We all have our friends who always think that “They are always Right!”
Are they always Right Or Just Partially Right?
Welcome to Jainism Basics, In our SaturdaySawal of 30 June 2018, we had asked: “What is Anekāntavāda?” to which we received amazing replies. Today we are going to explain the Concept of Anekāntavāda in detail, let’s begin!
Anekāntavāda (Sanskrit: अनेकान्तवाद, “many-sidedness”) refers to the Jain doctrine about metaphysical truths. It states that the ultimate truth and reality is complex and has multiple aspects. Anekantavada has also been interpreted to mean non-absolutism, “intellectual Ahimsa”, religious pluralism, as well as a rejection of fanaticism that leads to terror attacks and mass violence.
The principle of the Anekantavada is a very valuable contribution of Jainism to world thought. This principle teaches us how to realize the truth in its varied aspects.
According to Jainism, no single, specific statement can describe the nature of existence and the absolute truth. This knowledge (Kevala Gyana), it adds, is comprehended only by the Arihants. Other beings and their statements about absolute truth are incomplete, and at best a partial truth.
The origins of anekāntavāda can be traced back to the teachings of Bhagwan Mahavir, the 24th Jain Tīrthankara. The dialectical concepts of syādvāda “conditioned viewpoints” and nayavāda “partial viewpoints” arose from anekāntavāda in the medieval era, providing Jainism with more detailed logical structure and expression. The details of the doctrine emerged in Jainism in the 1st millennium CE, from debates between scholars of Jain, Buddhist and Hindu schools of philosophies.
The word anekāntavāda is a compound of two Sanskrit words: anekānta and vāda. The word anekānta itself is composed of three root words, “an” (not), “eka” (one) and “anta” (end, side), together it connotes “not one ended, sided”, “many-sidedness”, or “manifoldness”. The word vāda means “doctrine, way, speak, thesis”. The term anekāntavāda is translated by scholars as the doctrine of “many-sidedness”,non-onesidedness”, or “many pointedness”.
Bhagwan Mahavira has said that every substance has infinite attributes or qualities and different attributes may be seen from different angles. Just as a coin has two sides or a prism has many sides, similarly, every substance or situation has many aspects which could be seen from more than one side.
A man may be the son of a father and the father of a son or he may be someone’s brother or nephew or uncle or brother‑in‑law, or grandfather or grandson and so on. The town in which you stay is in the south for the people of the north and is in the north for the people of the south and so on.
The concept can be understood from the above image, whereby If someone is looking at the object from the orange side, he will see the orange rectangle shadow while if he looks from the Blue side, he will see the Circle blue shadow, so who is right? & who is wrong?
The answer would be: no one is fully right or fully wrong.
While The Actual Truth is something else altogether!
Therefore every substance or situation should be looked at from different angles in order to realize the truth underlying its different aspects.
It helps us to understand the viewpoints of others. If a person ignores various other angles or viewpoints of an object or situation and sticks to one particular angle or view‑point, he will never realize the truth in its varied aspects.
Thus, Anekantavada teaches us that the kingdom of truth can be reached in different ways. It also teaches us that we should not impose our own thoughts or views on others, but should try to reconcile with the thoughts or viewpoints of others.
This principle, therefore, if earnestly put into practice shows us how to remove our short‑sighted, selfish and partial outlook. It shows us how to remove discord and disharmony and establish concord and harmony in life, by being tolerant in our outlook and attitude towards others!
The principle of anekāntavāda was one of the ancient principles that influenced India’s Freedom fighter & Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi.
The principle of Anekantavada should be applied to every field of life. It show’s us how to respect the candid opinions of all free thinkers of the world, and, therefore, the roots of modern democracy could be traced in this Jain principle.
It establishes unity in diversity. It promises reconciliation of divergent or conflicting statements, thoughts, ideologies, systems, religions etc. The principle of Anekantavada, therefore, can be a great instrument to peaceful co‑existence and unity in the world.
The anekāntavāda premises of the Jains is ancient, as evidenced by its mention in Buddhist texts such as the Samaññaphala Sutta.
Syādvāda (predication logic) and Nayavāda (perspective epistemology) of Jainism expand on the concept of anekāntavāda. Syādvāda recommends the expression of anekānta by prefixing the epithet syād to every phrase or expression describing the nature of existence!
Syādvāda (Sanskrit: स्याद्वाद) is the theory of conditioned predication, the first part of which is derived from the Sanskrit word syāt (Sanskrit: स्यात्), which is the third person singular of the optative tense of the Sanskrit verb as (Sanskrit: अस्), ‘to be’, and which becomes syād when followed by a vowel or a voiced consonant, in accordance with sandhi.
