Anekānt Metaphysical-Spiritual Perspective

Posted: 29.10.2008
Updated on: 02.07.2015

It is incontrovertible that metaphysics deals with the problem of reality. Philosophers have endeavoured to expound the world of phenomena in a consistent manner. For Jaina thinkers, reality is constituted of apparent contradiction. So its one-dimensional exposition is not possible. It is an inalienable complex of permanence and change, existence and non-existence, oneness and manyness, universality and particularity etc.[1] Because of this complexity reality is styled ‘Anekāntic. It is thus multidimensional possessing antagonistic dimensions of permanence and change, one and many etc. these antagonistic dimensions are infinite in number, of which we know only a few of them. Thus the Jaina philosopher differs from all absolutists in their approach to the enfoldment of the inner nature of reality. The Jaina advocates change to be as much ontologically real as permanence. Being implies becoming and vice versa. This conception of reality reminds us of the Greek philosopher Parmenides who regarded ‘Being’ as the sole reality wholly excludent of all becoming, as also of Heraclites, for whom, permanence being an illusion, ‘Becoming’ or perpetual change constitutes the very life of the universe. It also makes us reminiscent, of the Buddhist philosophy of universal flux and of the unchanging, static, permanent absolute of Vedānta. But all these point to the one-sided approach to reality. It may be said, “if the Upaniṣadic thinkers found the immutable reality behind the world of phenomena and plurality, and the Buddha denounced everything as fleeting, Mahāvīra found no contradiction between permanence and change, and was free from all absolutism.”[2]

Problem of reality implies the problem of substance. In consonance with the Anekāntic view of reality already discussed substance is characterized by simultaneous origination destruction and persistence or is the substratum of attributes and modes.[3] Permanence signifies persistence of substance along with the emergence of the new modes and the disappearance of the old once at one and the same time [4]. To illustrate, gold as a substance exists with its modifications and qualities. Now after making an ornament, what changes is the mode.


Substance and Quality

Substance as different from the general and specific qualities and modification are nothing but abstractions. Qualities are incapable of being existent by themselves even for a moment. They necessitate the simultaneous existence of substance, and are denied any isolated character: and they are themselves bereft of qualities [5]. As regards the relation between them; we may say that they are non-separate and non-identical. Non-separateness results owing to their subsistence in the same spatial extent, and non-identity issues because of the fact that one of the fact that one is not the other. The assertion that substance is not quality and that quality is not substance serves only to emphasis the non-identical character of both substance and quality. It does not mean the absolute negation of substance in quality and vice-versa.[6] thus the relation between Dravya and Guṇa substance and quality is one of identity and difference in point of nomenclature, number, characterization, and purpose and not difference with reference to spatial extent.[7]


Substance and Modification

The notion of Paryāya is peculiarly Jaina.[8] In conformity with the nature of as permanence in mutability, Paryāya alludes to the variable aspect of a thing which is due to the external and internal inducements. Every quality transmutes its state every moment: and this mode of being is called Paryāya, which is incessantly transforming itself into the next, though the quality as such is never abrogated. It is on this account alleged that substance is in a state of perpetual flux. However incessant and infinite the transformations may be, the underlying substantiality and permanency can never part with existence. Substance and Paryāya are not to be distinguished like two different things, for it is substance through qualities, which because of its flowing nature attains the qualification of Paryāya. Substance and modes are neither exclusively identical nor exclusively difference, which is in perfect harmony with the non-absolutistic attitude upheld by the Jaina. Thus origination and destruction are applicable to Paryāyas and persistence to qualities along with substance.


Persistence and the Distinction between Guṇa and Paryāyas

The Jaina conception of persistence is defined as that which accounts for recognition in the form of the proposition “This is the same”.[9] This is consequent on the fact then the essential nature of substance or quality, notwithstanding its mobility, is eternal and unchangeable.[10] thus the continuously flowing nature of quality does not annihilate the quality itself, which, if admitted, would fail to all our daily commonplace, transaction. Continuance devoid of variability stands in direct antagonism to experience. Hence permanence is not the denial of change, but includes it as its necessary aspect. In the same way, qualities in the absence of modifications are incapable of being of conceived. To distinguish Guna from Paryāya, in the first place, the infinite attributes are ever simultaneously present, but the modifications do not appear simultaneously, but only in succession Secondly, qualities render the judgment of sameness possible, while the judgment ‘This is the not same’ is accountable only by making allusion to modifications. Thirdly, Guṇas as such are to be interpreted as immutable in contrast to Paryāyas which are regarded as mutable. In other words, attributes of a substance are created with the nature of perpetuation, while the originative and decaying designations are accorded to Paryāya.


