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Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Syādvāda And The Modern Scientific Theory Of Relativity

Published: 14.06.2012

Syādvāda And The Modern Scientific Theory Of Relativity[1]

In India the knowledge of philosophy and science, even in the most ancient times, was on such heights that it has not been attained by the modern science even today, in spite of its great advancement and achievements in the field of knowledge. Indian seers beautifully tackled and solved nearly all the problems of life of the individual and society. It is really very surprising and painful that Indian scholars and scientists never tried to enter into the vast treasure of ancient Indian knowledge. Now time has come to look into our vast field of ancient knowledge. It becomes our sacred duty to study our ancient literature.

Let us take Syādvāda, the Jaina theory of Relativity, the nucleus of Jaina philosophy which has not lost its importance even today. It is a living theory of philosophical world from most ancient times and as such, it is continuing even now in its fullest brightness. Prof. Albert Einstein's "Theory of Relativity" is a great contribution to the modern scientific world, which got a universal acceptance in the field of science. Now let us take comparative study of ancient Jain Syādvāda and modern theory of Relativity.

Syādvāda and the theory of Relativity both are taken to be synonymous, though both the theories originated from two different places. The theory of Syādvāda includes the theory of Relativity and is wider than it in all respects. No doubt Einstein's theory of Relativity is a great revolution in the field of Mathematics and science. It has changed its concepts but it has not yet reached its maturity. Even now it is in its undeveloped stage of thought. Researches and studies on the theory of Relativity are going on and it is growing slowly. This theory of Relativity is taught to the students of Mathematics in M.A. classes. Syādvāda the Jaina theory of Relativity is perfect in itself. It is much wider and comprehensive than the Einstein's theory of Relativity. Both these theories are complex and therefore misunderstood even by the great scholars. They are not so simple as seen ordinarily.

Syādvāda is composed of two words "Syāt" and Vāda. Here the word "Syāt" means kathanchit i.e., from a certain point of view or from a certain angle of vision and the word 'Vāda' denotes the system of thought. We may call it as "Apekshāvāda" or "Sāpekshavāda". Thus it is the Jain theory of Relativity. According to Jain Philosophy everything has many pairs of opposites. Everything is of many pairs of opposite qualities just like existent and non-existent; one and many, eternal and non-eternal etc. In the absence of these opposite qualities things also cannot exist. Everything has got its own form, place, time and nature which are different from the form, place, time and nature of others. In respect to his own form, place, time and nature one thing is existent and in respect to other's form, place, time and nature the same thing is non-existent.[2] Thus from the one point of view a thing is existent and from the other point of view the same thing is non-existent. The same thing is existent and non-existent both. As for example, pot is non-existent from the point of view of cloth and it is existent from the point of view of pot. Now it is clear that everything is full of various contradictory qualities existing in various relative conditions. There are innumerable contradictory relations of thing at one and the same time. One thing is big and small, one and many, eternal and non-eternal etc., at one and the same time.

Everything has got its existence, beginning, and end all the three aspects.[3] Existence of a thing presupposes beginning and end both. There can be no existence without the beginning and end. The beginning and end can never be without existence. Each one is essential for the existence of the other two. All the three aspects go together for the concept of a thing. In essence everything is eternal and in respect to its modes everything comes into existence and again reaches it destruction. We may put it that a thing is indestructible and permanent in respect to its root, substance and its root nature, but it is destructible with respect to its capacity of modification or change every moment. There can be no destruction without its existence and beginning. Without existence and destruction there can be no beginning. Jain neither accepts momentarism nor eternalism only. Let us take an example of golden ring. When we destroy the golden ring and change it into necklace then there is an end or destruction of the golden ring and beginning or birth of a necklace but as gold it is eternal or has got permanent existence. In the same way everything is one and many at one and the same time. Pot in respect to pot is one but in respect to its atom it is many. Thus we must note that there is nothing wrong in having these opposite qualities in a thing all at one and the same time. But there is wrong in not having them all at one and the same time. Opposition is seen due to ignorance of the real knowledge of the nature of things. One and the same person is husband and not husband, father and son both at the same time. The same man is not father and husband only but he may be at one and same time uncle, nephew, son, friend, enemy, secretary, president etc., also, there is nothing wrong in it. He is father of his son and son of his father, uncle of nephew and nephew of his uncle and so on. He is husband of his own wife, not of all the ladies of the world. He is father of his own son and not the father of the whole of the world and so on. Thus there is no absolute truth. Every statement is relative. We see contradictions only due to our ignorance like the concepts of blind men about the elephant. All our conflicts are due to our limited knowledge. All the things of the world are related to one another without any exception. By saying Indian we have the concept of non-Indian, by the concept of man we at once have the concept of non-human. Thus by the knowledge of one we get the relative knowledge of all the other remaining things. Due to this relativeness in mind Mahavir said that who knows one object with all its qualities and attributes, he knows all the things and who knows all the things with all their qualities he knows one.

By all this is becomes clear that everything is having infinite number of attributes and has got infinite number of relations with all other things. Only Kevali the Universal observer can have direct knowledge of a thing with all its qualities and relations. We ordinary persons can know everything in relation to time, space and our own angle of vision only. At one time we can know only one quality. Taking into account this, Jain thinkers have dealt with seven aspects of a thing in which all the infinite number of aspects are included. According to Jain philosophy out of these infinite numbers of aspects of a thing the knowledge of one aspect is called Naya. In this way there are infinite number of Nayas which are included under Dravyārthik Naya and Paryāyārthika Naya (Absolute point of view and Empirical point of view). From the Absolute point of view also a thing can be seen from three different aspects and Jain thinkers named them as (1) Naigam Naya (2) Saṅgrah Naya (3) Vyavahāra Naya. The point of view of the general and the individual both at the same time is dealt with in Naigam Naya, the general point of view is dealt with in Saṅgrah Naya and the individual point of view is dealt with in Vyavahāra Naya. In the same way Paryāyārthik Naya is also divided into four Nayas according to the four points of views. The first Ṛjusūtra Naya denotes the point of view of momentary present attributes, the second Sabda Naya denotes word and its meaning, the third Samabhirūḍha Naya denotes the meaning according to the root of the word and fourth Evaṁbhūta Naya denotes the action according to the meaning of the root word. All the infinite numbers of Nayas come under these above-mentioned seven Nayas: really a thing is different according to different place, different time, different situations and different individual's mental conditions.

This Jain theory of Relativity is really a very grand and noble one by understanding which dogmatism, wrong concepts, conflicts, senseless prejudices, selfishness, partialities and one-sidedness vanishes by itself. By understanding the concept of relative truths there remains no misunderstanding in any way.

Syādvāda can be explained to an ordinary person in a very simple manner. A Jaina thinker in explaining Syādvāda raised his little finger and the next one and asked which is bigger. The ring finger is bigger no doubt, was the answer. He then raised only the ring and the middle finger and then asked which is smaller, the answer was the ring finger. He then said it is Syādvāda. The same finger is bigger and smaller both. Thus there is nothing absolutely bigger or smaller. Everything is relatively smaller or bigger. This is the Jaina theory of relativity. It is not so easy as you see by this example. This Jaina theory of Syādvāda is so difficult that it is beyond the reach of even many great scholars.

Einstein's theory of Relativity is also so difficult that it is not clear even to the great scientists. Its complexity is clear by the example given in the book Cosmology old and New. "If two people meet twice they must have lived the same time between the two meetings. This is true from one point of view and not from another. It all depends whether both of them have been staying at home or one has travelled to a distant part of the Universe and then came back in the interim."[4]

