According to Jainism, this loka or universe is an uncreated entity, existing since infinity having no beginning or an end. Jain texts describe the shape of the universe as similar to a man standing with legs apart and arm resting on his waist. Thus Universe according to Jainism is narrow at top and broad at middle and once again becomes broad at the bottom.
This Universe is made up of what Jains call as six dravya or reals or substances classified as follows –
Jīva i.e. Living Substances :Jīva i.e. Souls - Soul (Jīva) exists as a reality, having a separate existence from the body that houses it. It is characterised by chetana i.e. consciousness and upayoga i.e. knowledge and perception. Though the soul experiences both birth and death, it is neither really destroyed nor created. Decay and origin refer respectively to the disappearing of one state of soul and appearing of another state, these being merely the modes of the soul
Ajīva i.e. or Non-Living Substances :
Pudgala i.e. Matter : Matter is classified as solid, liquid, gaseous, energy, fine Karmic materials and extra-fine matter i.e. ultimate particles. Paramānu or ultimate particle (atoms) is the basic building block of all matter. One of the qualities of the Paramānu and Pudgala is that of permanence and indestructibility. It combines and changes its modes but its basic qualities remain the same. According to Jainism, it cannot be created nor destroyed.
Dharma-tattva i.e Principle of Motion and Adharma-tattva i.e. Principle of Rest :
Dharmastikāya and Adharmastikāya are distinctly peculiar to Jaina system of thought depicting the principle of Motion and Rest. They are said to pervade the entire universe. Dharma and Adharma are by itself not motion or rest but mediate motion and rest in other bodies. Without Dharmastikāya motion is not possible and without Adharmastikāya rest is not possible in universe.
Ākāśa i.e Space : Space is a substance that accommodates the living souls, the matter, the principle of motion, the principle of rest and time. It is all-pervading, infinite and made of infinite space-points.
Kāla i.e. Time :
Kāla is a real entity according to Jainism and all activities, changes or modifications can be achieved only through the progress of time.
TIME CYCLE: According to Jainism, the time is beginingless and eternal. The Kālacakra, the cosmic wheel of time rotates ceaseless. The wheel of time, is divided into two half-rotations - Utsarpinī or ascending time cycle and Avasarpinī, the descending time cycle, occurring continuously after each other. Utsarpinī is a period of progressive prosperity and happiness where the time spans and ages are at an increasing scale, while Avsarpinī 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 is further sub-divided into six Aras or epochs of unequal periods. The currently, the time cycle is in avasarpinī or descending phase with the following epochs
Name of Aras:
1. Susama Susama- Utmost Happiness and No Sorrow. Duration: 4 kotikotis of Sagaropamas
2. Susama- Moderate happiness and no sorrow. Duration: 3 kotakotis of Sagaropamas
3. Susama Dushama- Happiness with little sorrow. Duration: 2 Kotakotis of Sagaropamas
4. Dushama Susama- Sorrow with little happiness. Duration: 1 Kotakotis of Sagaropamas (less 42,000 years)
5. Dushama- Sorrow. Duration: 21,000 years
6. Dushama Dushama- Extreme sorrow and misery. Duration: 21,000 years
Susama-susamā - During the first ara of Susama-susamā of the avasarpinī , the age of the people was three palyopama years. They took their food on every fourth day; they were very tall and devoid of anger, pride, deceit, greed and other sinful acts. Various kinds of the kalpa trees fulfilled their wishes and needs like food, clothing, homes, entertainment, jewels etc.
Susamā-During the second ara, Susamā, the people lived for two palyopama years. They took their food at an interval of three days, but the kalpa trees supplied their wants, less than before. The land and water became less sweet and fruitful than they were during the first ara.
Susama-dushamā - During the third ara of Susama-dushamā, the age limit of the people became one palyopama year. They took their food on every second day. The earth and water as well as height and strength of the body went on decreasing and they became less than they were during the second ara. The first three ara the children were born as twins, one male and one female, who married each other and once again gave birth to twins. On account of happiness and pleasures, the religion, renunciation and austerities was not possible. At the end of the third ara, the wish-fulfilling trees stopped giving the desired fruits and the people started living in the societies. The first Tirthankara, Rishabhdeva was born at the fag end of this ara. He taught the people the skills of farming, commerce, defence, politics and arts and organised the people in societies. That is why he is known as the father of human civilisation.
Dushama--The fourth ara was the age of religion, where the renunciation, austerities and liberation was possible. The 63 Śalākāpurusa’s or the illustrious persons who promote the Jain religion regularly appear in this ara. The balance 23 Tīrthankars, including lord Māhavīra appeared in this ara. This ara came to an end 3 years and 8 months after the nirvāna of Māhavīra.
Dushama-susamā - As per Jain cosmology, currently we are in the 5th ara, wherein around 2,500 years have elapsed and 18,500 years are still left. It is an age of sorrow and misery. No liberation is possible, although people practice religion in lax and diluted form. However, at the end of this ara, even the Jain religion will disappear, only to appear back with the advent of 1st Tirthankara in the next cycle.
Dushama- dusham- The sixth Ara, Dushama- dusham will be the age if intense misery and sorrow, making it impossible to practice religion in any form. The age, height and strength of the human beings will decrease to a great extent. This trend will start reversing at the onset of utsarpinī kāl.
In utsarpinī, the order of the aras is reversed; starting from Dushama- dushamā, it ends with Susama-susamā 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 the human beings and creatures are born under the impulse of their own karmas.
- Rahul Zota (Bhuj-Gujarat)