Jain Science and Spirituality

by Medhavi Jain | 2020 | 61,419 words

This essay studies the elements of Jainism and investigates how Jain science and philosophy can give the world answers to through science and spirituality. Instead of interpreting it as a confined, strict philosophy, it is shown that Jainism represents a path towards self-awakening through self-improvement....

Chapter 7 - Relevance of Science and Spirituality in Jainism in Modern Times

We are here to find the answers; questions of which originate from the depths of our mind, for this is human nature, we cannot be at peace sitting idle. Our mind not only bothers us to seek continuously but also provides a feeling of joy at every finding. In this context Jain philosophy is not only stands unique but also provides satisfactory answers to each possible query. The division of the basic substances that constitute the cosmos, according to Jainism, is outstanding without a doubt. As Jain philosophy never talks about an atom but parmanu, the huge difference between the two begins with atom being constituted by electron, proton and neutron and parmanu being the smallest, indivisible part of matter.

Space in Jain philosophy is not only the part which accommodates all life but also beyond that. And so does the time, which is abstract i.e. does not have a physical existence, is infinite and repeats itself in cyclic form. Cosmology in Jainism is beyond mesmerisation. It not only lays out the map of the universe precisely but also tells one about the different planes of existence, to be attained by various human actions and intent. Metaphysics indicates the continuity and the relations between any two or more things, beings etc. On one hand it makes one feel that everything is an illusion and on the other that nothing is an illusion; only we need a higher dimension of intellect to understand the same.

Curiosity towards science eventually leads to philosophy, as most of the scientists have been philosophers too. Keeping this in mind the modern scientists may look up to Jain philosophy to find solutions to some of the unresolved issues, if not all.

Need not to mention that today the whole mankind is searching for mental peace at some level and to find the same they are ready to go to any extent. And this desire is resulting in the increase of fake torch-bearers who are misleading them for their own selfish interests, surprisingly even educated people get themselves stuck into the web of these kind of teachers. This is high time that we look for a philosophy that motivates us to stop all this blindness and stupidity and peep in for answers like: Is there God? If yes, why does he bother to keep the accounts of our karma? And if he keeps an account, does that mean even he has some karma relation with all of us? The list of these questions is endless. Is there a soul or we are just randomly existing on this planet with no history or a certain future?

One may guarantee that Jain philosophy is here to take care of all these questions and not just superficially but deeply, honestly, by giving one the space to be at one’s own pace. When one studies about the concept of time and one’s tiny place in it, one becomes at peace with the self that journey is long, even beyond one’s imagination and hence one has plenty of time to explore, to understand and to move ahead. For exmaple–the concept of emancipation in Jainism indicates the state of best human possibility. Okay we get it! But if try to relate the same with our current life we can understand that doing what we love to do the most, is not only meditation, but also getting excelled in the same fills us with immense joy and peace. We may definitely call this our salvation, here and now! And during the process we overcome the unnecessary fears generated by the mind, we keep our bodies in good shape, for we really want to achieve our dreams. This eventually binds good karma and our lost vehicle comes back on track. Well, what else we can hope for.

When Dr. Ashok Kumar Jain, the renowned Physicist from IIT Roorkee, was asked,

‘As a physicist and also known (and have worked) to Jain philosophy, how do you understand spirituality?’

He answered,

‘Science has grown tremendously and gone too far in the sense that most of it is beyond the understanding of common man, although man reaps all the benefits of science and technology. However, science deals only with the physical world. There is no separate concept like Jiva dravya and Ajiva dravya in science. It has made tremendous progress in life sciences also but it hits a road block when dealing with the questions related to life and death. Is there a soul like thing in science? No. Is there something like spirituality in science? No.’[1]

He further states,

‘There are some valid questions however, which should be answered. For example, what is it that makes you conscious remains unanswered yet. According to the present understanding, our genes and DNA contain all the information that we need for our growth from a single cell. But only a small fraction of DNA has been decoded so far and that seems to be enough for all the purposes. What for the rest of the DNA is there? It is still not known. Lots of questions remain unanswered and keep puzzling our mind. Many scientists have now started to venture into this domain. Since science is based on verifiable experimental data and observations, one would like to have such data and practices in spiritual domain also. This is, however, the biggest obstacle for any scientific work in this domain; there are no reliable techniques and methods to conduct the type of experiments and observations that will be acceptable to science.’[2]

So what should we name this obstacle–human inability to have the right instrument which can measure the spiritual (or emotional) experiences technically? Well the answer to this question is ‘yes’. For one can never go to the market to buy one kilogram of happiness or irrespective of how rational one is, one can never define a spiritual experience in words.

Whereas the studies of spirituality take one to understand the nature of consciousness and also how to purify it. Spirituality in Jainism starts from the topic of soul, takes one towards mind and body, the concept of God also plays an important role in understanding the workings of the universe. And finally about the ultimate purpose of the cycle of life, death and rebirth i.e. emancipation. Nava Tattva or nine categories of truth do not indicate any teaching but the natural law of how soul gets karma bind with it and how it is possible to understand the process and to get rid of the same through selfintrospection and penance.

Here we all must understand that spirituality and religious teachings focus on the self by introspecting, analysing and improvising and eventually respecting a person’s individuality, be it anybody. But unfortunately we all have exactly the opposite understanding of the same where anyone who is thinking differently or stands by his own standards gets immense criticism from not only the society but also from his family.

