Jain Philosophy (2) 25 – Anekäntaväda II – Pramäna, Naya and Syädväda

Jain Philosophy (2) 25 – Anekäntaväda II – Pramäna, Naya and Syädväda

Chapter 25 – Anekäntaväda II – Pramäna, Naya and Syädväda


Logic broadly means the study of the structure and principles of reasoning or of sound arguments.  In the west, it also includes certain other meanings all related to different meanings of a Greek word “logos”. Logic is of prime importance in Indian philosophy, to both philosophy and religion.  The knowledge of logic is a must for one who wants to understand a religion and its philosophy.

It has been held by almost all systems of Indian Philosophy that no liberation is possible without knowledge and conduct. Thus the theory of knowledge, which includes its conception, sources and classification, becomes an independent branch of philosophy. Some scholars consider ‘logic’ a part of epistemology also. Whatever the case may be, its importance and history both are recognized since the ancient period.

Jain logic is not only as the lump of all sciences but also helpful for practical affairs and the sustaining principles of religion (Dharma).  After all, logic is not an end in itself but a means for the ideal life.

The history of Jain logic and Jain epistemology goes as far back as its canonical literature. We find the doctrines and the discussions as well as reasoning on the doctrines even in the philosophical works by Umäsväti and Kunda_Kundächärya. The Nyäyävatära” by Shri Siddhasen Diwäkar, as far as we know, is the earliest manual on logic composed for the benefit and training of Jain authors who till his time studied Nyäya possibly from other sources available to them. Shvetämbar Ächärya Siddhasen Diwäkar has been accepted as ‘the first Jain writer on pure logic’. During the period between 5th and 16th century some noteworthy Jain logicians, from Siddhasen to Yashovijayaji are Mallavädi, Haribhadra, Akalank, Virsen, Vidyänandi, Devasuri, Hemchandra_ächärya, and Yashovijayaji.

Aim and Subject matter of Jain Logic

We can say that the chief aim is to understand the scriptures and the doctrine, which again is not possible without the correct knowledge of Pramänas (total view knowledge) and Nayas, (partial viewpoint knowledge). The subject matter of Jain logic includes all such topics resulting from Jain theory of knowledge and reality.  Apart from the Pramänas as sources for knowledge, the ‘Naya_väda’ and ‘Sapta_bhanga_väda’, the ‘Dravyästika’ and ‘Paryäyästika’ views, and the enumeration and classification of Naya are some of the quite interesting topics included in Jain logic.

Pramänas Valid knowledge in Jain philosophy is divided into two modes: Pramäna and Naya. Pramäna is knowledge of a thing as it is, and Naya is knowledge of a thing in its relation. Naya means a standpoint of thought from which we make a statement about a thing. Siddhasen Diwäkar in Nyäyävatära writes, “Since things have many characters, they are the object of all sided knowledge (omniscience); but a thing conceived from one particular point of view is the object of Naya (or one_sided knowledge).’’It may be noted here that Naya is a part of Pramäna because it gives us valid knowledge of its object.  Naya being a particular standpoint determines only a part of its object. A Naya can also be defined as a particular intention or viewpoint – a viewpoint which does not rule out other different viewpoints and is thereby expressive of a partial truth about an object as entertained by a knowing agent or speaker. Nayas do not interfere with one another or enter into conflict with one another.  They do not contradict one another. They uphold their own objects without rejecting others’ objects.

Naya becomes pseudo Naya, when it denies all standpoints, contradicts them, excludes them absolutely and puts forward its partial truth as the whole truth.

According to The Jain logic, Naya becomes a form of false knowledge as it determines the knowledge not of an object but part of an object.  They say that false knowledge is knowledge about something which is not a real object or in conformity to what it is, ‘the part of an object and not non_object. The knowledge of an object determined by Naya is valid knowledge from that point of view.  It does yield certain valid knowledge about part of the object.

The Pramäna kind of knowledge comprises all the aspects of a substance. Pramäna includes every aspect; and not as understood from any one aspect. Pramäna is of two kinds

  • Pratyaksha (direct)
  • Paroksha (indirect)

Pratyaksha Jnän (direct knowledge)

Direct knowledge is that which is obtained by the soul without the help of external means. The Pratyaksha Jnän is of three kinds, namely Avadhi_jnän, Manah_Paryäya Jnän and Keval – jnän.

Paroksha_jnän (indirect knowledge)

Indirect knowledge is that which is obtained by the soul by means of such things as the five senses and the mind. Paroksha Jnän is classified into Mati_jnän and Shruta_jnän.

Thus, there are total five kinds of Pramäna: (1) Mati_jnän (2) Shruta_jnän (3) Avadhi_jnän (4) Manah_paryäya jnän (5) Keval_jnän.

Pratyaksha Pramäna (Direct Knowledge)

The soul’s knowledge of substance is pure.  The soul’s involvement is direct in obtaining this type of knowledge. It can be of 2 types.

  • Direct or Practical (Sämvyavahärik Pratyaksha Pramäna)
  • Transcendental (Päramärthika Pratyaksha Pramäna)

Direct Knowledge in a conventional sense (Sämvyavahärik Pratyaksha Pramäna)

The knowledge obtained by the soul through sensory (Mati_jnän) knowledge and articulate (Shruta_jnän) knowledge, is called indirect knowledge for two reasons: 1) There is a need for the senses’ and mind’s involvement and 2) The knowledge is impure because the knowledge obtained from senses and mind usually is for others and not for the soul. However, when the soul obtains right faith (Samyag Darshan), at that time, the sensory knowledge and articulate knowledge are used for the knowledge of the self.  Therefore, this is called direct knowledge in a conventional sense. Here the knowledge is partially true (Ekadesha Spasta).

