Introduction: Jainism believes that universe and all its substances are eternal (everlasting). All substances continually undergo changes. Previous forms give way to new ones without loosing their own inherent qualities. Jains believe that the universe Is without beginning or end. The universe did not begin at any time and it will not end at any time. There is no need of some almighty to create or manage the affairs of the universe. The universe runs on its own accord by its own cosmic laws (laws of nature).
Modern science does not have answers to questions like; a) What is the origin of the universe? B) What is it made of? And c) What is its ultimate density? Scientists agree that the universe is made of the matter, light, and various forms of radiation and energy. There are more than 100 billion stars in one single galaxy, and there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the universe. One light second is equal to 186,283 miles. It is believed that the furthermost stars are at least 10 billion light years away. The furthermost stars are the brightest and are called quasars. Quasars release 100,000 billion times more energy than our sun. The scientists do not know how such energy is produced. The first quasar was discovered only 35 years ago. Most theories are based on the assumption that no signal can travel faster than the speed of light and the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe. The mass becomes infinite if it travels at the speed of the light.
Many theories suggest that the universe is either expanding or contracting. Recently some scientists claim that a collection of many thousand galaxies are speeding towards a point. Based on the use of the Hubble Space Telescope, some scientists think that the universe is about 8 to 25 billion years old and has been expanding since its birth. But we happened to have some stars 14 billion years old or even older. How can a child be older than his/her mother. The calculation method the theorists are using involves utterly straightforward approach. There are many loopholes in their assumptions like the use of a cosmological constant, light intensity of distant stars and so on. Many astronomers assume the answers before making observations because of the complexity of the subject. Some believe in the Big Bang theory (inflation theory), the universe was in condensed cold black matter and since the Big Bang it has been expanding. They have not been able to prove that the universe was made out of a very condensed dark matter. Their current theory will be only supported if the universe was made out of the dark matter. A few scientists claim that the universe was made out of more than one matter (20% of dense matter and 80% of lighter matter) based on their computer model. Then, this throws away the Big Bang theory.
But many questions still remain unanswered like: a) What is the age of the universe or is it ageless? What the universe is made of? How is the cosmos structured? What is the fate of the universe? If the universe was expanding then the universe has to be open and its density will approach to zero. If the average density of the universe is maintained constant then the universe has to be closed. It appears that they need a fundamentally new framework to understand the universe. Some claim that they need to use something as powerful as relativity that gives them a concept of balanced universe. The steady state theory gives an indication that the universe is without beginning and end. Because of the assumption that as matter is destroyed, new matter is produced, the theory finds few supporters in the scientific community.
We, Jains, believe that God did not create the universe. If God created this universe, who created that God ? Who created the creator? If God has created the universe, he has to have a desire to create. The desire makes God imperfect and he cannot be imperfect. From another angle, if God carries out the task of creation and destruction without any purpose then it becomes a foolish game. If he carries out this work as a game, he has to be deemed a child. Therefore, he could not have created the world. If he carries out all this work on account of his supreme grace he would have made all Jivas (souls) happy and he would have created things that would have given happiness to all. But we have 87% of the people of earth living in poverty and misery and only 13% people are well off. Therefore, God must not be managing the universe. Since God is omniscient, omnipotent, and devoid of desires, and passions, He could not be interested in the matters of universe. Some claim that all creatures are God’s images and we are all parts of Him?” If so, we should all have unlimited bliss, perfect perception, perfect knowledge and perfect conduct. But it isn’t so. Therefore, we cannot be a part of the God or his images. If We accept that God created the earth, he manages the earth and he decides who gets what, then countless questions are raised and we do not have rational answers to these questions. Therefore, it appeals to our common sense that God did not create the universe.
As per Jain belief, God has absolute knowledge. Therefore, he reveals the essential and real form of the universe. He revealed that the world is without a beginning or end. The universe does undergo continuous change. Production and disposal are always going on. Behind this eternal process there does not exist any plan or organization. The whole universe is self-regulated. For living beings Karmas play important role. Karma is the finest matter that our soul attracts based on our thought, speech and/or action. Bad Karma pollutes the inherent qualities of the soul. The bondage and deliverance of each individual depends upon himself or herself. Every individual experiences happiness or unhappiness according to his past Karma, his present fate has been decided, and his future will be decided based on his present or past Karma.
