Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Part 1

Published: 11.11.2011
Updated: 02.07.2015

The first and the foremost of the contributions—one that is the key to the rest—made by the Jaina savants to Indian Logic (pramāṇa śāstra) is the systematic exposition (śāstrīya-nirūpaṇa) of Anekāntavāda or the Doctrine of Non-Absolutism and (its corollary) Nayavāda or the Doctrine of Partial Truths.

There are two mutually distinct, fundamental standpoints (dṛṣṭi) for looking at the universe—one is that which tends towards generalization (sāmānya-gārniṇῑ), the other that which tends towards particularization (viśeṣa-gāminī). The former starts with the observation of the similarities (sarnānatā), but it is gradually inclined to emphasize non-distinction (abheda) and finally views the universe as rooted in something one and single; hence it arrives at the conclusion that whatever is an object of awareness (pratῑti) is, really speaking, some one single element (tattva). Thus passing beyond the initial stage (prāthamika bhūmikā) of viewing similarities, the standpoint in question culminates in viewing essential identity (tāttvika ekatā). Whatever element is here asserted to be the sole object of awareness is also declared to be the sole reality (sat). Owing to its excessive preoccupation with the one ultimate real, this standpoint either fails to take note of diversities or it takes note of them but dismisses them as empirical (vyāvahārika) or non-ultimate (apāramārthika) because according to it they are unreal (avāstavika). This applies to all diversity we are aware of, be it diversity in respect of time (kālakṛta; as, for example, that between the antecedent seed and the subsequent sprout), or diversity in respect of space (deśakṛta: as, for example, that between the simultaneously existing prākṛtika, i.e. physical, modifications like jars and cloths, etc.), or innate diversity irrespective of space and time (deśa-kāla-nirapekṣa sāhajika: as, for example, that between prakṛti, i.e. the root physical element, and puruṣa, i.e. the root conscious element, or that between one puruṣa and another).

As against this, the second standpoint sees dissimilarity (asamānatā) everywhere, and gradually searching for the root of this dissimilarity it finally reaches that stage of analysis (viśleṣaṇa-bhūmikā) where even similarity, (samānatā), nothing to say about identity (ekatā), appears to be something artificial (kṛtrima, unreal); hence it arrives at the conclusion that the universe is but a conglomeration (puñja) of several discrete existents (bheda) utterly dissimilar from one another. According to it, there really exists no single element (at the root of diversities), nor does there obtain any real similarity (between one existent and another). This applies to single elements like prakṛti which (allegedly) pervade all space and persist for all time, as also to single elements like atoms which (allegedly) are mutually different substances (occupying different points in space) but ones that persist for all time.

The above stated two standpoints are fundamentally different from one another, for one of them is based exclusively on synthesis, the other exclusively on analysis. These two fundamental lines of thought (vicāra-saraṇi) and the derivative lines of thought developing out of the two give rise to a number of mutually conflicting views on a number of topics. We thus see that the first standpoint with its tendency to generalization led to the formulation of the doctrine of one, non-dual Brahman (Brahmādvaita)—the sole real element—occupying all space and time (samagra-de'sa-kāla-vyāpin) and free from the limitations of space and time (deśa-kāla-vinirmukta). This doctrine, on the one hand, dubbed as unreal (mithyā) all diversity and all organs of knowledge taking note of this diversity, while, on the other hand, it asserted that the real-element (sat-tattva) lies beyond the reach (pravṛtti) of speech (vāṇῑ) and logic (tarka) and is amenable to bare experience (i.e. experience untrammelled by speech and logic) (mātra anubhava-gamya). Likewise, the second standpoint with its tendency to particularization led to the foundation of the doctrine of 'an infinite number of discrete existents, each different from the rest not only as to its spatio-temporal location but as to its very nature'. This doctrine too, on the one hand, dubbed all non-distinction (abheda) as unreal while, on the other hand, asserted that the ultimate existents lie beyond the reach of speech and logic and are amenable to bare experience. Thus both the doctrines in question did ultimately arrive at one common conclusion, viz. that whatever is revealed by speech and logic is a nullity (śūnya) while the ultimate reality is amenable to bare experience; but their ultimate objectives (lakṣya) being utterly different the two came in headlong clash and emerged as rivals to each other.

There also came into existence a number of lines of thought that either sprang from or were related to these two fundamental lines. Some of them accepted non-distinction (abheda) but only in respect of space and time or in respect of mere time, that is, not in respect of essential or substantial nature. Thus one line of thought did posit multiplicity of substances but regarded them all as eternal from the point of view of time and ubiquitous from that of space; the Sāṅkhya doctrine of prakṛti and puruṣa (prakṛtipuruṣavāda) is an instance in point. Another line of thought came to attribute a comparatively greater extension to the sphere of diversity. Thus even while positing entities that are eternal and ubiquitous this line also posited a multiplicity of entities that are physical by nature (and hence occupying different points in space); the (Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika) doctrine of atomic-as-well-as-ubiquitous-substances (paramāṇu-vibhu-dravya-vāda) is an instance in point.