Transcendental knowledge (Päramärthika Pratyaksha Pramäna)

When the soul obtains direct knowledge without the help of any external means (like senses and mind), then it is called transcendental knowledge.

  • Partial knowledge (Vikal Päramärthika) – when the soul obtains direct knowledge of a formed substance, it is called partial knowledge.

Clairvoyance (Avadhi_jnän) –

Clairvoyance refers to knowledge of things that are out of the range of senses. Here the soul can perceive knowledge of a substance with a form (Rupi Padärtha), which exists at great distance or time.  In celestial and infernal souls, this knowledge is present since birth. In human and animal, this knowledge can be obtained as a result of spiritual endeavors.

Telepathy (Manah_paryäya_jnän) –

In this type of knowledge, the human soul has a capacity to comprehend others’ thoughts.  Great saints who have achieved a high level of spiritual progress can posses this knowledge.

  • Omni perception and Omniscience (Sakal Päramärthika)

Omniscient Bhagawän having Keval_jnän (Sakal Päramärthika) knows about all substances in the universe, and all of their modes of past, present and future at a given time.  When a soul in his quest for purity destroys all four destructive (Ghäti) karma at the 13th stage of the spiritual ladder, it obtains this knowledge. This is perfect knowledge and stays with the soul forever.

About ‘Keval_jnän’, Dr. Rädhäkrishnan writes: “It is omniscience unlimited by space, time or object. To the perfect consciousness, the whole reality is obvious. This knowledge, which is independent of the senses and which can only be felt and not described, is possible only for purified souls free from bondage.’’

Indirect perceptions (Paroksha Pramäna)

The knowledge that is impure, of others, and not of the self is called indirect perception. Here we take the help of external means like the five senses and the mind.

Sensory knowledge (Mati_jnän)

This knowledge is gained through the senses and/or mind. Reflection on what has been perceived, reasoning, questioning, searching, understanding, and judging are the varieties of sensory knowledge. It can also be classified as remembrance, recognition, induction, and deduction.

  • Remembrance (Smaran)
  • Recognition (Pratyabhijna)
  • Induction (Tarka)
  • Deduction (Anumäna)

Scripture knowledge (Shruta_jnän) –

This knowledge refers to conceptualization through language. It is obtained by studying the scriptures and listening to the discourses.  Scripture knowledge (Ägam Knowledge) consists of comprehension of meaning of words that are heard or derived from the senses and the mind.  This knowledge is authoritative.

Pramäna (Valid Knowlege) – Summary

Pramäna is capable of making us accept the agreeable things and discard the disagreeable ones; it is but knowledge. The object of valid knowledge according to Jains is always a unity of a number of aspects or characteristic, such as general and the particular, the existent and the nonexistent, etc.

Valid knowledge or ‘pure knowledge’ is the total or partial destruction of ignorance. The fruit of Pramäna is of two sorts: direct and indirect.  Direct fruit of all Pramäna is the annihilation of ignorance.  As regards the indirect fruit of pure knowledge is indifference. It is also said that, the immediate effect of Pramäna is the removal of ignorance; the mediate effect of absolute knowledge is bliss and equanimity, while that of ordinary practical knowledge is the facility to select or reject.

The subject of all forms of valid knowledge is the self, as known by direct knowledge. The spirit (soul or Jiva) is the knower, doer and enjoyer, illumines self and others, undergoes changes of condition, is realized only in self consciousness, and is different from the earth, etc. The soul, as described in Jainism, is permanent but undergoes changes of condition.

With reference to theistic approaches, Jainism believes in soul and its liberation. Moreover, it accepts and agrees to the fact that no liberation is possible without the true knowledge of reality; and logic or Pramäna is the aid to such knowledge.  What is theistic behind the logic is its use and purpose. This is neither an intellectual exercise nor a game of arguments to refute, but to know and sharpen understanding for spiritual progress.

On account of its knowledge, the soul is different from inert substances. As the cover over it goes on decreasing, its knowledge goes on increasing and showing itself. Like a mirror that reflects everything, the soul can know anything that can be known. If there is no cover at all, it is natural that it can know all things. It is illogical to say that we can know only up to this extent, not more than this.  Therefore, a Keval_jnäni knows everything directly.

Only he who possesses this kind of knowledge can expound sound doctrines and only he is the supreme spiritual well_wisher.  After that, even those who act according to his commands are well – wishers. For great Ganadhars, Ägams are the Pramänas, source of true knowledge.

Jainism asserts that knowledge attained is the knowledge of real objects. What is known is not all aspects of the reality of an object, but only one or some. In Jainism, knowledge depends on experience and experience is always partial, in the sense that reality in totality is never revealed. Under the circumstance, whatever is known is known in relation to a standpoint and therefore “absolution is to be surrendered.’’ This is the root of Naya_väda and Syädväda.


