Anekant a Monopoly of Jainism?

Posted: 15.12.2004
Updated on: 28.08.2010

No Universal principle or law can be the monopoly of any person as it is not his/her creation but something embedded in the very structure of nature.

That is why vedas embodying the knowledge of such principles are called apurusheya. The Jains too consider Dvadashangi, their twelve sacred books, as beginningless.

Truth, in reality, is not created, it is revealed or uncovered only. It reveals itself to the person who is free from biases and prejudges. The more someone is free from attachment and aversion, the more he realizes the truth in its comprehensiveness or completeness.
The question that arises here is if truth is not created then what is the meaning of saying that the philosophy of monism was given by the Vedic tradition and that of Anekant (Non-absolutism) by the Jains alone? In fact, all these doctrines, being universal, have been taken into consideration by all other philosophical systems and they can not be ascribed to any one school of thought.

Acharya Hemachandra, in his work 'Pramana-Mimansa' has offered solution to the problem raised above. He says that there is no time in which the world was not so as it is today. It is going on like this from time immemorial. Further he writes that like the world all the branches of knowledge are also beginningless. They are not new, still they are recognized after the name of a particular person or philosophy. It is so because the particular person or system presents them in a form germane to the need of the time. Consequently that particular person or Philosophy gets recognition as founder of that doctrine. This applies to the doctrine of Anekant also.

Anekant is the basic principle of Jainism. But this does not mean that Jainism is the sole philosophy in the world that deals with the reality through Anekant. If we go deep into the original texts of any school of thought we would find that they have dealt with the reality in non-absolutist manner someway or the other. Not only the philosophical systems but all sciences deal with the natural phenomena in the same fashion. Indeed, there is no other comprehensive and holistic way than non-absolutism to express the strange nature of reality. Non-absolutist vision is a consistent and scientific approach to understand the reality as it is. Then what is the sense in claiming that Non-absolutism is a gift of Jainism alone?

Then it is not true to claim that a universal theory like Anekant is the monopoly of one system of thought. However, there may be some reasons responsible for crediting the theory to Jainism. These reasons are as follows:

  1. Anekant has been the foundational doctrine of Jainism. It is because all the postulates of the Jain philosophy whether related to Metaphysics, Epistemology, Logic, Ethics, Cosmology, Cosmogony, Astrology or any other branch of knowledge, flow from Anekant. Unless we understand Anekant in its true sense we cannot understand Jainism properly.
  2. Though other philosophical systems and sciences have dealt with the reality in the light of Anekant, they could not follow it consistently and persistently till the end. Ultimately each of them seems proceeding towards absolutism by seeking one unifying force whatsoever working behind the world of our experience.
    On the contrary Jainism follows Anekant strictly from beginning to end. It starts with the two opposing forces i.e. the living and the nonliving working behind the world and ultimately proves them as two eternal, independent, perennial, uncreated and essential constituents of the existing world.
  3. It was Lord Mahavira who paved the path with the help of Anekant to solve the problems of contradictory judgements about the same reality of his time. At a time when Buddhism was proceeding towards nihilism avoiding the opposing extreme opposites and Vedic seers towards extreme unity overlooking the difference, Lord Mahavira justifying them proceeded towards Anekant.
    He accepted each of them partially true saying that there are many ways to reach the reality and many angles to observe the truth.
    All of them, if they are objective, are neither contradictory nor wrong but rather complementary to one another. Thus, he has given the idea of complementarily about reality in his time which now has been widely accepted by scientists like Niels Bohr and postmodern philosophers.
  4. Anekant is the basic principle of Nature itself. Hence, nobody who is in the quest of truth can overlook it. But at the same time it is also not necessary that one who follows it comprehends it clearly or can develop it in a systematic manner. It is the Jain thinkers who observed it deeply and presented it in a consistently structured form before mankind. These may thus be the reasons why Jainism got the primary recognition of being the philosophy of Anekant.


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