Science and spirituality both emerge from individuality. One may have the false idea about them until one would come in touch with the book ‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand. This book is a shudder for the reader to get one out from the conditioning of mind, through society, one gets since one’s birth. And in today’s religious scenario we definitely require to understand the importance of respecting one’s individuality for current concepts of altruism and universal brotherhood are taking us nowhere. In this context one finds high similarity between the philosophy of Ayn Rand and Jain teachings. Her writings take one to understand the meaning of an egotist in a new way and so do the Jain teachings.

For example: if we try to humanise the ford makers, whom as Jains we proudly follow, how will we imagine their persona? As someone having the courage to follow what he feels deeply from within or someone who lives to please and serve others? Someone who has his own thoughts or someone who borrows his thinking from others? One may really wonder if the ford makers would have had to face the opposition of the society they lived in? For every time when someone shows the courage to mend his own path, he gets criticised by the community. Be it a discovery, an invention or seeking the ultimate purpose of life. For people always love to stay in their comfort zones, irrespective of the dangerous consequences; because not having the zeal to step out, blocks the doors of growth. And the quest to grow is synonymous to unwillingness of human nature to sit idle.

Jain teachings tell one that there is no escape from knowledge gaining, which is, unfortunately, the least discussed topic when it comes to (blind) faith. No one can gain it on your behalf, you have to be an original thinker, or in Ayn Rand’s terms a first-hander, to move ahead. This thought, this idea leads one to be egocentric.

Whatever one does fall into the category of self-satisfaction and not in the satisfaction of others.

‘The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power—-that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a prime-mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He had lived for himself. And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.’[3]

Can we imagine what would be the wonderment of Thomas Alva Edison when he first invented electricity? He was able to invent something new to the whole mankind for he did what he loved.

Similarly every new inventor, every new discoverer may not be able to invent or discover anything, for the first time, if he would keep listening to others’ advice.

‘Nothing is given to man on earth. Everything he needs has to be produced. And here man faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways—by the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by the minds of others. The creator originates. The parasite borrows. The creator faces nature alone. The parasite faces nature through an intermediary.’[4]

Through this way some people travel from being second handers to first handers, from using products created by other genius minds, to produce something of their own.

Without a doubt we can assume that tirthankaras were the first handers, people with their own thoughts, away from the shallow perception generated by the world, far from the knowledge they were taught, and beyond all these they discovered the absolute truth which was eventually shared, by them, with the world.

‘Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution—-or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise the act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.’[5]

For one the whole purpose of Jainism may seem to focus on becoming self-sufficient. To enter into the realm of knowledge and to experience the pleasure of finding, exploring on one’s own, and during the process clarifying one’s perception.

But again the dilemma is that even today we all are following what we are told or taught and rare are those who dare to think differently or examine critically whatever their ancestors’ faith was.

‘Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator is the man who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone.’[6]

Today we can see many examples where the winners were criticised by the whole society in the beginning years of their struggle, but as soon as they achieve success and get fame, the very people who used to criticise them start admiring them. But by this time the winners know that they stand alone.

In today’s religious scenario everyone speaks about subsiding one’s ego, let it assimilate with others and sing the glory of sharing, caring and universal brotherhood. But we completely forget that by doing so we kill one’s individual quest and eventually one’s individuality. For one needs focus and sheer attention to the self to discover something new, through which the whole mankind be benefitted. This way sustaining one’s ego is not only necessary but also wonderful.

For this is the only way to success, towards growth.

‘The egotist in the absolute sense is not the man who sacrifices others. He is the man who stands above the need of using others in any manner. He does not function through them. He is not concerned with them in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his energy. He does not exist for any other man—-and he asks no other man to exist for him. This is the only form of brotherhood and mutual respect possible between men.’[7]

Does not it sound like a saintly state? Isn’t it the most bitter, naked truth one is reading right now?

The day every man will be able to enter the temple with his head held high, filled with exaltation for he would respect what he is, without any guilt and not to seek a deity’s blessings or to fulfil his selfish desires, will be the day of his progression towards attaining the godhood.

Then the temples will be,

‘To the human spirit. Where man is strong, proud, clean, wise and fearless. A heroic being, for a temple is a place where man is to experience exaltation that comes from the consciousness of being guiltless, of seeing the truth and achieving it, of living up to one’s highest possibility, of knowing no shame, of being able to stand naked in full sunlight. That exaltation means joy and that joy is man’s birth right.’[8]

Since ages we have tried, but never tested, the present religious plot and all of us are aware of its consequences. For the people who should have taken interest in the knowledge have not bothered to do so. The real, knowledgeable teachings have been in not so right hands and if they would have been, gradually those hands have misused their power in their own selfish pursuits. In the times when they are going into the worst of direction, Jainism has the ability to step forward and take the responsibility to fix things. It is also a dilemma and one may accept it without hesitation, that most of its own followers appear to be orthodox, blind believers. We need to work towards establishing a society of equality, where each respects each’s individuality. We all are here to pursue different dreams, to perform different karma and as far as one’s quest is not hurting anyone in any manner, one should be allowed to do what one loves.

When one finds oneself standing on a crossroad closer to the highest level of consciousness, highest realm of knowledge and perception, confused about which path to take, one can tell with one’s intuition that one may move ahead confidently onto the path of Jain philosophy.

Footnotes and references:


As told in a personal interview on 23.08.2018 in New Delhi


As told in a personal interview on 23.08.2018 in New Delhi


TF. pp. 678


TF. pp. 679


TF. pp. 680


TF. pp. 680


TF. pp. 681


TF. pp. 355

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