A Perspective in Jaina Philosophy and Religion
Prof. Ramjee Singh
UNCONDITIONALITY IN SYADVADA
(1) Ahimsa, Anekantavada
and Syadvada - Jainism is a great experiment in Ahimsa (non-violence) in
world, deed and though, Infinite knowledge, faith, power and bliss are the
innate characters of every soul. What is needed is external
non-interference. The doctrine of Anekantavada (non-absolutism) is simply
an extension of Ahimsa in the field of reality. When things have many
characters (anantadharmatmakam), naturally they are objects of all-sided
knowledge. Any particular object can be viewed from different points of
view. So when we speak of a particular aspect, we have to use the word `syat'
i.e., from a particular point of view, or as related to this aspect, this
objects is such and not otherwise. So Syadvada is the doctrine of
Relativity of Judgment which is born out of the non-violent and
non-absolutistic attitude of the Jainas, which, led to the uttermost
cautiousness of speech of "explaining problems with the help of Siyavaya (Syadvada)
or Vibhajjavaya. Our thought is relative. Our expressions are relative.
Thus the doctrines of Ahimsa, Anekantavada and Syadvada are organically
(2) Syadvada : A form of
Scepticism - Scepticism `denies the possibility of knowledge', said James
Iverach. It starts from `no more such than such' and ends in `we know not
where, why and whence'. It doubts or denies the very possibility of
knowledge. But the position taken by Jainism is this "there is reality;
its nature is such and such' still it is possible to understand it in
quite opposite ways." Prof.K.C.Bhattacharya who gives indeterministic
interpretation of this theory clearly says that the Jainas "the theory of
indeterministic truth is not a form of scepticism. It represents, no
doubt, but toleration of many modes of truth." Prof.Kalidas Bhattacharya,
who tries to interpret Anekantavada from alternative standpoint also holds
that "the Syadvadin is quite definitely assertive so far as asti, nasti
etc. are concerned." This is a form of realism which asserts a plurality
of determinate truths and they have thus developed a wonderful organon of
Saptabhangi or the seven-fold pluralistic doctrine of Jaina dialectics.
True, every judgment bears the stamp of relativity, but this relativity
does never mean uncertainly. In fact, this theory of seven-fold
predication is `derived from Jaina ontology that reality is determinate'.
(3) Is Non-absolutism
Absolute - Put into the dialectics of the seven-fold predication, the
negation of non-absolutism (i.e. non-absolutism does not exist) is
equivalent to the affirmation of absolutism. If non-absolutism is, it is
not universal since there is one real which is absolute; if non-absolutism
is itself non-absolute, it is not an absolute and universal fact : thus
"tossed between the two horns of the dilemma non-absolutism simply
But we should remember that
every proposition of dialectical seven-fold judgment is either Complete or
Incomplete. In complete judgment "we use only word that describes one
characteristic of that object, and hold the remaining characters to be
identical with it." On the other hand, in Incomplete Judgment (Naya) we
speak of truth as relative to our standpoints, hence a partial knowledge.
"Hence the non-absolute is constituted of absolutes as its elements and as
such would not be possible if there were no absolute."
(4) Is Conditional Judgment
Unconditional - We have seen that every judgment is true but conditionally
or relatively. But the statement that 'all propositions are conditional'
"all statements including even the statement that `all statements are
conditional' would be conditional." But the Jainas insists that all
propositions except the proposition of its own system have, relative
truth. They say that all seven alternatives are true and so their
seven-fold conditioned predication is an all comprehensive categorical
statement. True, they treat the alternatives are mutually exclusive, they
are nevertheless making a categorical judgment. Does this mean that their
doctrine is the doctrine of relativity of knowledge but not of relativity
of truth ? Yes, the Jainas do hold that their own system is absolutely
true. But if knowledge is relative, our knowledge of reality also can have
only relative truth.
So we come to this
statement that `every statement is conditional' may in sense be taken as
unconditional. This is unconditionally in conditionality, or absolutism in
non-absolutism. When the Jainas say that `every thing is conditional',
they are unconditional to this extent that `every thing is conditional'.
