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Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Part 1

Published: 14.03.2012
Updated: 14.03.2012

We have elucidated the logical background of Jaina philosophy and we have shown that the Jaina evaluation of the Laws of Thought differs toto caelo from that of the idealists, which gave an ultra-intellectual orientation to philosophical speculation. The Jaina pleads for soberness and insists that the nature of reality is to be determined in conformity with the evidence of experience undeterred by the considerations of abstract logic. Loyalty to experience and to fundamental concepts of philosophy alike makes the conclusion inevitable that absolutism is to be surrendered. A thing is neither real nor unreal, neither eternal nor non-eternal, in absolute sense, but partakes of both the characteristics; and this does not mean any offence to the canons of logic. The dual nature of things is proved by a reductio ad absurdum of the opposite views. Thus the law of causation, whether in the moral or in the physical plane, is divested of its raison d'être if absolutism is adhered to. An absolute real can neither be a cause nor an effect. An effect already in existence has no necessity for a cause, and an eternal cause unnameable to change is self-contradictory, inasmuch as an eternal cause would produce an eternal effect. But both the terms 'eternal cause' and 'eternal effect' have no meaning. It may be contended that the issue does not affect the position of the Vedantist or the Absolute Negativist (Śūnyāvddin) since they do not believe in the reality of causation. But the contention is not sincere as they believe in it on this side of transcendental realisation. And their plea, that truth is of one sort in the plane of theoretical and practical activity, and of another kind in the transcendental plane, seems to be a make-believe. We postpone the consideration of the metaphysical issue to a subsequent chapter, and it should suffice for the present to observe that these two metaphysical systems have gained a haven only by making a holocaust of all our cherished beliefs and ingrained convictions. Whatever may be their logical merits they have failed to carry conviction to an enormous number of men and women who respectfully decline to be satisfied with their negative findings, whether qualified or unqualified. As regards the position of the advocate of flux (Sautrāntika) the difficulty alleged does not find a satisfactory solution from him as well. In this system all existents are believed to be momentary in duration. A moment is the indivisible atom of time which stands absolutely detached and discrete from its antecedent and consequent units. If an existent can occupy only such a moment, it cannot function as a cause. Exercise of causality is possible either in succession or non-succession, but both are incapable of being predicated of a momentary real. A 'momentary' has no duration and consequently no succession. Simultaneous production of effects is also not admitted by the Buddhist fluxist. Moreover, absolute affirmation of a characteristic, reality or unreality, eternity or non-eternity, implies by the very force of its inherent opposition the negation of the opposite characteristic. So if a thing is affirmed to be real or momentary the predication is not of a simple characteristic, but of a complex one. The thing is not only real but not not-real, not only momentary but also not not-momentary. This militates against the absolutist standpoint of predication of simple characteristics.

If things were real in an absolute sense there would be no causation, as it is possible if only an event which was non-existent is brought into existence. But an existent by its very nature, that is to say, irrespective of such external conditions as time, space and the like, is not in need of the services of a cause. If, on the contrary, the effect were unreal in an absolute sense it could not anymore be called into existence, since an unreal fiction such as a barren woman's son or a square circle is never found to leap into existence. The Śūnyāvddin may contend that the whole show of causal order is only an appearance and the effects that are seen to be produced are as unreal as the so-called fictions. No reliance, again, can be placed upon experience, they would plead, as experience in dream also exhibits the same characteristics as so-called normal experience; and the objects perceived or inferred are nothing but chimeras. So the objection on the ground of the failure of causation is futile so far as the sceptics are concerned. But this denial of causation again involves a difficulty. If the perceived objects in dreams were unreal and so uncaused events, why should they cease to exist, or, to put it the other way about, why should they appear at all? So experience, normal or abnormal, would have no raison d'être in the Śūnyāvdin's scheme of metaphysics. If nescience is held out to be the cause of such appearance, the question would naturally arise whether nescience per se is real or unreal. If it were unreal, there would be no causal activity and consequently no appearance. Even if the order of experienced objects be declared unreal, there must be a cause of this order of appearance. A real cause is necessary even for the production of unreal experience. The optic illusion of the double moon has its cause in the positive disorder of the eye, which is real as anything. So the dilemma is inescapable, whether the order of causality is held to be real or unreal in an absolute manner. If the effect were real irrespective of time and place and conditions of causality, there would be no necessity for positing a cause. If it were unreal, no amount of causal activity could bring it into existence. If, again, it were uncaused, there would be no time in which the effect would be existent or non-existent.

