Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda ► The Axioms Of Non-Absolutism ► The Doctrine Of Conditional Dialectics (Syādvāda) And Its Results

Posted: 09.11.2011

1. In the science of logic causality is a universal postulate. But in the conditional dialectic causality is not a universally applicable principle which is active only in the gross world. The subtle or the micro-cosmic world is governed by its own rules where the cause effect relationship becomes too thin to be recognised. The succession of cause and effect becomes meaningless at that stage. Momentariness changes into smooth passing from one state to another without any gap. Origination and cessation become meaningless. In the language of the traditional karma doctrine the causal concatenation can be detected in the phenomena of the fruition or disappearance of Karma. The changes taking place in the gross atomic aggregates also appear as subject to causality. However, in the changes that are spontaneous and intrinsic, the principle of causality is not applicable in the ordinary sense of the term. In Jaina ontology it is averred that the colour of an atom definitely changes after the lapse of a definite period, the cause of such change being undefined. An atom is here governed by its own intrinsic nature. The instantaneous modality (artha paryāya) of an atom is beyond the range of the principle of causality. A substance undergoes change every moment. The reality of the present moment can remain intact in the succeding moment provided the former could mould itself in consonance with the latter. The nature of the instantaneous mode (artha paryāya) has found expression in the following traditional verse—

Anāidinidhane loke, svaparyāyāḥ pratikṣaṇam/
Utpadyante vipadyante, jalakallolavajjale//

'In the substance, which is without beginning and without end, the modes arise and vanish by themselves every moment like the waves that emerge and merge in the ocean without interruption.'

The doctrine of causality stands exposed in the light of the doctrine of viewpoints (nayas) thus—

The doctrine of causality finds its proper place and exposition in the pantoscopic, analytic and momentary viewpoints (that take note of the prolonged mode.).

The doctrine of causality assumes quite a different meaning that is tantamount to its abrogation in the verbal, etymological and functional viewpoints. An effect arises by its own nature spontaneously according to "these viewpoints. An effect cannot depend on anything else for its origination. It is meaningless to say that a self-created object has a cause that is something other than itself. When the cause and effect, are identical, it is redundant to assert a relationship tertium quid between the two. It follows, therefore, that an effect arises spontaneously 'and intrinsically from and by itself independent of anything outside it.[1]

2. The existence of mode is made subordinate and ignored in the purely substantial "viewpoint (śuddha-dravyārthika-naya), and, therefore, the divisions of flme into the past, future and present do not exist.[2] The three verbal viewpoints (śabda-nayas), being concerned with' 'becoming', accept modes and, therefore, three divisions of time are real according to them. The implication is that the unchanging aspect of the substance is timeless, the instantaneous mode being just momentary is also virtually timeless. It is only the verbal or conceptual mode (vyañjana-paryāya) that depends on the divisions of time, being a sort of prolonged existence. The substance in its three aspects virtually represents three different systems of philosonhy, viz. the monistic Vedānta that believes in absolutely unchanging Brahma, the Buddhist fluxism that adumbrates unceasing change and the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika that believes in both permanence and change.

3. The substance consists in modes that are successive and non-successive. Such modes exist in the present in the aspects as intendent or known by the cogniser, but do not exist in those aspects in the other divisions of time. This differentiation of aspects owing to the condition of time is matched by a similar differentiation on account of other causes and conditions as well. A novel system of sevenfold predication of the conditional dialectic (syādvāda) can be conceived on this variety of causes and conditions, viz.[3]

  1. The substance is one.
  2. It exists in some respect.
  3. It has an originating condition.
  4. It has also a source of origin.
  5. It is also related to something else.
  6. It has also a location.
  7. It has also a time.

Among the modes that occur in succession it is only the present one that is definite, whereas the modes that are to come are not regulated by any rule regarding their probability and indefinite occurrence. It is not possible to predict definitely that such a mode could necessarily occur in succession of a particular mode. In this connection one should note Heisenberg's uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics according to which it is impossible to assert in terms of the ordinary conventions of geometrical position and of motion that a particle (as an electron) is at the same time at a specified point and moving with a specified velocity, for the more accurately either factor can be measured, the less accurately the other can be asserted.

