Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Import Of the Seven Predicates

Published: 02.03.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

The first predicate is 'existence' which means 'existence in a specific context', that is, determinate existence. Ajar certainly exists in its own context. (Syādaslighaṭaḥ). It has its own substance, space, time, and mode. In one word, it has a determinate (personal) being. The determinate existence refutes the possibility of absolute being and absolute non-being. This point has already been elaborated[1] and needs no repetition. The significance of the proposition follows from the unique import of the predicate.

It is however to be understood that none of the seven predicates denies the other predicates. Each predicate on the other hand implies the other six as equally important and true characteristics of the real. This implication is expressed by the word syāt[2] prefixed to every proposition, e.g., in Syādastyevaghaṭaḥ which means 'The jar certainly exists in its own context.' This should be carefully noticed in our exposition of the import of the predicates. The implication of eva (certainly) in the above proposition is the exclusion of the negation of 'existence.'

The second predicate is 'non-existence' which means 'non-existence in a specific context', that is, determinate non-existence. The jar certainly does not exist in another context (syānnāstyevaghaṭaḥ). This determinate non-existence refutes the possibility of absolute non-being and absolute being.

The first predicate is concomitant with the second and the second is concomitant with the first. And this is the reason why both can belong to the same subject without conflict and opposition.

The third predicate is 'existence and non-existence' which means consecutive togetherness of existence and non-existence, that is, distinguishable compresence of the two. The jar exists and does not exist respectively in its own context and in a different context (syādasti ca nāsticaghaṭaḥ). This predicate gives a richer glimpse of the real than that provided by the first and the second. It is not however a mere combination of the two, but presents a complex character of the real - a character which reveals the equipollence of existence and non­existence in the constitution of the real.

The fourth predicate is 'inexpressibility' which stands for the unique synthesis of existence and non-existence. The jar is certainly inexpressible as having both existence and non-existence as its characteristics at the same time (syad avaktavya eva ghaṭaḥ). The third predicate revealed the equipollence of existence and non-existence. But this fourth goes further and gives a glimpse of the real as a unique synthesis of existence and non-existence - a synthesis which transcends the equipollence of existence and non-existence by dissolving them into a unity. This character of a real cannot be grasped by a definite concept and so is not expressible by a definite linguistic symbol which can express only what is positive or negative but never what is 'positive and negative rolled into one'.

This inexpressible or the unspeakable, that is, the indefinite is a peculiar concept of Jaina philosophy. In the words of Professor K.C. Bhattacharya, "The given indefinite - the 'unspeakable' of avaktavya as it has been called - as distinct from the definite existent, presents something other than (the) 'consecutive togetherness' (expressed by the third predicate): it implies sahārpaṇa or co-presentation which amounts to non-distinction or indeterminate distinction of being and negation. It is objective as given: it cannot be said to be not a particular position (expressed by the first predicate) nor to be non-existent (expressed by the second predicate). At the same time it is not the definite distinction of position and existence (expressed by the third predicate 'existence and non-existence)[3]; it represents a category by itself. The common-sense principle implied in its recognition is that what is given cannot be rejected simply because it is not expressible by a single positive concept. A truth has to be admitted if it cannot be got rid of even if it is not understood."[4]