It was but natural that the standpoint of exclusive non-dualism (advaita-mātra) and exclusive monism (san-mātra)—a standpoint tolerant of no diversity in any respect—should lead to the formulation of numerous doctrines based on the acceptance of non-distinction (abheda-mūlaka-vāda). And this is what actually happened. Thus the standpoint gave rise to the doctrine of satkāryavāda, according to which there is a non-distinction between a cause and its effect; similarly, it gave rise to the doctrine of non-distinction between an attribute (dharma) and that which possesses this attribute (dharmin), a quality (guṇa), and that which possesses this quality (guṇin), a substratum (ādhāra) and that which is supported by this substratum (ādheya), and so on and so forth. One the other hand, the standpoint of exclusive pluralism (dvaita-mātra)[1] and exclusive distinction (bheda-mātra) led to the formulation of numerous doctrines based on the acceptance of distinction (bheda-mūlaka-vāda). Thus it gave rise to the doctrine of asatkāryavāda, according to which there is absolute distinction between a cause and its effect; similarly, it gave rise to the doctrine of absolute distinction between an attribute and that which possesses this quality, a substratum and that which is supported by this substratum, and so on and so forth. Thus we find that in the field of Indian philosophical speculation a number of mutually antagonistic views (mata) and systems (darśana) arose out of the fundamental standpoint of generality (along with its derivative standpoints) and the fundamental standpoint of particularity (along with its derivative standpoints). These views and systems, without caring for the element of truth that might underlie a rival view or system, made it their prime concern to attack one another.

The doctrine of pre-existence (sad-vāda)—be it non-dualistic (as in Vedānta) or dualistic as in Sāñkhya—cannot achieve its basic aim without accepting satkāryavāda, according to which there is a non-distinction between a cause and its effect; on the other hand, the doctrine of pre-nonexistence (asad-vāda)—be it applied to momentary entities as in Buddhism or to static and eternal entities as in Vaiśeṣika etc.—cannot achieve its basic aim without accepting asatkāryavāda (according to which there is absolute distinction between a cause and its effect).[2] Hence satkāryavāda came in clash with asatkāryavāda. Similarly, the theory of permanence-without-change (i.e eternity: Kūṭasthatā, kālika nityatā) and all-pervadedness (i.e. ubiquity: vibhutā, daiśika vyāpakatā)—a theory resulting from the doctrine of pre-existence dualistic or non-dualistic—came in clash with the theory of spatially as well temporally impartite, ultimate elements (deśa-kāla-kṛta-niraṃśa-aṃśa-vāda) that is, with the theory of impartite moments) (niraṃśa-kṣaṇa-vāda)—a theory resulting from the doctrine rival to the doctrine of pre-existence. Now those who regard the entire universe as some single (eka), continuous (akhaṇḍa) element (ṭattva) as also those who regard it as a mere conglomeration (puñja) of impartite (niraṃśa) ultimate elements could achieve their respective aims only by maintaining that the ultimate real posited in their respective systems is incapable of definition and description through words (anirvacaṇῑya, anabhilapya, śabdāgocara); for if the real is capable of definition through words it can be neither some single, continuous element nor a multiplicity of impartite, ultimate elements, and this, in turn, is because definition puts an end as it were to continuity (in one single form) as well as impartibility. Thus the theory of indefinability (anirvacanῑyatvavāda) arose as a natural corollary to the doctrine of one continuous real as also to the doctrine of impartite distinct reals. But this theory was taken exception to by the Vaiśeṣika logicians and others who averred that to describe every real entity (vastumātra) is not only a possibility but an accomplished fact. Thus arose the theory of definability (nirvacanῑyat-vavāda) that came in clash with the rival theory of indefinability (anirvacanīyatvāvāda).

