Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Concomitance Between The Permanent And The Impermanent

Published: 26.10.2011
Updated: 02.07.2015

The second axiom of non-absolutism is the concomitance of the permanent and the impermanent, the truth of the one is verified by the truth of the other.

The materialist thinks that the sensuous world alone is true. There is nothing like the spiritual. The spiritualist, on the other hand, asserts that it is the self alone that is true, the sensuous world is false. The logicians of the Jaina school investigated the truth behind the rival claims and found that the sensuous world was not false. Whatever is possessed of causal efficiency is true. The senses are causally efficient and hence cannot be untrue. Their objects also cannot be false. The characteristic features of a real are origination, cessation and persistence.[1] Whatever is causally efficient does necessarily arise, cease to exist and also continue. To say that the sensuous world is true and the self is untrue can be possible only in ordinary parlour, but it can never be a language expressive of the truth that is deep and unfathomable. On the other hand, to say that the self alone is the ultimate truth while the sensuous world is unadulterated falsehood, can be the language of the spiritual world, but it can never be true of the world as it is. The saints and philosophers cannot express themselves in identical linguistic tools. In spiritual idiom the sensuous objects are momentary and evanescent. Such idiom could inspire detachment and renunciation, but would miserably fail as a device of logical investigation of the nature of truth. Logic does not distinguish between the reality of the sensuous object and the reality of the self. The material atoms are as real as the spiritual self in the eyes of the rationalist. All that originates, vanishes and persists is real. This triple criterion of truth is as validly applicable to the material atom as to the spiritual self. When the spiritual values become identical with the world outside, the doctrine of impermanence turns to be a controversial issue. Otherwise that is a very valuable doctrine. All the spiritual thinkers, without any exception, have endorsed it. The Jainas also have assigned adequate importance to it. Among the twelve contemplations, impermanence occupies the first position. The practitioner of such contemplation repeats within himself the formula—-everything is impermanent. But that belongs to the sphere of spirituality. As soon as one switches to rational thinking, it is the definite view of the Jaina philosophers that the discrepancy between the impermanence of the material and the permanence of the spiritual becomes untenable. To the reasoning mind the permanence and the impermanence are equally shared by the spiritual and the material world. A clear line of demarcation can never be drawn between permanence and impermanence. By the admission of such distinction the Sāṃkhya system had to assign both bondage and emancipation to Prakṛti (the primordial matter) instead of Puruṣa of whom the two were only metaphorically admissible. The Puruṣa is eternally free and pure. The admission of bondage and emancipation would make the latter amenable to change and impermanence, a position which could not be acceptable to the Sāṃkhya system.

Among the Jainas, Ācārya Kundakunda has also asserted, like the Sāṃkhya, that the Jīva (the soul) is not the agent of karma. The karma is agent of itsel. If the soul were the agent of karma, he would never be free from it. And it is exactly because he is not the agent, he is capable of getting rid of karma. From the absolute substantial standpoint, it is true that the nature can never change. Consciousness has a specific nature which is conscious. It can never lapse. Self-awareness is its specific function. How could then it be the agent of the karma which is a heterogeneous entity? This is the standpoint of pure substance, independent of any adventitious adjunct.[2] One can defend the Sāṃkhya's assignment of bondage and emancipation to the Prakṛti. In the language of Jainsism one can similarly say that it is only the karmic body that is subject to bondage and emancipation. From the semi-absolute substantial standpoint one could assert that the jῑva (the soul) is the agent of karma.[3] The substantial standpoint is concerned exclusively with the universal. The mode sinks into insignificance when the universal is predominant.[4] Permanence is true because a thing not only exists but exists for ever. An entity's continuance for long gives an impression of its uninterrupted continuity. When we concentrate on similar or the identical aspects of a thing, the philosophy of identity, universality or substance presents itself as the only valid alternative. The flow of origination and cessation is going on without interruption. How could one say that the mountain that his ancestors saw still continues to exist? Or the person in front is the same whom he saw yesterday? The old atoms are constantly giving place to new ones. A person's atomic physical conglomerate is being constantly emitted and replaced by a facsimile. In the absence of such emission the method of photography of the absent object could never be successful. This movement of atoms proves impermanence of the substance. The successive vision of similar modes gives an impression of permanence, exactly as the attention directed to the discrete modes gives rise to the impression of impermance. Under these two diverse situations how should we distinguish between the truths of permanence and impermanence? The falsity of the one would entail the truth of the other, which would lead to the controversy that exists between the rival camps, each believing in one or the other alternative. Non-absolutism, however, does not admit the absolute validity of any one of these alternatives. According to it neither permanence independent of impermanence nor impermanence independent of permanence is the whole truth, both being true only relatively.[5] There is no creation, according to Kundakunda, without destruction and no destruction without creation and no creation-cum-destruction without continuity or eternity. The synthesis of the three—creation, destruction and continuity—is the truth.[6] The instantaneous modality (arthaparyāya) is the mode that is momentary, according to which the mountain or man in front cannot be the same as had been seen ten years before. The prolonged modality (vyañjanaparyāya), on the other hand, is one that continues for an appreciably long time, according to which the mountain or the man standing before is the same as had been seen ten years ago. In instantaneous modality the recognition of similarity is absent while in prolonged modality it is predominant. To deduce impermanence and permanence respectively from dissimilarity and similarity is only a truth and not the truth that is ultimate. The dissimilarity in instantaneous modality as well as similarity in prolonged modality are both nothing but modes which would entail impermanence. In the unending chain of causality there comes a moment when a mountain or a man, as an entity, ceases to exist and dissolves in atoms which, however, do continue to exist in the eternity of time and space. The soul that infused life in that body does likewise never cease to exist. The condition of permanence is the basic substance. A mode, whether momentary or continuous, dissimilar or similar, does as a rule establish impermanence.

The approach or the viewpoint (naya) of universality and permanence is the standpoint of substance (dravyārthika naya) while that of particularity and change as origination-cum-cessation is the standpoint of modes (paryāyārthika naya). These two are the basic standpoints that are mutually relative. From the relativity of these two are derived the two principles of non-absolutism, viz. identity-cum-difference of the universal and the particular, and the relativity or permanence-cum-impermanence.


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Published by:
Jain Vishwa Bharati Institute
Ladnun - 341 306 (Rajasthan) General Editor:
Sreechand Rampuria
Edited by:
Rai Ashwini Kumar
T.M. Dak
Anil Dutta Mishra

First Edition:1996
© by the Authors

Printed by:
Pawan Printers
J-9, Naveen Shahdara, Delhi-110032

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Arthaparyāya
  2. Body
  3. Consciousness
  4. Contemplation
  5. Dravyārthika
  6. Dravyārthika Naya
  7. JAINA
  8. Jaina
  9. Jīva
  10. Karma
  11. Karmic Body
  12. Kundakunda
  13. Naya
  14. Non-absolutism
  15. Paryāyārthika
  16. Paryāyārthika Naya
  17. Prakṛti
  18. Puruṣa
  19. Soul
  20. Space
  21. Sāṃkhya
  22. Tattvārthasūtra
  23. Vyañjanaparyāya
  24. Ācārya
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