Jain Philosophy (2) 14 – Shad Dravya (Six Universal Substances)

Jain Philosophy (2) 14 – Shad Dravya (Six Universal Substances)

Jain Philosophy (2) 14 – Shad Dravya (Six Universal Substances)

Shad Dravya (Six Universal Substances)

Since the dawn of civilization, men in different times have tried to solve the riddle of the Universe. They have tried to find out what the Universe was, what was its origin and destiny, its size and shape, who created it, why, how and when.  The result of these deliberations has given rise to a number of theories that have taken the form of different philosophical schools.

According to Jain metaphysics, the universe is not a created entity but it has always been in existence and shall always be there.  Neither there was a beginning nor is there going to be an end. In other words, the universe was neither created by any one nor will it be destroyed. If we look at physics and the atom, it is a well_established fact that an atom cannot be created nor can it ever be destroyed. Since the universe was never created, the questions of creation or a creator does not arise.

In all, there are six elements:

  • Jiva – Jivästikäya (The living being or souls)
  • Pudgal – Pudgalästikäya (Matter)
  • Dharma – Dharmästikäya (Medium of motion)
  • Adharma – Adharmästikäya (Medium of rest)
  • Äkäshästikäya (Space)
  • Käl (Time)

The term Astikäya is formed of two words: Asti + Käya.  Asti denotes Pradesha (smallest part -equivalent of Paramänu) and Käya denotes Samuh (collection).  Paramänu means atom.  Paramänu is the smallest possible form that is indivisible.  Therefore, Astikäya means aggregate of Pradesha. All of the six substances are indestructible, imperishable, immortal, and eternal, and they continuously undergo changes.                                                     

 Common Attributes of all Dravyas:

1 Astitva Non_ destructible 
2 Vastutva Functional existence
3 Dravyatva Basis for a change of states 
4 Prameyatva  Quality of a substance
5 Pradeshatva Shape 
6 Aguru_laghu Quality that does not allow a substance to be changed or mixed into another substance 

Special Attributes of each Dravya:

1 Soul Consciousness, Preception, knowledge, energy, without form
2 Matter  No Consciousness, Touch, taste, smell, color, with form or shape 
3 Medium of motion  No Consciousness, helps in movement, without form
4 Medium of rest No Consciousness helps to stop, without form 
5 Space  No Consciousness, provides space to all substances, without form 
6 Time  No Consciousness, continually changes, without form

Jiva (Living Substances)

  • The most important, rather, central element or substance of the universe is the animate living substance also called the soul or Jiva. There are an infinite number of souls each having a separate and self_sufficient entity. They have been coexistent with the universe and thus they are also beginningless and endless.  The number of souls in the universe like all other substances can neither be increased nor decreased. The soul neither dies nor is born.  The soul only changes the body and expands or contracts to suit the size of the body it occupies as if the light of a candle occupies the room.

However, Jiva is distinguished by its own great quality; consciousness. Jiva has the following intrinsic characteristics.

  • Jnän
  • Darshan
  • Bliss
  • Energy


When consciousness directs its attention to mainly to specific characteristics rather than general characteristics of a substance, the form that the consciousness assumes is known as Jnän.

There are five types of Jnän:

  • Mati Jnän – Mati Jnän is the knowledge derived through the senses and activities of the mind.
  • Shruta Jnän – Shruta Jnän is derived through symbols or signs (e.g., words that are symbols of ideas, gestures).                                                            
  • Avadhi Jnän – Avadhi Jnän is psychic knowledge, which can be directly experienced by accomplished souls without the medium of senses or mind
  • Manah_Paryäya Jnän – Manah_Paryäya Jnän is knowledge of the ideas and thoughts of others (mind reading is one example of this kind of knowledge).  Keval Jnän is omniscience or knowledge unlimited as to space, time and object.
  • Keval Jnän) – Keval Jnän is omniscience or knowledge unlimited as to space, time and object.

In addition, there are three types of false Jnän, which are known as Ajnän:

  • Kumati or Mati Ajnän
  • Kushrut or Shruta Ajnän
  • Vibhang_jnän.

Kumati, Kushrut and Vibhang_jnän are opposite to Mati Jnän, Shruta Jnän and Avadhi Jnän. They are to be avoided by gaining the right perception.


