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During the period of his spiritual pursuit, Bhagwan Mahavir developed sympathy for suffering, the idea of sanctity of all life, liberality and compassion towards all, and toleration of all religious views. He organized his spiritual order based on his own inner experiences. His philosophical ideas have a refreshingly attractive message appealing to the common sense of man. Some tenets of his philosophy are outlined below.



The spring point of the doctrine of multiplicity of viewpoints is that human knowledge cannot be painted in terms of religious colors. Knowledge knows no limitations and boundaries.

Religion and philosophy are not limited to a particular country, period, or group. Different points of view are mere additions to the human knowledge. When viewed together, they present the picture of universal reality. Moreover, the knowledge of

reality cannot be obtained through the senses. Whatever we perceive through the senses is merely the appearance, it is not the world of reality. If we want to reach reality, we must withdraw from the world of senses into that of inner experience. It is through the combination of proper perception (samyak darshan), proper knowledge (samyak jnana) and proper conduct (samyak charitra) that we can attain self-realization and

understand the nature of reality.

The fundamental philosophical base of Jainism is therefore the comprehensive view of reality. Jain philosophy points out that the ultimate reality is complex in character and in order to comprehend its nature, we must examine it from various points of view. Attending to a particular aspect of reality to the

exclusion of other aspects may serve some specific purpose under certain circumstances, but it is only a partial vision of

reality. Over emphasis on a particular aspect of reality not only distorts reality, but it also leads to dogmatic slavery, mutual misunderstanding and conflict of interests. To recognize the nature of reality in all its completeness, one has to review a variety of aspects before arriving at any conclusion.

The logical crux of the aforesaid process is that there is always the possibility of many standpoints in relation to the same object, The same object can have primarily two

contradictory propositions, and, therefore, can be described from one standpoint that it exists (asti) and from another standpoint that it does not (nasti).

Every proposition is both "is" and "is not" at the same time, and it is certainly impossible to speak of the same from a single point of view. Two propositions, one affirmative (asti) and the other negative are always asserted with reference to four aspects of a thing:

Substance (dravya)

place (kshetra)

time (kaal)

form (bhava)

A thing is or exists in respect of its own substance, but it does not exist in respect of other substances. Take the case of a piece of furniture. It may be made of ordinary jungle wood and it may be so painted as to appear as rosewood. Now, the furniture is (exists as) jungle wood, but is not (does not exist as) rosewood.

Similarly, a thing exists in its own place and it does not, at the same time, exist in any other place. While the cow is in her shed, she is not in the field.

Again, a thing is in its own time and is not in another time. Raja Rammohan Roy existed before Gandhiji, but did not exist after Gandhiji.

Likewise, a thing, while existing in its own form does not exist in another form. Water below freezing point exists as a solid, but does not exist then as a liquid.

These four aspects form the asti-nasti-vada. This represents a pragmatic view in which an object may be affirmatively described from one point of view of its own substance, place, time and form, and negatively described from the standpoint of the

substance, place, time and form of another thing. It is,

therefore, clear that both the propositions, the affirmative and the negative, are true with reference to the same object of reality.

In short, asti-nasti-vada implies the prediction of

contradictory attributes of asti ("is") and nasti ("is not") to the same reality. It is interesting to compare this with

Hegel's dialectic principle which says that an idea or event (thesis) generates its opposite (antithesis) which leads to a reconciliation of opposites (synthesis).

Jain thinkers have further developed the logic into the theory of seven aspects (saptabhangi) which postulates that as many as seven modes of prediction are possible in any given case.

Therefore, no definite or absolute statements can be made about any question. To the question "Is there soul?" the Jain logic would admit of seven answers. These are:

(1) is

(2) is not

(3) is and is not

(4) is inexpressible

(5) is and is inexpressible

(6) is not and is inexpressible

(7) is, is not and is inexpressible

There is an aspect in which there is soul, there is also an aspect in which it is not possible to describe soul, and so on. This is equivalent to saying that knowledge is only

probabilistic. The theory is also called relativism (syadavada, the doctrine of "may be").