Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: The Development Of The Doctrine Of Anekāntavāda

Published: 16.04.2012

The Development Of The Doctrine Of Anekāntavāda[1]

Anekāntavāda is a fundamental doctrine which forms the key-note to the philosophy of the Jainas. It is defined as the doctrine of many-sidedness which proves the validity of two contradictory statements from the point of view of two different standpoints. For example, "let us take the antithesis of the swift and the slow. It would be nonsense to say that every movement is either swift or slow. It would be nearer the truth to say that every movement is both swift and slow, swift by comparison with what is slower than itself, slow by comparison with what is swifter than itself. And so with the other antithesis[2]. Anekāntavāda is a synthetic process which reconciles all the vexed questions of abstruse speculation which seem mutually conflicting, and helps us to acquire true knowledge. Different philosophies according to their personal, racial and historical endowment reflect different temperaments. The doctrine of Anekāntavāda or many-sidedness, taking a comprehensive view of all, shows that the different representations do not tell us what a thing is in itself but only what it is to us. In other words, according to this principle, the truth is relative to our standpoints.

This doctrine of anekāntavāda finds the most important place in Jainism and on this very foundation other doctrines of the Jainas are built up. Not only this, but when this doctrine is viewed from the historical point of view, it is proved to be very ancient and popular. It is for this reason that considerable importance is given to it in the Vedic, Buddhistic and the Western philosophies.

In a hymn of the Ṛgveda (X. 129.1) it is said that "then was not non-existent nor existent." Commenting upon the above Sāyaṇa writes: "Although the existent and the non-existent are different in nature, yet there is a possibility of their existing simultaneously."[3] In other words, admitting that Brahman is neither existent nor non-existent and is beyond description, in the Ṛgveda it is accepted that in one and the same substance two contradictory aspects can exist together.

In the earliest group of the Upaniṣads, Brahman is described as possessing opposite qualities. For instance, the Ātman is said to be subtler than the subtle and greater than the great; it moves, yet it does not move; and it is far as well as near.[4] In the epic age, we find reference to the doctrine of Anekāntavāda in the Mahābhārata[5] Nīlakanṭḥa commenting upon it enumerates the famous seven bhaṅgas of the syādvāda.[6]

Now coming to the fifth century B.C, in Buddhistic period, we come across a sect called Ājīvika. "They declared that of a thing beyond our experience the existence and non-existence or simultaneous existence and non-existence can neither be affirmed nor denied."[7] Finding some similarity between the doctrines of the Agnostics and of the Syādvādins, Jacobi concludes that "in opposition to the Agnosticism of Sañjaya, Mahāvīra has established the syādvāda which served to silence some dangerous opponents."[8] Undoubtedly the above statement of the learned scholar is thoughtful and requires considerable attention. To make the point more clear, in the words of Prof. Barua who follows the same view, we can say that "to avoid error Sañjaya contended with the four famous negative propositions: A is not B; A is not not-B; A is not both B and not-B; A is neither B nor not-B. It is with regard to the self-same questions that Mahāvīra declared from these alternatives you cannot arrive at truth; from these alternatives you are certainly led to error."[9] This is quite true. But thereby we cannot deny the existence of the doctrine of Anekāntavāda in Jaina philosophy before Sañjaya. We quite agree with the view that the doctrine of Syādvāda or Saptabhaṅgīnaya may be a later development in Jainism, but the doctrine of Anekāntavāda, the first and the most fundamental teaching of Mahāvīra seems to have been at the root of Syādvāda. The reference in the Jain canons of the Śvetāmbaras are in favour of this view.

