Applied Philosophy Of Anekanta ► 5. Multidimensional Application of Anekānta ► 5.2 Principles of Anekānta

Posted: 02.06.2014

Right faith implies non-absolutism. Perverted faith means absolutism or the assertion that nothing but what one thinks, is right. To treat a mode or thought as absolute or inclusive is absolutism; to treat it as relative and incomplete is non-absolutism.[1] The biggest mistake is to consider anekānta as mere philosophy and to accept that it is confined to only discussions of truth. Ācārya Mahāprajña said that the doctrine, which does not apply to real life, does not apply to quest for truth either. Life is also a truth; it is a great truth and all explanations derive from it. All principles, streams of thought and arguments originate from it. No truth can be located away from life.[2]

Now what is the utility of the theory of anekānta into day-today practical life of common man to improve their way of living? Anekānta is not only a tool for logical development, but it is equally useful in developing the self, family life, society, community, management, therapy, counseling, political decisions, Jurisprudence and all other disciplines of human life. This chapter deals with practical approach of all fields of life and explores new insight to lead a life of peace and harmony. As per the view of Ācārya Mahāprajña, there are five principles of anekŒnta.

They are as follows:

  1. Co-existence
  2. Relativity
  3. Reconciliation[3]
  4. Tolerance
  5. Equanimity.[4]

(i) Co-existence

The first principle of anekānta is Co-existence. Anything or anybody existent must have their opposite, yat sat tat sapratipak·aṃ. Without the opposite, naming is impossible and so is characterization. The animate and the inanimate are two extremes. Yet they co-exist. The body is inanimate; the soul is animate. They co-exist. The permanent and the impermanent, the similar and the dissimilar, the identical and the different, all these are mutually contradictory; yet they co-exist. They co-exist in an object.The acceptance of infinite  opposing attributes in an entity or object is called anekānta.[5] The permanent substance is not altogether separate from the impermanent modes, nor is the latter completely separated from the former.[6] Co-existence implies tolerance and freedom of thought. Both tolerance and freedom of thought are meaningless, if we try to enforce our likes, ideas, lifestyle and principles on others.

If a person claims his thesis to be truth the absolute on the basis of his comprehension of only a particular aspect of the object, then certainly he is going beyond what he has comprehended.This assertion may be called false, according to anekāntavāda and will certainly encourage dogmatism and fanaticism,extremism and intolerance.Hence, anekāntavāda cautions us against building close systems of philosophy and rather encourages us to formulate a theory of relativity, which harmonizes all mutually contradictory  standpoints.This doctrine intends to convey the truth that co-existence of mutually contradictory characteristics of an object  is a fact which should not be ignored if we want to live peacefully and smilingly.

(ii) Relativity

The second principle of anekānta is Relativity. The analysis of nayas shows that every judgement is relative to that particular aspect, from which it is seen or known. This is also called sŒpek·avŒda, which means relativity of our particular knowledge or judgement to a particular standpoint. Since human judgements are always from particular standpoints, they are all relative and hence not absolutely true or absolutely false. Their outright acceptance as a sole truth, or rejection as totally false, would not be correct. nayavŒda is an objective perspective. It is a perspective given to us through objects by long experience. Two castes or two sects can be held in a mutually antagonistic relation only by adopting an absolute viewpoint. On the contrary, different individuals, castes and sects can survive and obtain relative benefits only on the basis of the non-absolutist viewpoint. In fact, the interest of the factory owner and the workers are not incompatible. By keeping in mind the workers interests, productivity increases and the factory owner's interests are served. Likewise, by keeping in mind the owner's interests those of the workers are served. If both seek to serve their interests in absolutely independent terms, the interests of both are jeopardized.

(iii) Reconciliation

The Third principle of Anekānta is Reconciliation.[7] The utility of the theory of naya lies in its analytical approach and the consequential approach of a rational reconciliation of the manifold reality. The task of this rational reconciliation is done by the theory of syŒdvŒda. As Dalsukha MŒlavaṇiŒ, an esteemed Jain scholar puts it, "Ācārya Siddhasena has said that, there are as many view points (naya-s) as there are statements and there are as many philosophies as there are statements. Enlightening this pronouncement, Ācārya Jinabhadra makes it clear that all philosophies taken collectively constitute Jainism. Contradiction seems to exist in the mutually exclusive statements, so long as they are not harmonized and integrated with each other. The doctrine of anekānta is the heart of Jain ontology, epistemology and logic. It claims the indeterminateness of reality, its knowledge and its verbal expression. If reality is infinitely manifold, logically there must be infinite ways of intellectually cognizing it and verbally expressing its infinite aspects. This presupposition enables one to harmonize various apparently contradictory descriptions to reality.

