A Perspective in Jaina Philosophy and Religion
Prof. Ramjee Singh
Jaina View of Life
[ 1 ]
(1) Life is a struggle for perfection.
Philosophy should serve as the light house in this struggle of life.
Hence, true philosophy, must be a philosophy of life. Our attention has
until now been mainly directed towards the problems of reality and
knowledge, God and Soul etc., but we have culture have got significance
only in relation to man. Hence, Vyasa correctly said : "There is nothing
higher than man" (nahi sresthataram kincit manusat)". Chandidas perhaps
went a little further : "Man is higher than everything and nothing is more
important than him" (Sabar upare manusa satya, tahar pretation regarded
"man as the measure of all" (Hamo men sura). The Jainas, even denied God,
because they believed in the potential divinity of man. This reminds us of
the famous Vedic saying : "Those who know Brahman in Man knows the Being
who is Supreme" (Ye puruse Brahman Viduste Viduh Paramesthinam : Atharva
Veda, X.VII. 17).
(2) According to Jainism, man can attain
divinity contained in the concept of Four-fold Infinities (anantachatustaya).
Thus, it shifted the emphasis from God to Man - an outcome of the
development of inwardness. Hence, the interest of Jainism has been
centered mainly around man, his morality and destiny. Of the seven
fundamental categories of Jaina philosophy, only two, the `self' and the
`Non-self' are dealt with from a metaphysical point of view, the other
five are more corollaries. Asrava (inflow of karmic-matter) is the cause
of mundane existence and Samvara is the cause of liberation. Everything
else is only its amplification.
(3) Our conduct cannot be isolated from
our way of life. Truth and valuation are inseparable. Samantabhadra in his
Yuktyanusasanam (Verse 15) says : "Without knowing the real nature of
things, all moral distinctions between bondage and liberation, merit and
demerit, pleasure and pain will be blurred."
(4) For Plato, Samskara and Bradley,
philosophy, broadly, is the `knowledge of reality' for the logical
positivist it is only `linguistic analysis'. However philosophy, to be
true, must be philosophy of life, where we do not have a part-view but the
whole-view or world-view. "Idealism was unable to see the trees in the
wood, while empiricism could not see the wood in the trees" said C.D.
Broad (Contemporary British Philosophy, Ed. J.H. Muirhead, Vol.1, 1924).
These are the two different ways of approaching the problem but they are
not the only ways. Hence, we should see the world steadily and as a whole.
If we do not look at the world synoptically, we shall have a very narrow
view of it. Purely critical philosophy is arid and rigid.
(5) The Jaina view of life known as
anekanta (Non-absolutism) is nearer to such a synoptic view. To quote
Whitehead, such an non-absolutistic approach is "an endeavor to frame a
coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which
every element of our experience can be interpreted" (A.N. Whitehead :
Process and Reality, 1929, p.4). The function of philosophy is not merely
academic pursuit of knowledge and reality, it also serves as a way of
life. It has the dual purpose of revealing truth and increasing virtue so
that it may provide a principle to live by and purposes to live for.
Hence, C.E.M. Joad options that "We must achieve a synoptic view of the
universe" (C.E.M. Joad : A Critique of Logical Positivism, 1950, p. 29).
[ 2 ]
(1) The Jaina attitude of non-absolutism
is rooted in its attitude towards life. Life is dear to all. To do harm to
others is to do harm to oneself. The Acaranga Sutra ( 1. 5. 5) declares:
"Thou art he whom thou intends to tyrannize over." Hence a feeling of
immense respect and responsibility for human personality inspires Jainism.
It has upheld the worth of life very much, hence its main emphasis is on
Ahimsa or non-violence.
(2) However its concern for non-violence
is more due to ideological consciousness than emotional compassion. Unlike
Buddhism Jainism does not view life as a transient and illusory
phenomenon, nor it regards it as immutable like the Upanisad-Vedanta
philosophers. In fact, both absolute permanence and absolute impermanence
is absolute non-sense. Adhering to the common experience, Jainism regards
the nature of reality as having the characteristics of origination, decay
and continuance-giving a non-exclusivists view.
(3) Secondly, Jainism believes in the
potential divinity of man. Given freedom of development, every individual
can attain the supreme spiritual progress. Hence, any interference means
spiritual degeneration. Violence is nothing but interference with life,
hence it must be eschewed in thought, word and deed. In this context,
Anekantavada (non-absolutism) is an extension of Ahimsa in the realm of
thought and so is Syadvada a logical corollary in the field of speech.