Here Darshan means perception (general knowledge) and vision. Darshan (perception) implies general or non_specific knowledge of a substance as opposed to specific knowledge, which is meant by Jnän.

In Darshan, the details are not perceived.  While in Jnän, the details are known. Jiva is inherently filled with infinite Jnän and Darshan. There are four types of Darshan: Chakshu, Achakshu,

Avadhi and Keval:

  • In Chakshu Darshan, Jiva perceives through the eye.
  • In Achakshu Darshan, Jiva gets awareness by the other four organs: ear, nose, tongue or skin.
  • Jiva can have Avadhi Darshan (psychic knowledge limited by space and time).
  • Jiva can also attain Keval (perfect) Darshan, which is unlimited as to space, time and object.


It is the next important quality of the soul, which can be felt by self_knowledge. The liberated Jivas have pure bliss (Svabhäv).  When blocked by obscuring/obstructing Karma, the bliss becomes impure. Bliss is affected based on the intensity, quantity, type and duration of Karma bound to a soul. Impure bliss is called Vibhäva.  Bliss is dependent on the purity of Darshan and Jnän. The soul is by nature self_contained and totally blissful. It becomes defiled through association with external factors know as defiling karma.


It is the third important quality of the soul.  The amount of proper Darshan and Jnän is dependent on the amount of energy and its use.  Energy is the very operation of knowledge and perception. Impure energy can generate the vibration that attracts new Karma. Efficient use of the energy can shed the Karma. Energy can be expressed as the capacity of the soul to give (Däna), receive (Läbha), enjoy (Bhoga) and re_enjoy (Upbhoga).  Pure, proper and unlimited use of energy stops the influx of Karma and sheds the bonded Karma, so the soul realizes unlimited consciousness (Darshan and Jnän).


Thus, consciousness is the major element, energy is the operator of  bondage and bliss is the effect. Actually, in a pure state, the soul has perfect consciousness, perfect happiness and is omnipotent.  Due to association of the soul with matter in the form of the Kärman Varganä (which association is again beginningless but not endless), the purity of the soul and its real powers have become overshadowed and diminished. Efforts of the soul to realize its true glory are the destiny of man, which Jainism describes as the ultimate aim.
Consciousness is the central quality of soul.  The soul has the capacity to experience unlimited consciousness, unlimited bliss and unlimited energy.  Upayoga is the resultant of consciousness that, according to a realistic point of view (Nishchaya Naya), is the sole characteristic of Jiva. Upayoga may be said to be an inclination, which arises from consciousness. The inclination is either towards Darshan (perception) or towards Jnän (knowledge).

The souls, which have realized their true nature, i.e., infinite knowledge, happiness, and bliss are the liberated souls. In the second category are mundane souls which are circulating in the universe and which may be trying to achieve perfection or liberation.

Jivas are categorized in two groups:

Siddha Soul (Liberated Soul)

Liberated souls have no Karma and therefore, are no longer in the cycle of birth and death. They do not live among us, but reside at the uppermost part of this universe called Siddha_shilä. They are formless, have perfect knowledge and perception, and have infinite vigor and bliss. All Siddhas are equal and there is no difference in their status.

Samsäri Soul (Non_liberated Soul)

Non_liberated (worldly) souls or Jivas have Karma, and they are continually going through the cycle of birth and death. They experience happiness and pain, and have passion, which in turn cause the soul to wander. Except for the Jiva of Arihantas and Kevalis, non_liberated Jivas have limited knowledge and perception.  Jain scriptures state that there are 8.4 million types of births of Jiva in all.  All Jivas have attributes corresponding to their bodies like varying degree of Paryäpti (bio_potential) and Präna (vitality).  Worldly Jivas can be classified as immobile and mobile.

Immobile Jiva

Immobile means Sthävar Jiva – those that cannot move at will. They are one_sensed called Ekendriya Jiva. Ekendriya Jivas are further divided into the following five subcategories.