The term Anekäntaväda consists of three terms: ‘Aneka’, ‘Anta’, and ‘Väda’, The term ‘Aneka’, means ‘many or more than one’, ‘Anta’ means ‘aspects’ or ‘attributes’ and ‘Väda’ means ‘ism’ or ‘theory’.  In its simple sense, it is a philosophy or a doctrine of manifold aspects. It has been variously described and translated by modern scholars.  Prof. S.  N. Dasgupta expresses it as ‘relative pluralism’ against ‘extreme absolutism.’ Dr.  Chandradhar Sharma translates it as ‘‘doctrine of manyness of reality’’.  Dr.  Satkari Mookerjee expresses it as a doctrine of ‘non_absolutism’. This is also expressed as a theory of ‘conditional predication’ or ‘‘theory of relativity of propositions.’’ Since the doctrine of ‘Anekäntaväda’ is opposed to absolutism or monism (Ekänta_väda), we would prefer a phrase ‘‘doctrine of non_absolutism’’ to convey the meaning of Anekäntaväda. The doctrine of Anekäntaväda can be subdivided in two categories:

  • Naya_väda relates to thoughts and analysis
  • Syädväda relates to speech

What we know by the analytical process of Naya_väda, we express by the synthesis of Syädväda and the base of both is knowledge.  According to the Jains, in order to have a complete and comprehensive judgment of reality one has to take into account the main substance that has the element of permanence undergoes changes in various forms. In this process of change, the previous form dies away and a new form comes into existence.  The birth of the new form is called Utpäd (emergence), the death of the old form is called Vyaya (disappearance) and the substance, which remains constant during this process of birth and death, is called Dhrauvya (Permanence). When one is able to comprehend all these three, one can arrive at a proper judgment about the thing in question.  When the self takes the form of a human being, you can know it as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’.  When it takes a form of vegetable, you can describe it as ‘grass’.  All these descriptions are true from the standpoint of the forms that the self has assumed.  Therefore, when we recognize a thing from the point of view of the modification or change, it is called ‘Paryäyärthika Naya’. Paryäya means modification, change. However, when we recognize that thing from the point of view of substance, it is called Dravyärthika Naya. In the former mode is predominant and substance subordinate, in the latter substance predominant and mode subordinate. The former considers changing aspect of reality while the latter considers its permanent aspect.

The greatest contribution that the Jains have made to the world of thought is by their theories of Naya_väda and Syädväda. The word ‘Syäd’ in Sanskrit means ‘perhaps’ but in Jainism it is used to show the relativity of a judgment and the word ‘Naya’ means ‘Standpoint’. Truth or reality is always complex and has many aspects.  If one is impressed by one of the aspects of a complex reality and begins to identify the reality, only by that aspect, he is bound to make a wrong judgment about reality. Therefore, the Jain seers exhort us to look at the complexities of life and knowledge from every standpoint and from positive as well as negative aspects. They recognize that the comprehension (view) of an ordinary human being is partial and hence valid only from a particular point of view, which cannot give a correct or even a nearly correct comprehension of the whole.  The complex reality has not only an infinite number of qualities but also an infinite number of relations. Again, it may be looked at differently by different people and under their different circumstances. It assumes different forms and appearances for which due allowance ought to be made. All this makes it difficult to form a correct judgment about it unless a systematic and logical method is found to identify it.  This method is called Naya_väda. As Dr. S. Rädhäkrishnan observes:

“The doctrine of Nayas of Standpoint is a peculiar feature of Jain logic. A Naya is a standpoint from which we make a statement about a thing.  What is true from one standpoint may not be true from another. Particular aspects are never adequate to the whole reality. The relative solutions are abstractions under which reality may be regarded, but do not give us a full and sufficient account of it.  Jainism has a basic and fundamental principle that truth is relative to our standpoint.”

Thus ‘Naya’ can be defined as a particular viewpoint; a viewpoint which gives only a partial idea about an object or view which cannot overrule the existence of another or even a contrary view about the same object. If an object or theory is judged only from one standpoint, the judgment is one sided and it is termed as ‘Ekänta’.  ‘Eka’ means ‘one’ and ‘Anta’ means ‘end’. Thus, Ekänta means one_sidedness. The Jains therefore ask us to judge from all aspects, which is called ‘Anekänta’.  This is the basic principle of Jain philosophy.  Every fundamental principle of Jain philosophy is based on Anekänta.  Throughout its approach, Anekänta has been to accept the different aspects or even contradictory aspects of reality and to evolve a synthesis between the contradictory philosophical theories.

A Jain seer would say, both are correct from the standpoint from which they look at the problem, but both make their statements, which do not conform to the principle of Anekänta and hence do not give a correct judgment of reality.  Jains say that changes are as real as the original substance.  A jug made of a clay substance cannot be used as anything except as a jug and since the use is real, the form of a jug which clay has assumed cannot be unreal. If the clay substance assumes some other form of an earthen vessel meant for cooking, that vessel could not be used as a jug even though the clay substance remains same. If this is so, how can we say that the form the substance assumes at a particular time is unreal and only the substance is real? The substance of clay appears to be the only real thing to those who concentrate on substance and ignore the form. It is not correct to say that because there is a change in the form, the changing form is unreal.  If it is real even for a moment, its reality must be accepted and recognized.  If a comprehensive view of the whole reality is to be a comprehensive perception of a thing, it is possible only when its permanent substance (Dravya) is taken into account along with its existing mode (Paryäya).  As Ächärya Siddhasen states “we can understand a thing properly by perceiving its various aspects.”

Classification of Nayas

Jain philosophers have given broad classifications of different aspects (Nayas) through which we can perceive a thing. Naya can be classified as the following 2 types.

Absolute point of view (Nishchaya Naya)

Here one takes a substance and picks up one of its attributes (Guna) and analyzes one part of its attribute. This is called absolute point of view, e.g.  to call a clay pot as a clay as it is made of clay. Here clay is a substance and one of its attributes is represented in the form of a pot. The standpoint that concentrates on the original pure nature of a thing is called Nishchaya Naya. It implies the real or the ultimate meaning or interpretation of an object.