AnekŒntavŒda is the basic to the structure of Jain metaphysics. It seeks to reorient our logical attitude and asks us to accept the unification of contradictions as the true measure of reality. It is the key to unlock the mystery of the paradoxical reality. It is a principle of the quest for unity between two apparently different characteristics of a substance. Characteristics, which differ, are not altogether different. They have identicality also. Reconciliation can be brought about only by cognizing the identity principle. The principle of ecology is one of reconciliation and of inter-relationship between different substances. Balance in the universe cannot be established on the basis of the premise, "I alone exist". We survive only by adhering to the principle that "besides me, the other also exists and we are inter-related". The ecological balance in the universe can be explained on the basis of the above concept of inter-relatedness.

(iv) Tolerance

The fourth principle of anekānta is Tolerance. Mere co-existence does not make a society. People do not think alike. The effect of genes, impact of environment, influence of time and space, and the conglomeration of one’s past deeds make every individual unique. To organize such individuals into a peaceful net and to collectivize their creative skills into a civilized force, anekānta principle of tolerance is needed. The foundation of a healthy society indeed lies in bringing about harmony among diverse needs, ideas, thoughts and interests. The vital element of harmony is tolerance.[8]

What is tolerance? Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance is harmony in difference. Tolerance is a moral duty. Tolerance is the virtue that makes peace possible, and contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.[9] What is intolerance? Intolerance is everything that tolerance is not.It is narrow-mindedness, prejudice and fanaticism. Tolerance means conscious respect for diverse viewpoints, faiths, cultures, customs, and convictions. It accepts the dignity of every individual. Tolerance is a positive attribute of mind which means hearty acceptance of others diverse views with due respect.[10] Wars and conflicts are unavoidable between intolerant groups and nations. Intolerance is increasingly becoming the greatest danger to the survival of humanity. Fundamentalism is now the biggest enemy of spirituality  the  and it is self-destructive. Political intolerance is no less dangerous. It destroys all norms of good governance. No political system can succeed unless rival parties competing for power learn to endure each other. It is evident that disintegration of highly cultured and educated citizens had led to two big world wars. According to Jains, forgiveness, should suffix intolerance. Emotions can't be altogether controlled. Jains have found out a very effective way to counter this. It suggests spending a couple of minutes everyday to seek forgiveness for ones intolerant acts, words and deeds, and to give forgiveness to others for their intolerance. This anekŒntic approach of tolerance not only purifies the heart and cleanses the mind from ill the effects of intolerance, but also establishes a friendly abode on the earth.

(v) Equanimity

The fifth principle of anekānta is Equanimity. Ācārya Umāsvāti in his TattvŒrtha Sūtra cites an important aphorism of universal brotherhood "parasparopagraho jivŒnŒ" i.e., mutual interdependence of living beings.[11] Nothing is independent. All are interdependent.Our third eye is the eye of equanimity. We have two eyes. Our right eye symbolizes attachment and the left, aversion.[12] To live in the world of phenomena, one has to develop the anekŒntic view in practical life with the understanding that all the six levels of beings possess equal consciousness and behave accordingly.Tirthankar Mahavira endowed humanity with a fundamental thought on  which entire behaviour, patterns and relationship with the environment is based. An equality of all the  forms of life and reverence for all of them is his central teaching. He taught, “As you want to live, so do the others.[13] I n his definition of the ‘other’, he embraced or included not only all living beings that can move but also the existence of non-movable earth, air, water, fire and vegetation, and he made a fundamental contribution to our understanding of ecology.

So anekāntavāda and Syādvāda are the two relativistic pluralisms. They are like the two sides of the same coin. One is anekānta at the thought level and syādvāda at the speech level. For example, a pessimistic person looking at a half filled glass of water may say that, the glass is half empty. However the other side of the truth is that glass is also half filled.So anekānta requires one to consider and understand other view point also, rather than trying to justify only his or her point, and thus remove the contradiction. The doctrine of anekānta should not remain as a mere theory. So an endeavour is made to apply the technique of anekānta and its ultimate outcome in the following practical issues of life.

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Title: Applied Philosophy Of Anekanta
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 978-81910633-8-7
Publisher: JVBI Ladnun, India
HN4U Online Edition: 2014.02

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