Now, does this not mean self-contradiction or complete overthrowing of the
absolutistic position ?
Let us analyze, "A
categorical judgment asserts an actual fact absolutely" in which the
relation between the subject and the predicate is simple and unconditional
one. Now, in the above proposition, `every proposition is conditional',
the relation between `every proposition' (i.e. subject) and `conditional'
(predicate) is apparently unconditional, but there is no clash between its
unconditionality and conditionality.
For example, when Bhattas
say that consciousness associated with ignorance is the Self, on account
of such Sruti passages, "During dreamless sleep the Atman is
undifferentiated consciousness." Even in the waking state a man says - `I
do not know myself' though he is aware of his own existence. `I had no
knowledge' means that I have at least `the knowledge of having no
knowledge'. But here there is no clash between knowledge and ignorance,
hence no contradiction.
Similarly in Logic, we have
disjunctive judgments - "The signal is either red or green", "A man is
either good or bad" etc., we do mean something categorical behind them.
But this categoricality is not like the categoricality of a simple
unconditional judgment, `The horse is red'. True, the basis is always
categorical but this categoricality does never clash with the proposition
When a logical positivist
says that "there is no metaphysics and reality may come through the
back-door. Like "Hydra they raise their heads over and over again, not to
be destroyed afresh, but to conquer a new."
In the conclusion we may
say that the unconditionality in the statement, `All statements are
conditional', is quite different from the normal conditionality. This is
how and why ?
(5)Senses, Reason and Faith
- There are primarily two sources to understand the world - senses and
reason. Closely connected and corresponding to them there are two grades
of Reality - existence and essence (as the existentialists will say) or
existence and reality (as the Hegelians will say). Existence is actuality,
or actual verification. This is unconditional, absolute and categorical.
There is no alternation or condition, being monistic and unilateral in
attitude. But there is another thing thought. Thought is rational thought
or simply reason. Thought gives us essences. However, this interpretation
is not verification. There may be alternative essences or hypothesis in
terms of each, which the world can be interpreted. Thought therefore is
not concerned with existence, but with essences, and there is always the
possibility of alternative essences or hypothesis. This is exactly what we
mean, when we say that `everything is conditional'. To thought or reason
thus, every thing is conditional or alternative.
But we cannot live in the
world of thought alone; we cannot forget existence. But this attitude to
existence must be other than thought or reason and what is other than
thought or reason must be unreason or irrationality. This irrationality
leads us to existence, which as such is unconditional. Behind reason there
is always the unreason. We can give the name of faith to this phenomenon
as Kant, Herder, Jacobi etc., have suggested. There are many grounds of
faith - one being the scripture. Scripture differs from one another.
Jainas must stick to their own position. Here is definiteness. However, we
cannot expect such definiteness, on the other side. Reason only differs
from one another. Jainas must stick to their own position. Here is
definiteness. However, we cannot expect such definiteness on other side.
Reason only offers alternative pictures - Jaina, Advaita, Vaisesika etc.,
all are equally possible. But do we always obey the command of reason ?
No, we have also own interest on irrationality. Hence, in order to avoid
indefiniteness etc., we stick to one such possibility which is chosen for
us by the community to which we belong or by some superior intuition. Thus
there comes unconditionality. However, another may choose another
possibility as existence if he belongs to another community or if his
genius moves in another direction. So there appears to be again
alternation among existence. But this alternation is not genuine. There is
alternation only so far as we think. There is alternation only on thought
level. We compare thought with other thoughts. And, what is comparison?
Comparison involves thinking and reasoning, so it is thought process. Some
are bound to admit alternation. My standpoint is only a possible one. But
I cannot always fly in the air of possibilities, I must have moorings in
some one definite form of actuality. I must adopt one standpoint.
Jainism is against all
kinds of imperialism in thought. For each community there is a special
absolute. But the absolute themselves are alternations so far as they are
possible. But this is only on thought level. But when I have chosen one it
is more than possible, it is existence or actual. So there is a wonderful
reconciliation between conditionality and unconditionality. Every thing is
conditional on thought level, but not on the level of existence. Thus
there is no real contradiction.