Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda ► The Doctrine Of Syādvāda : Examination Of Different Interpretations ► Section VI

Posted: 30.05.2012

Hiralal Jain presents the Jain doctrine of syādvāda as follows:

Anekāntavāda or Syādvāda... comes to this that we may make seven assertions, seemingly contradictory but perfectly true, about a thing: It is (syādasti); it is not (syān-nāsati); it is and is not (syādasti-nāsti); it is indescribable (syādavaktavyam); it is and is indescribable (syādasti ca avaktavyaṁ ca); it is not and is indescribable (syādasti nāsti ca avaktavyaṁ ca) and it is, is not and indescribable (syādasti nāsti ca avaktavyaṁ ca). A man is the father, and is not the father, and is both - are perfectly intelligible statements, if one understands the point of view from which they are made. In relation to a particular boy he is the father; in relation to another boy he is not the father; in relation to both the boys taken together he is the father and is not the father. Since both the ideas cannot be conveyed in words at the same time, he may be called indescribable; still he is the father and is indescribable; and so on... Thus, the philosophy of Anekānta is neither self-contradictory nor vague or indefinite; on the contrary, it represents a very sensible view of things in a systematized form.[1]

One obvious difficulty with this presentation is the identification of anekāntavāda and syādvāda.[2] One less obvious difficulty lies with the example. Two points deserve attention in this context. The first is that familial examples seem to be the favoured ones in modern Jain circles. Thus Mrs Sinclair Stevenson, writing about syādvāda in 1915 noted: 'The example pandits gave the writer to illustrate this important doctrine was that one and the same man is spoken of as father, uncle, father-in-law, son, son-in-law, brother and grandfather'.[3] The second point is that such example may constitute an extension of the doctrine. The classical illustrations relate to objects such as pot etc. rather than to persons.[4] And when the second proposition is asserted regarding an object, say pot, and it is said the pot does not exist then what is meant is that it does not exist as another object say cloth. The jar is but the jar is not cloth. This statement holds for the object but in case of the example of the father the statement will have to be modified thus: A is E's father would be: A is not C's father. So far so good. But let the first two statements about an object be phrased thus: The jar is not itself cloth. This statement holds for the object but in case of the example of the father the statement will have to be modified thus: A is B's but is not his own father! Thus the illustration, though apt, causes difficulties. On the other hand it does seem to extend the scope of the operation of the doctrine.[5]

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