Jain World
Sub-Categories of Antiquity of Jainism
Meaning of Jainism
Tradition of Tirthankara
Historicity of the Jaina tradition
Jaina tradition and Buddhism
  Jaina tradition and Hinduism
  Jaina tradition & archaeological evidence
  Fundamental principles of Jainism
  Philosophy of Jainism
  Tattvas of Jainism
  Doctrines of Jainism
  Three-fold path of Salvation
  Prescription of Ethical Code
  Private distinctiveness of Jaina Ethics
  Importance assigned to five vratas
  Prominence given to Ahimsa
  Easy practicability of ethical code
  Commoness of ethical code
  Rise of sections in Jainism
  The Great Schism of Jainism
  The Digambara and Svetambara sects
  The Digambara sub-sects
  The Svetambara Sub-sects
  Jainism in East India
  Jainism in Northern India
  Jainism in Western India
  Jainism In South India
  Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture
  Jainism and other religions
  Significance of Jainism
  Glossary of Jaina terms






Meaning of a Naya

According to Jaina Philosophy the object of knowledge is a huge complexity because (i) it is constituted of substances, qualities and modifications, (ii) it is extended over past, present and future times, (iii) it is extended over infinite space, and (iv) it is simultaneously subjected to origination, destruction and permanence.

It is obvious that such an object can be fully comprehended only in omniscience, which is not manifested in the case of worldly beings who perceive through their organs of senses. But the senses are the indirect means of knowledge, and whatever they apprehend is partial like the proverbial perception of an elephant and concludes that the elephant is like a log of wood, like a fan, like a well, etc.

In view of these conditions we find that the ordinary human being cannot rise above the limitations of his senses; so his apprehension of reality is partial and it is valid only from a particular point of view known as Naya.

In other words, according to Jainism, reality is a complex not merely in the sense of constituting aneka, i.e., manyness but also because of its nature of anekanta, i.e., manifoldness of view-points. That is why Jainism points to the fact that reality may be comprehended from different angles. The attempt at comprehending anything from a particular standpoint is known as Naya and the system of describing reality from different points of view is termed as Nayavada, i.e., the doctrine of Nayas. This is based on the fact that Jainism regards all things as anekanta (or na- eikanta). In other words it regards all things as anekanta (or na-eikanta). In other words it is held only under certain conditions.

In view of this, a naya is defined as a particular opinion framed with a view-point, a view-point which does not rule out other different view-points, and is, therefore, expressive of a partial truth about an object, as entertained by a knowing agent.

Classification of Nayas

As nayas are modes of expressing things, there can be a number of nayas through which reality could be expressed.

Paryaya-naya and Dravya-naya

To take an example, when different kinds of gold ornaments are described from the point of view of the modes or modifications of gold, it is termed the paryaya-naya or the paryayarthika-naya, i.e., the modal point of view.

Similarly, when gold ornaments are described with regard to their substance, i.e., gold, and its inherent qualities, it is termed the dravya-naya or the dravyarthika-naya, i.e., the substantial point of view.

Vyavahara-naya and Nischaya-naya

On the same lines, in spiritual discussion, the things could be described both from a practical point of view and from a realistic point of view. Thus when things are described from the common sense or practical point of view, it is termed the vyavahara-naya; and when things are described from the pure or realistic point of view, it is termed the nischaya-naya.

Seven Nayas

Since naya is the device which is capable of determining truly one of the several characteristics of an object(without contradiction) from a particular point of view, the Jaina philosophers formulated seven nayas. These nayas are:

  1. Naigama naya, i.e., universal-particular, or teleological point of view.

  2. Sangraha naya, i.e., the class point of view.

  3. Vyavahara naya, i.e., the standpoint of the particular.

  4. Rjusutra naya, i.e., the standpoint of momentariness.

  5. Sabda naya, i.e., the standpoint of synonymous.

  6. Samabhirudha naya, i.e., the etymological standpoint.

  7. Evambhuta naya, i.e., the `Such-likes" standpoint

It is also maintained that these seven nayas could be considered as sub-divisions of dravyarthika and paryayarthika nayas. Thus, the first three nayas, viz.,

  1. the naigama naya,

  2. the sangraha naya, and

  3. the vyavahara naya

are the sub-divisions of dravyarthika naya as they deal with objects.

Similarly, the last four nayas, viz.,

  1. the rjusutra naya,

  2. the sabda naya,

  3. the samabhirudha naya, and

  4. the evvambhuta naya

are the sub-divisions of paryayarthika naya as they are concerned with modification of substances.

Similarly, the first four nayas are called artha nayas in as much as they deal with objects of knowledge, whereas the remaining three nayas are called sabda nayas in as much as they pertain to terms and their meanings.

Further, each one of these nayas is considered to have one hundred sub-divisions. Thus, according to this view, there are seven hundred nayas.

We find that two other views are also expressed, viz.,

  1. that there are only six nayas, i.e., the nayas (the seven mentioned above) with the exclusion of the first naya, i.e., the naigama naya, and

  2. that there are only five nayas, in the sense that the last two nayas (of the above-mentioned seven nayas), viz., the samabhirudha naya and the evambhuta naya are included in the fifth (of the above mentioned seven nayas) naya, viz., the sabda naya.

Significance of Nayavada

Nayavada is a warning to those philosophers who assert that their system is absolute and all-comprehensive. It shows the way to a reconciliation of conflicting view-points and harmonization of all stand-points by appreciating the relativity of the different aspects of reality.

But it is pertinent to note that nayas reveal only a part of the totality and that they should not be mistaken for the whole. Because of this infinite-fold constitution of a thing, there can be infinite nayas and they can be classified into various categories. As naya is defined by Saint Acharya Akalanka, the reputed philosopher-author, as Nayo jnatur abhiprayah, i.e., naya is a particular approach of the knower, a synthesis of these different view-points is a practical necessity; therein every view-point must be able to retain its relative importance and this is fulfilled by the doctrine of syadvada, i.e., the doctrine of qualified assertion.


