Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Being And Non-Being

Published: 22.02.2012

Being, in its universal aspect, pervades all reals, while in its personal character, it is the negation of that pervasion, that is, non-being.[1] Being, as personal, is the self-existence (that is, existence in respect of its own substance, space, time and mode) of a real and non-being is its non-existence (in respect of an alien substance, space, time and mode) which includes the negation of the modes of infinite past (pradhvaṁsābhāva i.e., non-existence after destruction) and of infinite future (prāgabhāva i.e., pre-non-existence) as well as absolute negation (atyantābhāva e.g., non-existence of colour in air) and infinite numerical differences (anyonyābhāva i.e., mutual non-existence or non-existence of identity of things). The denial of this non-existence would make the distinction of one thing from another impossible, and thus rob it of its individuality and determinate character.[2] Non-being, therefore, is as much an element in the constitution of a real as being is. Universal being is uncharacterized indeterminate existence or pure affirmation which is the uniting bond of all determinate reals. Personal being is characterized and determinate existence, and is non-being in the sense of other than or distinct from universal being. This personal being is determinate self-existence of self-affirmation as distinct from, that is, as non-existence or negation of other determinates coordinate with it. Being and non-being, existence and non-existence, affirmation and negation, thus are the constituents of a real at every stage.

This analysis of a real is necessitated by an analysis of the nature of any ordinary experience. Our experience is at once positive and negative. A purely positive experience, being altogether incapable of defining its object, is either a case of confusion or an experience tantamount to 'no experience'. The postulation of a purely negative experience also leads to a similar contradiction. Negation means exclusion of a determinate fact from other such facts.[3] But no such function can be fulfilled by a purely negative experience, as it does not claim any determinate fact as its object. This is obviously a contradiction.[4] This positive-cum-negative character of experience is a proof direct of its object as a synthesis of being and non-being, existence and non-existence, as explained above. This is also corroborated by the fact that the affirmative propositions become fully significant only when supplemented by the correlative negative propositions and vice versa. Neither the affirmative nor the negative proposition, taken by itself, is capable of giving the intended sense in its fullness.

Here the problem of the relation between the real and its characteristics and between the characteristics themselves crops up. For the sake of convenience, the real may be called a 'substantive' and its characteristic an 'adjective'. What then is the relation between a substantive and its adjective, and also between one adjective and another belonging to the same substantive? The relation cannot be absolute identity, for then the two terms would merge into absolute unity, that is, the relation would annihilate itself. Nor can it be absolute difference, for this would leave the terms unrelated and the relation would be equivalent to 'no relation'. The Jaina philosopher seeks to solve the difficulty by postulating a peculiar kind of relation called 'identity-cum-difference' which is neither absolute identity, nor absolute difference, nor an artificial conjunction of the two, but a new type which is sui-generis (jātyantarātmaka).[5] Accordingly, the real also as conceived by him, is neither absolute being, nor absolute non-being, nor an artificial synthesis of the two, but 'a focal unity of being and non-being, which cannot be reached by logical thought' - a unity which is 'immanent in the elements, but at the same time transcends them in that it is not analysable into elements'.[6] This estimate of relation does not allow the terms to merge, nor to fall apart. The substantive owns its adjectives on account of its identity with them, and the adjectives preserve their individuality on account of their difference from the substantive. The adjectives do not fall apart on account of their identity with the substantive, and the substantive does not lose itself in its adjective on account of its difference from them.

The Vaiśeṣika philosopher has levelled the charge of truism (siddhasādhyatā) against the doctrine of existence in respect of one's own nature and non-existence in respect of an alien nature and the charges of triviality and insignificance also follow from it. But the above evaluation of the nature of relation, implied by the doctrine, should be considered sufficient for the refutation of these charges. For the Vaiśeṣika philosopher, the relation of identity-cum-difference is quite novel, and the light that it throws on the nature of the real is quite momentous and significant.[7] The real cannot be, as already shown, either absolute being or absolute non-being. Here by 'absolute being' we understand what is eternal, positive and absolutely unnameable to change, and by 'absolute non-being' what is absolutely negative and devoid of all characterization. These are respectively the postulates of the Vedāntic monist and the Buddhist nihilist. Similarly, the real cannot be either 'pure being' or 'pure non-being' - the expression 'pure being' standing for 'being without becoming' or 'continuant without change' (change in the sense of real creative change and not mere actualization of the potential), and 'pure non-being' standing for 'becoming without being' or 'change without continuant'. These may respectively by regarded as the postulates of the sāṁkhya evolutionist and the Buddhist fluxist. The Jaina philosopher believes in being tolerant of non-being, and non-being tolerant of being.[8] For him, in other words, being and becoming are informed with each other and go pari passu, one without the other is impossible.



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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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