Jain Universe And Time Cycles

This Universe is made up of what Jains call six Dravya or reals or substances classified as follows:
• Jīva (Living Substances):
Jīva (Soul) exists as a reality, having a separate existence from the body that houses it. It is characterised by Chetana (consciousness) and Upayoga (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 (Non-Living Substances):
1. Pudgala (Matter): Matter is classified as solid, liquid, gaseous, energy, fine Karmic materials and extra-fine matter i.e. ultimate particles. Paramāṇu or ultimate particle (atoms) is the basic building block of all matter. One of the qualities of the Paramāṇu 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.
2. Dharma-tattva (Principle of Motion) and
3. Adharma-tattva (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.
4. Ākāśa (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.
5. Kāla (Time): Kāla is a real entity according to Jainism and all activities, changes or modifications can be achieved only through the progress of time.

The wheel in the center represents kal charka. Jains believe that time is infinite, without any beginning or end. Time is divided into infinite equal time cycles (Kalchakras). Every time cycle is further sub-divided in two equal halves. The first half is the progressive cycle or ascending order, called Utsarpini. The other half is the regressive cycle or the descending order, called Avasarpini. Every Utsarpini and Avasarpini is divided into six unequal periods called Äräs. During the Utsarpini half cycle, progress, development, happiness, strength, age, body, religious trends, etc. go from the worst conditions to the best. During the Avasarpini half cycle,progress, development, happiness, strength, age, body, religious trends, etc. go from the best conditions to the worst. Presently, we are in the fifth Ara of the Avasarpini phase. When the Avasarpini phase ends the Utsarpini phase begins. This kälchakra repeats again and continues forever. It also shows vegetation, animals, Jain monk and Jain nun. This represents that all souls are equal and they should be treated with equanimity.

Structure of Universe as per the Jain Scriptures:
The early Jains contemplated over the nature of the earth and universe and developed a detailed hypothesis on the various aspects of the astronomy and cosmology. According to the Jain texts, the universe is divided into 3 parts –
• Urdhva Loka – the realms of the Gods or heavens
• Madhya Loka – the realms of the humans, animals and plants
• Adho Loka – the realms of the hellish beings or the infernal regions

1) Urdhva Loka - the Upper World:
Shape of Universe as per Jain cosmology in form of a cosmic man. Udharva loka consists of 12 Dev Lok, 9 Greveyak and 5 Anutar Viman, which are the realms of the Vaimaniks or the astral Gods who are non-liberated Gods. Above the Anutar vimans, at the apex of the universe, is the Siddhasila, the realms of the infinite liberated Gods also known as the Siddhas, the perfected omniscient and blissful beings, who are venerated by the Jains.

Below the Siddhasila are the five Anutar Vimans named:
1. Vijay 2. Vijayant 3. Jayant 4. Aparajit 5. Savarthsiddha

Below the Anutar Vimas are the 9 Greveyaks named:
1. Bhadre 2. Subhadre 3. Sujae 4. Sumanase 5. Priydansne 6. Sudansne 7. Aamohe
8. Supadibaddhe 9. Jasodhare.

Below the Greveyaks are the 12 Devalokas named:
1. Sudharma 2. Ishan 3. Sanatkumar 4. Mahendra 5. Brahmloka 6. Lantak 7. Mahashukra 8. Sahastrar 9. Aanat 10. Pranat 11. Aaran 12. Achyuta.

Vaimanik devas are divided into, two groups i.e.:
• The higher groups, dwelling in 9 Greveyak and 5 Anutar Viman. They are independent and dewelling in their own vehicles. The anuttara devas attain liberation within one or two lifetimes.
• The lower groups, organized like earthly kingdoms - rulers (Indras), counselors, guards, queens, followers, armies etc.

2) Madhya Loka - the Middle World:
Madhya Loka, at the centre of the universe consists of 900 yojans above and 900 yojans below earth surface. It is inhabited by:
1. Jyotishka Devas (luminous Gods) - 790 to 900 yojans above earth
2. Human, Tiryanch (Animals, birds, plants) on the surface
3. Vyantar Devas (Intermediary Gods)- 100 yojan below the ground level