One formal difficulty about the term 'inexpressible' requires elucidation. In the third predicate - viz., existence and non-existence - the two characteristics are presented consecutively, while in the fourth the same two are presented simultaneously (sahārpita).[5] No difficulty is felt in conceiving two diverse characteristics consecutively. But if the same two are to be conceived at once as one concept, the difficulty arises, because the elements of existence and non-existence that are brought together to compose the concept are driven away as fast as we assemble them. This conceptual difficulty is reflected in the incapacity of language to express the two diverse characteristics at once. But this inexpressibility should not be taken to imply the unreality of the co-presented characteristics. Inexpressibility here means mere impossibility of any adequate verbal symbol to express the situation at once. It cannot imply the unreality of the co-presentation of existence and non-existence. Inexpressibility does not prove unreality because expressibility is not the sole criterion of reality.[6] An ad hoc symbol also cannot express the situation, because that would also generate its corresponding concepts consecutively.[7] A compound word or even a full proposition also is of no avail on account of the same difficulty. It is because of this complete paralysis of speech to express at once their unique nature that the co-presented characteristics are called 'inexpressible'. 'Inexpressible' thus is a negative term which simply means 'not expressible in language' and nothing more.[8] The proposition 'The jar is inexpressible', therefore, means 'The jar has a complex characteristic which is not expressible in language.' Vidyanandi has recorded a view which regarded the 'complex characteristic' as expressible at least by the term 'inexpressible' itself. But he rejects the view on the ground that if the term 'inexpressible' be admitted as capable of expressing the 'complex characteristic', any other word could be invested with that capacity by mere convention - a contingency which leads to self-contradiction in that it refutes the position that the 'complex characteristic' is inexpressible.[9] The purely negative interpretation of the term 'inexpressible' however raises a serious difficulty. It has been asserted by the great Jaina logician Samantabhadra that // things were absolutely incapable of being expressed, the affirmation of the predicate 'inexpressible' would be illogical.[10] This is in direct conflict with the negative interpretation. But Vidyanandi solves the problem by interpreting this assertion of Samantabhadra as follows: "If things, that is, reals as characterized by individual characteristics (like existence and non-existence taken one at a time) as well as the reals as characterized by complex characteristics taken simultaneously (as in the fourth predicate) were all alike (admitted to be) absolutely incapable of being expressed, the affirmation of the predicate 'inexpressible' of any real would be illogical, because the real (as admitted) is characterized by the absence of expressibility, that is, is incapable of being expressed even by the term inexpressible'." The implication of this interpretation is that though expressibility is absolutely negated of the fourth predicate, it is affirmed of the other predicates which take one characteristic at a time. The absolute negation of expressibility thus also does not violate the general principle of the Jaina philosopher that any significant affirmation is concomitant with negation, and any significant negation is concomitant with affirmation.[11] A real is inexpressible in respect of the fourth predicate and expressible in respect of the other individual predicates. Expressibility and negation of expressibility are thus to be understood in different contexts. 'Admission of expressibility' and 'negation of expressibility' in respect of the same aspect of the real is on a par with the admission of 'existence' and 'non-existence' in the same respect, which is a case of self-contradiction.[12]

The fifth predicate is 'existence and inexpressibility', that is, 'inexpressibility as qualified by existence (which was the first predicate)'. The jar exists (in its own context) and is inexpressible (syādasti cāvaktavyaśca ghaṭaḥ). The proposition asserts the compresence of 'existence' with the 'inexpressible'. The jar is inexpressible (indefinite) qua a synthetic unity of existence and non-existence, but it is none the less expressible (definite) qua existent. In other words, the 'indefinite' as affirming itself is a 'positive definite'. Otherwise, the indefinite would turn out to be an absolute affirmation. This fifth predicate is therefore significant in that it reveals the positive aspect of the fourth predicate.

The sixth predicate is "non-existence and inexpressibility', that is, 'inexpressibility as qualified by non-existence (which was the second predicate)'. The jar does not exist (in other than its own context) and is inexpressible (syānnasti cāvaktavyaśca ghaṭaḥ). The proposition asserts the compresence of non-existence with the inexpressible. The jar is inexpressible (indefinite) qua a synthetic unity of existence and non-existence, but it is none the less expressible (definite) qua non-­existent. In other words, the 'indefinite' as negating what is other than itself is a 'negative definite'. Otherwise, the indefinite would turn out to be an absolute negation. This sixth predicate is, therefore, significant in that it reveals the negative aspect of the fourth predicate.

The seventh predicate is 'existence, non-existence and inexpressibility', that is, 'inexpressibility as qualified by existence-and-non-existence (which is the third predicate)'. The jar exists (in its own context) and does not exist (in other than its own context) and is inexpressible (syādasti ca nāsticāvaktavyaśca ghaṭaḥ). The proposition asserts the consecutive presence of existence and non-existence with the inexpressible. The jar is inexpressible (indefinite) qua a synthetic unity of existence and non-existence, but it is none the less expressible (definite) qua existent and non-existent consecutively. In other words, the 'indefinite' as consecutive affirmation and negation is both a positive and a negative definite. This seventh predicate is significant in that it reveals the double character of the indefinite.

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Sources
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. Avaktavya
  2. JAINA
  3. Jaina
  4. K.C. Bhattacharya
  5. Space
  6. Syad
  7. Vidyanandi
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