Classified of Substance: Plurality, Duality and Unity

Jainism resolves the whole of the universe of being into two everlasting, uncreated, coexisting, but independent categories of Jīva and Ajīva. The Ajīva is further classified into Pudgala matter, Dharma principle of motion, Adharma principle of rest, Ākāsa space and Kāla time. Hence reality is dualistic as well as pluralistic. But, according to the Jaina, plurality, considered from the point of view of one existence, entails unity also. According to Kundakunda, in spite of the unique characteristics possessed by the different substances, existence has been regarded as an all-comprising characteristic of reality which ends all distinctions.[11] The Kārttikeyānuprekṣā recognises that all substances are one from the standpoint of substance, while they are distinct and separate from their characteristics differences.[12] Samantabhadra also endorses this view by affirming that in view of the conception of one universal existence all are one, but from the point of view of substances distinctions arise.[13]

Padmaprabha Maladhārīdeva pronounces that Mahāsattā pervades all the things in their entirety, but it is always associated with Avāntarasattā which pervades only the particular objects.[14] In a similar vein, Amrtcandra speaks of the two types of Sattā, namely, Svarūpaattā and Sādraśyasattā. The latter is the same as Sāmānyasattā. In his Saptabhaṅgitaraṅgiṇi Vimaladāsa discusses the problem of unity and plurality of existence in detail, and concludes that both the postulation of existential identity and the articulation of differences from the standpoint of different substances are logically necessary and justifiable.[15] Thus Jainism gives credence to the recognition of existential oneness but not exclusively, since it is always bound up with plurality. This is quite consistent with the Anekāntāmaka view of reality propounded by the Jaina philosopher. Thus Mahāsattā will be associated with its opposite, namely, Avāntarasattā. It may again be pointed out that this Mahāsattā is not an independent something as may be conceived, but is invariably accompanied by its opposite.[16] Kundakunda holds the nature of existence as one, immanent in the totality of substances constituting the universe, comprehending and summarizing the universe, having infinite modifications, indicative of the triple characteristics of origination, destruction, and persistence and in the last as associated with the characteristics opposite to those mentioned above.[17] Hence unity, duality, and plurality-all are inseparably and inevitably involved in the structure of reality. This is the Anekāntic view of reality.

By recognizing both Jīva and Pudgala as substances Jainism steers clear of the two extremes of materialism and idealism, which are radically opposed to each other. Materialism considers the universe as rooted in matter while idealism imagines the mind or spirit to be fundamental and primary. The former lays stress on the recognition of the reality of matter and considers the mind to be an incident or accompaniment; the latter affirms that mind or spirit is to be reckoned as real and matter just an appearance. But according to Jainism, both matter and spirit are equally true.


Knowledge of reality and its expression

It will be noted here that if the Anekāntic reality is indescribable altogether, any sort of discussion along with the path of liberation will be blocked, as nobody will be able to preach and propound.[18] According to Jainism reality or substance or universe is cognized by, Pramāṇa and Naya.[19] Pramāṇa refers to the grasping of reality in its wholeness, while Naya points to an aspect of infinitely-phased reality illumined by Pramāṇa, thus the letter takes into consideration only a fragment of the totality.[20] The emphasis on the one and the cancellation of the other would irresistibly lead us to the baised estimation and Ekāntic view of reality.[21] Pramāṇa assimilates all the characteristics at once without any contradiction and animosity between one characteristics and the other, for instance, between one and many, existent and non-existent, etc. of the unfathomable characteristics, Naya chooses one at one moment, but keeps in view the other characteristics also. We can thus say that both Pramāṇa and Naya are essential for the proper understanding of the nature of reality. Reality being the repository of infinite attributes, the apprehension of it form a particular angle of vision, i.e., Naya, which is objectively given and not subjectively contemplated, does not exhaust the whole of the multiphased reality. So, in order to avoid the possible misunderstanding that reality is exhausted by the employment a particular Naya, every prediction should be preceded by the word ‘Syāt’. In order to make us aware of the possibility of other alternative predictions. Hence it is known as the doctrine of Syādvāda. Syādvāda is no doubt the logical out come of Anekāntavāda, the doctrine of the multiple nature of reality. It is simply the mode of prediction or communication envisaged by the Jaina to convey the knowledge of the multiphased reality. Thus Syādvāda is the mode of expression, Anekāntavāda or Nayavāda is the mode of cognition. Syādvāda is the expression of Anekāntavāda in language.