Practical points of view (Vyavahär Naya)

The substance and its attributes are interdependent and can never be separated. To consider them as separate is called the practical point of view.  For example, to know is an attribute of the soul. In addition, to consider knowledge in a separate way from the soul is called practical point of view.  In the practical point of view, one takes into account the association of a substance with another substance. Even though it is not right to know a substance this way, day_to_day activities become somewhat easier.  E.g.  we use clay pot to hold water, so now we call this pot a water pot.  Here the pot is not made of water, but clay.  However, because of water’s association with the pot, we call it a water pot.  The right way of telling will be that this is a pot made of clay, and we use it to store water. This absolute way of saying a sentence takes a long time and not practical.  That is why we call it a water pot.  It conveys the meaning. The day_to_day activities become easier thereafter. Even though the soul and body are separate, we use the word interchangeably. We do indicate the body as living because of the association of the soul and body.

From Nishchaya Naya or absolute stand point, a soul is independent, self existed and uncontaminated by matter. From Vyavahär stand point it can be called impure as soul is bound with Karma leading to the cycle of birth and death.  Such classification of Naya or standpoints enables identification or distinction of objects or theories according to particular class of Naya.

Classification of Naya:

Naigama Naya                 Generic and Specific view or teleological view

Sangrah Naya                 Collective

Vyavahär Naya                Practical view

Rujusutra Naya                Linear view

Shabda Naya                   Literal view

Samabhirudha Naya        Etymological view

Evambhuta Naya             Determinant view.

There are hundreds of sub classifications of these seven Nayas but without going in details, we shall presently discuss the bare outlines of these seven Nayas. Before doing so, it may be noted that first three Nayas are with reference to the identification of the main substance called ‘Dravya’ and hence are known as ‘Dravyärthika Nayas’.  The remaining four refer to the standpoints, which identify the modes of the main substance and hence are known as ‘Paryäyärthika Nayas’.

Dravyärthika Nayas (Substantial Point of View)

Dravyärthika Naya means the standpoint that concentrates on a substance (the generic and permanent aspect). Dravyärthika Naya (substantial standpoint) considers all things to be permanent or eternal. For example, it states that a pot qua substance clay is permanent or eternal.  In this point of view one considers the substance as a whole and gives its modes subsidiary status. E.g. while talking about the soul, one will consider the soul as immortal, was never created, nor will it ever be destroyed. On the other hand, Paryäyärthika Naya regards all things as impermanent, because they undergo changes (transformations). Hence it declares that all things are non_eternal or momentary from the standpoint of modes or changes. The standpoint that grasps the generic aspect is Dravyärthika Naya. And the standpoint that grasps the specific aspect is Paryäyärthika Naya.

This can be subdivided as follows

Naigama             Generic Or Specific Or Teleological

Sangrah              Collective Generic

Vyavahär            Practical

Paryäyärthika Nayas (Modification Point of View)

Modification point of view (Paryäyärthika Naya) Paryäyärthika Naya regards all things as impermanent, because they undergo changes (transformations). Hence it declares that all things are non_eternal or momentary from the standpoint of modes or changes. In this point of view one considers modes of a substance as a primary subject.  The substantial consideration becomes secondary.  One considers a substance with origination and perishing of its modes, e.g. while talking about soul, one will consider ever_changing modes of soul. One will consider the four realms (Gati) of existence, birth, growth, decay, death of a living being, etc. This can be subdivided as follows 

Rujusutra                         Linear Point of View

Shabda                            Literal Or Verbal

Samabhirudha                 Etymological

Evambhuta                      Determinant Point

Dravyärthika Nayas:

  1. Naigama Naya (Generic)

The etymological meaning of the word Naigama is the end product or result. Tattvärtha_sära gives an illustration of a person who carries water, rice and fuel and who, when asked what he was doing, says he is cooking.  This reply is given in view of the result, which he intends to achieve though at the exact time when the question is put to him he is not actually cooking. His reply is correct from the point of view of Naigama Naya, though technically it is not exactly correct because he is not actually cooking at the time when he replies. The general purpose, for which we work, controls the total series of our activities.  If someone passes his judgment on the basis

of that general purpose, he asserts Naigama Naya, i.e., the teleological viewpoint. These empirical views probably proceed on the assumption that a thing possesses the most general as well as the most special qualities and hence we may lay stress on any one of these at any time and ignore the other ones. It overlooks the distinction between the remote and the immediate, noting one or the other as if it were the whole, depending upon the intention of the observer.

A man has decided to perform an act of theft.  The religious works regard him as defiled by the sin of theft, though he has actually not performed the act of theft. The standpoint adopted by the religious works is that the act, which is sought to be undertaken, is as good as being accomplished. This is also an instance of Sankalpi – Naigama.

  1. Sangrah Naya (Collective point of view)

We get this Naya (viewpoint) when we put main emphasis on some general class characteristics of a particular thing ignoring altogether the specific characteristics of that class. Such a view is only partially correct but does not give the idea of the whole and it ignores the specific characteristics of that thing.

In the collective point of view, the knowledge of an object is in its ordinary or common form. The special qualities of the object are not taken into account.  E.g. there were 500 people in the hall. Here we are now considering only general qualities like people and not considering like how many were men, women, children, old, young, etc.