In a like manner, some people upheld the view that it is dangerous to arrive at a final conclusion by means of an organ of knowledge—of whatever sort—unaided by reason (hetu) or logic (tarka); others, on the contrary, maintained that logic possesses no independent force, and that the Scripture, inasmuch as it does possess an independent force, is the senior most (mūrdhanya) of all organs of knowledge. Hence the clash between these two viewpoints. Again, the fatalist (daiva-vādhin) would say that everything depends on fate (daiva) and the human endeavour (puruśartha) is independently of no avail, the protagonist of human endeavour would maintain just the opposite view that man's endeavour is independently capable of delivering the goods (kāryakara). Thus each thought that the other was in the wrong. Likewise, one-sided view (naya) emphasized the importances of the denoted entity (arlha) at the cost of denoting word (śabda), the other that of the denoting word at the cost of the denoted entity; and the two argued against each other. Similarly, some thought that absence (abhāva) is an independent entity alongside of the positive one (bhāva) while others that it is but of the nature of the positive entity, and thus developed the attitude of hostility between them. Furthermore, some thought that an organ of knowledge (pramāṇa) and the resulting piece of knowledge (pramiti) are utterly distinct (atyanta bhinna) from the knower (pramātā) concerned, while others that they are non-distinct (abhinna) from the later. Lastly, some emphasized that the sole means for attaining the desired (ultimate) result is action performed in conformity with the Varṇa-Āśrama rules, others insisted that knowledge alone will lead to (absolute) bliss, while still others maintained that devotion (bhakti) is the only instrument for realizing the summum bonum. Thus on a number of major or minor problems pertaining to metaphysics and ethics several such views had been vogue as were extremist (ekānta) and wholly antagonistic to one another.

On noticing this debating sport (vāda-lῑlā) indulged in by the advocates of the extremist doctrines (ekānta), the following question occurred to the teachers who were inheritors of the non-absolutist (anekānta; non-extremist) standpoint: Why are these doctrines—each claiming to be true—so much in conflict with one another? Is it that none of them contains any element of truth, or that each of them contains some element of truth, or that some of them contains some element of truth, or that each of them contains the whole truth? The cognition over this question furnished these teachers with a clue that would put an end to all conflict and reveal the whole truth; the clue was the non-absolutist standpoint that forms the ground (bhūmikā) of the doctrine called Anekāntavāda. This standpoint enabled our teachers to see that all particular theory based on logic (sayuktika) is true to a certain extent and from a certain point of view. However, when a particular theory, refusing to take into account the line of thought and the sphere of application (sῑṃā) of the rival theory, imagines that everything lies within the sphere covered by its own standpoint it turns blind to the truth contained in this rival theory. And the same thing happens with this rival theory (that is to say, it too imagines that everything lies within the sphere covered by its own standpoint). Under these circumstances, justice demands that a theory be tested keeping in view its specific line of thought and its specific sphere of application, and in case it passes the test it should be treated as an aspect (bhāga) of truth; subsequently, a sort of necklace ought to be prepared with the various aspects of truth—uncontradictory of one another—acting as diamonds (satyāṃśarūpa-maṇi) and the idea of whole truth acting as the running thread (pūrṇa-satya-rūpa-vicāra-sūtra). These considerations impelled the Jaina teachers to synthesize (samanvaya; harmonize), on the basis of their non-absolutist standpoint, all the theories that were then prevalent. And this is how their thought ran. When certain pure (śuddha) and selfless (niḥsvārtha) minds are cognizant of similarity culminating in identity and when certain other minds (no less pure and selfless) are cognizant of (diversity culminating in) impartite ultimate elements, how can we say that one of these cognitions (pratῑti) is valid and the other not? If one of these cognitions is somehow treated as invalid the same logic will compel you to treat the other as equally so. Moreover, granting that one of these cognitions is valid and the other not, you will have to offer a logical explanation (upapatti) of what in our everyday dealings (sārvajanika vyavahāra) is taken as forming the object of the cognition—of identity or of diversity as the case may be—dismissed as invalid. Certainly, a mere assertion to the effect that one of these cognitions is valid and the other will not mean a logical explanation of our everyday dealings, empirical (laukika) or śāstric (sastrῑya). Nor can you leave these dealings unexplained. So the monistic Brahmavādin's explanation of the phenomena in question will lie in treating as a product of ignorance (avidyā-mūlaka) all diversity and our cognition thereof, while the momentarist's explanation will lie in treating as a product of ignorance all similarity or identity and our cognition thereof.


Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text

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

Share this page on:
Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Abheda
  2. Anekānta
  3. Anekāntavāda
  4. Bhakti
  5. Bheda
  6. Bhāva
  7. Brahman
  8. Buddhism
  9. Darśana
  10. Dharma
  11. Dṛṣṭi
  12. Ekānta
  13. Guṇa
  14. JAINA
  15. Jaina
  16. Monism
  17. Naya
  18. Nayavāda
  19. Non-absolutism
  20. Prakṛti
  21. Pramāṇa
  22. Pravṛtti
  23. Puruṣa
  24. Satkāryavāda
  25. Space
  26. Sāṅkhya
  27. Tarka
  28. Tattva
  29. Vaiśeṣika
Page statistics
This page has been viewed 1536 times.
© 1997-2023 HereNow4U, Version 4.52
Contact us
Social Networking

HN4U Deutsche Version
Today's Counter: