A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of dharma, adharma, akasha: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the eighteenth part in the series called the “the jaina philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 18 - Dharma, Adharma, Akāśa

The conception of dharma and adharma in Jainism is absolutely different from what they mean in other systems of Indian philosophy. Dharma is devoid of taste, touch, smell, sound and colour; it is conterminous with the mundane universe (lokākāśa) and pervades every part of it. The term astikāya is therefore applied to it. It is the principle of motion, the accompanying circumstance or cause which makes motion possible, like water to a moving fish. The water is a passive condition or circumstance of the movement of a fish, i.e. it is indifferent or passive (udāsīna) and not an active or solicitous (preraka) cause. The water cannot compel a fish at rest to move; but if the fish wants to move, water is then the necessary help to its motion. Dharma cannot make the soul or matter move ; but if they are to move, they cannot do so without the presence of dharma. Hence at the extremity of the mundane world (loka) in the region of the liberated souls, there being no dharma, the liberated souls attain perfect rest. They cannot move there because there is not the necessary motion-element, dharma[1].

Adharma is also regarded as a similar pervasive entity which helps jīvas and pudgalas to keep themselves at rest. No substance could move if there were no dharma, or could remain at rest if there were no adharma. The necessity of admitting these two categories seems probably to have been felt by the Jains on account of their notion that the inner activity of the jīva or the atoms required for its exterior realization the help of some other extraneous entity, without which this could not have been transformed into actual exterior motion. Moreover since the jlvas were regarded as having activity inherent in them they would be found to be moving even at the time of liberation (mokṣa), which was undesirable; thus it was conceived that actual motion required for its fulfilment the help of an extraneous entity which was absent in the region of the liberated souls.

The category of ākāśa is that subtle entity which pervades the mundane universe (loka) and the transcendent region of liberated souls (aloka) which allows the subsistence of all other substances such as dharma, adharma, jīva, pudgala. It is not a mere negation and absence of veil or obstruction, or mere emptiness, but a positive entity which helps other things to interpenetrate it. On account of its pervasive character it is called ākāśāstikāya[2].

Footnotes and references:


Dravyasaṃgrahavṛtti, 17-20.


Dravyasaṃgrahavṛtti, 19.

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