According to Jaina thinkers, the entire cosmos is composed of real substances of different kinds. Thus the universe has neither any beginning nor any end. The essence of substance consists in its existence (sat), so that whatever is a substance, is real. Substance is defined as that which possesses the three characteristics of production (utpada), destruction (vigama) and permanence (nityatva) (Pr. 204). Substance has its unchanging essence and therefore it is permanent. But it also has its changing modes and destruction. Attributes and modification blong to substance. Attributes and substance are inseparable from each other. Attributes are essential to substance, while modes are due to accidental changes in the attributes of substance. A substance is permanent in the sense that, its essence is characterized by indestructibility and continuity. But it is also subject to generation and destruction in the sense that some new qualities may suffer destruction (Pr.205-6). A substance then, is permanent (=nitya) in respect of its essential qualities and impermanent in regard to its changing modifications.
Umasvati defines substances as possessing origination, decay and permanence (Pr. 204). When a substance, conscious or unconscious originates without leaving its own nature it is called origination. To cite an example, jar originates from clay without leaving the nature of clay. Destruction is the name of leaving the former mode. As for instance, clay leaves its former mode when it becomes a jar. (Pr. 205). Permanence is the essential characteristic of substance which remains unchanged in both the conditions, viz., in origination and decay. It is neither created no destroyed. It is etemal, it is changeless. As for instance, the essential nature of clay remains unchanged among its various modes.
The universe is composed of six substances. The first substance is called Jiva (soul) and the remaining ones are together brought under the single category of Ajiva (non-soul). In this respect Jainism can be called as an advocate of dualism, it admits two kinds of reality, the Jiva and Ajiva which are obviously contradictorily related to each other.
Soul substance is characterized by consciousness and life and non-soul (ajiva) by the opposite of these. Consciousness is the essential nature of the soul, nonconsciousness is the common feature of the non-soul. The non-soul substance is divided into five kinds : Dharma (medium of motion), adharma (medium of rest), akasa (space, pudgala matter), and Kala (time). These together with soul, constitute the six substances of Jainism. They are again classified into astikaya (extended), anastikaya (non-extended). Substances of first kind exist like a body possessing extension. Except time substance all other substances are extended. Time is not extended substance. Again pudgala alone has a form all other substances are formless (Pr. 207). Dharmastikaya, adharmastikaya and Akasastikaya are ane each, Pudgala, Jiva and Kala are infinite in number (Pr. 214). This universe is, thus, divided into two halves respectively-constisting of the Jivas and the Ajivas.
Jiva is spiritual conscious substance. It is spiritual in the sense that it is immaterial, incorporeal and formless (amurta) and distinct from the body and the senses organs. It is coextensive with the body (svadeha parimana) which it occupies. It is endowed with capacity of knowing, feeling and acting. It is characterized by consciousness, a quality that distinguishes it from all other non soul substances. It is agent of action. All other substances lack this capacity of action. As an agent of action the Jiva is possessed of freedom of will.
The Jiva endowed with freedom of will is capable to choose either path of bondage or path of emancipation. Jainism believes in plurality of souls. Jivas are many in number.
Dharma is the principle of motion. It is not used in the sense of religious merit, moral ought. This evaluated word is used in the most unusual sense of the imperceptible medium of motion of matter as well as the soul. It is an ontological reality, constituent of the physical universe. But it does not make the spiritual and the material substance move. On the contrary, these move of themselves. Dharma is only the medium of their motion just as water is the medium of the movement of the fish. While it itself does not move, it provides the movement medium for substances which have capacity of moving. It is nor only devoid of motion but it is also lacking in all sensible qualities such as color, taste, smell etc. Dharma is thus, the unitory, incorporeal, imperceptible, immobile, all pervasive and continuous medium of motion.
Adharma (medium of rest) is the counterpart of dharma. It serves as the auxiliary cause of rest. This word is also detached from its usual moral of religious significance and is taken to mean the supporter, the helping condition of the rest of stationary things as well as of things in motion. Despite the fact that it is the opposite of dharma, Adharma has the same characteristics as Dharma (Pr. 215). It is unitary, eternal, formless, immobile, co-extensive with mundane space and hence all-pervasive, simple and not atomic but imperceptible, being devoid of sensible qualities. The only difference between Dharma and Adharma then consists in that, whereas former is the auxiliary condition of motion, the latter is the similar condition for rest. Akasa (space) is that in which all things exist. It is eternal, all-pervasive and without form (Pr. 215). It is a single substance, consisting of infinite units called pradesas. Space is divided into mundane space (lokakasa) in which all Jivas, all material objects, dharma, adharma and kala exist and supper mundane space (alokakasa) space beyond the world, in which there exist, no soul, no matter, neither Dharma nor Adharma, and no time (Pr. 213). It is space par-excellence, being completely devoid of any content. Pudgala (matter) etymologically means that which is liable to integration and disintegration. Matter (pudgala) is that substance, which along undergoes modifications by combinations and dissections. This process of integration and disintegration does not occur in the other substance. It is of the non-spiritual substances which are extended and as an extended substance it has form or shape. It has color, touch, smell and taste. It exists in either of the two forms in the form of atoms (anus) and in the form of aggregates or mass of atoms (Pr. 208). Atoms are indivisible, and corporeal elements of matter. Matter in the aggregate (mass) form (skandha) is the result of the combination of or integration of atoms. It is capable of modification (parinamaguna) and so is subject to increase and decrease, growth or decay. Atoms have only, unmanifest qualities of color, touch, smell and taste, while the aggregates (mass) of atoms (skandhas) have all these four qualities and sound as well as the qualities of hardness, softness, heaviness etc. Atom has no pradesa, where as a skandha has more than one and the biggest skandha, having infinite atoms (Pr. 208). Our Karma, bodies, mind, speech, breath and the objects of nature are products of matter and bestower of pain and pleasure are products of matter and bestower of pain and pleasure and these matters assist the samsari Jivas to take birth and death (Pr. 217).
Kala (time) is the cause or circumstance of the modification (parinama) of the soul and other substances. It is a substance, but not an extended substance as are the remaining ones. It is the auxiliary condition of the modifications (parinama) and the continuance (vartana). It is infinite. It is not perceived, but inferred from its characteristics which make possible modification, continuity, activity (kriya), near and far, now and then (aparatva) (Pr. 218). It is one and indivisible.
The entire universe is composed of these six substances. The conception and these classifications of substances of Jaina make it very clear that universe cannot be explained with the help of spirit alone or matter alone or both spirit and matter. The explanation of the universe demands admission of the reality of the spirit and the matter on the one hand and of several other items, including space and time and the media of motion and rest on the other.