We may point out here that corresponding to the infinite antagonist characteristics there are infinite Nayas. But summarily speaking, all the Nayas from the metaphysical point of view can be summed up into two kinds:

  • Dravyārthika Naya
  • Paryayārthika Naya

These two Nayas can very well expound the nature of reality, or substance or universe. Dravyārthika Naya refers to the permanent aspect of a substance and Paryayārthika Naya to the changing aspect of a substance.


Anekānta: Spiritual Perspective

The first section has been devoted to the metaphysical understanding of reality or substance or universe. For the proper intelligibility of the Anekāntic reality, Jaina Ācāryas have given us two Nayas, namely Dravyārthika Naya and Paryayārthika Naya corresponding to the permanent and changing aspects of reality. This type of comprehension yields intellectual satisfaction, yet it does not show us the way to spiritual growth, satisfaction and self-realization. Axiological consciousness is very much different from descriptive consciousness produced by metaphysical curiosity of the human mind. So the Jaina Ācāryas have propounded two axiological Nayas, namely, Niścaya and Vyavahāra for properly evaluating the manifested and unmanifested Paryāyas of the self. Thus we have

  • Axiological and
  • Metaphysical Anekānta.

The axiological Niścaya Naya affirms that the realization of self’s Svarūpassatā, or the manifestation of intrinsic characteristics and modifications of the self, or the expression of the self’s original origination, destruction and continuance is the self’s original origination, destruction and continuance is the terminus of spiritual journey. No doubt, the self is existent, but its existence is mundane from the beginningless past. The self is not to acquire existence, but what is to be acquired is simply the purity of existence. Dharma, Adharma, Ākāśa and Kāla are the pure existents. Pudgala in the Aṇu form is pure and in the skandha form is impure, but the self exists in the defiled state of existence. It is, in the empirical state, characterizing itself with impure modifications and qualities, and consequently impure origination, destruction and continuance occur. By its own strenuous efforts transcendental modifications and qualities, and pure origination, destruction and continuance are to be revealed. In this state alone, the self realizes its true substantially.


Meaning of two axiological Nayas

The Niścaya Naya grasps the soul in its undefiled state of existence in contradistinction to the Vyavahāra Naya, which describes the self as bound, impure, and the like. No doubt, we are in the defiled form of existence from beginningless past, but the Niścaya Naya reminds us of our spiritual magnificence and glory. It prompts the sullied self to behold its spiritual heritage. It endeavors to infuse and instil into our minds the imperativeness of Śuddha Bhāvas after abundantly showing us the empirical and evanescent character of Śubha and Aśubha Bhāvas that bind the soul to mundane existence. It does not assert that the soul is at present perfect but simply affirms that the self ‘ought’ to attain the height illuminated by it. It has the force of ‘ought’ and not of ‘is’, but this force is valid for empirical selves. In the opening chapter of the Samayasāra Kundakunda summarizes the implication of the aforementioned two Nayas by saying that every self has heard about, observed and experienced the worldly enjoyments and consequential bondage, but the nature of the highest self has never been comprehended.[22] Hence the former is Vyavahāra Naya, while the latter is called Niścaya Naya, which points to the potentiality of the empirical self to become pure and enjoys its unalloyed status. It is therefore averred that when the self has elevated itself to the domain of spiritual experience, the Vyavahāra Naya becomes false and the Niścaya Naya seen to be genuine. In other words, we achieve the right to renounce the Vyavahāra Naya only when we have accomplished the loftiest height of mystical experience. If we regard the Vyavahāra Naya as untruthful at a low stage, Punya, Pāpa, bondage, and the necessity to do strenuous effort to achieve liberation would be of no avail. It may be noted here that the falsity of the Vyavahāra Naya affects neither the existence of external objects nor the omniscience of the transcendental self, which reflects the differences of the world as they are. In explaining the nature of spiritual experience, Kundakunda affirms that the nature of spiritual experience surpasses all the conceptual points of view[23] whether Niścaya or Vyavahāra. The former represents the self as unbound and untouched by attachment and aversion. While the latter, as bound and touched by them, but he who transcends these verbal points of view is called Samayasāra, the terminus of spiritual journey. The self becomes pure consciousness, bliss and knowledge.