  • Prithvikäya or earth bodied: Seemingly, inanimate forms of earth are actually living beings, e.g. clay, sand, metal, coral, etc.  They have earthly bodies, hence the name Prithvikäya, which is derived from the Sanskrit term for earth, Prithvi.
  • Apkäya or water bodied: Seemingly inanimate forms of different types of water are living beings, e.g. dew, fog, iceberg, rain, etc.  They have water bodies, hence the name Apkäya, which is derived from the Sanskrit term for water, Ap.
  • Teukäya or fire bodied: Seemingly inanimate forms of different types of fires are living beings, e.g. flames, blaze, lightening, forest fire, hot ash, etc. They have fire bodies, hence the name Teukäya, which is derived from the Sanskrit term for fire, Tejas or Teu.
  • Väyukäya or air bodied: Seemingly inanimate forms of air are actually living beings e.g. wind, whirlwinds, cyclones, etc. They have gaseous bodies, hence the name Väyukäya, which is derived from the Sanskrit term for gas, Väyu.
  • Vanaspati_käya or plant bodied: It is well known that plants grow, reproduce, etc., and are widely accepted as living beings.  Trees, plants, branches, flowers, leaves, seeds, etc. are some examples of plant life. The Sanskrit term for plant is Vanaspati and therefore such Jivas are called Vanaspati_käya Jiva

A plant life can have one or more souls in a single body and, depending upon this, plant life is further divided into the following two subcategories:

Pratyeka Vanaspati_käya (One soul per cell):

Pratyeka means one. Such plant life has one soul in one body. Therefore, they are called Pratyeka Vanaspati_käya. Trees, plants, bushes, stem, branches, leaves, and seeds are all  examples of Pratyeka Vanaspati_käya Jiva.

Sädhäran Vanaspati_käya Infinite souls per cell):

Sädhäran means common. In such plant life, many souls occupy the same body making this type of plant life multi_organic. Therefore, such plant life is called Sädhäran Vanaspati_käya. Such plant life has an infinite number of souls in one body and is called “Anant_käya”.  Roots such as potatoes, carrots, onions, galic, and beats belong to this category.

Tuber vegetation (root vegetables, Kandamul) is classified as Sädhäran Vanaspati_käya (common body plants) in Jainism.  Another word for it is Nigod. There are two types of Nigods – subtle (Sukshma) Nigod and gross (Sthul) Nigod.  Sukshma Nigods are all over the universe, while Sthul Nigods are at few places.  Omniscient has told us that infinite souls reside in a space equivalent to the top of a sharp needle.  In such a small place, there are innumerous Nigod balls. There are innumerous layers in each Nigod ball.  In each layer, there are innumerous Nigods. Each Nigod has an infinite number of souls.

Mobile Jivas

Mobile means Trasa Jiva – those that can move at will. They are Beindriya (two_sensed), Treindriya (three sensed), Chaurindriya (four sensed) and Panchendriya (five sensed) Jivas. Among the five sensed beings, some have minds, while others do not. These two, three, four or five sensed beings are divided into the following categories:

  • Two sensed beings (Beindriya Jiva): Two sensed beings have the senses of touch, and taste, e.g. shells, worms, insects, microbes in stale food, termites, etc.
  • Three sensed beings (Treindriya Jiva): Three sensed beings have the senses of touch, taste, and smell, e.g. bugs, lice, white ants, moths, insects in wheat and other grains, centipedes, etc.
  • Four sensed beings (Chaurindriya Jiva): Four sensed beings have the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, e.g. scorpions, crickets, spiders, beetles, locusts, flies, etc.
  • Five sensed beings (Panchendriya Jiva): Five sensed beings have all five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing e.g. human beings, heavenly beings, hellish beings and animals such as cows, lions, fish, birds, etc.

The five sensed beings can be divided into two groups.  Those having a mind are called Sanjni Panchendriya and those without a mind are called Asanjni Panchendriya.

Four Gati (Destinies)

Unless the soul gets rid of its Karma, it will never be free.  After death, a living being is reborn into any one of the four destinies.  These four destinies or Gatis are:

Hellish Beings:

As a hellish being (living in hell), one has to continuously suffer. Most of the time, hellish beings fight among themselves causing more suffering to one another.

Animal Beings:

As a Tiryancha, (being born as an animal like a lion, elephant, bird, plant, insect, etc.) one is considered to be in a lower form of life

Human Beings:

As human beings, we have been endowed with the ability to think and we can differentiate right from wrong. We can decide what is good for us, and what is not. We also have the capacity to control our mind and activities.  We can learn about the virtuous religious principles of Jainism and put them into practice by adopting appropriate vows and restraints. We can also renounce worldly life for the monkhood, which can lead to liberation from worldly life (Samsär).

