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Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Section II

Published: 24.05.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

It is perhaps best to begin by making a brief statement of the doctrine itself. The doctrine of syādvāda represents one aspect of the Jain doctrine of Manysidedness of anekāntavāda. And 'Implicit in the epistemological relativity of anekāntavāda is a recognition that the world is more complex than it seems, that reality is more subtle than we are inclined to believe. Our knowledge is less certain than we think'.[1] Indeed 'The Jains think that reality is so complex in its structure that...its precise nature baffles all attempts to describe it directly and once for all; but it is not impossible to make it known through a series of partially true statements without committing ourselves to any one among them exclusively. Accordingly the Jains enunciate its nature in seven steps, described as the sapta-bhaṅgī or "the seven-fold formula".[2] These steps are:

(1) Somehow a thing is.

(2) Somehow it is not.

(3) Somehow it both is and is not.

(4) Somehow it is indescribable.

(5) Somehow it is and is indescribable.

(6) Somehow it is not and is indescribable.

(7) Somehow it is, is not, and is indescribable.[3]

Thus 'For example, we may say ajar is somehow, i.e., it exists, if we mean thereby that it exists as a jar; but it does not exist somehow if we mean that it exists as a cloth or the like... Thus we have the correlative predicates "is" (asti) and "is not" (nāsti). A third predicate is 'inexpressible' (avaktavya); for existent and non-existent (sat and asat) belong to the same thing at the same time, and such a co-existence of mutually contradictory attributes cannot be expressed by any word in the language. The three predicates variously combined make up the 7 propositions, or sapta bhaṅgas, of the Syādvāda'[4].

It is easy to see that the basic building blocks in this whole structure are the first two, the positive and negative statements. The third and fourth predicates are arrived at by combining the first two first successively and then simultaneously.[5] And the 'remaining three are the combinations of the fourth with the first, second and third respectively'.[6] It will therefore be often helpful to concentrate on the manner in which the fundamental positive and negative predicates are understood in the modern presentations of this doctrine to examine these presentations critically.


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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. Anekāntavāda
  2. Asat
  3. Avaktavya
  4. Calcutta
  5. Hermann Jacobi
  6. Jacobi
  7. Saptabhaṅgī
  8. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
  9. Syādvāda
  10. Syāt
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