ABC Of Jainism: 04 The Doctrines Of Anekānta And Syādvāda

Published: 27.10.2010
Updated: 30.10.2010


The Doctrines Of Anekānta And Syādvāda


Every object in the universe has many characteristics and our capability to understand them is limited. So, how do we arrive at a proper understanding?


The doctrine of Anekānta presents a technique for understanding and analyzing each situation easily. Anekānta provides us an ideal mechanism of explanation of smooth relationships between individuals, societies and nations.


What is Anekānta in Jaina religion?


The word Anekānta consists of two words: "Aneka" and "Anta". "Aneka" means many and "Anta" signifies different attributes. The whole word "Anekānta" means that a substance has manifold different attributes. Appreciation of the manifold attributes of a substance is Anekānta. For example, a person is a father, son, uncle, brother etc. at the same moment. Thus he has many forms. This proves that the Reality is manifold in nature.


I have heard the word "Syādvāda" a/so. Please explain it.


Syādvāda consists of two words: "Syād" and "Vāda". The "Syad" means "in some relation" and "Vāda" means "description". Thus, the whole word Syādvāda means a process of relative description. Syādvāda deals with manifold aspects of truth. With regard to the description of the attribute, it deals with a particular aspect, but does not deny the existence of other aspects. For example, a person in relation to his son is only the father; whereas the same person in relation to his father is only the son. Therefore the same person is father and son at the same time from both paints of view. The concept of Syādvāda builds up our patience to appreciate different view points of Reality. Thus, this theory of relativity (Syādvāda) helps us to know the absolute truth.


What is the difference between "Anekānta" and "Syādvāda"?


The basic difference between them is that Anekānta is concerned with the different but opposite aspects whereas Syādvāda indicates the manner in which these aspects are expressed. In short, when Anekānta is translated in to words, it is called Syādvāda.


Tell me some example to explain this theory.


Oh yes, a story of "Five Blind Men and Elephant" is a famous story to explain this theory. Once an elephant came to a small town. Five blind men lived in that town. They decided to touch and feel the elephant. Each of them touched different parts of the body of the elephant. One blind man who touched the side of the elephant said that the elephant was like a wall. The other blind man touched its leg said that elephant was like a pillar. The third touched the trunk and said the elephant was like branch of the tree. The fourth touched the tail and said the elephant was like a rope. The fifth touched the ear of the elephant. He said that the elephant was like a winnowing fan. Each one of them was sure and adamant about his own opinion and called the other as false. They began to quarrel. A wise man happened to come near them. They told him about their individual views. The wise man told them that there was no cause for quarrel. Every one of them was correct but only partly. If all of you properly synthesize individual experiences, you will get an exact idea of what an elephant looks like.

Friend, in story the synthesis of all their individual experiences of the elephant is "Anekānta" and expression of each point of view is "Syādvāda". The moral of the story is that each one of us sees things from one's own point of view. We therefore get a view that is partially correct. Hence, we should try to understand others' viewpoints. This will enable us to get a proper and complete perspective of events and situations. Religion, Truth and Reality are like an elephant. We should look at them from variety of angles of vision. This is the philosophy of Anekānta and Syādvāda. Jainism is the only religion to have such a unique concept about the truth.


Attribute: Characteristic quality or quality ascribed to anything.
Adamant: Firm in purpose or opinion.



Jñānodaya Vidyāpeeth, Bhopal, M.P., India


1st Edition 1998


V.K. Jain Suresh Jain



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  1. Aneka
  2. Anekānta
  3. Anta
  4. Body
  5. JAINA
  6. Jaina
  7. Jainism
  8. Syad
  9. Syād
  10. Syādvāda
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