Anything should be viewed not from only one standpoint (ekanta) but from
many, angles of vision. The real is a variable angles of vision, which
will negate dogmatism and imperialism of thought. Ekanta, means the `only'
point of view, whereas Anekanta implies the principle of reciprocity and
interaction among the reals of the universe.
(4) This Anekanta-ideology is the spirit
of synthesis (Samanvaya-drsti) nurtured into the synthetic culture of
India. In the Vedas and Upanisads, the ultimate reality is described
neither as real (Sat) nor as unreal (Asat). Some described the reality is
one, while others hold it as many. In fact, the ultimate reality as the
same, though it is called by different names. Ajneyavada or Agnosticism of
Sanjaya shows reconciliatory spirit through his Four-fold or Five-fold
formula of denial, so the Vibhajyavada or the Critical method of
Investigation of Buddha is contrasted with Madhyam-pratipada which
included Buddha to "treat prevalent opinions with all due consideration."
Nagarjuna's Dialectics of Four-fold Antinomies (chatuskoti) resembles
Anekanta approach. The Bhedabheda system of Bharata Mimamsa and the
Samkhya have an anekanta bias with respect to some of their ideas and
methods. Therefore, Santaraksita attributes the concept of vaichitrya to
the Mimamsa as well to the Samkhyas. Even the critique on the light
doctrines of Gautama resemble the Anekantavada in its spirit an form
although they are not as pervasive as they are in Jainism.
(5) Anekantavada is the heart of
Jainism. It constitutes its moral original contribution to the
philosophical speculation. However, Anekantavada- syadvada has been more
maligned than understood even by the great Vedantic and Buddhist Avaryas.
It is misfortune that system like Advaita which realizes the inadequacy of
logic to appreciate the evidence of experience as well as the
probabilistic interpretation of multi-valued logics, which can reconcile
the apparent contradictions in the Anekantavada. Anekanta implies twin
functions of analysis and synthesis known as conjunctive and disjunctive
dialectics respectively or Nayavada and Syadvada.
(6) Viewed in the light of the doctrine
of Anekanta, the reality reveals not merely as many (anantatmakam) but
also as infinitely manifold (ananta- dharmatmakam). The reality is
possessed of infinite number of attributes and human knowledge is limited
until it attains omniscience. Hence we cannot have the complete grasp of
the whole reality or an absolute affirmation or complete negation of a
predicate. To know is to relate, therefore our knowledge is essentially
relative and to relate, therefore our knowledge is essentially relative
and limited in many ways. In the sphere of application of the means of
knowledge or in the extent of the knowable our thought is relative. The
whole reality in its completeness, cannot be grasped by this partial
thought. The objectivity of the universe reveals that the universe is
independent of the mind which implies principles of distinction leading to
the recognition of non-absolutism.
(7) In absolute sense, a thing is
neither real nor unreal, neither permanent nor evanescent but both. This
dual nature of things is proved by a reductio-ad-absurdum of absolutism.
Further, this is also the basis of the Law of Causation, because an
`absolute real' can neither be cause nor an effect. However, an `absolute
flax' cannot be the basis of operation for the Law of Causation.
Similarly, the controversy between unity and plurality can be easily
solved by the Anekanta logic, which affirms attributes in a unitary
entity. A thing is neither an absolute unity nor an irreconcilable
multiplicity. In fact, it is both multiplicity-in-unity. Similarly, both
absolute existence and non-existence are metaphysical abstractions.
[ 3 ]
(1) To say that a thing is neither real
nor unreal, neither eternal nor non-eternal, neither static nor mobile but
partakes of the dual nature perhaps is an affront to the believes in the
traditional Laws of Thought. No body rejects them but these abstract
formulations are not suited to dynamic character of the universe. Our own
observation and experience reveals that the two-valued logic seems to be
unreal. So far that abstract formulation of the Laws of Thought A is A (Identity),A
is A (Contradiction), A is either A or not A (Excluded Midoh), they may be
right. But their concrete formulations (A Radio is a Radio) admits of
change. A real radio is constantly undergoing change, hence there is
change according to space and time. Similarly, even change is meaningless
without the idea of persistence. Hence the contradiction (A Skylab cannot
both be and not be) is only national because `A Skylab' is a Skylab so
long it works as a laboratory in the Sky but when it takes as a debris
after degeneration, if it is not the same sky-lab in the same condition.
Hence, a Skylab can be both a Skylab and not a Skylab. There is no
difficulty to accept this in actual experience.