It may be noted here that like the Niścaya or Paramārtha and Vyavahāra Nayas enunciated by Kundakunda, Śaṅkarācārya, the great exponent of the Advaita doctrine, makes use of the Paramārthika and Vyāvahārika view-points as the corner-stones of his philosophy. But the two differ widely. The Paramārthika view as advocated by Śaṅjkara negates the Paramārthika existence of other material and non-material objects of the world which, in the view of the Jaina, have their own independent existence. The Vyavahāra Naya of the Jains simply points to our slumbering state in the domain of spiritualism, and does not in the least touch the existential aspects of things. The Niścaya or Paramārthika Naya simply serves to awaken the slumbering soul to attain its spiritual heritage. It does not pretend to annual the external things by mere spiritual outlook.


Doer and Deed: An Axiological Point of View

We may discuss the philosophy of the doer and the deed from the axiological point of view. From the Niścaya point of view, the transcendental self is the doer and enjoyer of its own pure states. From the Vyavahāra point of view the empirical self is the doer and enjoyer of the impure states of self. This is the spiritual perspective of Anekānta. There is no denying the fact that the empirical self has been the doer of impure dispositions of attachment and aversion since an indeterminable past, so it is no doubt the author of these dispositions of attachment and aversion. But according to the Niścaya point of view, in whatever deeds the empirical self may get itself engaged in the world, they are not the author of these impure dispositions. The chief point of reference is the self in its pure nature. There is no contradiction in affirming that the enlightened self which had its true nature manifests the pure modes and thereby becomes the substantial agent of those modes, and in affirming that the ignorant self because of its erroneous identification with the alien nature develops impure dispositions, and thereby it is called their agent.[25] Just as from gold only golden things can be produced, and from iron only iron things, so the enlightened self produces pure modifications and ignorant self produces impure ones.[26] When the ignorant self becomes enlightened, it starts generating pure modifications without any incongruity. Thus the self is simply the doer of its own states and not the doer of anything else whatsoever. The empirical self is the author of impure psychic states on account of its association with attachment and aversion. But if we advance a step further and reflect transcendentally, we arrive at the inevitable conclusion that the pure self cannot be the author of these impure psychical states because they are foreign to its nature. Thus the transcendental self is the doer of transcendental psychical states. Besides it is also their enjoyer.


Auspicious, Inauspicious and Pure Psychical States

Again, the spiritual perspective of Anekānta expressed when it is said that auspicious and inauspicious psychical states of self continue to captive it in never-ending tensions and the pure psychical states of self engenders equanimity. Thus from the Niścaya point of view both the auspicious and inauspicious psychical states prevent the self from attaining to the loftiest spiritual heights, hence they should be equally condemned as unwholesome for the healthiest development of the self. But from the Vyavahāra point of view if the empirical finds it difficult to rise to spiritual heights, it should develop auspicious psychical states, but with the clear knowledge, that these psychical states will in no way enable the self to realize the pure states of self. The inauspicious psychical states should by all means be disapprobated. In the end we may say that to make Anekāntic reality intelligible from the metaphysical perspective, Dravyārthika and Paryayārthika Nayas are necessary and to make an axiological assessment of Anekāntic reality from the spiritual perspective, Niścaya and Vyavahāra Nayas cannot be dispensed with.

Share this page on: