Anekanta : Philosophy of Co-existence ► 04.00 The Right Perspective of Anekānta

Posted: 08.07.2010

Chapter 4
The Right Perspective of Anekānta




Medium of rest






The non-sentient substances



More than one






Medium of motion

Dhatura flower


A narcotic flower



The Substance






Distant time actualizedpotentiality



The Modal



The insentient element









One of the ultimate substances



First of seven infernal earth



Law of concomitance



Immediately actualizedpotentiality


The doctrine of anekānta took birth on the basis of interdependence of substantial and modal view-points. It conveys the relativity of substance and mode. Anekānta is lexically a negative term, but substantially it is not negative. It is a form of knowledge based on the nature of element or substance. It was enunciated for finding out the nature of truth. It tries to get rid of the internal contradictions apparent between the eternal and the non-eternal, that is, substance and mode. It has asserted that both the eternal as well as non-eternal can co-exist in the same substratum. The purpose of anekānta is not to contradict absolutist view. The basis of anekānta is the triplicate nature i.e. origination, cessation and permanence of substance. The law of anekānta is of universal application.

The Right Perspective of Anekānta

The canonical literature (āgamas) of the Jainas forms the basis of their philosophical thoughts. The word 'anekānta' does not appear in the Āgamas. The word was first used in the beginning of the age of philosophical writings. Probably, Siddhasena Divākara was the first to use it.

The basis of anekānta is naya. The Bhagavati Sūtra deals with element from the point of view of two nayas - the substantial (dravyārthika) and the modal (paryāyārthika). The two points of view (naya) are relative, according to Acharya Siddhasena. Their relativity is known as anekānta. Some philosophical thoughts in India flow between absolute permanence and absolute transitoriness. The insentient element (prakṛti), according to Sānkhya, is permanent-cum-transitory, but the sentient element (puruṣa) is absolutely permanent, having no modifications. According to the Vaiśeṣika philosophy, the earth is permanent as cause and transitory as effect, but soul, God and space are without any modification. The element is momentary, according to the Buddhists - whatever is real is momentary, just as the cloud. The concept of eternity is rejected outright in the Buddhist philosophy. In the Vedānta, Brahma is absolutely unchangeable and māyā is changeable; Brahma, being beyond element and unelement, is unspeakable.

What has been said above proves that the concept of 'only permanence' or 'only impermanence' is not of universal application, whereas anekānta covers the total element and is, therefore, of universal application. Ācārya Hemchandra puts this universality in a poetic fashion -


syādvādmudrānatibhedi vastu,


diti tvadājñādvistām pralāpāh.

'The element, not going outside the realm of syādavāda is of the same nature, be it a lamp or the space. Some of those (philosophers) who do not obey your dictum O Lord! Indiscreetly declare element to be absolutely permanent, whereas others declare it to be absolutely temporary.'

From the point of view of substance, element neither originates nor perishes. From the point of view of mode, the mode originates and perishes. The Bhagavatī Sūtra speaks of two aspects of element - the permanent and the temporary. The permanent part does not change, the temporary part undergoes change -

fathire palottai, thire na palottai'.

Umāsvāti defined element as consisting of permanence, origination and destruction on the basis of the two viewpoints of substance and mode -

utpādavyayadhrauvya-yuktam sat

Element has three characteristics, therefore, it is anekāntika. One cannot comprehend its nature without anekānta. When it is said - 'Element is permanent', it is one view or aikāntika (one-sided). When it is said - 'Element is permanent-cum-temporary', it is the anekānta view-point. What is peculiar or new about it is that it simultaneously accepts element as possessed of both permanence as well as transitoriness.

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Anekanta: Philosophy of Co-existence

Publisher:  JainVishwa Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan, India

Editor: Muni Akshay Prakash

Edition:  2010 (1. Edition)

ISBN:  817195140-6

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