Jains believe in different type of God. Our God is Jina. The word Jina literally means “the Victor” or “the Liberator”. One who has freed himself from the bondage of Karma by conquering räga (attachment – deceit and greed) & dvesha (aversion – anger and ego) is Jina. Lord Mahavir was the last reformer of Jainism. He should not be mistaken as the founder of Jainism. We had first Tirthankar, Rushabha in the third era of this Avasarpini (regressive) half cycle (millions and millions years ago). [Each time cycle has two half cycles, Utsarpini (progressive) and Avasarpini (regressive). There have been infinite time cycles before (time without beginning) and there will be infinite time cycles (without any end) in future.] The word Tirthankar means one who lays down the spiritual order to cross over the worldly sea of suffering. The remaining 23 Tirthankaras lived during the fourth era of the current Avasarpini. At present, we are in the fifth era. The fundamental truths of Jainism were thus laid down long back. Based on the current research, many believe that Jainism is one of the oldest religions of the world.
The followers of Jina are called Jains. To day, there are about 6 million Jains in the world. Jain monks are also called Shramanas (who treat everything with equanimity) or Nirgranthas (who do not have any desire or defilement). The ultimate goal of Jainism is that the soul gets rid of all Karmas and attains liberation. We acquire Karmas because of attachment and aversion. Therefore, the path of liberating the soul from attachment and aversion constitutes the philosophy of Jainism. All Tirthankars have shown path of purification (liberation). Their paths are fundamentally similar except that they preach according to the substance, place, time and spirit of that period. Currently, we follow Lord Mahavir’s teachings. We, Jains rely on our own initiatives and efforts for our worldly requirements and our liberation. We do not believe that there is any supernatural power that does favor to us if we please him. Jainism as explained by Jinas (Tirthankars) can stand scrutiny of reason. We do not have to believe in the things that do not appeal to the common sense. We accept only that can be explained and reasoned..
We, Jains are unable to accept the concept of “divine grace”. When a living being destroys all his/her Karmas, he/she attains perfect knowledge, perception, power, and bliss. He/she becomes omniscient and omnipotent. Such being is a God for Jains. Hence Jains do not believe in one God. Gods in Jain religion are innumerable and the number is continuously increasing as more living beings attain liberation. Every living being has potential to become God.
Jainism is also known as the religion of Ahimsä (non-violence). In Jainism, “our beliefs in Ahimsä supersedes all concepts, ideologies, rules, customs and practices, traditional or modern, eastern or western, political or economical, self-centered or social” (quoted by Jain scholar Dr. Nath Mal Tatia, Jain Study Circular, January 1991). Ahimsä (non-violence), Anekantväd (multiplicity of views) and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) are the cardinal principles of Jainism. Without Aparigraha one cannot practice complete Ahimsä. Similarly, without proper understanding and application of Anekantväd, one cannot be completely non-violent because only Anekantvad can stop the violence of thoughts and speech. Therefore, Anekantväd is the rationale for Ahimsä. Ahimsä is also dependent on the practice of Aparigraha. If one refrains parigraha (possessiveness), he/she will be able to refrain Himsä. If you practice aparigraha (non-possessiveness), you will automatically practice Ahimsä (non-violence).
Jainism is also defined as practice of Ahimsä, Sanyam (restraint of senses, mind, etc), and Tap (penance to shed the past Karmas).
Jainism does not accept one sided views. We believe that the complete truth cannot be explained by one view point. One sided view, in general, represents the partial truth. To know the complete truth, all angles and aspects of a given situation need to be analyzed and considered. This approach is called “Anekäntväd” (multiplicity of views and theory of relativity). To understand Anekäntväd, we need to understand Tripadi (three pronouncements). After we understand Tripadi and Anekäntväd, it would be easy to understand the substances that the universe is made of.