seven hells, which are inhabited by Bhavanpati demigods and the hellish beings. Hellish beings reside in the following hells -
According to Jainism, time is beginningless and eternal. The K?lacakra, the cosmic wheel of time, rotates ceaselessly. The wheel of time is divided into two half-rotations, Utsarpi or ascending time cycle and Avasarpi, the descending time cycle, occurring continuously after each other.Utsarpi is a period of progressive prosperity and happiness where the time spans and ages are at an increasing scale, while Avsarpi is a period of increasing sorrow and immorality with decline in timespans of the epochs. Each of this half time cycle consisting of innumerable period of time (measured in sagaropama and palyopama years)[note 1] is further sub-divided into six aras or epochs of unequal periods. Currently, the time cycle is in avasarpi or descending phase with the following epochs.
|Name of the Ara||Degree of happiness||Duration of Ara||Maximum height of people||Maximum lifespan of people|
|Su?ama-su?am?||Utmost happiness and no sorrow||400 trillion s?garopamas||Six miles tall||Three Palyopam years|
|Su?am?||Moderate happiness and no sorrow||300 trillion s?garopamas||Four miles tall||Two Palyopam Years|
|Su?ama-duam?||Happiness with very little sorrow||200 trillion s?garopamas||Two miles tall||One Palyopam Years|
|Duama-su?am?||Happiness with little sorrow||100 trillion s?garopamas||1500 meters||84 Lakh Purva|
|Duam?||Sorrow with very little happiness||21,000 years||7 hatha||120 years|
|Duama- duam?||Extreme sorrow and misery||21,000 years||1 hatha||20 years|
In utsarpi the order of the eras is reversed. Starting from du?am?-du?am?, it ends with su?am?-su?am? and thus this never ending cycle continues. Each of these aras progress into the next phase seamlessly without any apocalyptic consequences. The increase or decrease in the happiness, life spans and length of people and general moral conduct of the society changes in a phased and graded manner as the time passes. No divine or supernatural beings are credited or responsible with these spontaneous temporal changes, either in a creative or overseeing role, rather human beings and creatures are born under the impulse of their own karmas.
During each motion of the half-cycle of the wheel of time, 63 ?al?k?puru?a or 63 illustrious men, consisting of the 24 T?rtha?karas and their contemporaries regularly appear. The Jain universal or legendary history is basically a compilation of the deeds of these illustrious men. They are categorised as follows:
Balabhadra and Narayana are half brothers who jointly rule over three continents.
Besides these a few other important classes of 106 persons are recognized:-