According to Charitrapragya, in Jain context syadvada does not mean a doctrine of doubt or scepticism, rather it means “multiplicity or multiple possibilities”
Syādvāda is a theory of qualified predication, states Koller. It states that all knowledge claims must be qualified in many ways, because the reality is many-sided.It is done so systematically in later Jain texts through saptibhaṅgīnāya or “the theory of sevenfold scheme“.These saptibhaṅgī seem to be have been first formulated in Jainism by the 5th or 6th century CE Svetambara scholar Mallavadin, and they are:
- Affirmation: syād-asti—in some ways, it is,
- Denial: syād-nāsti—in some ways, it is not,
- Joint but successive affirmation and denial: syād-asti-nāsti—in some ways, it is, and it is not,
- Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable,
- Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable,
- Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable,
- Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable.
Each of these seven predicates states the Jain viewpoint of a multifaceted reality from the perspective of time, space, substance and mode.The phrase syāt declares the standpoint of expression – affirmation with regard to own substance (dravya), place (kṣetra), time (kāla), and being (bhāva), and negation with regard to other substance (dravya), place (kṣetra), time (kāla), and being (bhāva). Thus, for a ‘jar’, in regard to substance (dravya) – earthen, it simply is; wooden, it simply is not. In regard to place (kṣetra) – room, it simply is; terrace, it simply is not. In regard to time (kāla) – summer, it simply is; winter, it simply is not. In regard to being (bhāva) – brown, it simply is; white, it simply is not. And the word ‘simply’ has been inserted for the purpose of excluding a sense not approved by the ‘nuance’; for avoidance of a meaning not intended.
According to Samantabhadra‘s text Āptamīmāṁsā (Verse 105), “Syādvāda, the doctrine of conditional predictions, and kevalgyan (omniscience) are both illuminators of the substances of reality. The difference between the two is that while kevalajñāna illumines directly, syādvāda illumines indirectly”. Syadvada is indispensable and helps establish the truth, according to Samantabhadra!
Nayavāda (Sanskrit: नयवाद) is the theory of standpoints or viewpoints. Nayavāda is a compound of two Sanskrit words—naya (“standpoint, viewpoint, interpretation”) and vāda (“doctrine, thesis”).Nayas are philosophical perspective about a particular topic, and how to make proper conclusions about that topic.
According to Jainism, there are seven nayas or viewpoints through which one can make complete judgments about absolute reality using syadvada. These seven naya, according to Umaswati, are:
- Naigama-naya: common sense or a universal view
- Samgraha-naya: generic or class view that classifies it
- Vyavahara-naya: pragmatic or a particular view assesses its utility
- Rijusutra-naya: linear view considers it in present time
- Sabda-naya: verbal view that names it
- Samabhirudha-naya: etymological view uses the name and establishes it nature
- Evambhuta-naya: actuality view considers its concrete particulars
The naya theory emerged after about the 5th century CE, and underwent extensive development in Jainism. There are many variants of nayavada concept in later Jain texts.
A particular viewpoint is called a naya or a partial viewpoint. According to Vijay Jain, Nayavada does not deny the attributes, qualities, modes and other aspects; but qualifies them to be from a particular perspective. A naya reveals only a part of the totality, and should not be mistaken for the whole. A synthesis of different viewpoints is said to be achieved by the doctrine of conditional predications (syādvāda).
Are you Confused?
Just to explain in short, Anekantwada means everyone has their own perspectives of looking at the objects & situations. No one can be fully wrong or fully right. The maximum one can attain is Partial Truth as the capability to understand the Absolute Truth comes after attaining Kevalgyan like the Arihants & Tirthankars.
The concept of Anekantwada can be & should be applied in every field of life, before reacting to a situation we should always try to understand the opposite person’s point of view & then try to understand the True Truth, as solving a problem doesn’t need Who is right it needs What is Right?
The Concept of Anekantwada is expanded by Syādvāda ( theory of conditioned predication) & Nayavāda (“standpoint, viewpoint, interpretation)
To understand a situation both Nayavāda as well as Syādvāda are used together, if you go above & read them and try to understand once again & try to compare it with your daily life, you will realize sometimes you have used both Nayavāda as well as Syādvāda unknowingly!
It is truly said by John Koller, Referring to the September 11 attacks, John Koller states that the threat to life from religious violence in modern society mainly exists due to faulty epistemology and metaphysics as well as faulty ethics. A failure to respect the life of other human beings and other life forms, states Koller, is “rooted in dogmatic but mistaken knowledge claims that fail to recognize other legitimate perspectives”. Koller states that anekāntavāda is a Jain doctrine that each side commit to accepting truths of multiple perspectives, dialogue and negotiations.
Start applying the Powerful principle of Anekāntavāda in your daily life, to your amazement, half of your daily issues will get solved automatically!