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Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Part 3

Published: 15.02.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

Another important difference of this anirvacanīya view from that of the relativistic inexpressible of the Jaina, is that the former assumes sat and asat, singly or jointly, to be absolutely independent and contradictory while the latter assumes them to be relative and complementary. On the basis of this difference the former view is designated as nirapekṣavāda and the latter sāpekṣavada. The attribution of absolute independence to sat and asat in their combination as sadasat paves the way for the development of the conception of the ultimate absolute (brahman) which utterly transcends words and eventually constitutes itself into the transcendental realm of truth (parasatya or paramārthasat). In other words, the verbal and logical transcendentalism becomes the metaphysical transcendentalism which relegates the antinomies of sat, asat and sadasat to the intrinsically unreal empirical realm.

The last phase in the dialectical evolution of the idea of the inexpressible is represented by the relativistic (sāpekṣa) view of syādvādin. The distinctive features of relativism and complementariness in the Jaina view of the inexpressible have already been brought out while contrasting them with the absolutistic view of the anirvacanīyavādin. Instead of fighting shy of their supposed contradictoriness and other difficulties the Jaina treats the two elements of sat and asat, in their combination, as a necessary, inevitable and distinctive feature of our objective experience and, consequently, tries to assign them a place in the framework of his dialectical scheme of modal propositions.

In the above account of the four stages in the evolution of the notion of the inexpressible, in Indian philosophy, an attempt has been made to show the relation in which the Jaina notion of the inexpressible stands to the views of certain other schools about the same notion. Incidentally, certain general features like the relativism (sāpekṣatva) and the complementariness of the combining concepts of being and non-being, in the same predication, have also been brought out in the account. Now, the status and the significance of this potion, in the scheme of the conditional dialectic (syādvāda), as well as the manner in which this notion is to be differentiated from the consecutive concept involved in the third predication of the dialectic, are yet to be further elucidated. But such an elucidatory attempt presupposes a knowledge of the Jaina view of the relation between a word and its meaning, since the development of the concept of the inexpressible is directly based on that view. Hence a brief reference may be made to show how the Jaina treats language as a medium of the meaning of reality.

It is a well-known fact, in Indian philosophy, that Bhartṛhari, the author of the great classic on the philosophy of grammar, the Vākyapadīya, puts forth a well-finished, elaborate, and powerful thesis that "the whole order of reality, subjective and objective, is but the manifestation of word".[1] Expression, according to him, is "the very essence of consciousness and, hence, all that exists. Therefore, whatever exists and whatever is thought of, is completely expressible."[2] This thesis represents an extreme viewpoint.

An antithesis of Bhartṛhari's viewpoint is presented by certain utterances of the Upanisadṣ which, as noticed during the treatment of the third phase in the development of the indefinable,[3] were, later on, developed into the well-articulated theories of anirvacanīyatā in Advaitism, and similar ideas in certain trends of Buddhism. This antithetical view maintains that the ultimate is absolutely beyond the reach of words, and, when any attempt is made to 'reach' the ultimate through words they are found utterly to conceal, nay, even distort it.

Here again the Jaina strikes the balance between the two extremes and maintains that reality is both[4] expressible and inexpressible, and, that there is no contradiction in holding this position since reality is so from different points of view.[5] It is in defence of this position that the Jaina view of the relation between a word and its meaning comes into the picture.

According to syādvādin one word expresses one meaning only. The relationship between a word and its meaning is designated by the Jaina as vācyavācakaniyama or ekārthatvanīyama[6] and, by some non-Jaina writers, on the subject, as nānāśabdavāda.[7] Both these designations affirm their common essential conviction that a word, which appears to convey more meanings than one, is to be treated, not as one word, but as many words as the number of meanings it appears to convey.[8] We have already met with an expression of this attitude towards the present question under the etymological standpoint (samabhirūḍhanaya)[9] in the section on Nayavāda. For instance, the word 'gauḥ'—we say the 'word' in the singular in conformity to popular usage, we should say, in strictness, a multitude of words—is said to convey a cow (paśu), a vāhika, earth (pṛthivī), heaven (svarga), a point of compass, a word (pada), and 'a ray of light' (kiraṇa).[10] Similarly the English words like play, pound, file, etc. stand for more than one meaning. But the Jaina does not agree with the popular view that the very same word, among such words, can convey all the meanings associated with it by common sense and listed against it by lexicographers. He believes,[11] with Bhāmaha,[12] that in spite of the common structural and phonetic pattern the word 'gauḥ', when uttered or written against any one of the several meanings, is a specific symbol different from what appears to be - and structurally and phonologically is—the same symbol against another meaning connected with it. In other words, the word 'gauḥ' as meaning 'a cow' is different from the word 'gauḥ' as meaning a 'vāhika'. The fact that two or more meanings have the same linguistic symbol (saṁjñā) is, according to the Jaina, simply a matter of linguistic coincidence just as in the case of two persons, who are entirely different from each other in many respects, having the same name, say Devadatta. The farthest that the Jaina could go concerning the question of the occurrence of the same symbol against several meanings is that he can conceive every instance of its occurrence as being only similar (sādṛśyopacārādeva)[13], linguistically, to the other instances.

In the general position[14] taken up by the Jaina on the problems of the philosophy of language our concern here is with the specific problem[15] of the relation between word and meaning (samjñāsaṁjñi - sambandha). Having noticed that he favours the view that every distinctive meaning needs a distinctive word (pratiniyatavācyavācakabhāva) for its medium, we may now resume our treatment of the copresentative predicate of the inexpressible (avaktavya) and of its differentiation from the consecutive-presentative, in their respective modes, under the method of seven-fold predication.


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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. Advaitism
  2. Akalanka
  3. Apoha
  4. Asat
  5. Avaktavya
  6. Benares
  7. Brahman
  8. Buddhism
  9. Calcutta
  10. Chakravarti
  11. Consciousness
  12. Dhvani
  13. JAINA
  14. Jaina
  15. Nayavāda
  16. Nirvāṇa
  17. Sanskrit
  18. Saṁjñā
  19. Siddha
  20. Svabhāva
  21. Syādvāda
  22. TSS
  23. Vidyānanda
  24. Vimaladāsa
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