If a man standing on the sea shore no doubt in comparison to the man in the ship he is not moving but as due to movement of the ship, the man on the ship is moving so is the man on the sea shore is also moving in relation to the sun due to the movement of the earth round the sun on which he is standing. In the same way all the movements are relative. This very thought is in both Jain philosophy (Syādvāda) and Einstein's theory of Relativity. According to both everything is relative. A man standing, is not moving in respect to the man walking but the standing man is also moving with the movement of the earth. The motion and rest are the relative terms. There is nothing like a absolute Motion or absolute Rest. Sun in respect to earth is not moving but in respect to other stars it is moving and so on as there are infinite numbers of solar systems. Thus we see that all things are only relative in motion and rest. Einstein beautifully said, "Nature is such that it is impossible to determine absolute motion by any experiment whatever."[5] In Cosmology Old and New we find an example explaining beautifully the Motion and Rest. It is said, "Suppose this room is a lift. The support breaks and down we go with ever increasing velocity, falling freely like a stone. Suppose I am inside that lift and I perform the experiment of dropping an apple held in my hand. Remember that the lift and all things contained in it are falling freely all the while. To my surprise I shall see that the apple cannot fall any more than it is already doing, owing to the free fall of lift. The apple remains poised in my hand."[6] In the same way concept of time may also be explained as "Two revolving galaxies (a and b) which are at a distance of thousands of light years, exploded and out of them two new stars were created. The spectators sitting in each galaxy will feel that these events are immediate but there being a distance of thousands of light years, between the two, the spectator in 'a' will call the event in 'b' as happening after thousands of years: while a second spectator in 'b' will similarly feel the explosion at its own place as immediate and the event in 'a' to have happened after thousands of years. Thus about these explosions no absolute time can be determined but only a relative time, can be stated"[7] Thus from this it becomes clear that when the persons on 'a' and 'b' meet, their conclusions, though will be correct from their own points of views but will be contradictory to each other.

Albert Einstein explained his wife the theory of Relativity in a very simple way, "I will give you example. When a man talks with a beautiful girl, he feels that an hour is just like a minute but if the same person is asked to sit on a hot oven, he will feel every minute like an hour."

Similar thought we find in Yogavāsiṣṭha also, "Painful night is felt like the thousands of years and pleasurable night is felt as less than even a second. In dream we have the experience of thousands of years within a second only."[8] It is clear now that time and place both are relative according to Yogavāsiṣṭha, Jaina and Einstein. Prof. Einstein clearly said, "We can only know the relative truth, the Absolute truth is known only to the universal observer."

Syādvāda very clearly states that one and the same thing can be seen from infinite points of views. They all are true relatively. All the contradictory views are true from their own points of views. Words cannot express all the aspects of a thing at the same time. Thus Jain philosophers used the word "syāt" to express this, which means 'kathañcit'. The same thing is existent and non-existent both and to express this Jain thinkers used the word "Syāt." There are seven types of conclusions which are called saptabhaṅgī. This method of obtaining knowledge is called by the Jain Philosophy "The Theory of Syādvāda". There are infinite numbers of opposite qualities in a thing, therefore, there are infinite number of Saptbhangies. This theory is compared with the Keval Jñana and taken as exactly like it.

Exactly in the same way Einstein also explains his theory of relativity. According to both, Truth is only relative and there is no Absolute Truth. Einstein clearly said that all the definitions of Mathematics are wrong as they are not absolutely true but relatively true. Absolute truth is only a thing of Imagination. All our measurements are only relatively true.

In the end I must say that we must have a critical and compa­rative study of Syādvāda and the modern scientific theory of Relativity, though the latter is in its developmental stage while the Jain theory of Syādvāda is in its perfect stage. This study will bridge the gulf of Philosophy and Science by bringing them nearer to one another.


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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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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Einstein
  3. JAINA
  4. Jain Philosophy
  5. Jaina
  6. Kevali
  7. Mahavir
  8. Naya
  9. Nayas
  10. Paryāyārthika
  11. Paryāyārthika Naya
  12. Sabda Naya
  13. Sabda naya
  14. Saptabhaṅgī
  15. Science
  16. Space
  17. Syādvāda
  18. Syāt
  19. Vedic
  20. Vyavahāra Naya
  21. Ṛjusūtra Naya
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