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Jain Doctrine of Anekantvada & syadvada

By Dr M.C.Jain.

 

 

 

 

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Jainism has made the greatest contribution to its philosophy is the Anekantvada or Syadvada. Anekantvada describes the world as manifold, an ever-changing reality, an infinity of view points depending on the time, place, nature and state of the one who is the viewer and that which is viewed. Anekant is a compound word made of Aneka mean many and Anta mean having attributes or characteristics The word Vada stands for statement or description. Therefore the whole word means the description of various attributes. The person who looks at truth from one view point only, his view point is not perfect and real. Anekantvada theory says that many sided view point is perfect and real.

In Syadvada also we have the similar idea. It is also a compound word consists of  "Syad" that suggest the existence of infinite attributes and "Vada" means statement or description. Therefore the Syadvada deals with the truth having many fold aspects. The relationships between the thing and that attribute cannot however be fully stated in an unmodified statement. The same thing appears to be of a different type from a different stand point. To comprehend the aspect one must take into account, several stand points or views. Syadvada is also known as Anekantvada, or the Doctrine of manifold aspects. Anekantvada describes the world as manifold, an ever-changing reality, an infinity of view points depending on the time, place, nature and state of the one who is the viewer and that which is viewed.

What is true from one point of view is open to question from another. Absolute truth cannot be grasped from any particular view point alone. Absolute truth is the sum total of all the different-view points (more than one point of view). Let us have an example. Five blind persons were asked to touch, feel and explain the elephant that was standing near by. The first person who was standing near the tail of the elephant said it is  like a rope. The second man who touched the legs of the elephant said it is like pillars. The third person who was standing in the middle and had touched the belly of the elephant stated that it looks like drum. The next person who touched the ears of the elephant said that it is blade of a fan like thing and the last one who touched the trunk said it is some thing like hose pipe( flexible tube). Thus if we consider the attributes individually we can not draw the shape of an elephant but when we join all the statements the shape of elephant emerges.

Anekantvada and  Syadvada are complementary to each other. They are two aspect of the same principle. However despite outward resemblance the two have some difference. Anekantvada is a methodology to look at the real shape of a substance. Syadvada is a method of expressing in language its outward appearance. Anekantvada is a philosophical outlook, and Syadvada is its expression in language. It is the exposition of that principle.

Jain philoshophy stands for co-exictance.  Jaina motto: paraspar-opagraho jivanam "the function of living beings is to help one another." The Jaina concept of reality is manifold; that's why Jaina philosophy is called anekanta , meaning non-absolutism. It is concerned with the thought process while syadvada indicates the manner in which that thought process is given expression to. Lord Mahavira never established that the salvation can be achieved only through Jaina religion and other religions are false. He propounded the doctrine of Anekantvada, ie many sidedness, and showed that a thing can be considered from many points of view. Thus the Syadvada doctrine stands for harmony, co-existence, co-ordination and co-operation. The fundamental principle of Jains Ahimsa Parmo Dharmah  and sanctity of all life are another golden feather in the cap of Jains in this direction. Most of the conflicts arise due to our ego problem that whatever I say or do is only true and all others are wrong. This is short sightedness and perverted vision in understanding the point of view offered by others. The entire issue must be seen in its totality before arriving at some conclusion. Anekantvada is a scientific approach to accommodate different view points is its thought and  as well as in action by constitution of reality.

Thus the Syadvada principle of Jain philosophy preaches the observance of harmony and co-existence among all living beings with the sprit of Ahimsa, equity and equanimity and the thinking processes dominated by Anekantist  Syadvada in sympathetic understanding of other people's stand point and perfect tolerance.

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