One considers the general attributes of a substance like a substance has existence and eternality.  Now these attributes are common to all six universal substances. Here we are considering the general attributes of a substance and ignoring the specific attributes of each substance.  Concentrating on a common quality, viz., consciousness that is found in all souls, one can say that all souls are equal.

Its scope is more limited than Naigama Naya.

  1. Vyavahär Naya (Practical):

If we look at a thing from this standpoint, we try to judge it from its specific properties ignoring the generic qualities, which are mainly responsible for giving birth to the specific qualities. This amounts to the assertion of empirical at the cost of universal and gives importance to practical experience in life.

This point of view sees an object in its special form rather than the common form. The special attributes of an object are taken into consideration.  The practical view, concentrates on the function of a thing or being. It is analytic in approach and often uses metaphors to explain the nature of things.

On the basis of the collective point of view, and after describing things in a collective form, it is necessary to find out their special characteristics.  For example, when we utter the word “medicine” it includes all branches of medicine but when one says allopathic, osteopathic, naturopathic, homeopathic, etc.  then we can understand its specialty. This can be further divided by its name, patent, quality, uses, etc.  These divisions are examples of a distributive point of view and have a tendency towards greater exactitude.

With understanding of Naigama Naya we should recognize the potentiality of achieving liberation by all souls.  As all souls are capable of liberation, we should appreciate that potentiality in all souls. And we show our respect and humbleness to all living beings. When we act accordingly with all, this becomes Vyavahär Naya.  Many times we act in accordance to Paryäya, however if we realize to Dravya we can reduce our internal and external conflicts.

Paryäyärthika Nayas

  1. Rujusutra Naya (Linear point of view.)

It is still narrower than Vyavahär in its outlook, because it does not emphasize all the specific qualities but only those specific qualities, which appear in a thing at a particular moment, ignoring their existent specific qualities of the past and the future.  The past and future modes of a thing are not real as they have served or will serve their purpose and do not exist at the moment.

The approach of the Buddhists is of this type.  To ignore the specific qualities of the past and future and to emphasize only continuing characteristics of Reality is the fallacy involved here.

In this point of view, one considers ideas like reality, etc.  as the direct grasp of here and now, ignoring the past and future. It considers only the    esent mode of a thing. Ruju means simple, sutra means knowledge. Suppose a man was a king and he is not a king now, thus his past is of no use in a linear point of view.  Similarly, a person will be a king in the future, but is meaningless in a linear point of view. Only the present mode is recognized in a linear point of view making the identification easier and scope narrower.

          5. Shabda Naya (Literal point of view)

The Verbalistic approach is called as Shabda Naya.  This standpoint maintains that synonymous words convey the same meaning or thing, provided they are not different in tense, case ending, gender, number, etc. In other words, it states that two synonymous words can never convey the same thing if they have different tenses, case endings, genders, and numbers. So it is not appropriate to use words in different genders, number etc. to refer to the same object or event.

The literal point of view uses words at their exact face value to signify the real nature of things. Each word has a very particular meaning.  In the literal view, even changing the gender, numbers, words ending or tense of a word is thought to change its meaning and therefore to change the object to which it refers.  Therefore, it is not appropriate to use words in different genders, numbers, etc. to refer to the same object or event. E.g.  the words pot and pitcher signifies same meaning, but in the following sentence, the meaning gets changed, “why did you bring a pot?  I only want a pitcher”.

  1. Samabhirudha Naya (Etymological point of view)

It is different from Shabda Naya because it concentrates on the etymological distinction between the synonyms. If carried to the fallacious extent this standpoint may destroy the original identity pointed to by synonyms. It discards the conventional use of a word in favor of the meaning derived from its root. The etymological view asserts that, because the roots of synonyms are different, they are not actually “synonyms” in the sense of words that mean the same as each other.

A group of words may basically mean the same things but as individual words, they represent a special condition, e.g. hut and palace are places to live.  However, poor people live in a hut and king lives in a palace, in an etymological (word historical or derivation) point of view, it represents a specific quality or grammatical property of a word.

  1. Evambhuta Naya (Determinant point of view)

This Naya recognizes only that word which indicates the actual action presently attributed to the individual.  In other words, among synonyms only that word should be selected which has a correlation with the action referred to.

In this point of view, the word or sentence, which further determines its characteristic property in its present state, is used. It recognizes only the action implied by the root meaning of a word. To be real, the object must satisfy the activity meant by the word. A word should be used to denote the actual meaning. e. g.  the word thief is to be used only when a person is caught stealing and not because a person is a known thief.  It represents a strict application of a word or statement.

Partial truth of Individual Naya:

As already noted, the purpose of pointing out to this detailed classification of Nayas is to show how differently, different individuals can view the same object. However, these different aspects are only partially true and since they are only partially true, they are not capable of being wholly true. They, however, cannot be rejected as wholly untrue also. These different aspects can be illustrated by the reactions of some blind people who were asked to go to an elephant and give its description after touching and feeling it.  One who touched its legs described it like a pillar, one who touched the tail described it like a rope and so on.  Each one was right from his own standpoint because he could experience only a particular limb of the elephant and not the whole elephant.  Each one of them was, however, wrong because his description did not conform to the reality, which the elephant possessed.  Only one who could see the whole could comprehend this reality.

Utility of Naya Theory

The analysis of Naya shows that every judgment is relative to that particular aspect from which it is seen or known. This is also called Säpeksha_väda that means relativity of our particular knowledge or judgment to a particular standpoint. Since human judgments are always from particular standpoints, they are all relative and hence not absolutely true or absolutely false.  Their outright acceptance as a sole truth or rejection as totally false would not be correct. This led the Jain seers to their famous doctrine of ‘Syädväda’, which means the doctrine of relativity.

