Importance of Anekanta
The importance of this comprehensive synthesis of
ï¿½Syadvada' and ï¿½Anekanta-naya' in day to day life is immense in as much as
these doctrines supply a rational unification and synthesis of the
manifold and rejects the assertions of bare absolutes.
Mr.Stephen Hay, an American Scholar-historian, in his
article, "Jaina influences on Gandhi's Early Thought" refers to Mahatma
Gandhi's views about the Jaina theory of Anekanta as under :
It has been my experience, wrote Gandhi in 1926, "that
I am always true (correct) from my point of view, and often wrong from the
point of view of my critics. I know that we are both (myself and my
critics) right from our respective points of view."
He further quotes Gandhiji's saying as under :
"I very much like this doctrine of the manyness of
reality. It is this doctrine that has taught me to judge a Mussulman from
his stand point and a Christian from his...From the platform of the Jainas,
I prove the non-creative aspect of God, and from that of Ramanuja the
creative aspect. As a matter of fact we are all thinking of the
unthinkable describing the Indescribable, seeking to know the unknown, and
that is why our speech falters, is inadequate and been often
History of all conflicts and confrontations in the
world is the history of intolerance born out of ignorance. Difficulty with
the man is his egocentric existence. If only the man becomes conscious of
his own limitations, Anekanta or Syadvada tries to make the man conscious
of his limitation by pointing to his narrow vision and limited knowledge
of the manifold aspects of things, and asks him not be hasty in forming
absolute judgements before examining various other aspects-both positive
and negative. Obviously, much of the bloodshed, and much of tribulations
of mankind would have been saved if the man had shown the wisdom of
understanding the contrary view points.
How the Doctrine Clarifies ï¿½Self'
The doctrine of Syadvada also clarifies the
metaphysical doctrine of ï¿½Self' and the envisaged by the Jainas. The
proposition ï¿½Syad asti' is positive in character and points out to the
positive attributes of the thing in question. These are individual
attributes which belong to and inhere in the thing in question. Therefore,
when the proposition ï¿½Syad asti' is applied to ï¿½Self', it conveys that
ï¿½Self' is justified in its existence only from the point of view of its
own individual attributes, modes, space and time. But when the other
proposition of the doctrine namely ï¿½Syad-nasti' is applied to it, it means
the ï¿½Self' does not possess the attributes, modes, etc. Which do not
belong to it. It is just like a pot which can be identified as a ï¿½pot'
only if it carries the attributes of a ï¿½pot' but it cannot be identified
as a pot if it carries the attributes which are foreign to it. So the
negative identification of ï¿½Syat nasti' when applied to ï¿½Self' would mean
that if the self tries to adopt the attributes of Pudgala which are
foreign to it, it is not the ï¿½self'. In other words, Syadvada teaches us
that ï¿½Self' can be identified positively as ï¿½Syad asti' only if it is
viewed from its own attributes, and negatively as ï¿½Syad nasti' to show
that it is not Pudgala, etc., if it is viewed from the attributes, foreign
Thus the doctrine of Syadvada gives clarity to the real
character of the ï¿½Self' and by the same process of reasoning, the real
character of ï¿½Pudgala', i.e., non-sentient things.
Anekanta and Ahimsa
More important aspect of Syadvada is, however, the
subtlety with which it introduces the practice of Ahimsa (non-violence)
even in the realm of thought. The moment one begins to consider the angle
from which a contrary view-point is put forward, one begins to develop
tolerance, which is the basic requirement of the practice of ï¿½Ahimsa'.
Origin of all bloody war fought on the surface of this earth can be traced
to the war of ideas and beliefs. Syadvada puts a healing touch at the root
of human psyche and tries to stop the war of beliefs which lead to the war
of nerves and then to the war of bloodshed. It makes all absolutes in the
field of thought quite irrelevant and naive, imparts maturity to the
thought process and supplies flexibility and originality to human mind. If
the man-kind will properly understand and adopt this doctrine of Syadvada
it will realize that real revolution was not the French or the Russian;
the real revolution was the one which taught the man to develop his power
of understanding from all possible aspects.
