Anekanta: The Third Eye: [03.03] Relativity - The New Meaning Of The Word Syaad

Published: 13.03.2007
Updated: 06.08.2008

Only the enlightened, God or the Omnipotent knows the infinite truth, but even they or He does not have the capacity to be able to express its myriad dimensions in words. It is impossible. A great man, an intellectual, can enumerate some ten or twenty or even fifty aspects. None of us can ever articulate the entire truth. When we accept the few aspects we see as the entire truth and negate any other possibilities, then we are actually moving away from truth itself instead of towards it. It is in this context that anekanta gives a suggestion. Anekanta says that you can escape travelling towards untruth if you take the help of the word syaad. Prefix all that you say with syaad and that will save you from untruth. The essence of the meaning of syaad is, "I am unable to express the whole truth and so present one aspect or mode of truth."

In ancient literature the word syaad has many meanings. I want to present it in new light. The meaning of syaad is the acceptance of one's inability to express, to accept the limitations of language. The one who uses the word syaad immediately declares that he must not be taken as telling the entire truth and that it is just one aspect. That he is informing the listener of only one aspect. And at the same time he is expressing his inability to know the entire truth. This is the merit of the word syaad.

A student told his mother, "Mother, I have won a prize today. A competition was held. Questions were asked and I answered." Pleased, the mother exclaimed, "Your answer was correct, O thank you Lord!" But the boy answered, "Mother my answer was not entirely correct but was close to the truth and so I got the prize. My classmates got the answers wrong." The mother asked, "What was the question asked?" The boy said, "The question was how many legs does a cow have? All my friends said two while I said three. Since mine was closest to the truth, I got the prize."

The word syaad takes any answer closer to the truth. It does not reveal the entire truth, a possibility that does not exist where language is the medium. Syaad gets you as close to truth as you can and so sometimes earns you a reward too.

One cannot find a more beautiful way of realizing truth. If there was the non-committal syaad with every argument, there would perhaps be no arguments at all, no persistence to any single point of view would ever be heard. Passions are easily aroused because whatever one knows one reacts vehemently to it on the basis of the idea: what I say is the truth.

There was a pundit, a learned man in the king's court. He was a great scholar, logician and he was obstinate. If anybody came and said he was speaking the truth, the scholar would immediately refute him and make his words seem meaningless. Once the king said, "Pundit, you are indeed very mischievous. You refute everybody. Tell me what you think of this idea of mine." The pundit replied, "This is wrong because it is your opinion, not mine. What is not my opinion can never be right, it has to be wrong."

Everybody thinks like that. Everybody seems to draw the limits by asking for agreement as though saying,
“Agree with me and you will prosper, you will go to heaven. Otherwise you will go to hell”.

This, indeed, is a strange world. If I think of something or say something there will be no dearth of people who will take the credit for it saying I am copying them. There is nothing like independent thinking. Tell me, has anybody taken property rights over truth? Man has so much ego and aggression that truth keeps getting buried somewhere below it all and it is his opinion that floats on top. To go beyond the bondings of stereotyped thinking, beyond the confines of thought, learning, imagination and the intellect, the word syaad is the only answer. The word syaad tends towards objectivity. According to it, all that is being said and has been said, should be listened to, relatively. Without that the meaning would be turned upside down. Do not react with vehemence. Understand with regard to the situation and the context in which a particular word is being uttered.

Clinging to mere words can be dangerous. It takes us away from truth. Very often I worry that listeners may just cling to my words. I say repeatedly that observing one's breath is observing one's soul. One should not understand this phrase outside context, for that can create chaos. If the listener sticks only to the word, then the practitioner will stop at observing his breath alone. He will be able to make no further progress. He will never be able to reach the soul. I am not wrong when I say that observing one's breath is observing the soul. Breath is material but not physical. But is breath not the vital force? Where the breath is material or paryapti, there it is also the vital force. Of the ten vital forces, one is breath. How is breath not the soul? That which is the vital force is connected with the soul. If the context is not understood, it will be chaotic. If we, however, do not understand the context, then we should either not believe that the breath is connected with the soul or we should stop observing the breath. To stop observing the breath means to return without even entering the first door to meditation. The doors ahead remain closed. Further progress becomes impossible if we get stuck with the thought that the breath is the soul. We cannot take the next step and this becomes an impediment to progress.

  • Anekanta: The Third Eye by Acharya Mahaprajna, © 2002
  • Translated by Sudhamahi Regunathan
  • Published by Jain Vishva Bharati Institute (Deemed University), Ladnun, Rajasthan, India

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekanta
  2. Meditation
  3. Objectivity
  4. Paryapti
  5. Soul
  6. Syaad
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