Further, when we pass to the various systems of Indian philosophy we find that here the ideas similar to the doctrine of the 'many-sidedness' find a very important place. For instance, we come across the doctrine of Kṣarākṣarabhāvanā in the Upaniṣadas[10] and the Bhagavadgītā, [11] Utpādasthitibhaṅgavāda in the Pūrvamīṁāṁsā, [12] Pariṇāmavāda in the Sāṁkhya, Anirvacanīyavāda in the Vedānta, and the doctrine of Madhyamamārga in Buddhism.[13]

Now when we turn to Western philosophy, instances of the ideas similar to the doctrine of Anekāntavāda can be multiplied. In Greek philosophy, first of all, in trying to solve the riddle of permanence and change, Empedocles, the Atomists and Anaxagoras declared that absolute change is impossible. So far the Eleatics are right. But at the same time we see things growing and changing. Thus stating that "the original bits of reality cannot be created or destroyed or change their nature, but they can change their relation in respect to each other,"[14] they concluded in favour of relative change. When we read the dialogues of Plato we find that everything which we originally suppose to be one is described as many and under many names; and when we speak of something, we speak not of something opposed to being, but only different.[15]

Coming to modern philosophy, Hegel was the first philoso­pher who expounded that contradiction is the root of all life and movement, that everything is contradiction, that the principle of contradiction rules the world. To do a thing justice, we must tell the whole truth about it, predicate all the contradictions of it, and show how they are reconciled and preserved.[16] Bradley has described similar ideas. According to him everything is essential and everything worthless in comparison with others. Nowhere is there even a single fact so fragmentary and so poor that to the universe it does not matter. Thus, he says, that there is truth in every idea however false, there is reality in every existence however slight.[17] Joachim expresses the same thing when he says that no judgment is true in itself and by itself. Every judgment as a piece of concrete thinking is informed, conditioned to some extent, constituted by the apprecepient character of the mind.[18] Such and similar ideas are expressed by Prof. Perry,[19] William James,[20] John Caird,[21] Joseph,[22] Edmond Holmes[23] and many others.

Lastly, we turn to the Jaina literature itself. A great logician, Mallavādin, quotes a passage from the Bhagavatī where Mahāvīra replying to his disciple Gautama, describes Annan both as cons­ciousness and not-consciousness (taking in view the different standpoints).[24] There are other passages in the Bhagavatī[25] and Jñālādharmakathā[26] which indicate the form in which the doctrine of Syādvāda existed in its infancy. In the ten Niryuktis of Bhadrabāhu there is no mention of the Saptabhaṅgīnaya.[27] Even in the works of Umāsvāti, who is honoured by both the sects of the Jainas, we do not find the doctrine of Syādvāda, Saptabhaṅgīnaya although the materials are there[28] and it was ripe time for the appearance of this doctrine.

It is for the first time in the works of Kundakunda, a Digambara Jaina, that the seven bhaṅgas are enumerated only in one gāthā.[29] From this time onward begins a very important period in the history of Jaina philosophy. In the words of Dr. S.C. Vidyabhusana "during the era of tradition there existed no systematic Jaina treatise on logic, its principle being included in the works of metaphysics and religion. With the commencement of the Historical period in 453 A.D. there grew up, among the Jainas of both the Śvetāmbara and Digambara sects, a band of scholars who devoted themselves to the study of logic with great interest and enthusiasm."[30] It is during this period that we meet for the first time two great logicians - Siddhasena Divākara and Samantabhadra. By introducing a systematic study of logic they laid the foundation of logic among the Jainas for the first time. Both of them were brilliant scholars who acquired a great prominence in their epoch. Siddhasena and Samantabhadra composed works where they elaborately discussed logical principles and gave an authoritative exposition of the Syādvāda doctrine. Their review of the contemporary schools of philosophy and the declaration that "all the heretical doctrines combined form the true Jaina doctrine of Syādvāda",[31] a synthetic and comprehensive view, is really very remarkable in the annals of the Jaina tradition.

Then we come to Mallavādin and Jinabhadragaṇi. The former is called vādin or logician, and it is said that defeating the Buddhists in a dispute he re-established the Jaina faith.[32] Jinabhadra is called a great authority on the sacred literature of the Jainas. He almost followed the method of Siddhasena.