(2) The denial of pre-non-existence and
post-non-existence as part of a real leads to the impossibility of all
theoretical and practical activity. Similarly, the denial of non-existence
of mutual identity (numerical differences) and absolute non-existence is
also impossible. If there is no difference, there will be no distinction,
hence no independence between subject and object. If there is negation of
identity, there is worse confusion. Hence the nature of reality can
neither be exclusively identity nor multiplicity. As regards relations, no
relation is meaningful if there is pure identity and no relation is
possible between the two absolutely independent and different terms.
Similarly regarding causal efficiency, the real cannot be either `absolute
constant' nor can it be an `absolute variant' but a `variable constant'.
[ 4 ]
(1) I t is asked, whether this kind of
non-absolutism is itself absolute or not. If it is former, there is at
least one real which is absolute; if it is not, it is not absolute and
universal fact. Whether non-absolutism is itself absolute or relative
depends upon the nature of proposition which is either complete (Sakaladesa)
or incomplete (Vikaladesa). The former being the object of valid knowledge
(Pramana) and the latter, two object of aspectal knowledge (naya). This
means that the directive of non-absolutism is not absolute
unconditionally. However, to avoid the fallacy of infinite regress, the
Jainas distinguished between the true non-absolutism (Samyak-Anekanta) and
the false non-absolutism (Mithya-Anekanta). To be valid, therefore,
non-absolutism must not be absolute but always relative. When one
attributes is stated as constitution the whole nature of the real and thus
implies the of the `false absolute'. But Naya is not false though it is
partial or knowledge from a particular standpoint.
(2) The nature of unconditionality in
the statement "All statements are conditional" is quite different from the
normal meaning of unconditionality. This is like the idea contained in the
passage "I do not know myself" where there is no contradiction between
knowledge and ignorance, or in the statement `I am undecided', where there
is at least one decision : "I am undecided" the unconditionality is not at
the level of existence, while at the level of essence (thought) anything
is alternative. We do not live in the realm of thought or reason above.
Behind reason, there is always the watershed of unreason or faith. The
Jainas too have faith in their scriptures as anybody else has in his or
her. Her is unconditionally. In each community, there is a special
absolute. The absolutes themselves are alternation so far as they are
possible (till we are on thought level), but I have chosen one and stick
to it, it is more than possible, it is existence or actual. At this point,
there may be a reconciliation between conditionality and unconditionality.
On thought level, the statement "Everything is conditional", holds good
but when we adopt the point of view of existence, we are led to rest with
[ 5 ]
(1) Ideologically, we cannot make
one-sided exposition. But in actual usage, whenever we make any particular
statement (S is P or S is not P), it takes the form of a categorical
proposition. Even a Hypothetical (If S then P) or a Disjunctive (Either S
or P) is said to have a categoric basis and therefore, they can be
converted into categorical propositions. But since our thought is
relative, so must be our expression.
(2) There is another problem also - how
to synthesize the different angles of vision or internal harmony of the
opposed predications (S is P, S is not P, S is both P and not P, S is
neither P nor not P). It is, therefore, the Jainas prefix Syat (Somehow,
in some respect) as a corrective against any absolutist way of thought and
evaluation of reality. This is a linguistic tool for the practical
application of non-absolutism in words. Because of this prefix Syat and
the relative nature of proposition, it is called Syadvada. But words are
only expressive or suggestive (Vachaka or Jnapaka) rather than productive
(Karaka). Thus the meaning is, however, eventually rooted in nature of
things in reality and we have, therefore, to explore a scheme of
linguistic symbols (Vachanavinyasa) for model judgments representing
alternate standpoints. (Nayas), or a way of approach or a particular
opinion (abhipraya) or view-point (apeksa).
(3) This philosophy of standpoints bears
the same relation to philosophy as logic does to thought or grammar to
language. We cannot affirm or deny anything absolutely of any object owing
to the endless complexity of things. Every statement of a thing,
therefore, is bound to be one-sided and incomplete. Hence the doctrine of
seven-fold predication (Saptabhanga) in the logical consumption of the
doctrine of relative standpoints (Syadvada). If we insist on absolute
predication without conditions (Syat), the only cause open is to dismiss
either the diversity or the identity as a mere metaphysical fiction. Every
single standpoint designated in every statements has a partial truth.
Different aspects of reality can be considered from different perspectives
(Niksepa). This Naya is the analytic and Saptabhanga is the synthetic
method of studying ontological problems.
If this form of statements, this
doctrine insists on the correlation of affirmation and negation. All
judgments are double-edged in character-existent and non-existence. The
predicate of inexpressibility stands for the unique synthesis of existence
and non-existence and is therefore `unspeakable' (avaktavya). Thus three
predicates - `existence', `non-existence' and `inexpressibility' make
seven exhaustive and unique modes of expression of truth.
