Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Part 1

Published: 16.11.2011
Updated: 03.04.2012

Anekāntavāda or the Doctrine of Many-sidedness of Reality of the Jainas is a distinctive contribution to Indian thought in so far as Realistic Metaphysics and Epistemology are concerned. The Jainas are direct realists and they depend for knowledge of the objective world on commonsense and experience. They believe that the universe is divided into two hemispheres as it were, one, the world of jīvas and the other, the world of ajīvas, or more generally speaking, the world of souls and the world of non-souls. The constitution of the soul is such that it must know the world or non-soul and the constitution of the non-soul is such that it must be known by the soul. The two worlds are self-existent and independent of one another but at the same time they must have, by their very constitution, inter-communication, making knowledge of the outside world on the one hand and bondage and release of the soul on the other possible. As realists the Jainas, like other realists, are pledged to this distinctness of soul and non-soul. Here, as elsewhere, they are guided by commonsense and experience which reveal unmistakably this dualism between the soul and the non-soul.

With this commonsense and realistic attitude the Jainas attempt to interpret the problems of knowledge and of the objective world; and such attempt of theirs has given rise to the famous Anekāntavāda. The Jainas have come to the doctrine that the object of our knowledge has inexhaustible facets or aspects and any attempt to understand and interpret it from any one particular point of view is an epistemological blunder. They have come to this conclusion by a thorough and careful examination of the other Indian systems of thought, each of which, according to the Jainas, reveals but one aspect of the objective reality. Historically speaking, Anekāntavāda arose as a reaction against the two diametrically opposed views, namely the view of reality of the Vedāntists which makes it to be purely unchangeable, immutable and static, and the view of the Buddhists which takes the view of reality as change, movement, phenomena following one another without any noumenal background. The Vedāntist makes the Soul, - immutable and all-pervading, as the sole reality admitting of no change, action and quality, and this is according to the Jainas one extreme in which only the pure sattā or Being is posited. The Buddhists take the other extreme which negates sattā and makes reality to be constituted of change, action, movement and phenomena. The Jainas criticise the Nyāya and the Vaiśeṣika as only one-sided views of the nature of reality as these philosophers consider objects separately either in terms of generality or in terms of particularity while the true nature of the object reveals that it is at the same time both general and particular. Generality grows out of the discovery of a common feature of the particulars which thus help us to derive the idea of generality and each of the particulars also shares in the generality to which they jointly contribute. In this way the Jainas make it clear to us that the proper understanding of a Real can never be acquired from any one viewpoint which confines itself to any one or other of the innumerable aspects it is capable of. The Vastu or Real according to the Jainas has many aspects; so to do justice to the true nature of a Real, we must always avoid any one-sided representation of it.

The Jainas have come to this view by a deep analysis of the Nature of a Real. The Real is something permanent in- the midst of changes. It is descrided as having two aspects. In one aspect it is something permanent and in the other aspect it is changeful, evolving qualities yet losing and replenishing them. A Real, therefore, by nature is what may be called substance-cum-attribute and permanence- cum-change. The Jainas further state that in considering a real we must take note of the fourfold condition which determines its Nature. These four conditions are substance, place, time and state, which again fall under two heads: its own nature and the nature other than its own. Each real will be an existent under its own nature i.e. it will exist in its own substance, in its own place, in own moment and in its own state. But it will be non-existent in substance other than its own, in place other than its own, in oment other than its own and in state other than its own. The Jainas have taken meticulous care in considering reals under these conditions both as their own and as foreign and concluded that applying these two opposite sets of conditions to reals, they may be regarded as of one character as well as of another character. Without going into further details of application of these conditions we might say that the general conclusion with regard to reals which the Jainas have arrived at is that reals necessarily are of manifold character. So any categorical statement in which we predicate only one quality of a subject in a judgment will represent only one aspect ot the real to the exclusion of innumerable ones of which it is capable. Such a statement will thus be an expression of a merely partial truth. Such a one-sided categorical expression of only one aspect of a real, the Jainas have termed naya. A naya is thus a categorical judgment made with regard to an object by one who, in order to satisfy one's own particular purpose, makes such a judgment without removing the possibility ot other judgments with regard to it; From what has been said it is not unnatural to suppose an infinite number of nayas corresponding to the infinite aspects, of which the real is capable. But the Jainas are wise enough to classify under the two heads, the permanent and the changeful aspects, in which, they tell us, reals are capable of being represented. These two are comprehensive enough to include all possible aspects of reals. Thus if the facts and phenomena of the world are understood in terms of their permanent and changeful aspects, then and then only we have fulfilment of our practical life. Similarly our practical life is served rightly only when we learn to look at things of the world as both general and particular and not as general or particular. The Jaina is of opinion that our knowledge of the Real can be valid only when such knowledge is consistent with and favours practice.

From the analysis of the different nayas as given by the Jainas, it is found that reals are possessed of an infinite variety of qualities, and the nayas are only so many different ways of expressing the relations of the infinite qualities with the real, though each of them is expressive of a partial truth of the matter. The nayas then are infinite, corresponding to infinite qualities of objects and to the infinite variety of relations in which these qualities stand to the reals.

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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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekāntavāda
  2. JAINA
  3. Jaina
  4. Naya
  5. Nayas
  6. Nyāya
  7. Sattā
  8. Soul
  9. Vaiśeṣika
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