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Anekanta : Philosophy of Co-existence: 12.01 Anekanta & Building a New Society (1)

Published: 12.08.2010
Updated: 12.08.2010

Chapter 12

Anekanta & Building a New Society


Apramāna - Invalid knowledge
Bhāva - State of the soul
Pramana - Valid knowledge
Samgraha naya - Class, synthetic view point
Satyam - Truth
Shivam - Benefaction
Sundaram - Beauty
Vyavahara naya - Analytic view


Social life implies inter-relations and mutual relations can be explained only from a relativistic point of view. There are countless social problems relating to language, region, autonomy, casteism and sectarianism. Again there are problems like poverty versus affluence and equality versus disparity. They are solved because the viewpoint of those engaged in solving them is not relativistic and reconciliatory. It is essential to review and investigate them thoroughly from the Anekanta point of view because it will help to analyse an event from multiple angles and develop a viewpoint of reconciling different parts and aspects of the truth. This way a new society can be built on the basis of interdependence, sensitivity, fixing a limit to ones possessions; fixing a limit to one's freedom etc.


Anekanta & Building a New Society (1)

In all comers of the world one hears a common voice of people visualizing a new man, a new society and a new world. Efforts are also afoot to realize the above vision. How meaningful is the above voice? Will the efforts succeed? The quest for meaning and success cannot be based on the basis of the permanent. The permanent does not undergo any change, and the vision of a new man, a new society and a new world cannot be realized without effecting a change. From the viewpoint of Anekanta the permanent is real, but so is the impermanent or the changeable. Being can be explained in terms of the permanent for it is unchangeable. One of the intrinsic parts of the unchangeable is change, for change and changelessness are not two different things. Both co-exist. Since change is possible, the vision of a new man, a new society and a new world is not unattainable or impossible. The basic cause of change is the viewpoint. On its basis is built a theory and implementation of the theory results in change. We do want to bring about a change but it requires the right perception. We do not want to develop it. The biggest obstacle between the change and the right perecetion is our belief. Each individual or organization has its own beliefs. A new man, a new society or a new world cannot be visualized on the basis of these beliefs.

A belief is based on selfishness and the concern for personal gain as a result of which one disregards the good or gain of the others. Insistance on the respective caste or sect is rooted in individual beliefs. The same root is responsible for the growth of conflicts, disputes and wars.

With the growth of right perception, a belief changes into a quest for the truth and the opposition between conflicting interests also comes to an end. It is commonly believed that the interests of any two castes, sects and classes are mutually antagonistic. Though in element they are not antagonistic, they are regarded so because of perverted faith or what we call mithyatva. Once the right faith develops the antagonism disappears and even the conflicting interests become complementary instead of being antagonistic. 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 a absolute or inclusive is absolutism; to treat it as relative and incomplete is non-absolutism. To determine a real one should have a non-absolutist view. Anekanta has two basic viewpoints: absolute and non-absolute or relative. For determining the substance one should use the absolute viewpoint; for determining relations one should use the non-absolute viewpoint.


The first principle of Anekanta is relativity. 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 interests 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.

The principle of class differences and their hostile vested interests needs to be examined in the context of relativity, for on the basis of relativity even antagonistic interests can be reconciled. When these interests are examined in absolute terms, the inevitable result is conflict, violence involving the abandoning of the principle of the purity of means.


The second principle of Anekanta is coordination. It is principle of the quest for unity between two apparently different characteristics of a substance. Characteristics, which differ, are not altogether different. They have identically also. Reconciliation can be brought about only by recognizing the identity principle. The principle of ecology is one of reconciliation and of interrelationship 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 interrelated". The balance in the universe can be explained on the basis of the above concept of interrelatedness.


The third principle of Anekanta is co-existence. Anything or anybody existent must have their opposite - yat sat tat sapratipaksam. 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 permanent is not altogether separate from the impermanent, nor is the latter completely separate from the former.

The principle of co-existence is as much practical as it is philosophical. Though the terms system, individual, taste and viewpoint have different denotations even implying inherent opposition, the principle of co-existence applies to them too. Democracy and dictatorship, capitalism and communism are ideologically different political systems. But even they are no exception to co-existence. 'You or me' not 'you and me' is an instance of absolutism by which the problem gets compounded. The holiness of the world of religion has been destroyed by the view: "Only those have the right to survive who follow my religion, all the rest should be extirpated." The main strengths of religion are non-violence, friendliness and fraternity. The absolutist view has changed non-violence into violence, friendliness into hostility and fraternity into animosity.

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 all others. Nature has infinite variety, which lends it splendour. Beauty will lose all its charms and meaning if all plants, trees and flowers look alike. The combined principle of satyam (truth), Shivam (benefaction), Sundaram (beauty) inheres in the principle of unity in diversity and diversity in unity. It is only the above harmony, which forms the basis of co-existence. Monism and dualism are two principles belonging to philosophy. Unity cannot be explained in the absence of monism and diversity cannot be explained without dualism. A harmonious combination of monism and dualism alone constitutes a holistic viewpoint for explaining the world. Likewise, there are enough factors of unity between the animate and the inanimate. On its basis we are able to realize what existence means. There are factors of diversity also between the animate and the inanimate. On its basis we are able to divide and analyse existence. Harmony is a principle of the search for unity, but it does not negate the pre-existent diversity. It is only in this way that we can explain an individual as well as society.

The Basis of Personal Characteristics

Every person has both individual and communal consciousness. Some thinkers give greater importance to be the individual, while others give greater importance to society. It violates the principle of harmony. We cannot assess an individual properly without paying attention to his/her personal qualities. There are seven bases of innate personal characteristics:






Thinking power of mind


Soul's inclination or feelings






Knowledge or capacity to acquire.

The Basis of Building a New Society

The people who think merely of building a new society without taking into consideration the innate traits of an individual cannot accomplish their visions. If equal attention had been paid to individual innate characteristics in socialistic and communistic systems efforts at building a new society would have got a healthy basis. The basic principles essential for socialization are related to innate individual characteristics.

There are five bases on which a new social order can be built: interdependence, sensitivity, fixing a limit to ones possessions; fixing a limit to one's freedom and development of the language, intellectual development, development of ideas, development of technology and art. In the class view (samgraha naya) there is a division of oneness - absence of all distinctions. Society is built on this foundation.
In the analytic view (vyavahdra naya) there is predominance of distinction or difference. It is the basis of securing the identity of the individual.

If rules, laws and order are formulated by integrating both society and the individual their compliance will be natural and comprehensive.

There are situation in which the individual interests are secondary and social interests are primary even as there are situations in which social interests are secondary and individual interests are primary. This principle of differentiation between what is primary and what is secondary in a given situation is very useful for a wholesome order. Society cannot be built unless difference or distinction is considered secondary and the freedom of the individual suffers unless sameness or oneness is subordinated. This principle of Anekanta relating to primary versus secondary is extremely useful for a successful organization of society.


Anekanta: Philosophy of Co-existence Publisher:  JainVishwa Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan, India Editor: Muni Akshay Prakash

Edition:  2010 (1. Edition)

ISBN:  817195140-6

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekanta
  2. Apramāna
  3. Bhāva
  4. Body
  5. Casteism
  6. Consciousness
  7. Ecology
  8. Mithyatva
  9. Monism
  10. Naya
  11. Non-absolutism
  12. Non-violence
  13. Pramana
  14. Samgraha Naya
  15. Satyam
  16. Shivam
  17. Soul
  18. Sundaram
  19. Tolerance
  20. Violence
  21. Vyavahara Naya
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