Madhyaloka consists of many continent-islands surrounded by oceans, first eight whose names are :-
Continent/ Island    Ocean
Jambudvipa                    Lavanoda (Salt - ocean)
Ghatki Khand                 Kaloda (Black sea)
Puskarvardvīpa             Puskaroda (Lotus Ocean)
Varunvardvīpa              Varunoda (Varun Ocean)
Kshirvardvīpa                Kshiroda (Ocean of milk)
Ghrutvardvīpa               Ghrutoda (Butter milk ocean)
Ikshuvardvīpa               Iksuvaroda (Sugar Ocean)
Nandishwardvīpa          Nandishwaroda

Mount Meru is at the centre of the world surrounded by Jambūdvīpa, in form of a circle forming a diameter of 100,000 yojans. There are two sets of sun, moon and stars revolving around Mount Meru; while one set works, the other set rests behind the Mount Meru.
Work of Art showing maps and diagrams as per Jain Cosmography from 17th century CE Manuscript of 12th century Jain text Sankhitta Sangheyan.

Jambūdvīpa continent has 6 mighty mountains, dividing the continent into 7 zones (Ksetra). The names of these zones are:
1. Bharat Kshetra 2. Mahavideh Kshetra 3. Airavat Kshetra 4. Ramyak 5. Hairanyvat Kshetra 6. Haimava Kshetra 7. Hari Kshetra

The three zones i.e. Bharat Kshetra, Mahavideh Kshetra and Airavat Kshetra are also known as Karma bhoomi because practice of austerities and liberation is possible and the Tirthankars preach the Jain doctrine. The other four zones, Ramyak, Hairanyvat Kshetra, Haimava Kshetra and Hari Kshetra are known as Akarmabhoomi or Bhogbhumi as humans live a sinless life of pleasure and no religion or liberation is possible.

3) Adho Loka - the Lower World:
17th century cloth painting depicting seven levels of Jain hell and various tortures suffered in them. Left panel depicts the Demi-God and his animal vehicle presiding over the each hell.

The lower world consists of Seven Hells which is inhabited by Bhavanpati demiGods and the hellish beings. Hellish beings reside in the following hells -
1. Ratna prabha-dharma 2. Sharkara prabha-vansha 3. Valuka prabha-megha 4. Pank prabha-anjana 5. Dhum prabha-arista 6. Tamah prabha-maghavi 7. Mahatamah prabha-maadhavi

Time Cycles:
According to Jainism, time is beginning less and eternal. The Kālacakra, the cosmic wheel of time, rotates ceaselessly. The wheel of time is divided into two half-rotations, Utsarpiṇī or ascending time cycle and Avasarpiṇī, the descending time cycle, occurring continuously after each other. Utsarpiṇī is a period of progressive prosperity and happiness where the time spans and ages are at an increasing scale, while Avsarpiṇī 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.

Division of time as envisaged by Jains
Currently, the time cycle is in avasarpiṇī or descending phase with the following epochs:

Division of time as envisaged by Jains



Suṣama-suṣamā: During the first ara of the Avsarpini, people lived for three Palyopama years. During this ara people were on average six miles tall. 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.
Suṣamā: During the second ara the people lived for two palyopama years. During this ara people were on average 4 miles tall. 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.
Suṣama-duḥṣamā: During the third ara, the age limit of the people became one palyopama year. During this ara people were on average 2 miles tall. 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, Rishabdev was born at the 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.
Duḥṣama-suṣamā: During the fourth ara, people lived for 705.6 Quintillion Years. During this ara people were on average 1500 Meters tall. The fourth ara was the age of religion, where the renunciation, austerities and liberation was possible. The 63 Śalākāpuruṣas, or the illustrious persons who promote the Jain religion, regularly appear in this ara. The balance 23 Tīrthaṅkars, including Lord Māhavīra appeared in this ara. This ara came to an end 3 years and 8 months after the nirvāṇa of Māhavīra.
Duḥṣama: According to Jain cosmology, currently we are in the 5th ara. As of 2010, exactly 2,537 years have elapsed and 18,463 years are still left. It is an age of sorrow and misery. The maximum age a person can live to in this ara is 130 years. The maximum height a person can be in this ara is six feet. No liberation is possible, although people practice religion in lax and diluted form. At the end of this ara, even the Jain religion will disappear, only to appear again with the advent of 1st Tirthankara in the next cycle.
Duḥṣama-duḥṣama: The sixth ara will be the age of 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. In this ara people will live for no more than 16-20 years. This trend will start reversing at the onset of Utsarpiṇī kāl.

In utsarpiṇī the order of the aras is reversed. Starting from Duḥṣama- duḥṣamā, it ends with Suṣama-suṣamā 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 human beings and creatures are born under the impulse of their own Karmas