Saptabhangi

Published: 11.07.2010
Updated: 29.08.2012
Alias(es)
Saptabhaṅgi, Saptabhaṅgī

a theory of sevenfold predication, a Jain method of predication emphasizing the 'non-onesidedness' (Anekantavada) of reality.

Examples:

A person is on death-bed:
A doctor treats him. The relatives of the sick person ask the doctor seven questions. The doctor replies in seven ways.
1. His health is good (Asti)
2. His health is not good (Nasti)
3. It is better than yesterday but is not better than what one can hope for. (Asti-Nasti)
4. It is impossible to say whether his health is good or bad. (Avaktavya)
5. It is better than what it was yesterday (asti) but one cannot say (avaktavya) what will happen (Asti, avaktavya).
6. It is not better than what it was yesterday (Nasti) but one cannot say, what will happen (Avaktavya) (Nasti, avaktavya)
7. It is not good (Nasti) but it is better than it was yeasteday (Asti) but one cannot say anything. (Avaktavya, Asti, Nasti).

Blind men and an elephant:
The Jain version of the story says that six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant's body.

The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

A wise man explains to them:

"All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned."

This resolves the conflict, and is used to illustrate the principle of living in harmony with people who have different belief systems, and that truth can be stated in different ways (in Jainist beliefs often said to be seven versions). This is known as the Syadvada, Anekantvad, or the theory of Manifold Predictions.

References

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