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Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Nayavāda

Published: 16.01.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

Anekāntavāda as a theory of reality, according to which reality is infinitely manifold, or relativistic in its determinations, has been observed to be inherent in the co-ordinate conception of identity-in-difference. It has also been pointed out, at the beginning of our treatment of anekāntavāda that the nayavāda, or the method of standpoints, and syādvāda, or the method of dialectical predications, are the two main wings of anekāntavāda. A brief attempt may be made, in this part, to bring out how the two theories, viz., nayavāda and syādvāda, bring out and sustain the relativistic character of reality.

Logically, nayavāda and syādvāda are two complementary processes forming a natural and inevitable development of the relativistic presupposition of the Jaina metaphysics. They form a scheme which is pre-eminently one of correlative methods[1] rather than of theories of reality although they both presuppose and explain the primordial notion that all reality is relativistic. Nayavāda is principally an analytical method investigating a particular standpoint of a factual situation according to the purpose and the level of equipment of the experient (jñātṛ). The particular standpoint thus investigated is one among a multitude of different viewpoints which, in their totality, reflect the full nature of the situation. Syādvāda, or Saptabhaṅgī, is, essentially, a synthetical method designed to harmonise the different viewpoints arrived at by nayavāda. [2]

Making a further distinction between nayavāda and syādvāda Upadhye[3] maintains that the former is "primarily conceptual" and the latter "mainly verbal". Although not quite incorrect, this distinction is apt to be somewhat misunderstood if we are not aware of the background against which it is made. This is because the so-called 'primarily conceptual' method is also verbal, in asmuch as it not merely requires the aid of words for the expression of its various standpoints but also has as many as three, among its seven, standpoints which are exclusively concerned with the verbal problems, and are therefore designated as śabdanayas. Similarly, in contradistinction to the verbal elements of the 'conceptual' nayavāda, the 'mainly verbal' method of syādvāda is so much charged with the epistemological character that we might say that its verbal side is more intrumental than intrinsic in value. The term 'conceptual' may, however, be applied to the four dravyanayas, under nayavāda, with relatively greater propriety. But under syādvāda no distinctions, such as the verbal modes of syādvāda and the non-verbal or the epistemological modes of syādvāda, can be made since all modes are both verbal and epistemological. This is so in spite of the fact that much care and exactitude are needed in the verbal formulation and manipulation of the modal judgments.

Leaving aside the epistemological content of the modal judgments for the moment, the description of all the modes of syādvāda as verbal also may give rise to a possible objection that such a description should not be applied to the mode which contains the 'inexpressible' (avaktavya) as its predicate. For the 'inexpressible' is, ex hypothesi, a verbal failure insofar as it is incapable of a 'co-presentation' or a simultaneous expression of the positive and the negative traits of a real in a single attempt. Describing a mode as verbal when a signal verbal failure is inscribed on it would, therefore, be, according to the possible objector, paradoxically objectionable. Defferring a discussion of the modal predicate, the 'inexpressible', to the next chapter, we may briefly indicate here the line of argument the Jaina would take in answering the present objection. The Jaina answer to this objection, it may be noted, necessarily entails a reference to the third mode of syādvāda also:

The predicate 'the inexpressible' does indeed record a signal verbal failure in expressing, at once, the great amplitude of the variegated reality as embodied in every factual event. But this failure is not due to the inherent unknowability, and, consequently, of the inexpressibility of reality, as in the case of the theories underlying the formulae like "sa eṣa neti neti" or "catuṣkoṭivinirmuktatvam" or "anirvacaniyatā". It is, on the contrary, due to the bewildering wealth of impressions directly pouring into the human mind whose limitations of powers are such that it cannot at once grapple with all the impressions by way of all-comprehending attention and precise expression. Hence the postulation of the predicate in question. The only verbal feature of the predicate is the symbol (saṁjñā)'avaktavya' employed in designating the predicate. This symbol declares the inadequacy of the verbal machinery when confronted with such cognitive situations. But this does not mean that avaktavya is the last word in our cognitive venture and, consequently, that we are inescapably condemned to be cognitively overwhelemed and verbally dumb. What is not simultaneously expressible can be expressed by a gradual process in the order of the attention severally paid to the manifold features in the situation concerned. This fact introduces a sequential outlet (kramārpaṇa) for what would otherwise remain a 'paradoxically objectionable' position. In other words, if the mode of avaktavya were an absolute position (sarvathaikāntadṛṣṭi) it would certainly be 'a paradoxically objectionable' position, but since the mode represents a relative position (kathañcidekāntadṭṣṭi) it leaves room for a sequential alternative which guarantees a gradual unfoldment of the entire complex structure of the factual situation in hand.

