Physical Concepts: Jaina atomic theory
The Jaina philosophy has conceived the atomic theory on the basis of destruction and origination of the material world from the standpoint of transformation taking place in it due to external and internal causes and made a synthetic view of the concept of atom from the aspects of substance, space (locus), time and condition.
Paramāṇus (ultimate atoms) are infinite in number with regard to substance. Paramāṇu is the finest particle of matter with regard to space (locus), It is momentary from the aspect of time and its capacity (quality) is changing from the standpoint of condition (bhāva). According to Jaina metaphysics, paramāṇu is discrete and beginningless, while skandha (molecule) is not a single unit and beginningless. A paramāṇu is in saṃyoya (combination) and it is changing always from the points of view of substance (dravya), space (kṣetra), time (kāla) and condition (bhāva).
Jaina metaphysics maintains that paramāṇu is both cause (kāraṇa) and effect (kārya) of the material world from the point of view of transformation. The Jaina conception of Paramāṇu as cause and effect is parallel to the conception of energy and consequence of energy of the physical sciences.
According to Jaina philosophy, all paramāṇus are abhedya (homogeneous or impassable), acchedya (uncuttable), avibhājya (indivisible), adāhya (incombustible), and agrāhya (non-receivable by soul). There does not exist any radical difference among the Jaina paramāṇus; they are of one class only. A paramāṇu can assume any form in accordance with the causal condition. The skandha formed by the combination of paramāṇus is not any new material substance. It is only one particular form out of the combination of paramāṇus.
Jaina philosophy accepts one paramāṇu also as skandha (molecule) of infinite sūkṣmaparamāṇus (finest ultimate atoms). It explains that infinite paramāṇus and infinite skandhas (molecules) also can exist in a subtle form in one point of space, in which one paramāṇu exists, by virtue of the capacity of contraction (saṁkaca). On this ground paramāṇus are fine and infinite. The Jaina conception of oscillation and motion of paramāṇu is nearer to that of atomic oscillation or vibration and motion of modern physics.
Vol. 5, no. 2.