The same deadlock emerges even in the philosophy of flux. The Yogācāra, who denies extra-mental reality, seeks to explain our experience of the phenomenal world on the analogy of dream experience. But he believes that consciousness, which is the only reality according to him, is in a state of perpetual flux. It is momentary and so ceases to exist at the next moment, when it is replaced by another consciousness-unit. The previous unit produces the subsequent unit and the chain of consciousness-units goes on for eternity, being governed by the law of causation. So the law of causation is the very corner-stone of Yogācāra metaphysics, as it is of the Sautrāntika,[1] both being agreed upon the fluxional nature of reality and the law of causation as the supreme ruling principle of the order of reality. The difference between the two lies only in the denial or affirmation of extramental reality. But the law of causation cannot be supposed to operate in the case of momentary entities. Of course the Buddhist would maintain that the previous moment is the cause of the subsequent moment and causation presupposes only this sequence and nothing more. The absence of the cause at the moment of the emergence of the effect is no bar to the operation of causality, as synchronism of the cause and effect is not relevant. If synchronism were determinant of causality one would not search for the cause in the previous event. And between two synchronous events nobody commits the fallacy of regarding one as the cause of the other, as between the two horns on a cow's head. But the Jaina philosopher maintains that neither sequence nor synchronism alone can account for the law of causation, but that both combined give us the correct estimate of the operation of causality. That the relation of cause and effect does not hold good between two co-existent facts, such as the two horns on a cow's head, is admitted by the Jaina also. But the absence of synchronism between the cause and the effect at the moment of the latter's emergence would make the effect independent of the cause. The effect was not in existence when the cause was in existence and it comes into existence when the cause has ceased to exist. So if the effect is independent of the cause when it comes into existence and is not found to be dependent upon the cause either before or after, the bearing of the cause upon the effect becomes a fiction. The previous existence of the cause is absolutely irrelevant. If an effect could come into existence even in the absence of the cause at the moment of its origin, there is no logic why it would not come into being at other moments when the cause is absent likewise. It has been contended by the Buddhist fluxist that if a permanent cause enduring for more than a moment could produce an effect, why should it not go on producing like effects for all the time of its existence? If the 'permanent' comes to lose the causal power at a subsequent moment, the possession of power at one moment and the loss of power at another moment would entail the coexistence of two contradictory attributes in the former, and this is incompatible with its integrity. The supposed permanent would be split up into two - in other words, there would be no one entity but as many as the varying attributes and causal operations. The Jaina philosopher, however, refuses to be convinced by such tactics of abstract logic.

The identity or otherwise of a real is to be accepted on the verdict of un-contradicted experience and the possession of varying attributes or powers is not incompatible with the identity of a thing. Even the Buddhist cannot deny that the self-same real, e.g., light, produces diverse effects, viz., the expulsion of darkness, the illumination of the Field of perception, radiation of heat and so on. Certainly the diverse effects cannot be produced by the self-same causal energy. If a plurality of energies can be possessed by a self-identical entity without offence to logic, why should the spectre of logical incompatibility be raised in the case of a permanent cause possessing diverse powers? The Jaina solves the difficulty by means of the law of anekānta, which affirms the possibility of diverse attributes in a unitary entity, strictly speaking, a thing is neither an absolute unity nor split up into an irreconcilable plurality. It is both unity and plurality all the time. There is no opposition between unity of being and plurality of aspects. The opposition would have been inevitable if the unity of a real had varied with each aspect. But the varying aspects are affirmed of the self-identical subject and this proves that the unity is not affected by such predication. A thing is one and many at the same time - a unity and a plurality rolled into one. This view of the nature of reality avoids the fallacy of uncaused production, which is insurmountable in the other philosophies. The cause is both non-synchronous and synchronous with the effect - the former before the origin of the effect and the latter at the time of its origin. Nor does the non-emergence of any further effect in the presence of the cause after the production of the first effect occasion a difficulty. The nature of things is to be determined in consonance with their behaviour as observed with normal human faculties. When the cause is not seen to produce an effect more than once at a time, it must be postulated that the cause undergoes change of power, and the change of power is not incompatible with the identity of the causal entity as it is certified by the unchallengeable verdict of experience. That experience is the ultimate determinant of contradiction or non-contradiction and not a priori logical considerations is to be admitted even by the Buddhist, who swears by logic in season and out of season whenever it suits his convenience. The Buddhist idealist holds that cognition assumes the form of cognizer and cognised in one. The same cognition is transformed into the likeness of an object, which becomes the content, and in its role as pure cognition it functions as the cognizer. This is the epistemology of perception of the Sautrāntika realist, according to whom the direct object of cognition is never the external object, but the content as part and parcel of the cognition. The external object is a matter of inference according to the Sautrāntika. Barring this difference of metaphysical position, both the Sautrāntika and the Yogācāra are agreed on the dual character and the dual role of cognition. In the case of non-perceptual cognition also the same dual role is asserted with equal emphasis. The content, which is identical in being with the cognition, is believed to stand for the unperceived object, e.g., the fire as inferred from smoke, and the cognition in its cognitive capacity is assumed to be the cognizer. The opposition of the cognizer and the cognized is evident, but still their coalescence in the selfsame cognition is believed to be a fact and that without spelling a contradiction. If the contradiction is denied on the strength of the undisputed testimony of experience, the same solution cannot be discarded in the case of cause and effect, as experience is unmistakable in its verdict in this case also. This is not the only advantage in the Jaina position. It gives us a satisfying explanation of the law of causation, the belief in which is irresistible for all human beings and is the conditio sine qua non of all scientific and practical activity. The absolutistic standpoint of the other schools of thought fails to offer any explanation. The heroic course adopted by the Vedantist and the Śūnyāvdin does not again commend itself as the only alternative metaphysical explanation. The result is identical. Both the fluxist and the Vedāntic idealist fail to render a realistic explanation of the law of causation, as the condition of causal operation, succession or non-succession'[2] which are the necessary concomitants of time-continuum, are denied, and the chain of cause and effect is reduced to the position of an intellectual construction. The Jaina theory avoids the fallacies incident to extremism as the cause is both permanent and fluxional and the effect is both existent and non-existent. The point will be elaborated later on.


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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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  1. Anekānta
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  3. Consciousness
  4. JAINA
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