Anekant: Views And Issues: Co-Existence

Published: 13.11.2009
Updated: 02.07.2015

The third principle of Anekānta is co-existence. Anything or anybody existent must have their opposite - yat sat tat sapratipakṣam. Without the opposite, naming is impossible and so is characterization. The animate and the inanimate are two extremes. Yet they co-exist. The body is inanimate; the soul is animate. They co-exist.

The permanent and the impermanent, the similar and the dissimilar, the identical and the different—all these are mutually contradictory; yet they co-exist. They co-exist in an object. The permanent is not altogether separate from the impermanent, nor is the latter completely separate from the former.

The principle of co-existence is as much practical as it is philosophical. Though the terms system, individual, taste and viewpoint have different denotations even implying inherent opposition, the principle of co-existence applies to them too. Democracy and dictatorship, capitalism and communism are ideologically different political systems. But even they are no exception to co-existence. 'You or me' not 'you and me' is an instance of absolutism by which the problem gets compounded. The holiness of the world of religion has been destroyed by the view: "Only those have the right to survive who follow my religion, all the rest should be extirpated." The main strengths of religion are nonviolence, friendliness and fraternity. The absolutist view has changed nonviolence into violence, friendliness into hostility and fraternity into animosity.

Co-existence implies tolerance and freedom of thought. Both tolerance and freedom of thought are meaningless if we try to enforce our likes, ideas, lifestyle and principles on all others.

Nature has infinite variety, which lends it splendour. Beauty will lose all its charms and meaning if all plants, trees and flowers look alike. The combined principle of satyam (truth), Śhivam (benefaction), sundaram (beauty) inheres in the principle of unity in diversity and diversity in unity. It is only the above harmony which forms the basis of co-existence.

Monism and dualism are two principles belonging to philo­sophy. Unity cannot be explained in the absence of monism and diversity cannot be explained without dualism. A harmonious combination of monism and dualism alone constitutes a holistic viewpoint for explaining the world. Likewise, there are enough factors of unity between the animate and the inanimate. On its basis we are able to realize what existence means. There are factors of diversity also between the animate and the inanimate. On its basis we are able to divide and analyse existence, harmony is a principle of the search for unity, but it does not negate the pre-existent diversity. It is only in this way that we can explain an individual as well as society.

Every person has both individual and communal conscious­ness. Some thinkers give greater importance to the individual, while other give greater importance to society. It violates the principle of harmony. We cannot assess an individual properly without paying attention to his/her personal qualities. There are seven bases of innate personal characteristics:

  1. Physiology
  2. Heredity
  3. Thinking power of mind
  4. Soul's inclination or feelings
  5. Sensitivity
  6. Instinct
  7. Knowledge or capacity to acquire

The people who think merely of building a new society without taking into consideration the innate traits of an individual cannot accomplish their visions. If equal attention had been paid to individual innate characteristics in socialistic and communistic systems efforts at building a new society would have got a healthy basis. The basic principles essential for socialization are related to innate individual characteristics.

There are five bases on which a new social order can be built: interdependence, sensitivity, fixing a limit to ones possessions; fixing a limit to one's freedom and development of the language, intellectual development, development of ideas, development of technology and art.

In the class view (saṃgraha naya) there is a division of oneness - absence of all distinctions. Society is built on this foundation.

In the analytic view (vyavahāra naya) there is predominance of distinction or difference. It is the basis of securing the identity of the individual.

If rules, laws and order are formulated by conciling both society and the individual their compliance will be natural and comprehensive.

There are situation in which the individual interests are secondary and social interests are primary even as there are situations in which social interests are secondary and individual interests are primary. This principle differentiating between what is primary and what is secondary in a given situation is very useful for a wholesome order. Society cannot be built unless difference or distinction is considered secondary and the freedom of the individual suffers unless sameness or oneness is subordinated. This principle of Anekānta relating to primary versus secondary is extremely useful for a successful organization of society.

The biggest problem of an organization, community or nation is related to emotion. Individuals differ in their emotions. They can be classified in four categories. 1. similar to a marsh or a quagmire 2. similar to water full of mud 3. similar to water full of sand and 4. similar to water steadily floating on a rock.

The first type of people having an impure state of the soul (those endowed with the excessively impure modal standpoint) turn the world into a hell. They can neither provide sound organizational set up nor can they adhere to any system.

The second type of people having an impure state of the soul (those endowed with impure modal standpoint) encourage bestiality in society and can never be helpful in bringing about a healthy and nonviolent social order.

People having the third type of the state of the soul (those endowed with pure modal standpoint) can cooperate in building a healthy society. They can induct health in the social order.

People having the fourth type of the state of soul (those endowed with purified modal standpoint) can develop divine consciousness in society. They can promote the purity of means and a beneficent outlook.

The first two types believe in the power of punishment. The last two types believe in bringing about a change of heart and in the purity of means.

Spiritual people like Mahatma Gandhi kept dreaming of building a nonviolent society and people like Karl Marx kept nursing a vision of a communist society. Neither of the two visions has been fulfilled. Neither could a nonviolent society come into being, nor could a communist society gain vigour. The reason is an absolutist viewpoint. If we do not make the two visions absolutistic, we can enter in a new society.

By nature an individual is inclined towards selfishness and personal comfort. The effort to forcibly make him exclusively corporatist cannot succeed. According to the Anekānta viewpoint it is possible to make communism dynamic by balancing the claims of individualism and collectivism.

No two individuals share the same emotions. Some people have subdued emotions; others have intensive emotions. Therefore a nonviolent society cannot be built merely on the basis of a change of heart. Dwelling exclusively on a change of heart denotes an absolutistic view. The Anekānta or non-absolutistic view is that a nonviolent society can be built on the basis of balanced amalgam of punishment and change of heart.

Title: Anekant: Views And Issues
Edition: 2001
Publisher: Jain Vishva Bharati Institute, Ladnun

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekānta
  2. Body
  3. Consciousness
  4. Gandhi
  5. Mahatma
  6. Mahatma Gandhi
  7. Monism
  8. Naya
  9. Nonviolence
  10. Satyam
  11. Soul
  12. Sundaram
  13. Tolerance
  14. Violence
  15. Vyavahāra Naya
  16. Śhivam
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