Naya_väda reveals a technique to arrive at such an understanding. It teaches us that truth is revealed to us only partially if viewed from a particular aspect. Even if one finds that a proposition is quite contrary to the conviction he had for the whole life and hence the cause of great irritation to him, once he applies the principles of Naya_väda his irritation begins to subside. The simple reason being is that he begins to realize the real cause for that contrary proposition.

Syädväda or Sapta_bhanga (Seven Predications)

Let us now understand what the theory of non_absolutism is as the Jain theory of reality from its metaphysical point of view. The Jain approach to ultimate reality can be expressed in two words: realistic and relativistic. The universe is full of innumerable material atoms and innumerable individual souls. They are separately and independently real. Again, each thing and each soul possesses innumerable aspects of its own.  A thing has got an infinite number of characteristics of its own.  Thus, according to the metaphysical presupposition of Jainism, a thing exists with infinite characters.

The theory of Anekäntaväda is the metaphysical theory of reality.  Jainism brings out another aspect of reality and that is its relativistic pluralism.  While Anekäntaväda explains reality metaphysically, Syädväda explains it epistemologically (dealing with knowledge). Both are two aspects of the same reality. We have already seen how human knowledge is relative and limited which ultimately makes all our judgments relatively or partially true, and not absolute. Syädväda is also called Sapta_bhangi Naya (sevenfold judgment).  Syädväda is known as the theory of relativity of propositions or theory of relativity of judgments. Some critics call it the theory of relativity of knowledge. We can say that Syädväda is the epistemological explanation of reality; Sapta_bhangi Naya is the method or the dialectic of the theory of sevenfold judgment. It is the logical side of the theory.

‘‘The doctrine of Syädväda holds that since a thing is full of most contrary characteristics of infinite variety, the affirmation made is only from a particular standpoint or point of view and therefore it may be correct or true.  However, the same assertion may be wrong or false from some other standpoint or point of view.  Thus, the assertion made cannot be regarded as absolute.  All affirmations in some sense are true and in some sense are false. Similarly, all assertions are indefinite and true in some sense as well as indefinite and false in some other sense.  Assertions could be true, or false or indefinite. Thus, Jainism proposes to grant the non_absolute nature of reality and relativistic pluralism of the object of knowledge by using the word ‘Syät’ (or Syäd) before the assertion or Judgment.

The word ‘Syät’ literally means ‘may be.’ It is also translated as ‘perhaps’, ‘some how’, ‘relatively’ or ‘in a certain sense’. The word ‘Syät’ or its equivalent in English used before the assertion makes the proposition true but only under certain conditions i.e. hypothetically.  What is to be noted is that the word ‘Syät’ is not used in the sense of probability leading to uncertainty. Probability again hints at skepticism and Jainism is not skepticism. Since reality has infinite aspects, our judgments are bound to be conditional.  Thus, Syädväda is the theory of relativity of knowledge.  The Jains quoted quite a good number of parables, which are conventionally used by Jain writers to explain the theory.  The most famous one for the grip over the core of the theory is the famous parable of six blind men who happened to come across an elephant. Each one was sure and asserting about his own description alone being correct.  However, each one was correct from his point of view though contrary to each other. Thus the Jains hold that no affirmation or judgment is absolute in its nature, each is true in its own limited sense only. The affirmations will tell either about the existence, or non_existence, or about the inexpressible.  Combining these three will give four more alternatives.  So, we derive the seven alternatives technically known as Sapta_bhanga Naya or the sevenfold Judgments.

Theory of Seven Predications (Sapta_bhanga)

To clarify the above approach of ascertaining the truth by the process of Syädväda, the Jain philosophers have evolved a formula of seven predications, which are known as Sapta_bhanga.  ‘Sapta’ means ‘seven’ and ‘Bhanga’ means ‘mode’. These seven modes of ascertaining the truth are able to be exact in explo ring all possibilities and aspects.  For any proposition, there are three main modes of assessment, namely, (1) A positive assertion (Asti), (2) A negative assertion (Nästi), (3) Not describable or expressible (Avaktavya).  However, for greater clarity four more permutations of these three are added as under: ‘Asti_nästi’, ‘Asti_avaktavya’, ‘Nästi_avaktavya’ and ‘Asti_nästi_avaktavya’. The word ‘Syät’ is prefixed to each of these seven predications to prevent the proposition from being absolute.

All these seven predications are explained with reference to an ethical proposition that ‘It is sin to commit violence’. With regard to this proposition, the seven predications noted above can be made as under:

Asti                       It is sin to commit violence with an intention to commit the same

Nästi                     It is not a sin to commit violence on an aggressor who molests an innocent and helpless woman

Asti_nästi             It is sin to commit violence in breach of moral and social laws, but it is not a sin if violence is required to be committed in performance of moral or social duties

Avaktavya           It is not possible to say whether violence is a sin or virtue without knowing the circumstances under which it is required to be committed

Asti_avaktavya    Indeed violence is sinful under certain circumstances, but no positive statement of this type can be made for all times and under all circumstances.