What Mahavira found by the process of intuition and
reasoning. Einstein proved in his physical theory of Space and Time in the
year 1905 A.D. Development of Optics and Electrodynamics led to the
rejection of the concept of absolute time, absolute simultaneity and
absolute space. If time and space are relative to other factors,
everything that happens in time and space would naturally be relative to
other factors. Therefore Einstein was convinced that there is causal
interdependence of all processes in nature. As a result, the revelations
made by him and other theories of Quantum Mechanics, the field of
relativity was enlarged so as to take into consideration the fact that
Reality is much dependent upon the subjective reaction of the individual
who observes the event.
Jaina theory of relativity in the field of thoughts and
metaphysics thus gets sufficient support from these scientific revelations
in the field of physics. Theocrates world over have tried to emphasize
that the truth revealed to them is absolute, eternal and immutable. Theory
of relativity as embodied in Syadvada or Anekantvada is happily an
exception to this. Lenin unknowingly endorsed this theory when he said
:"Human thoughts by its nature is capable of giving, and does give,
absolute truth, which is compounded of sum total of relative truths. Each
step in the development of science adds new grains of absolute truth, but
the limits of the truth of each scientific proposition are relative, now
expanding, now shrinking with the growth of knowledge." If only Lenin knew
how to apply this principle in the evolution of social and economic
theories propounded by Marx, the fate of socialism would have been quite
Theory of Seven Predications (Sapta-bhanga)
To clarify the above approach of ascertaining the truth
by the process of Syadvada (Anekanta) the Jaina philosophers have evolved
a formula of seven predications which are known as Saptabhanga. ï¿½Sapta'
means ï¿½seven' and ï¿½Bhanga' means ï¿½mode'. These seven modes of ascertaining
the truth are able to be exact in exploring all possiblities and aspects.
For any proposition, there are three main modes of assessment, namely, (1)
A positive assertion, (2) A negative assertion, (3) Not describable. The
first is called ï¿½Avaktavya'. However, for greater clarity four more
permutations of these three are added as under : ï¿½Asti-nasti', ï¿½Asti-avaktavya',
ï¿½Nasti-avaktavya' and ï¿½Asti-nasti-avaktavya'. The word ï¿½Syat' is prefixed
to each of these seven predications to prevent the proposition from being
All these seven predications are explained with
reference to an earthen pot; But we may try to understand with reference
to an ethical proposition that ï¿½It is sin to commit violence'. With regard
to this proposition, the seven predications noted above can be made as
(i) It is sin to commit violence with an intention to
commit the same (Asti).
(ii) It is not a sin to commit violence on an aggressor
who molests an innocent and helpless woman (Nasti).
(iii) It is sin to commit violence in breach of moral
and social laws, but it is not sin if violence is required to be committed
in performance of moral or social duties (Asti-nasti).
(iv) It is not possible to say whether violence is sin
or virtue without knowing the circumstances under which it is required to
be committed (Avaktavya).
(v) Violence is indeed sinful under certain
circumstances, but no positive statement of this type can be made for all
times and under all circumstances (Nasti-avaktavya).
(vii) Violence is sinful, but there are circumstances
where it is not so. In fact no statement in affirmation or negation can be
made for all time and all circumstances (Asti-nasti-avaktavya).
All these seven modes can be expressed with regard to
every proposition. The Jaina philosophers have applied them with reference
to self, its eternality, non-eternality, identity and character. In fact
this approach of Anekanta permeates almost every doctrine which is basic
to Jaina philosophy. S.Gopalan quotes Eliot in this connection, as saying
"The essence of the doctrine (of Syadvada), so far as
one can disentangle it from scholastic terminology, seems just, for it
amounts to this, that as to matters of experience it is impossible to
formulate the whole and the complete truth, and as to matters which
transcend experience, language is inadequate."
At no time in the history of mankind, this principle of
Syadvada (Anekanta) was more necessary than in the present.