Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda ► Anekāntavāda, Nayavāda And Syādvāda ► Syādvāda (The Conditional Dialectic) Or Saptabhaṅgī (The Theory of Sevenfold Predication) ► Part 1

Posted: 10.02.2012

Syādvāda[1] or Saptabhaṅgī is that conditional method in which the modes, or predications (bhaṅgāḥ) affirm (vidhi), negate (niṣedha) or both affirm and negate, severally (pṛthagbhūta) or jointly (samudita), in seven different ways, a certain attribute (dharma) of a thing (vastu) without incompatibility[2] (avirodhena) in a certain context (praśnavaśāt)[3]. That is, no modal assertion, or proposition, - simple or complex; affirmative, negative or both - can, at once, express anything other than an aspect (prakāra) of the truth of a thing. The full truth, or rather the synthesis of truths, can result only from a well - ordered scheme of propositions (vacanvinyāsa). Each proposition is therefore, relative to, or alternative with, the other proposition which, in their totality, present the full of the thing with respect to the particular attribute predicated of it. The Jaina maintains that saptabhaṅgī offers such a well ordered scheme in which the modes (bhaṅgas) are exclusive of one another, but are at the same time, in their totality, exhaustive of the many-sided truth of the indeterminate real under discussion.

It has just been noted that the term 'syādvāda' means conditional or relativistic dialectic and is synonymous with 'saptabhaṅgī'. We may examine, somewhat more closely, the meaning of this term owing to its well - merited importance in the system: The name 'syādvāda' is due to the prefix 'syāt' which is an invariable accompaniment of every predication. This particle 'syāt' which is treated by most of the Jaina writers as an indeclinable[4] (avyaya) although, generally, modern writers - some of them perhaps unknowingly - consider it in its obvious sense of being a form derived from the Sanskrit root 'as' (to be) in the potential mood, third form, singular.[5] Another term equivalent to 'syāt' is 'kathañcit'[6] and no word or phrase in English is adequate to bring out precisely the significance of either word. Some of the suggested English equivalents like 'probably', 'may be', 'perhaps', 'indefinitely' and so forth are inadequate, if not somewhat misleading. Its main significance lies in its emphasis on the indeterminate or manifold nature of the real which - like all other reals - comes within its purview. Indeterminateness or manifoldness means that the "reals cannot be determined as possessing only such and such attributes and not the rest". Discussing the spirit of syādvāda a modern critic observes: "It signifies that the universe can be looked at from many points of view, and that each viewpoint yields a different conclusion (anekānta). The nature of reality is expressed completely by none of them for in its concrete richness it admits all predicates. Every proposition is therefore in strictness only conditional. Absolute affirmation and absolute negation are both erroneous".[7] A phrase which will approximately bring out this in deterministic significance of 'syāt' would be 'from a certain point of view', or 'in a certain sense', or some other equivalent form.[8]

Another Sanskrit word which is used to suggest that each of the conclusions signified by the seven modes is exclusive - that is, does not encroach upon the province of the conclusions pointed out by the other modes - is 'eva' which may be translated as 'only' or 'certainly' (or in some equivalent form such as 'there is no doubt', or 'without doubt'). For instance, the first mode, syādastyeva ghaṭaḥ, means: "In a certain sense the jar exists without doubt." This sense of exclusion[9] (vyāvṛtyartham) seems to be more prominent than that of (avadhāraṇārtham) although the one implies the other and both the functions[10] - which may also be described as restrictive force and the definitive (or deterministic) force, respectively - are inherent in the word.

The syādvādins warn us against allowing 'eva' to proceed beyond its prescribed limits of exercising the restrictive and deterministically articulating influence on the mode within which it functions. That is, its force (sāmarthya) is confined to the avoidance of intrusions from the other modes and to the bringing of a definitive articulation into the mode with which it is connected. If, on the contrary, it leads to the extreme position of setting up the particular mode or aspect, with which it is connected, as the sole manifestation of the truth of the object concerned, then it gives rise to an absolutism which does not recognise the fact that there are other aspects (apekṣāḥ) of truth, in the object, than the one reflected by it.

Schools which build up their systems on the foundation of some single concept or the other, which represents only one facet of the many - sided truth in reality, illustrate this narrow and dogmatic approach.[11] They are called nirapekṣavādas in contrast to sāpekṣavada.which is another name for syādvāda.

Thus whatever the aspect represented by a mode, under the conditional method of sevenfold predication the term 'syāt' is an invariable accompaniment[12] of the mode for the very reason that it suggests that the determinate context of the mode is carved out as it were from the indeterminate richness of reality, and the term 'eva' holds forth the determinate context in its clear outline.[13] But it is necessary to note here that the two terms 'syāt' and 'eva' need not necessarily be stated explicitly in a modal proposition. They are always logically inherent in the nature of a modal judgment whether or not they are verbally specified.[14]

Now the seven modes, or predications, and their characteristics may be treated with reference to the stock example of a jar (ghaṭa) and its negative counterpart (niṣedha=pratiyogī) linen (paṭa). In doing so we may first enumerate the seven modes, then explain the three primary concepts, viz., the being (astitva), non - being (nāstitva) and the inexpressible (avaktavyatva), together with the elementary or simple propositions given rise to by them; and, lastly, point out the remaining complex[15] propositions which result from combining two or more simple ones.

The seven modes are:

1.       In a certain sense, the jar is (syādasti[16] ghaṭaḥ).

2.       In a certain sense, the jar is not (syānnasti ghaṭaḥ).

3.       In a certain sense, the jar is and is not (syādasti nāsti ca ghaṭaḥ)[17]

4.       In a certain sense, the jar is inexpressible (syādavaktavyo ghaṭaḥ).

5.       In a certain sense, the jar is and is inexpressible (syādastyavaktavyaśca ghaṭaḥ).

6.       In a certain sense, the jar is not and is inexpressible (syānnāstyavaktavyaica ghaṭaḥ).

7.       In a certain sense, the jar is, is not and is inexpressible (syādastināsti cāvaktavyaśca ghaṭaḥ).

The three fundamental concepts making up the seven predicates, in the seven modes, singly, in twos, or all together, are 'is' (asti), 'is not' (nāsti) and 'inexpressible' (avaktavya). A predicate containing any one of them involves a simple judgment, and a predicate containing any two or all the three of them involves a complex judgment. Consequently, the first two modes, and the fourth mode, are assertions of simple judgments and the remaining four of complex judgments. These judgments, - whether simple or complex, - are always made against the background of the indeterminate reality which is suggested by the qualifying term 'syāt'.

Footnotes:
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[10]
[11]
[12]
[13]
[14]
[15]
[16]
[17]
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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
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