After this in the eighth century A.D. again we come to two great exponents of Jaina philosophy who spread the Jaina principles far and wide and thereby contributed much to the uplift of the Jaina religion. They are Akalaṅka and Haribhadra. They were most celebrated writers on Jaina logic. Akalaṅka is called 'the crest gem of the circle of all logicians', while Haribhadra is described as having protected the word of the Arhats like a mother, by his 1,400 works. Logic had gained a very important place during this era. Akalaṅka and Haribhadra devoted themselves to the study of Jaina logic, they entered into discussion with their opponents, and thereby they carried the Jaina mission. It is for the first time that we come across a very minute and scholarly description of the doctrine of Syādvāda.[33] The important treatment of the six systems of Indian philosophy in the Saḍdarśanasamuccaya and its popularity among the scholars preserves the fame of Haribhadra even now.

Afterwards, we come to the great logicians Vidyānanda and Abhayadeva. Both the learned Jainas gave a very prominent place to logic (Jaina Nyāya) in Jaina philosophy. Here we find a synthetic review of the Sāṁkhya. Yoga, Vaiśeṣika, Advaita, Mīmāṁsā and Buddhist philosophy. Vidyānanda in his works Aṣṭasāhasrī and Ślokavārtika expounded the various logical principles of the Jainas to­gether with the special criticism of Kumārila, a famous logician. Abhayadeva, on the other hand, is the author of a treatise on logic called Vādamahārṇava or the 'Ocean of Discussions' a commentary on the Sanmatitarka. He is described as a lion who roamed at ease in the wild forest of books on logic.

Coming to the twelfth century, we meet Vādideva and Hemacandra, the well-known figures in Jaina literature. The former was a great debater and it is said that as a debater he seemed to have no rival. To establish the doctrine of Syādvāda, he wrote Prarnāṇanayatattvālokālaṅkāra and a voluminous exposition of it, called Syādvādaratnākara. Hemacandra is a most celebrated author on Jainism. He composed thirty-two verses called Anyayogavyavacchedikā, a beautiful exposition of the six systems, in a very lucid and charming language.

Last of all, we come to Upādhyāya Yaśovijaya, a man of extraordinary talent. He was a distinguished logician and he has written more than one hundred works. He has preserved a critical survey of all the Indian systems with special reference to Śiromaṇi, the greatest exponent of Modern logic of Navadvīpa.[34]

After this in the eighteenth century there begins the period of transition and decline in Jaina philosophy.

However, the development of the doctrine of Anekāntavāda has a very important and unique place in the history of Jaina literature. One of the most peculiar characteristics of the Jainas was that they had the capacity of absorbing anything good from outside and of giving it a new form. Their strong protest was against social and philosophical exclusiveness. They took a most comprehensive and synthetic view of all existing philosophies of their time. A Jaina Pandit is aptly' said to view every other philosophy in a sympathetic way just as a mother looks at her baby.[35] "Truth is one and there are various ways of approaching it," - this is really a great truth propounded by the doctrine of Anekāntavāda which leads us to understand the truth comprehen­sively and at the same time shows the liberal and all-compromising spirit of Jainism.

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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. Advaita
  2. Akalaṅka
  3. Anekāntavāda
  4. Arhats
  5. Brahman
  6. Buddhism
  7. Calcutta
  8. Das
  9. Digambara
  10. Gautama
  11. Haribhadra
  12. Hemacandra
  13. JAINA
  14. Jacobi
  15. Jaina
  16. Jainism
  17. Jinabhadra
  18. Kundakunda
  19. Mahāvīra
  20. Niryukti
  21. Nyāya
  22. Pandit
  23. Pañcāstikāya
  24. Plato
  25. Siddhasena
  26. Syādvāda
  27. Umāsvāti
  28. Upaniṣads
  29. Upādhyāya
  30. Vaiśeṣika
  31. Vedic
  32. Vidyānanda
  33. Yoga
  34. Ājīvika
  35. Śvetāmbara
  36. Śvetāmbaras
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