Heavenly Beings:

As a heavenly being, one has, of course, superior physical capabilities, various supernatural powers, and access to all luxuries.  Nevertheless, heavenly life is also impermanent and when it ends, heavenly beings feel very unhappy.  They cannot adopt restraints or renounce heavenly life to become monks or nuns. Therefore, there is no liberation in heavenly life.  Such beings have to be reborn as human beings in order to attain liberation.

Neither heavenly nor hellish beings can perform any austerities and therefore cannot attain liberation during that life. Animals possess limited restraint and therefore, they cannot attain liberation directly. The human state of existence is the most preferable because during that life one can use logic to the fullest extent, can observe austerities, can live with restraint, and only through the human phase a Jiva can attain liberation or Moksha.

Ajiva (Non_Living)

Ajivas have no consciousness, no feelings of happiness or sadness, cannot endeavor itself, do not have the sense of fear even if they face something harmful. Anything that does not have life (consciousness) is Ajiva. Ajiva literally means without a soul and therefore, they cannot accumulate any Karma. They have no birth, death, pleasure, or pain; they are Achetan (inert). Ajivas are of the following five categories:

  • Pudgalästikäya (Matter) – has nature of joining and disintegrating
  • Dharmästikäya – Medium of Motion
  • Adharmästikäya – Medium of Rest
  • Äkäshästikäya (Space) – provides the space. There are two subtypes – Lokäkäsh & Alokäkäsh
  • Käl (Time) – assists in modes of Jivas and Pudgal

The term Astikäya as discussed earlier means aggregate of Pradesha.

Pudgalästikäya (Matter):

Pudgal is made of Pud + Gal meaning Joining and disintegrating. Pudgal are matters and associated energy. Pudgal are constituted of atoms, which can be perceived by the senses (eye, nose, ear, touch and hearing and have sensory qualities). Karmic matters are also Pudgal. Body, bones, flesh, mental organs, speech, light, and darkness are Pudgal. There are infinite

Pudgal in Lokäkäsh. Pudgal has the four properties of color (Varna), taste (Rasa), smell (Gandha), and a kind of palpability (Sparsha, touch). These qualities vary from time to time; for example, a red color being replaced by blue, or a sweet taste by bitter. Body and sense organs are also Pudgal. Out of the six substances, only Pudgals are Rupi (visible); they have form. Other substances are formless; they are invisible.

There are four forms of Pudgal (matter):

  • Skandha (whole mass): Any object which is a mass of matter can be called Skandha, e.g., stick, stone, knife, a particle of sand
  • Desha (portion of mass): Desha means a part, portion, or division. When a part of the Skandha (Skandha Desha) is separated from the whole, it becomes another Skandha. A hand of a statue when undetached is known as a Desha but when separated from the statue is known as Skandha.
  • Pradesha (smallest part of matter): The smallest undetached portion (atom/ Paramänu) of Skandha, which cannot be further divided, is called Pradesha.
  • Paramänu (atom): When the smallest portion of matter is separated from its Skandha, it is called Paramänu. Paramänu cannot be further subdivided, cut, or pierced. Karmic matter is one of the categories of Pudgal. Karmic particles are of the finest matter and not perceptible to the senses. The entire universe is filled with karmic matter.

Associations of Soul and Matter:

Due to the close association with matter (pudgal), Jiva possesses one or more of the five senses (Indriya) Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight and Hearing, along with one or more of the three forces (Bal) of thought, speech and body, life (Äyu) and respiration (Anäpan).

  • Also all living beings have Paryäpti (Bio_Potential power), which is a special power through which the Jiva takes in matter (Pudgal) like food and  converts it into different kinds of bio_potential power. They are developed since the conception and used during the lifetime.  There are six kinds of Paryäptis; Ähär (food), Sharira (body), Indriya (senses), Shväsoshväs (respiration), Bhäshä (speech), and  Mana (mind).
  • Präna means Life force, Paryäpti is the reason and Präna is the result. Depending upon the development of the Jiva, there are up to ten kinds of Pränas present in each Jiva. (Touch, Taste, Smell, Vision, Hearing, Respiration, Body, Speech, Mind, and Duration of life). We can say one is living as long as one has Pränas.