Term syadvada

The doctrine of nayavada provides the framework for the doctrine of Syadvada, since it clearly points out that reality can be looked at from many different standpoints, and that no standpoint can be claimed as the only valid one. The term Syadvada is derived from the term syat meaning `in some respect'. If the aim of philosophical inquiry is to comprehend reality, the Jaina philosophers point out that it cannot be achieved by merely formulating certain simple, categorical propositions. Reality being complex any one simple proposition cannot express the nature of reality fully. That is the reason why the term syat, i.e., 'in some respect', is appended to the various propositions concerning reality by the Jaina philosophers without any absolute affirmation whatsoever in regard to any one of them. That is why each affirmation is preceded by the phrase `syat', i.e., `in some respect'. This indicates that the affirmation is only relative, made somehow, from some point of view and under some reservations and is not in any sense absolute.

Meaning of Syadvada

It is not enough if various problems about reality are merely understood from different points of view. What one knows one must be able to state truly and correctly. This need is met by the doctrine of Syadvada or Anekantavada, i.e., many-sided view-point.

It is a fact that the object of knowledge is a vast complexity covering infinite modes, that human mind is of limited understanding, and that human speech has its imperfections in expressing the whole range of experience. Under these circumstances all our statements are conditionally or relatively true. Hence every statement must be qualified with the term syat, i.e., `in some respect', or `somehow', or `in a way', with a view to emphasize its conditional or relative character.

Statements of Syadvada

In this way, on the basis of Anekantavada or Syadvada, while describing a thing seven possible statements or propositions or assertions, seemingly contradictory but perfectly true can be made in the following manner :

  1. Syad-asti, i.e., in some respects, it is;

  2. Syad-nasti, i.e., in some respect, it is not;

  3. Syad-asti-nasti, i.e., in some respect, it is and it is not;

  4. Syad-avaktavya, i.e., in some respect, it is indescribable;

  5. Syad-asti, avaktavya, i.e., in some respect, it is not and is indescribable;

  6. Syad-nasti, avaktavya, i.e., in some respect, it is not and is indescribable, and

  7. Syad-asti-nasti, avaktavya, i.e., in some respect, it is and is not and is indescribable.

These seven propositions are formulated by the three expressions, viz., asti, nasti and avaktavya, the word syat being common to all of them, and their combinations.

These propositions will be clear with the help of an illustration. For example, a man is the father and is not the father and is both -are perfectly intelligible statements, if one understands the point of view from which they are made. In relation to a particular boy he is the father; in relation to another boy he is not the father; in relation to both the boys taken together he is the father and is not the father. Since both the ideas cannot be conveyed in words at the same time, he may be called indescribable: still he is father and is indescribable; and so on.

Further, it may be noted that the seven propositions can be formulated in regard to the eternality, identity and difference, etc., of any object. The Jaina philosophers believe that these seven modes of predication together give us an adequate description of reality.

Moreover, it is obvious that the combinations of points of view cannot be more than seven as reality is open to seven statements and not to more. The reason why the number of modes is neither more nor less than seven is because it is believed that any complex situation is amenable to treatment by this seven-fold technique if one is adept in using it. Any attempt to add or subtract a mode will be found to be impossible since addition finds the mode already there among the existing seven modes, and subtraction will mutilate the essential limit from the scheme.

Thus the doctrine of Anekantavada, comprising these seven propositions, is neither self-contradictory nor vague or indefinite; on the contrary, it represents a very sensible view of things in a systematized form.

Further, this doctrine of anekantavada is also called the doctrine of saptabhangi, i.e., the doctrine of seven-fold predication, because these seven possible modes of expression can be used while describing a thing.

Syadvada and Nayavada

From the above propositions it is obvious that Syadvada complements the Nayavada. Whereas the emphasis in Nayavada is on an analytical approach to reality, on pointing out that different standpoints can be taken, the stress in Syadvada is on the synthetic approach to reality, on reiterating that the different view-points together help us in comprehending the reality. As analysis and synthesis are not unrelated to each other we find elements of analysis even in a synthetic view of reality.

In more concrete terms : in nayavada there is the recognition that over-emphasizing any one view would lead to a fallacy that different views have their value, that each one of them reflects reality and, therefore, that they together alone can give a sweep into reality. Similarly, in Syadvada the systematic character of the modes of predictions, is highlighted with a clear understanding that various propositions have, each one of them, something to convey about reality itself.

Significance of Syadvada

From the discussion of Syadvada it is clear that Syadvada aims to unify, coordinate, harmonize and synthesize the individual view points into a predictable whole. In other words, the Syadvada, like music, blends discordant notes so as to make a perfect harmony.

Further, Syadvada is not a doctrine of mere speculative interest, one intended to solve not only ontological problems, but has a bearing upon man's psychological and spiritual life.

Moreover, the doctrine of Syadvada has supplied the philosopher with cosmopolitanism of thought convincing him that truth is not anybody's monopoly with tariff walls of denominational religions and it has again supplied the religious aspirant with 'intellectual toleration' which is quite on par with ahimsa for which Jainism has eminently stood for the last two thousand years and more.

The essence of this doctrine of Syadvada, keeping off scholastic terminology, seems just that as to matters of experience it is impossible to formulate the whole and complete truth, and as to matters which transcend experience, language is inadequate.

Furthermore, it is pertinent to note that apart from the pains the Jaina philosophers have taken to describe reality, their doctrine of Syadvada brings out the comprehensiveness of approach of the Jaina Philosophers to these problems.