[ 6 ]
(1) We are aware of various criticisms
against Anekantavada-Syadvada that they involve the fallacies of
self-contradiction (Virodha), Absence of Common Abodi (Vaiyadhikaranya),
Infinite-Regress (Anavastha), Confusion (Sanka), Exchange of Natures (Vyatikara),
Doubt (Samsaya), Non-apprehension (Apratipatti), Both sides (Ubhaya) etc.
However, we do not want to go into details.
(2) We have considered the most
formidable criticism that how far non-absolutism of Syadvada is not
absolute but relative. However, it is wrong to confuse the Pragmatic and
Pluralistic realistic attitude of Syadvada with either Pragmatism of
James-Dewey either or with the objective relativism of the sophists or
even with the relative absolutism of Whitehead or Bodies or with
Einstenian relativity except in the most general attitude. Pyrroh's
prefixing every judgment with a `may be' must not be identical Jaina `Syat'.
The former degenerates into Agnosticism or Skepticism means in the
minimum, absence of any assertion, whereas Syadvadins always assert,
thought what they assert are alternatives - each being valid in its own
Universe of Discourse, which controls the interpretation of every word.
This is the logic of Relatives.
(3) Perhaps on account of its
catholicity of outlook Syadvada is branded as a form `eclecticism' or a
`philosophy of compromise'. "Since an eclectic system is a loose piece of
mosaic work, rather than an organized body of original thought, the term
has come to be one of reproach." However, this is unjust to brand it as a
`loose piece of mosaic work' or `odd collection of arbitrary half-truths'.
In fact the truths presented are alternative truths which are true in
their own aspects. Of course, Syadvada rejects the `dispotic absolute
truth' or the `block universe' or a `seamless coat'. Even in the synthesis
achieved through the dynamics of Syadvada, there is `discriminative unity'
rather than `secondless unit'. In short, absolutism in thought is rejected
to avoid arbitrariness in action.
(4) To brand Syadvada as agnosticism or
Skepticism like that of Sanjaya or of Pyrroh is again another injustice.
The prefix `Syat' does not mean `perhaps' but `in respect of' a particular
context. Each model truth is valid from its own standpoint. It is not a
doctrine of `know nothingness' or `unknowability'. Each standpoint of the
saptabhangi is definite in its own place. Syadvada statements are not
`indefinite' (Belvalkar), but `indeterminate' (Hiriyana) which means that
it cannot be defined absolutely. No single mode of expression is adequate
to express the nature of reality. The various modes of truths are not
merely many truths, but alternative truths, each being as definite as
(5) Regarding the charge of
`Self-contradiction' against Syadvada by the great Vedantic and Buddhist
Acaryas, I feel that the motive behind it must be extra-logical. How one
can believe that Dharmakirti will call Anekantavada as mere non-sensical
talk (Pralapamatra) in view of Jaina theory of dual character of universal
and particular of a thing. He asks of all realities are sat, there would
be no difference between cow and camel. Prajnakara Gupta and Arcaya point
out that the triple charactered nature of reality having origination,
destruction and permanence cannot exist together and hence is self
contradictory. Sanmtaraksita thinks that there would be a commingling (Sankarya)
and a confusion (Sandeha) in the dual nature of reality, the result of
which would not be helpful to decide which is general and which
Karnakagomin also refutes the dual
characteristic theory of the Jainas in his own way. In this famous
treatise Refutation of Anekantavada (Anekantavada Nirasa), Jitari says
that one cannot have identity as well as difference by the same nature.
Sankara and Ramanuja also point out to
the violation of the law of contradiction.
However, all these thinkers forget that
the laws of thoughts should be considered by the testimony of experience
and not be pre-conception. Experience shows that a thing is real in own
respect but not so in other respect.
The triple character theory is supported
through anvasthanupapannatva hetu. From the realistic standpoint there is
so much difference which could indicate the separation between identity
and difference. The reality is synthism of identity-in difference and each
synthesis is a Jatyantara (sui genesis). Akalanka points out that the
Buddhists philosophers ignore the formula Sarvobhavastudatasvabhati and
tries to establish equality between curd and camel.
In fact, Syadvada is against the
formulations of formal two valued logic. It avoids vicious intellectualism
and the fallacy of exclusive particularity. Thus Syadvada is a new
dynamics of thinking which is based on Catholicism and regard for truth
seen from different angles.