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ANEKANTA, The Philosophy Of Non-absolutism [ 5 ] Anekanta and Economic Policy

Published: 23.01.2006
Updated: 15.02.2008

Now and again one hears everywhere that violence is increasing day by day. Why is it so? The factors responsible for the increase have also been investigated from time to time. Of the many causes put forward the most prominent is economic greed, which is endangered by a false or perverse conception. It consists in the belief that one's capital should be enhanced through borrowing with the illogical assumption that returning the loans involves greater efforts, more business and higher production. Taking loans has now become a source of inspiration, a basis of economic development.

This one-sided or exclusive view of economic development totally disregards physical health, mental peace, emotional balance and environmental protection. This absolutistic economic development has made the human mind purely mechanical. Everyone has the inordinate desire to build an economic empire.

Anekanta has four main viewpoints: substance, space, time and bhava (state of the soul). The assessment of anything should be relative to substance, space, time, and bhava. Absolute and unqualified assessment creates a number of problems. It is ironical that the economics of development relegates physical health, mental peace, emotional balance and environmental protection to a secondary position.

Increase in consumables through artificial means was deemed necessary because f the increase in population. Economic development was deemed necessary also for removing poverty. Chemical sprays add poison to foods, vegetables and fruits. Despite being aware of this fact people consume these articles. The craving for increasing consumption created by the economic race is, far from reducing poverty, increasing it. Economic wealth is getting more and more confined to a handful of nations and individuals. All this is result of the absolutistic view of development. A balanced economic policy can be envisioned if man is placed at the center of economic development and if it is not used for building economic empires. An economic policy unrelated to general human needs is proving self-destructive. It cannot be salvaged by adopting an absolutistic approach.

By forgetting the principle of restricting consumption as propounded by Mahavira, the world has got into a serious situation. Let us again try to view it in the light of Anekanta.

The issue of freedom and dependence is also not beyond controversy. It cannot be explained on the basis of absolutism. I lo man given to emotional attachment can ever be fully free. There are a number of alternatives like individual freedom, social freedom, and constitutional freedom. They can be explained only relativistically. True freedom is relative to dependence. I lo other freedom, which is absolutistic and not relative to dependence can ever be useful for individuals or for society as a whole.

Absolute freedom to corner wealth and to consume is being instrumental in creating economic disparities and environmental pollution. Poverty, environmental pollution, conflicts, arms race and wars are the result of an absolutistic approach. Without integrating temporal and spiritual considerations it is impossible to solve the problem of poverty.

Similarly, the environmental problem cannot be solved without combining restraint on consumption with physical efforts, nor can conflicts be avoided without integrating balancing of passions and organizational effort. The urge for manufacturing destructive weapons cannot be got over without developing the mentality of non-aggression and a spiritual viewpoint of individual rights.

The propensity of war cannot be put to an end without diffusing a humanistic viewpoint and without controlling egotism and greed. It is not easy to reconcile the above contradictions. Their intractability can be best addressed by integrating emotional balance with a proper system of governance.

Even apparently opposed events can be reconciled by Anekanta. There is complete reconciliation and co-existence in the real world. It is our intellect that has imagined the idea of opposition. Creation and destruction, life and death, permanent and impermanent always go together.

It is very difficult to satisfy the desire for convenience and luxury. Therefore, it is essential to reconcile material progress with spiritual development.

No Problem - individual, social, national or global - can have a proper and enduring solution on the basis of an absolutistic approach. It is only a relativistic one-sided view that can lead to the direction of a proper solution. An absolutistic one-sided view can provide no solution. Ideas are individual in nature. Any two persons can think in opposite ways. If both of them happen to meet, dogmatic attitude will control the thought. One will say, "Only that which I say is true. What you say is not true." The absolutistic insistence has only one aim - to prove oneself right and the other wrong. It is called dogmatism. It is a by-product of absolutistic view. Such insistence vanishes when one adopts a relativistic attitude. Two apparently opposed ideas can be true if seen in the context of space, time and circumstance.

The happy outcome of Anekanta is the birth in an individual of an attitude of non-insistence or refraining from insistence. A person with the above attitude analyses an event from multiple angles as a result of which he develops a viewpoint of reconciliating different parts and aspects of the truth. Viewed thus, we can say that Anekanta views partial truths in a relativistic and reconciliatory way.

There are countless social problems and they cannot be solved unilaterally or absolutistically. Social life implies interrelations and mutual relations can be explained only from a relativistic point of view. People have held varied views regarding marriage and divorce influenced by time and space considerations. The propriety or otherwise of any one view cannot be upheld on the basis of a single viewpoint.

There are problems like poverty versus affluence and equality versus disparity. It is essential to review and investigate them thoroughly from the Anekanta point of view. Again, the nation faces a number of major problems relating to language, region, autonomy, casteism and sectarianism. They are defying solution simply because the viewpoint of those involved in solving them is not relativistic and reconciliatory. Inflated egos, imperialistic expansion, market monopoly etc. are international problems. World peace and the aspirations of the people of the present age demand that all prominent people in the family, community, nation and the world should adopt a non-absolutistic outlook. They should undergo training in relativity, reconciliation, co­existence and freedom. Such a training will be the best way of solving problems relating to world peace.

Developing philosophical consciousness should precede developing practical consciousness. Behavioural changes are brought about only on the basis of philosophy. It is essential to deliberate on the following philosophical principles for bringing about behavioural changes:

  • Truth is none other than itself. It does not change from person to person. Even then it is all too evident that what I consider true is considered true by someone else and equally I consider that untrue which someone else considers true. This controversy about truth leads to untruth. To solve it Mahavira propounded Anekanta and said, 'Truth cannot be enunciated or propounded. What can be enunciated or propounded is only a fraction of truth."
  • Jain philosophy has explained both idealism and realism relativistically.
  • Idealism and realism viewed absolutistically become parts of untruth; on the contrary, viewed non-absolutistically or relativistically, they become parts of truth.
  • Every real entity in the world is a natural combination of the permanent and the impermanent.
  • The quest for truth has been by reflection, contemplation and philosophy. It has developed in a social context.
  • Both the animate and the inanimate represent absolutistic truth. The changes they undergo represent relativistic truth. The real truth lies in a combination of the absolutistic truth and the relativistic truth.
© by Acharya Mahaprajna
Translated by Muni Mahendra Kumar


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