11. When Earth Comes Alive: Earth-Bodied Beings in Jain Tradition
Soulless Matter, Seats of Energy - Metals, Gems and Minerals in South Asian Traditions - Fabrizio Ferrari
Ana Bajželj [+]
University of Rajasthan
The primary objective of this paper is to explore the notion of earth-beings as proposed by the Jain tradition. Akin to divine (deva), hellish (nāraki), human (manuṣya) and animal beings (tiryañc) Jains consider plants (vanaspati), water- (āpo-kāyika), air- (vāyu-kāyika), fire- (tejo-kāyika) and earth-bodied (pṛthivῑ-kāyika) beings to be alive as well, the criterion for life being the possession and application of the attribute of consciousness (caitanya). More precisely, non-material living substances (jῑva), which constitute the essence of every living being, are the ones that are regarded as conscious. As a result of passion-motivated bodily, verbal, and mental activities these living substances are said to attract subtle matter (pudgala), which comes to form different bodies that bind them to the cycle of rebirths, restraining their natural movement upwards. Every embodied being is therefore composed of both living and material substance. Earth-beings represent one kind of possible embodiment, in which living substances are bound by bodies that have the nature of earth. Upon the completion of one particular embodiment in the earth-form, living substances leave the old earth-bodies and proceed to attract new body-forming matter. Apart from earth-matter which functions as a bonding body there is then also earth-matter which is not related to any living substance and is currently not utilized as a body, even though it may have previously been or will potentially become one. However, earth-matter is considered to be non-living (ajῑva) and non-conscious (acetana), no matter what its connection to living substances. The interaction between living substances and earth-matter as well as the distinction between earth utilized as a body and earth without a current embodying function will be carefully studied. The class of earth-beings is a pluralistic category just as the general ontology of life and matter in Jainism is pluralistic. Jainism does not put forward a notion of earth as such but instead refers to a multitude of earth-beings. These include raw soil, particles of dust, sand, raw minerals, pebbles, sand, salt, iron, copper, lead, silver, gold, diamonds, etc. This paper will look at various accounts of these subcategories in Jain literature, namely, basic descriptions of their smallest and biggest possible sizes, their characteristic of immobility, their single sense of touch, their instincts, and their experience of pleasure and pain. Their status within the broader ontological-cosmological doctrine will also be discussed as well as the character of their interactions with other living beings, the karmic contexts within which embodiments in the form of earth-beings are possible, the life-span of these embodiments, and the possible future rebirths following them. Additionally, this paper will point out and critically examine the implications of the described doctrines of earth-beings for the practical life of Jain laity and mendicants. The attitudes towards as well as the actual exploitation of earthly resources with a particular reference to the differences and similarities between Jains in the past and today will be analysed.