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Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Part 4

Published: 16.02.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

If the above principle of one word for one meaning is granted, then the concept of the inexpressible in syādvāda lends itself to an easy grasp. The fourth mode, viz., "The jar is inexpressible", is an attempt to present the aspects of 'being' and 'non-being' in the jar, at once (yugapat), and, as primary meanings.

Although both these aspects are the inalienable features of the jar, a simultaneous attention to both aspects is a psychological and logical impossibility. Moreover 'being' conveys the meaning of one aspect and 'non-being' of the other. A conveyance of both meanings at once is incompatible with the established rule, viz., vācyavācakaniyama. To say that one word, like avaktavya in the present context, can convey both the meanings at once would not be correct, according to the Jaina, because of two reasons: first that no word can convey more than one meaning at a time, and secondly, even if it can, our mind can attend to them only in a successive order. A further mention of these difficulties incident to the concept will presently be made.

No such difficulties arise in the case of the third predication which is concerned with presenting, consecutively (kramārpaṇayā), the two aspects of 'being' and 'non-being', although it is expressed in the shortened form of a single proposition. It is because of this consecutive element that this mode is aptly called 'differenced togetherness' (or distinguishable togetherness) in contrast to the phrase 'undifferenced togetherness' (or undistinguishable togetherness) which signifies avaktavya. Both aspects are 'primitive', co-ordinate and mutually irreducible. Our mental (perceptual and other) as well as expressive (bodhanasātnarthyam and vacanasā-marthyam) faculties being ill-adapted for comprehending and asserting both of them at once in their primary togetherness (ubhayaprādhānyam) we can grasp and assert them either successively or confess to our inability to do if asked to do it at a single stroke.[1] This is precisely what is done under the third and the fourth modes, respectively.[2]

It is contended that the third mode is redundant, or superfluous, and, therefore, is unjustifiable[3] as a distinctive alternative in the dialectical scheme of conditional predications. The reason pleaded for this contention is that it does not exhibit any unique or novel feature of objective reality, being almost a mechanical conjunction of the two simple predicates contained, severally, in the first and second modes. While not denying the fact that it is a conjunctive predication, the Jaina does not agree with the contention that it is redundant. A conjunctive proposition embodies a judgment of consecutive togetherness which is no less a unique or distinctive moment of factual significance than any other, and, cannot, therefore, be expunged from a methodological scheme which pretends to synthesise, exhaustively, all possible moments, or alternatives, within its fold.

A similar consideration applies to the concept of the inexpressible. This concept confronts us with a logical, psychological, and verbal failure to embody, within any one symbol (saṅketa), the two fundamental aspects of reality, with equal prominence. This is indeed an inconvenient predicament inevitable in any effort to take in, in one sweep, the whole range of truth. But the inconvenient or the impossible is not necessarily illogical or untrue. Limitations in the range of human powers of thinking and expression entail such a failure. But even this failure is a necessary step to be reckoned with in the dialectical method of syādvāda. Being at once an inescapable and unique fact in our grappling with reality it cannot but be provided for as a dialectically possible or alternative position. K.C. Bhattacharya clearly expresses this position in the following words: "It (the inexpressible) is objective as given: it cannot be said to be not a particular position or to be non-existent. At the same time it is not the definite distinction of position and existence: it represents a category by itself, the common-sense principles implied in its recognition is that what is given cannot be rejected simply because it is not expressible by a single positive concept. A truth has to be admitted if it cannot be got rid of even if it is not understood."[4]

The remaining three[5] modes are derived from combining the three primary concepts in such a way that these three, combined with the four modes hitherto expounded, exhaust all the possible or alternative aspects of truth concerning the object in question (the jar in the present instance).

The fifth mode, viz., "In a certain sense, the jar is, and is inexpressible", asserts the truth of the 'being' of the jar conjointly with the inexpressible truth of the compresence (or co-presentation) of the being and the non-being of the same object.[6] This is a combined mode derived from bringing together the first and the fourth predicates in a complex expressed judgment.

