Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: The Rudiments Of Anekāntavāda In Early Pali Literature

Published: 18.04.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

The Rudiments of Anekāntavāda in Early Pali Literature[1]

Anekāntavāda is the heart of Jaina philosophy. Reality possesses infinite characters which cannot be perceived or known at once by an ordinary man. Different people think about different aspects of the same reality and therefore their partial findings are contradictory to one another. Hence, they indulge in debates claiming that each of them, was completely true. The Jaina philosophers thought over this conflict and tried to reveal the whole truth by establishing the theory of non-absolutist standpoint (anekāntavāda) with its two wings, Nayavāda and Syādavāda.

Rudiments of Anekāntavāda are traceable in the Buddh's approach to questions. Pali literature[2] describes how he answered a question in four ways. The four ways are:

(i) Ekaṃsa-vyākaraṇīya (answerable categorically);

(ii) Paṭipucchā-vyākaraṇīya (answerable by putting another question);

(iii) Thāpanīya (questions that should be set aside);

(iv) Vibhajja-vyākaraṇīya (answerable analytically).

The Buddha, who adopted these techniques in answering numerous metaphysical and ethical questions put to him by various disciples and disputants, himself claims to be Vibhajjavādin[3]. The Sūtrakṛtāṅga of the Jainas requires the Jaina monk to explain a problem with the help of Vibhajjavāda[4]. It shows that the Jainas as well as the Buddhists followed the analytical method of explanation.

It is possible that the earliest division of the above questions was into (1) Ekaṃsa-vyākaraṇīya-pañha, and (2) Anekaṃsa-vyākaraṇīya-pañha corresponding to the Jaina classification of two kinds of statements - ekaṁsika dhamma and anekaṁsika dhamma. Later, the latter class would have been sub-divided into the (1) Vibhajja-vyākaraṇīya and the (2) Thāpanīya. Paṭipucchā-vyākaraṇīya is a sub-class of vibhajja-vyākaraṇīya[5].

A point to be noted here is that the Buddha used the word "Anekaṃsa" in his preachings. For instance, in reply to a question asked by Poṭṭhapāda, the Buddha says "I have taught and laid down doctrines (of which it is possible to make) categorical (assertions) and I have taught and laid down doctrines of which it is not possible to make categorical assertions." (ekaṁsika pi … mayā dhammā desitā, paññattā anekaṁsika pi... mayā dhammā desitā paññattā[6]). Here "Anekaṁsika" like "Vibhajjavāda" is similar to Anekāntavāda" of Jaina. The etymology and meaning are also similar. But the difference between these two theories is that the Jainism accepts all statements to possess some relative (anekāntika) truth, while Buddhism does not accept that all non-categorical statements (anekaṁsika) can be true or false from one standpoint or another. Anekāntavāda, unlike Anekāṁsikavāda, conceives of the possibility of knowing reality from one or more standpoints. Paṇḍita Durvekamiśra, a Buddhist philosopher in the Hetubinduṭīkāloka, summarized this concept as follows: "Syācchabdo" nekāntavacano niyatosti tena syādvādo anekāntavādo yadvā syādakṣaṇikaḥ ityādi…[7]. A developed form of this doctrine is referred to in later Sanskrit Buddhist philosophical literature. This theory continued to develop still further up to the time of Kundakunda.

Footnotes
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2:

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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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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekāntavāda
  2. Buddha
  3. Buddhism
  4. Dhamma
  5. JAINA
  6. Jaina
  7. Jainism
  8. Kundakunda
  9. Nagpur
  10. Nayavāda
  11. Pali
  12. Paṇḍita
  13. Sanskrit
  14. Syādavāda
  15. Sūtrakṛtāṅga
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