Nästi_avaktavya  Violence is not indeed sinful under certain circumstances, but no positive statement of this type can be made for all times and under all circumstances

Asti_nästi_avak tavya Violence is sinful, but there are circumstances where it is not so. In fact no statement in affirmation or negation can be made for all times and all circumstances

All these seven modes can be expressed with regard to every proposition. The Jain philosophers have applied them with reference to self, its eternality, non_eternality, identity and character. In fact, this approach of Anekänta permeates almost every doctrine, which is basic to Jain philosophy.  S. Gopalan quotes Eliot in this connection as saying:

“The essence of the doctrine (of Syädväda) so far as one can disentangle it from scholastic terminology, seems just for it amounts to this, that as to matters of experience it is impossible to formulate the whole and the complete truth, and as to matters which transcend experience, language is inadequate.”

At no time in the history of mankind, this principle of Syädväda was more necessary than in the present.

This is the general view of the method of the Jain dialectic. Only this type of dialectical method can represent Syädväda. The theory of sevenfold predication is treated as synonymous with Syädväda owing to the fact that the number of possible or alternative truths under the conditional method of Syädväda are seven only.’’

Syädväda: Critical Evaluation

Jains admit that a thing cannot have self contrary attributes at the same time and at the same place.  What Jainism emphasizes is the manyness and manifoldness of a thing or the complex nature of reality.  Dr. Rädhäkrishnan says, “Since reality is multiform and ever_changing, nothing can be considered to exist everywhere and at all times and in all ways and places and it is impossible to pledge us to an inflexible creed.”

Through Anekäntaväda, and thus through Naya_väda and Syädväda, Jains bring a solution to the age_old controversy between the absolutism and nihilism or between the one and the many orA. N. Upadhhye writes that Syädväda and Naya_väda has supplied the philosopher the catholicity of thought. It also convinces one that Truth is not anybody’s monopoly with tariff walls of denominational religion while furnishing the religious aspirant with the virtue of intellectual toleration.  This is the part of that Ahimsa which is one of the fundamental tenets of Jainism.’’ Lastly, in the words of Dr. Y.J. Padmarajiah, ‘‘Anekäntaväda is the heart of Jain metaphysics and Naya_väda and Syädväda (or Sapta_bhangi) are its main arteries.  To use a happier metaphor: the bird of Anekäntaväda flies on its wings of Naya_väda and Syädväda.’’ the real and the unreal.

Theistic Implication of Syädväda

Thus, the spirit to understand the other and other’s standpoint and to learn to tolerate the conflicting or contrary situation helps a lot towards the higher development of right conduct. It broadens the mind and makes a person quite objective and open in his thinking. Such a person, like Jain monks, reads extensively the treatises of other schools.  It proves to be good training ‘‘to identify extreme views and to apply the proper corrections.” Thus, here also, we find Syädväda a great help towards right knowledge and right conduct.  Syädväda, by molding a person towards better conduct and higher knowledge, proves to be of great theistic significance.

One of the aims of life is to make the earth a better and worthier world. Syädväda in spite of its dry dialectic and forbidding use of logic is not without a lesson for the practical human beings of the world.

Pundit Dalsukhbhai Malvania, an authority on Jainism, in one of his essays on Anekäntaväda explains that the motto of Anekäntaväda is Ahimsa and that is the prime reason that Jain philosophy is based on Anekäntaväda.  The very idea of not to hurt others but to be kind and sympathetic towards others’ views and thus to be friendly is the logical outcome of Ahimsa. Ahimsa in its positive concept becomes love and compassion. A perfect theism, not in its narrow rigid sense, but in the sense where broad religiousness, deep spirituality and high knowledge are thought of for the soul’s ultimate liberation from bondage, require Syädväda as its valid approach to have an objective vision of truth, to be tolerant, to be sympathetic and to have an attitude of impartiality. Without all these, no theism in its actual practice is possible. Syädväda shapes a personality into a theistic one.

Moreover, subjective attitude and past recollections towards the same or similar objects play a decisive role in judgment.  At the same time prejudices and predilections, social upbringing, environmental necessities and politico_social taboos also play a very decisive role in a judgment about an idea.

In fact, every object and every idea has infinite characteristics and is required to be judged from a variety of standpoints. What should be our reaction towards a thing if we are convinced that everything in this universe has infinite characteristics and with limited knowledge, a human being is not capable of determining all these characteristics?  Certainly, if our approach were objective and unbiased, we would not rush to take an absolute view of that thing or thought by keeping in mind the limitations of our knowledge.  Our judgment based on limited data is likely to be wrong. We would, however, not have actual perception.  Therefore, in our prudence, we would say that the judgment formed about actually perceived things is ‘likely’ to be true. While saying so, we would not rule out the possibility that it may turn out to be untrue if looked at from any other perspective.  This is the approach of Syädväda, which implies that each and all knowledge is relative.  What we know by the analytical process of Naya_väda, we express by the synthesis of Syädväda.  As already noticed, the etymological meaning of the word ‘Syäd’ is ‘Perhaps.’ However, it is used to suggest a relative truth.  The theory of Syädväda is based on the premise that every proposition is only relatively true.  It all depends upon the particular aspect from which we appreciate that proposition.  Since all propositions are related to many circumstances, our assertions about them depend entirely upon the particular circumstances through which we are viewing them. Since our view has a limited aperture, we cannot know everything and hence it is appropriate to avoid our absolute assertion.

For instance, when we say that a particular thing weighs 5 lb., our statement about the weight is related to the gravitational force exerted on that thing by our planet, the earth. The same thing may not weigh anything if removed from this gravitational field or may weigh differently on a different planet. The same can be said about our statements relating to time and space and about every human experience. It is the matter of our daily experience that the same object, which gives pleasure to us under certain circumstances, becomes boring under different circumstances. Scientific truths are, therefore, relative in the sense that they do not give complete and exhaustive knowledge of the objects under study and contain elements that may be changed with further advance in knowledge.  Nonetheless, relative truth is undoubtedly useful as it is a stepping stone to the ultimate truth.