Words have a vital role to play in the process of unfoldment of the complex or the simple meanings of reality in spite of their limitations as noticed under the 'inexpressible' (avaktavya) mode. Communication of the meanings of reality either to us (svārthaḥ) or from us to others (parārthaḥ) is said to inherent power (svābhāvikī śaktiḥ)[4] in words. Devabhadra, for instance, observes that every specific meaning is resident in a particular word.[5] Siddharṣi supports this idea from another angle by remarking that there are no objects (artha) without names.[6] Maladhāri Hemacandra believes that everything cognisable is also expressible in some way.[7]

The Jaina is, however, cautious in not stretching this belief in the natural power of words to the extent of advocating the identity (tādātmya) of essence between the word and its meaning. Had it not been so he would find himself an ally of Bhartṛhari and the other grammarian philosophers who maintain the doctrine of śabdādvaitavāda. According to the Jaina words are only expressive (vācaka) or, as Yaśovijaya puts it, suggestive (jñāpaka) symbols rather than productive (kāraka)[8] entities of meanings. In other words, what is meant by the remark that a meaning resides in a word is nothing more than forcefully stating that the word has the natural power of expressing the meaning which is not produced by, or derived from, it. The meaning is eventually rooted in the nature of things in reality, but is conveyed to us through the natural expressive capacity of words.

The main purpose of introducing here the above brief discussion on the linguistic aspect of syādvāda has been to show how far syādvāda can be described as 'mainly verbal', or, for that matter, a 'verbal' method at all. The discussion indicates the undoubted necessity for a precise scheme of linguistic symbols (vacanavinyāsa). But the scheme of linguistic symbols is only the grab of the modal judgments which represent a system of alternative and exhaustive aspects of truth of a particular factual situation investigated by syādvāda. The content being such judgments syādvāda is essentially an epistemological method. This pre-eminently epistemological character of it becomes more evident when we remember that the knowledge obtained by its use is conceived to be the human analogue of the perfect knowledge (kevalajnāna) attained by the perfect souls (kevalins), the difference between the two being that the one is mediate (asākṣāt) and the other immediate (sāksāt).[9]

The purport of the entire argument is that the distinction between 'conceptual' and 'verbal' is a relative one, and therefore that when it is associated with the two methods under consideration, it should be done subject to the consideration outlined in course of argument.

The logical justification for the formulation of these two methods of nayavāda and syādvāda consists in the fact that the immense complexity of the relativistic universe is too baffling for the human mind, with its limited range of preceptual and other capacities, to penetrate at once, into its full secrets. In the process of grasping the bewildering universe analysis, or nayavāda, naturally precedes synthesis, or syādvāda, and the two methods together offer an articulated knowledge of the universe. After this comparative estimate of the two methods we may now proceed to consider them in their natural order.


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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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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekāntavāda
  2. Artha
  3. Avaktavya
  4. Bombay
  5. Hemacandra
  6. JAINA
  7. Jacobi
  8. Jaina
  9. Kāraka
  10. London
  11. Mysore
  12. Naya
  13. Nayas
  14. Nayavāda
  15. Neti Neti
  16. Saptabhaṅgī
  17. Saṁjñā
  18. Siddhasena
  19. Syādvāda
  20. Sūtra
  21. Vaidya
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