Anekant: Views And Issues: The Concomitance Of Being And Non-being

Published: 26.11.2009
Updated: 02.07.2015

The following dialogue between Lord Mahāvīra and his disciple Gautama throws welcome light on the problem.

Gautama: O Lord! Does being change into being? Does non-being change into non-being?

Lord: Yes, Gautama! This is exactly so.

Gautama: O Lord! Does this change of being into being and non-being into non-being take place owing to some effort or occur spontaneously?

Lord: Gautama! It is effected by effort and also occurs spon­taneously.

Gautama: O Lord! Does your non-being change into non-being exactly in the same way as your being changes into being? Similarly does your being change into being exactly as your non-being changes into non-being?

Lord: Yes Gautama! That is exactly so.[11]

The above dialogue clearly defines Lord Mahávira's assertion of the concomitance of being and non-being in the same entity as also their distinct causal identities.

Lord Mahāvīra rejected both the propositions, viz. everything exists (sarvaṁ asti) and nothing exists (sarvaṁ nāsti). He proposed a synthesis of the two. Both being and non-being are true. They are distinct, though predicable of the same entity. The distinctness of the two is unambiguously demonstrated in the following words of Gautama addressed to the upholders of heterodox doctrines. 'We never, O beloved of gods! speak of being as non-being and non-being as being. We affirm being of the concept 'everything exists' and non-being of the proposition 'nothing exists'. The implication is that being is true as being and non-being is true as non-being. In other words, being and non-being are both real. It is interesting to note here that it is exactly these two propositions which were advanced by two rival Buddhist schools, viz., the Sarvāstivādins and the Mādhyamika Śūnyavādins. [12]

The implication of the above dialogue is the rejection of absolute being and absolute non-being, and acceptance of the synthesis of the two as concrete aspect of any entity. Being and non-being are also explained as possessed of their definite place and value in the above dialogue.


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

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  1. Gautama
  2. Mahāvīra
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