Is “Self” Permanent or Transitory?

In the field of metaphysics, there has been serious controversy about the real nature of ‘Self’. While Vedäntists believe that, everything that is found in this universe is ‘Brahma’, the super self, permanent, and the material things, which are found to have no reality, as they are transitory in nature.  The Buddhists would say that everything in this universe including the super_self is transitory and constantly changing.  These are the two extreme views as they concentrate only on particular aspects to the exclusion of other aspects.  The Jains say that both are relatively correct from the viewpoint through which they see the thing, but both are incorrect in as much as they fail to take the comprehensive view of all the aspects involved. The Jains would say that, from the point of view of substance (Dravya) self is permanent but from the point of view of modifications (Paryäya), it is transitory. Since substance and its modes should be taken as an integrated whole in order to comprehend it properly, both the attributes of permanence and transitoriness should be taken into account. Both to the Vedäntists as well as to the Buddhists, the Jain seer would say ‘Syäd Asti’, i.e., “From one aspect you are right” and applying his ‘Anekänta Naya’, i.e., looking at the problem from different angles would come to the above conclusion. Thus the doctrine of relativity, which is the practical application of the theory of multifold aspects (Naya_väda), is nothing but the doctrine of metaphysical synthesis. This doctrine has a great value in our day – to – day individual and social life.

Importance of Anekäntaväda

The importance of this comprehensive synthesis of ‘Syädväda’ and ‘Anekänta Naya’ in day_to_day life is immense in as much as these doctrines supply a rational unification and synthesis of the manifold and reject the assertions of bare absolutes.

Mahatma Gandhi’s views (wrote in 1926) about the Jain theory of Anekänta are as follows:

“It has been my experience, that I am always true (correct) from my point of view and often wrong from the point of view of my critics.  I know that we are both (I and my critics) right from our respective points of view.”

“I very much like this doctrine of the manyness of reality.  It is this doctrine that has taught me to judge a Muslim from his standpoint and a Christian from his. From the platform of the Jains, I prove the noncreative aspect of God, and from that of Rämänuja the creative aspect. As a matter of fact we are all thinking of the unthinkable describing the indescribable, seeking to know the unknown, and that is why our speech falters, is inadequate and been often contradictory.”

The history of all conflicts and confrontations in the world is the history of intolerance born out of ignorance.  Difficulty with the human being is his/her egocentric existence. If only the human being becomes conscious of his/her own limitations! Anekänta or Syädväda tries to make the human being conscious of his/her limitation by pointing to his narrow vision and limited knowledge of the manifold aspects of things, and asks him/her not be hasty in forming absolute judgments before examining various other aspects – both positive and negative.  Obviously, much of the bloodshed, and much of tribulations of mankind would have been saved if the human being had shown the wisdom of understanding the contrary viewpoints.

The doctrine of Syädväda also clarifies the metaphysical doctrine of ‘Self’ envisaged by the Jains.  The proposition ‘Syäd Asti’ is positive in character and points out the positive attributes of the thing in question. These are individual attributes, which belong to and are inherent in the thing in   question.  Therefore, when the proposition ‘Syäd Asti’ is applied to ‘Self’, it conveys that ‘Self’ is justified in its existence only from the point of view of its own individual attributes, modes, space and time.  However, when the other proposition of the doctrine namely ‘Syät Nästi’ is applied to it, it means the ‘Self’ does not possess the attributes and modes which do not belong to it.  It is just like a pot that can be identified as a ‘pot’ only if it carries the attributes of a ‘pot’ but it cannot be identified as a pot if it carries the attributes, which are foreign to it.  So the negative identification of ‘Syät Nästi’ when applied to ‘Self’ would mean, that if the self tries to adopt the attributes of Pudgal (matter) which are foreign to it, it is not the ‘self’.  In other words, Syädväda teaches us that ‘Self’ can be identified positively as ‘Syäd Asti’ only if it is viewed from its own attributes, and negatively as ‘Syäd Nästi’ to show that it is not Pudgal, etc. if it is viewed from the attributes that are foreign to it.

Thus, the doctrine of Syädväda gives clarity to the real character of the ‘Self’ and by the same process of reasoning, the real character of ‘Pudgal’, i.e., non_sentient things.

Anekäntaväda and Ahimsa

However, the important aspect of Anekäntaväda and Syädväda is the subtlety with which it introduces the practice of Ahimsa (nonviolence) even in the realm of thought. The moment one begins to consider the angle from which a contrary viewpoint is put forward, one begins to develop tolerance, which is the basic requirement of the practice of ‘Ahimsa’. The origin of all bloody wars fought on the surface of this earth can be traced to the war of ideas, beliefs and disagreements. Anekäntaväda and Syädväda puts a healing touch at the root of the human psyche and tries to stop the war of beliefs, which lead to the war of nerves and then to the war of bloodshed.  It makes all absolutes in the field of thought quite irrelevant and naive, and it imparts maturity to the thought process and supplies flexibility and originality to the human mind. If mankind will properly understand and adopt this doctrine of Anekäntaväda and Syädväda, it will realize that real revolution was not the French or Russian; the real revolution was the one, which taught man to develop his/her power of understanding from all possible aspects.









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