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Philosophical Foundations Of Jainism (An Introduction): [19] Jain Philosophy & Scientific Quest

Published: 27.08.2008

The present age is the one of the dominance of science, and hence, one feels exalted by calling one's own religion as a "scientific" one. It is easier to consider Jainism as a scientific religion in the tone of exaltation. But I do not want to do so. I feel that Jainism qualifies itself to be placed in the category of a science due to its spirit of scientific inquiry. It explores the truth through scientific mode and does not stop till that truth is fully realized.

Human Being as the Authority

The first count, on the basis of which we can justify Jainism as a science is its dictum—"appaṇā sacca mesejjā"—'Everyone has to do his own search in order to reach the truth'. According to Jainism, any human being cannot reach truth by the grace of some unexplainable power, but one's own 'sādhanā' is a must for its attainment.

According to Jainism, "Human being is the authority—the highest source of revealation of truth." It is the "human being" who can be considered as the authority on truth; he is himself an Āgama or a scripture. Jainism does not regard any scriptures as the unquestionable authority on the truth. One who accepts the philosophy of Jainism becomes a follower of some person, and not that of a "book".

Truth has infinite angles or aspects. Every real substance (dravya) is constantly changing and always incorporating infinite number of modes—ever new modes come into existence and the older ones cease to exist. That is why the reality could never be in a static condition. Every moment, it takes a new form; there are as many forms as the moments. In order to know the ever new modes and ever new forms of reality, we must continuously pursue our search for finding out the ultimate truth. Each one of us has the right to do so.

Two Inevitable Aspects of Truth

A sage, who realizes the truth in its entirety is known as 'Sarvajña' (omniscient one) or 'Kevalī in the Jain parleys. But due to the limitations of the speech, language, laxicography and life-span what the Kevalī has realised as truth can not be communicated in its entirety despite best of articulation. Hence, the doors of search for truth is open for everybody and it must go on and on. This is the reason why authority of any grantha (scripture), howsoever authoritative it be in logic or arguments, cannot be accepted.

Since our world is constantly changing, the truth also has two aspects viz., (1) eternal and (2) ever-changing. Both are inevitable. The Jain philosophy has accepted both change and non-change as the two aspects of truth. Any philosophy which would try to explain the change without explaining the non-change and vice versa cannot be accredited as a scientific philosophy.

'Anekānta' which is encompassing both the aspects of each dravya is the logical way to comprehend the truth in totality through a multi-angular vision.

Matter is a Reality too

Acharya Hemachandra wrote—"O Lord! Although the heretics could deny your supernormal powers, but how can they deny to accept the "Realism"(propounded by you)?" In the realistic philosophy, the real (objective) existence of matter cannot be denied.

The Jain philosophy concedes the of both—the soul as well as the matter, since both of them have their independent existence. Matter is directly perceived by us, and hence, it cannot be denied. It is too complicated to believe in mere subjective existence of matter. Hence, the independent existence of matter becomes logical and natural.

The acid test of any scientific religion is whether it concedes the accountability of a person towards the fruits of his own actions. Often some people do not hold themselves responsible for their own action, but by considering the circumstance or the God Almighty as solely responsible for things that happen due to their own actions; they try to prove themselves free from the responsibility of evils they do.

Acceptance of Independent Action

Their line of plea is: "I have not indulged in such and such (evil) action, but the circumstances have compelled me to do so"; or "I did not do it because of my own will, it is the will of the Almighty, which has compelled me to do so"; or "According to our philosophy, not even a single leaf can shake itself without the will of the Almighty (God), then how can I claim myself to be responsible for such and such action?" and so on. This attitude is a big obstacle in the development of independent chetanā (consciousness) of human beings, which is the felt need of our times.

In absence of independent chetanā, many mental illusions have cropped up, which hinder the real development of soul. One who lives in such illusory beliefs cannot free his soul from the mechanical consciousness.

Karma is not Almighty

The theory of Karma is another real test of the scientific spirit of any religion. Many of the known religions subscribe to the cause and effect theory about Karma but sole dependence on Karma makes the argument mechanical and lopsided. This is not, in fact, desirable. No doubt, Karma is an important factor affecting the chetanā and yet it is not the whole and sole authority; as a matter of fact it has to work along with Kāla (Time-factor), Svabhāva (Nature), Puruṣārtha (Self-exertion) and Niyati (Universal Laws). It is always a combined operation. All these do have their effect on soul; yet, the soul is to some extent not effected by them. If the soul would not have the capacity to remain unaffected to some extent, it could not have preserved its independent existence. One needs Anekāntic vision to understand and analyse such complex processes having multiple dimensions.

The explanation of the multi-faceted character of human being and diversely manifested actions of him is possible only through a conciliatory approach, which in fact, is the scientific nature of religion. It is the one-sided view which renders religion unscientific. Fortunately, relative (non-absolutistic) and harmonious approach has been considered as a holy trend in the present-day scientific view, and it is only through such anekāntika approach that one can fathom the bottomless depth of the ocean of Truth.

The best course, therefore, as per Jainism, is to seek the truth through one's own realizations by following a process where Kāla, Niyati etc., and Puruṣārtha operate simultaneously and in a complementary role.


This is an edited version of the author's work:
Jain I Darshan ke Mool Sutra
Translated by Prof. M. P. Lele under the guidance of Muni Mahendra Kumar ji and Muni Dulahraj ji, Senior disciples of Acharya Mahprajna.

© Adarsh Sahitya Sangh. New Delhi Published by:
Kamlesh Chaturvedi
Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
210, Deendayal Upadhyay Marg
New Delhi - 110002 (India) Printed at:
R-Tech Offset Printer Delhi-110032

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Hemachandra
  3. Consciousness
  4. Dravya
  5. Hemachandra
  6. Jain Philosophy
  7. Jainism
  8. Karma
  9. Kevalī
  10. Kāla
  11. Niyati
  12. Omniscient
  13. Puruṣārtha
  14. Science
  15. Soul
  16. Svabhāva
  17. Āgama
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