The sixth mode, viz., "In a certain sense, the jar is not, and is inexpressible", asserts the truth of non-being of the jar conjointly with the inexpressible truth of the compresence of the 'being' and the 'non-being' of the same object.[7] This, again, is a combined mode resulting from bringing together the second and the fourth predicates in a complex expressed judgment.

The seventh and last mode, viz., "In a certain sense, the jar is, is not, and is inexpressible", combines the consecutive presentation of the 'being' and the 'non-being', conjointly with the co-presentation or compresence, of the 'being' and the 'non-being' of the jar[8]. This mode is evidently a resultant of bringing together, within its fold, the third and the fourth predicates of the conditional dialectic.

Unlike the first two and the fourth predications, each of which contains a simple predicate involving one of the three primary concepts, the fifth, the sixth and the seventh predications are, severally, complex in structure, the last one being the most complex among them. This is so because they are assertions of complex judgments.

These are the seven modes each of which contains one alternative truth while all together contain the total truth[9] of a situation in which any feature predicated of a real is investigated. The reason why the number of modes is neither more nor less than seven is because, it is believed, any complex situation is amenable to treatment by this seven-fold technique if one is an adept in using it. It means every conceivable problem[10] regarding a factual situation can be reduced to the terms of these seven angles from which it can be viewed. Any attempt to add or subtract a mode will be found to be impossible since addition finds the mode already there, among one of the existing seven modes, and subtraction will mutilate an essential limb from the scheme.[11] In the event of a fresh situation arising with regard to the same problem under a different setting it can again be dealt with by the application of this method. All the conclusions accumulating from the varied application of this method will, eventually, give us a conspectus of the complex truth with regard to a problem. The whole method, therefore, may be said to be one which helps a patient inquiring mind in its adventure of mapping out the winding paths running into the faintly known or unknown regions of reality and bringing them within the bounds of human knowledge.

Now we may consider some important criticisms directed against syādvāda.

A few criticisms, considered by the critics directing them to be fatal to syādvāda, come from the vedāntic quarters, especially advaitic absolutism. This is inevitable since advaitic absolutism and syādvādic relativism are diametrically opposed to each other in their fundamental presuppositions. Although these criticisms originated with the founders of the vedāntic schools it would be better to see them (the criticisms) through the eyes of the modern exponents of vedānta. An elaborate refutation of them lies outside the limits of this work. A few remarks may, however, be made in answer to them inserting, here and there, some observations of the critics themselves who, to some extent, answer, perhaps somewhat unwittingly, their fellow-critics.

Hiriyanna, by no means an unsympathetic exponent even of Jainism, observes: "The halfhearted character of the Jaina enquiry is reflected in the seven-fold mode of predication (sapta-bhangī), which stops at giving us the several partial views together, without attempting to overcome the opposition in them by a proper synthesis. It is all right so far as it cautions us against one-sided conclusions but it leaves us in the end... with little more than one-sided solutions. The reason for it, if it is not prejudice against absolutism, is the desire to keep close to common beliefs."[12] In another work of his also the same criticism is made with some more incisive touches on one or two points. One additional point mentioned there, on the authority of Bādarayaṇa, Śaṅkara, and other absolutists, is that "If all our knowledge concerning reality is relative, they say (the old Indian critics like Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja etc.), the Jaina view must also be relative. To deny this conclusion would be to admit, at least, one absolute truth; and to admit it would leave the doctrine with no settled view of reality, and thus turn it into a variety of skepticism."[13]


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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. Advaitic
  2. Avaktavya
  3. Chakravarti
  4. Dravya
  5. JAINA
  6. Jaina
  7. Jainism
  8. K.C. Bhattacharya
  9. Saptabhaṅgī
  10. Syādvāda
  11. Vidyānanda
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