4. The doctrine of conditional dialectic (syādvāda) is applicable not only for the explanation of spatial, temporal and quantitative relative modes, but it can be validly applied for ascertaining the intrinsic modes of the substance. Permanence and impermanence are the intrinsic modes which appear as contraries in the gross world. These are not contrary in essence and, therefore, their contrariety can be solved by relativity.

5. In the context of the doctrine of conditional dialectic (syādvāda) a study of the relativity of the modern science is very valuable.

Some expert statisticians have studied this sevenfold predication of the doctrine of conditional dialectic in the light of the principles of statistics. We quote here an excerpt from an article of Prof. P.C. Mahalanobis.—

'I should now like to make some brief observations of my own on the connection between Indian-Jaina views and the foundations of statistical theory. I have already pointed out that the fourth category of syādvāda, namely avaktavya or the 'indeterminate' is a synthesis of three earlier categories of (1) assertion ('it is'), (2),negation ('it is not'), and (3) assertion and negation in succession. The fourth category of syādvāda, therefore, seems to me to be in essence the qualitative (but not quantitative) aspect of the modern concept of probability. Used in a purely qualitative sense, the fourth category of predication in Jaina logic corresponds precisely to the meaning of probability which covers the possibility of (a) something existing, (b) something not-existing, and (c) sometimes existing and sometimes not existing. The difference between Jaina 'avaktavya' and 'probability' lies in the fact that the latter (that is, the concept of probability) has definite quantitative implications, namely, the recognition of numerical frequencies of occurrence of (1) 'it is', or (2) 'it is not', and hence in the recognition of relative numerical frequencies of the first two categories of 'it is' and 'it is not' in a synthetic form. It is the explicit recognition of (and emphasis on) the concept of numerical frequency ratios which distinguishes modern statistical theory from the Jaina theory of syādvāda. At the same time it is of interest to note that 1500 or 2500 years ago syādvāda seems to have given the logical background of statistical theory in a qualititive form.

Secondly, I should like to draw attention to the Jaina view that 'a real is a particular which possesses a generic attributes.' This is very close to the concept of an individual in relation to the population to which it belongs. The Jaina view, in fact, denies the possibility of making any predication about a single and unique individual which would be also true in modern statistical theory.

The third point to be noted is the emphasis given in Jaina philosophy on the relatedness of things and on the multiform aspects of reals which appear to be similar (again in a purely qualitative sense) to the basic ideas underlying the concepts of association, correlation and. concomitant variation in modern statistics.

The Jaina view of 'existence, persistence and cessation' as the fundamental characteristics of all that is real necessarily leads to a view of reality as something relatively permanent and relatively changing which has a flavour of statistical reasoning. 'A real changes every moment and at the same time continues' is a view which is somewhat sympathetic to the underlying idea of stochastic processes.

Fifthly, the most important feature of Jaina logic is its insistence on the impossibility of absolutely certain predication and its emphasis on non-absolutist and relativist predication. In syādvāda the qualification 'syāt' that is, 'may be or perhaps' must be attached to every predication without any exception. All predication, according to syādvāda, thus, has a margin of uncertainty which is somewhat similar to the concept of 'uncertain inference' in modern statistical theory. The Jaina view, however, is essentially qualitative in this matter (while the great characteristic of modern statistical theory is its insistence on the possibility and significance of determining the margin of uncertainty in a meaningful way). The rejection of absolutely certain predication naturally leads Jaina philosophy continually to emphasize the inadequacy of 'pure' or 'formal' logic, and hence to stress the need of making inferences on the basis of data supplied by experience.

I should also like to point out that the Jaina view of causality as 'a relation of determination' based on the observation of 'concomitance in agreement and in difference' has dual reference to an internal condition 'in the developed state of our mind' which would seem to correspond to the state of organized knowledge in any given context and also to an external condition based on 'the repeated observation of the sequence of the two events' which is suggestive of a statistical approach.

Finally, I should draw attention to the realist and pluralist views of Jaina philosophy and the continuing emphasis on the multiform and infinitely diversified aspects of reality which amounts to the acceptance of an 'open' view of the universe with scope for unending change and discovery. For reasons explained above, it seems to me that the ancient Indian Jaina philosophy has certain interesting resemblances to the probabilistic and statistical view of reality in modern times.'[*]

Share this page on:



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

Get this book at