Five Sharira (Bodies):

Every worldly soul possess body.  The body is made from various particles of matter. Jain literature defines that there exist five different types of body as follows:

  • Audärika body: Gross visible body like body of living beings, earth, sun, moon etc.
  • Vaikriya body: Protean or changeable body is with super natural powers found in celestial and hellish beings.
  • Ähäraka body: Conveyance body is transportable and invisible, such a body is acquired by an ascetic endowed with self_restraint and achieved high levels of spiritual stage.
  • Tejas body: Fiery body’s ordinary function is to provide internal energy for the body to perform internal functions like digesting food and provide radiance to the body. With high level of spiritual growth can provide supernatural powers. This body is made of very fine particles and is the permanent possession of soul and therefore goes with the soul to the next birth.
  • Kärman body: Consists of karmic particles and formed by the finest of all particles and is the most important of all bodies as it determines the destiny and course of life. Like Tejas body, this body is also the permanent possession of soul and therefore goes with the soul to the next birth.

Paryäpti (Bio_Potential power)

Paryäpti means special bio_potential power through which the Jiva takes in matter (Pudgal) such as food and converts it into different kinds of bio_potential powers. There are six kinds of Paryäptis:

  • Ähär (food)
  • Sharira (body)
  • Indriya (senses)
  • Shväso_chchhväs (respiration)
  • Bhäshä (speech)
  • Mana (mind)

When the life of a Jiva is over, the soul along with Tejas, (fiery) and Kärman (karmic) bodies leaves that physical body and acquires a new one.  As soon as a Jiva is conceived, the first thing it does is to consume food. The Jiva, with the help of Tejas body, digests the food. After this, the Jiva gradually completes the bio_potential of the body and then that of the senses. The activities of consuming food, developing the body, and forming and strengthening the sense organs go on continuously. Next, the Jiva receives the matter of respiration that allows it to acquire bio_potential of respiration, then for speech and eventually the bio_potential of mind. All the bio_potentials are formed in an Antarmuhurta (within 48 minutes).

  • Ekendriya, one sensed Jivas have (1) Ähär, (2) Sharira, (3) Indriya, and (4) Shväsoshväs Paryäptis.
  • Beindriya, Treindriya, Chaurindriya and Asanjni (without mind) Panchendriya Jivas possess Bhäshä Paryäpti in addition to the above four (total five).
  • Depending upon the completeness of Paryäptis, the Jivas are also classified as  Sanjni (with mind) Panchendriya Jivas possess Mana Paryäpti in addition to the above five (total six).
  • Paryäpta Jiva
  • Aparyäpta Jiva

Paryäpta Jiva means that their corresponding Paryäptis have developed to full capacity. While, Aparyäpta Jiva means that their corresponding Paryäptis have not yet developed to full capacity.

Life Forces (Pränas)

The Pränas means Life Forces.  There are 10 life forces (Pränas), Touch, Taste, Smell, Vision, Hearing, Respiration, Body, Speech, Mind, and Duration of life. Different living beings have different numbers of Pränas (life forces).

Living beings with one sense (vegetables, trees, earth_beings, water_beings, air_beings, and fire_beings) have only the following four forces of life:

  • Touch
  • Respiration
  • Body
  • Life span (Äyu)

Living beings with two sense organs have six Pränas, namely, the above four and:

  • Sense of taste
  • Ability of speech

They have the means for power of communicating among themselves, which can be called speech.  E.g.  Shell and worms

Living beings with three sense organs have seven Pränas, namely, the above six and:

  • Sense of smell

Ants, lice and bed bugs are instances of such living beings.

Living beings with four senses have eight Pränas, namely, the above seven and:

  • Sense of sight or vision

Wasps, bees, scorpions are instances of such living beings.

Living beings with five senses are of two kinds.  The first kinds, having no mind are called Asanjni (mind as meant in Jain philosophy), and these beings have nine Pränas, namely, the above eight and:

  • Sense of hearing and are known as Asanjni Panchendriya.

The second kind has a mind and is called Sanjni as meant in the Jain philosophy and they possess ten Pränas, namely the above nine and:

  • Force of mind.

Table of Paryäptis and Pränas

Type of Jiva No. of Paryaptis No. of Pranas
One_Sensed 4 4
Two_Sensed 5 6
Three_Sensed 5 7
Four_Sensed 5 8
Five_Sensed(without mind) 5 9
Five_Sensed (with mind) 6 10

The association of matter with a soul is beginningless but once  are separated, it is a final they are separation.  There can be no further association of matter with a liberated soul.  However, the Paramänu or matter should not be considered as the villain of the piece. It is the soul itself, which attracts the Pudgal, and binds it.  It is again for the soul to free itself from the bondage of Pudgal by its activity.  The Paramänu cannot associate with the soul on its own.

The knowledge of Jiva and Ajiva should inspire us to lead a life of self_restraint; should help in developing inner feelings that we are pure soul.  Ajiva should be used as a helpful substance. We should not develop any attachment to it.  We should use Pudgals with a feeling of necessity to maintain our body so that we can progress spiritually without any obstructions. We should always be aware that our true quality is our consciousness, and to purify it (free it from Karma) should be the only objective of our life.

Dharmästikäya (Medium of Motion):

Please note that, here the word Dharma does not mean religion. Dharma is the instrumental cause for Pudgal and Jiva in making their movement.  However, Dharma does not make them move.  In the case of a fish in water, water is the Dharma and water helps the fish move. Nevertheless, the fish has to make an effort to move.  Dharma is formless, inactive and eternal. Pudgal and Jiva cannot realize their potential until Dharma is present. There is one invisible Dharma termed as Dharmästikäya in Lokäkäsh with innumerous Pradesha. Ether as identified by today’s science comes close to Dharmästikäya.

Adharmästikäya (Medium of Rest):

Please note that, here the word Adharma does not mean a lack of religion. Adharma is instrumental to Pudgal and Jiva to stay at rest.  However, Adharma does not make them rest. The shadow of a tree can provide the place for rest.  Nevertheless, the shadow does not make Pudgal and Jiva rest. Adharma is opposite of Dharma.  Adharma is formless, inactive and eternal.  There is one Adharmästikäya in Lokäkäsh with innumerous Pradesha.

Äkäshästikäya (Space):

Äkäsha (space) provides the space to all the substances.  Äkäsha does not act as an obstruction. There are two types of Äkäsha, a) Lokäkäsh and b) Alokäkäsh. The portion of the Äkäsha where all other five substances are present is called Lokäkäsh.  There are three parts of Lokäkäsh; a) Urdhva Loka, where heavenly beings live, b) Madhya Loka – where human beings and other creatures live, and c) Adho Loka, where the inmates of hell live. Siddhas live at the top of the Urdhva Loka. Alokäkäsh is all around and beyond the Lokäkäsh and is empty or void, and is infinitely bigger than Lokäkäsh.  No other substances reside in Alokäkäsh.

The Lokäkäsh known as universe extends only up to wherever the other five substances exist. Beyond where only space exists, it is Alokäkäsh known as non_universe. However, its contemplation is also mind elevating and has been recommended as one leading to the sublimation of the soul. Complete comprehension of the universe and non_universe is possible only for perfect beings blessed with perfect perception and perfect knowledge. It is by the kindness of such perfect beings that lesser mortals like us are enabled to a glimpse of the great vision.

Käl (Time):

Time is the measure of change in soul and matter.  There are two types of time: realistic (Nishchaya) time and conventional (Vyavahär) time.  From a realistic point of view, it means continuity. Conventional time is only in the first two and half continents (Dvips) beyond which there are no human beings.

Time is only an aid as the substance.  It is not an Astikäya since the present Samaya is one in number. In past, infinite time has passed by, but it cannot be accumulated. In the future, infinite time will pass and still it will not be accumulated.  The present Samaya becomes the past and the next Samaya becomes the present.  When this happens, the past Samaya is destroyed and it no longer exists. Therefore, time is not considered Astikäya, and it does not have any Pradesha.  The other five substances have Pradesha and they are Astikäyas.

The smallest indivisible portion of time is called Samaya.  Samaya can be compared to a Paramänu.  The time required for a blink of an eye, comprise innumerous Samays.  Combinations of Samays are seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, etc.

