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Microcosmology: Atom In Jain Philosophy & Modern Science: [3.1.4] A Critique - Metaphysical View: Non-Absolutism - Law Of Anekanta - C) Mutation (Parinama)

Published: 14.02.2008
Updated: 13.08.2008

Triple Characteristics Of Real

In order to fully grasp the significance of Jain view regarding physical existence in the context of new physics, we think it is necessary to allow a little more space to discuss the character of Reality as asserted by the Jain Philosophy of Non-absolutism. We, therefore, apologize to the readers for being repetitive to some extent.

We have seen in the previous sub-section that the Jain conception of Reality avoids the Scylla of fluxism and the Charybdis of illusionism. One cannot conceive of any other philosophy, which can maintain realism against the onslaughts of idealists without endorsing the Jain conception. Existence, cessation and persistence are the fundamental characteristics of all that is real. This concept of Reality is the only one which can avoid the conclusion that the world of plurality, which is the world of experience, is an illusion. Either the world is to be accepted as real or dismissed as an unreal appearance.

The affirmation of origination, cessation and persistence as the triple characteristics in the constitution of reals has to be substantiated. We have seen that change presupposes the persistence of an underlying permanence. So permanence is to be accounted as an element in a real together with change. But change means the cessation of a previous mode or attribute and the coming into being of a new mode. The affirmation of the triple characteristics has, therefore, nothing paradoxical about it. They are a natural deduction from the reality of change. The Jains believe in the dynamic nature of reals and, in deference to the demands of reason and experience alike, they sum up the triple characteristics as the component factors of the constitution of Reality. One can avoid this triple characteristic only by the declaration of change as appearance, which is the position of the Vedanta. One must offer one's allegiance either to Vedantic monism or affirm the multiple nature of Reality, which is the teaching of Jaina anekantavada (non-absolutism).

Viewed from the Jaina standpoint, a real is a continuum through the infinite variation of its modes at every moment of its being. The continuum is a reality as much as the variation. Thus, there is unity as well as multiplicity in perfect harmony. The real viewed as identical with the changing modes is thus coming into being every moment and perishing every moment. That it comes to evolve a new mode implies that the previous mode has ceased to exist. So a real qua its modes is becoming into something new by ceasing to be its old self. The birth of the new is thus the logical concomitant of the death of the old. The affirmation of the three apparently incompatible elements as making up the constitution of a real is thus the result of a logical analysis of a real as it is. Either pure (absolute) negation or pure (absolute) affirmation are the only alternatives left for acceptance. The former is the position of the Buddhist Sunyavadin and the latter is that of Vedanta. Is the paradox greater in the Jain view than in the two other systems? Is the Sunyavadin who dismisses the whole world of experience as an unfounded illusion, less paradoxical? Is the Vedantic view, which endorses the Sunyavadin's repudiation of the whole world of pluralities, calculated to satisfy the abhorrence of paradox in a more satisfying manner? The paradox is only apparent as it alone provides a satisfactory experience and thought. The criterion should be whether or not it succeeds to explain the world, as we know it.

Again, the Jains assert the non-absolutistic position in respect of the relation of modes with substance. The mode is a mode of the substance because the identity of substance is focussed in it and is not annulled. So a mode is identical with substance in that respect. To take an example, clay is transformed into a jar, and so the former is regarded as the cause of the latter. The jar is different from clay, no doubt, but the jar could not be a jar unless it was the same substance as clay. The mode and the substance may be viewed as identical and also as different, as they are both in one. Thus the consequences are not inevitable, as they are based upon exclusive identity and exclusive difference. But the identity is not exclusive of difference and vice versa, as both are the attested traits of Reality. If identity is to be asserted on the evidence of experience, difference also should equally be asserted on the strength of the same evidence. The compartmental way of looking at things leads to the affirmation of one and to the negation of the other. The besetting sin of philosophers has been the habit to put the telescope upon the blind eye and then to deduce that the other aspect is not real. The Jain Philosopher voices the necessity of using both the eyes and of seeing the obverse and reverse of the coin of Reality.

The triple characteristics gives out the internal constitution of Reality. A real persists through time and thus has these three - past, present and future - temporal determinations. So a real is real for all time. It was real in the past, is real in the present and will be real in future. A ‘real’, which has no past and no future, is a fiction and a non-entity.

Let us sum up the results of our investigation into the nature of Reality. The Jain philosopher has proved that absolute unqualified affirmation of existence is not in conformity with the nature of Reality. He has also proved that absolute negation of existence is self-contradictory. He has further proved that fidelity to experience and thought demands that existence and non-existence both are to be accepted as equally valid traits in the make-up of a real.

In order to guard against the absolutist habit of believing existence and non-existence as whole-characteristics excluding each other from their respective orbit, the Jain Philosopher prefaces each proposition by the limiting phrase 'in some respect' or 'in one particular aspect' (syat). The insertion of this phrase is a warning against reading an absolutist sense into the predicates. It is true that the two characteristics—'is' and 'is not'—are not capable of being expressed by one word at a time. The co-existence of these two predicables is sought to be implied by the phrase 'inexpressible' (avacya) by some others. But according to the Jains, the word 'inexpressible', used as a predicate, asserts a real characteristic of a real subject and the possibility of such predication means that a real is not entirely incapable of being described. So the predicate 'inexpressible' cannot be taken in its literal absolute sense. 'In some respect, a real is 'inexpressible' is the correct proposition.

The Jains assert that concepts and conceptual thoughts are not in opposition. It is exceedingly difficult to understand why the concepts should not be of service in the emergence of perceptual intuition. The Jains maintain that perceptual judgements are founded upon reality. Parity of reasoning requires that consciousness, with the aid of sense-organs and concepts, can give us the full knowledge of Reality, as it is. The Jains do not regard the concepts as antagonistic to Reality. The concepts are as much the means as the sense organs and consciousness are, of gaining an insight into the nature of Reality. Thus, a real is not a particular alone, but particular-cum-universal, the universal as embodied in the particular. The real is, thus, amenable to verbal communication and to judgement alike.

  • Jain Vishva Barati Institute, Ladnun, India
  • Edited by Muni Mahendra Kumar
  • 3rd Edition 1995

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekantavada
  2. Consciousness
  3. JAINA
  4. Jain Philosophy
  5. Jaina
  6. Monism
  7. Non-absolutism
  8. Space
  9. Syat
  10. Vedanta
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