Indivisible finesh time  1 Samaya 
Countless Samayas  1 Avalika
16777216 Avalikas 1 Muhurt (48 minutes) 
30 Muhurt  1 Day and night (24 hours)
15 Days and night  1 Fortnight 
2 Fortnights 1 Month
12 Months 1 Year
Countless Year 1 Palyopam 
10 Crores of Crores of Palyopam  1 Sagaropam 
10 Crores of Crores of Sagaropam  1 Utsarpini or 1 Avasarpini 
1  Utsarpini + 1 Avasarpini 1 Kalchakra (One time cycle)
Infinite Kalchakras  1 Pudgal Paravartan Kal

Jains believe that time is continuous, without any beginning or end. Time is divided into infinite equal time cycles (Kälchakras).  Every time cycle is further sub divided in two equal halves. The first half is the progressive cycle or ascending orders, called Utsarpini. The other half is the regressive cycle or the descending orders called Avasarpini. Every Utsarpini and Avasarpini is divided into six unequal periods called Äräs.  During the Utsarpini half cycle, development, happiness, strength, age, body, and religious trends go from the worst conditions to the best.

During the Avasarpini half cycle, development, happiness, strength, age, body, and religious trends go from the best conditions to the worst.  Presently, we are in the fifth Ärä of the Avasarpini phase. When the Avasarpini phase ends, the Utsarpini phase begins. Thus, Kälchakra goes on repeating and continues forever.  The six Äräs of Avasarpini are called:

  • Susham_Susham (very happy)
  • Susham (happy)
  • Susham Dusham (happy_unhappy)
  • Dusham Susham (unhappy_happy)
  • Dusham (unhappy)
  • Dusham_Dusham (very unhappy)

The Äräs in Utsarpini are in the reverse order.


This is the time of great happiness.  During this phase, people are very tall and live for a very long time. Children are born as twins, a boy and a girl.  All their needs and desires are fulfilled by ten different kinds of Kalpa_vriksha (wish_giving trees).  The trees provide a place to live, clothes, pots and pans, good food, fruits and sweets, harmonious music, jewelry, beautiful flowers, radiant lamps, and a bright light at night.  There is no killing, crime, or other vices.


This is also a phase of happiness, but not as happy as the first Ärä. The wish_giving trees continue to provide for the people’s needs, but the people are not as tall and do not live as long.

Susham Dusham:

This is a phase consisting of more happiness than misery.  During this period, the Kalpa_vrikshas provide what is desired. Towards the end of this Ärä, Rishabhadev became the first Tirthankar.

Dusham Susham:


This phase has more misery than happiness. The other twenty_three Tirthankars and eleven Chakravartis were born during this Ärä, which ended three years and eight months after Bhagawän Mahävir’s Nirvana.


This Ärä is currently prevailing.  It is an Ärä of unhappiness, which began a little over 2,500 years ago and will last for a total of 21,000 years.  No one born during this period will gain liberation in his present life, because no one will observe true religion. It is said that by the end of this Ärä, the Jain religion will be lost. (Only temporarily, and will be revived in the next half cycle by the future Tirthankars).


This phase is of extreme misery and unhappiness.  During this time, people will experience nothing but suffering. There will be no trace of religious activities. The life span of people will be very short, exceeding no more than twenty years.  Most people will be non_vegetarian and the social structure will be destroyed.  The weather will become extreme, the days will be very hot, and the nights will be very cold.  At the end of this Ärä, a period of Utsarpini will start and the time wheel will take an upward swing.  There will be rainy days, which will provide nourishment so that seeds can once again grow.  Miseries will diminish and happiness will increase until a very happy phase is once again reached.


Before concluding, we may summarize the characteristics of the different substances of the universe by stating that

  • Out of the six substances, only one is a living substance i.e. the animate soul and the other five are non_living.
  • Only one i.e. matter has form and is material and the other five are non_material and have no form.
  • Three elements viz., medium of motion, medium of rest, and space are single entities while time, matter and soul are infinite.

All these substances are eternal, not interchangeable and they can neither be added nor reduced.  While they are independent of each other, they are assisting and accommodating each other in action and reaction. Thus while there is struggle going on between the soul and matter, time measures the change, space provides the arena the medium of motion helps them to move about and the medium of rest assists them to rest or stop.  This is the evolution and destiny of the universe, which cannot be changed and cannot be stopped.

However, it must be observed that the central and the most important substance is the soul, which is all_powerful. Matter only obstructs the realization of the full powers of the soul. Jain prophets have prescribed the path and methodology that if followed would help the soul to shed the bondage of matter and thus realize its full power of omniscience and eternal bliss.






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