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Anekanta : Philosophy of Co-existence: 12.02 Anekanta & Building a New Society (2)

Published: 13.08.2010
Updated: 13.08.2010

Chapter 12

Anekanta & Building a New Society

Anekanta & Building a New Society (2)

The Classification of Personality

The biggest problem of an organization, community or nation is related to emotion. Individuals differ in their emotions. They can be classified in four categories: 1) similar to a marsh or a quagmire 2) similar to water full of mud 3) similar to water full of sand and 4) similar to water steadily floating on a rock.

The first type of people having an impure state of the soul (those endowed with the excessively impure modal standpoint) turn the world into a hell. They can neither provide sound organizational set up nor can they adhere to any system.

The second type of people having an impure state of the soul (those endowed with impure modal standpoint) encourage bestiality in society and can never be helpful in bringing about a healthy and non-violent social order.

People having the third type of the state of the soul (those endowed with pure modal standpoint) can cooperate in building a healthy society. They can induct health in the social order.

People having the fourth type of the state of soul (those endowed with purified modal standpoint) can develop divine consciousness in society. They can promote the purity of means and a beneficent outlook.

The first two types believe in the power of punishment. The last two types believe in bringing about a change of heart and in the purity of means.

Spiritual people like Mahatma Gandhi kept dreaming of building a non-violent society and people like Karl Marx kept nursing a vision of a communist society. Neither of the two visions has been fulfilled. Neither could a non-violent society come into being, nor could communist society gain vigour. The reason is an absolutist viewpoint. If we do not make the two visions absolutistic, we can enter in a new society.

By nature an individual is inclined towards selfishness and personal comfort. The effort to forcibly make him exclusively corporatist cannot succeed. According to the Anekanta viewpoint it is possible to make communism dynamic by balancing the claims of individualism and collectivism.

No two individuals share the same emotions. Some people have subdued emotions; others have intensive emotions. Therefore a non-violent society cannot be built merely on the basis of a change of heart. Dwelling exclusively on a change of heart denotes an absolutistic view. The Anekanta or non-absolutistic view is that a non-violent society can be built on the basis of balanced amalgam of punishment and change of heart.

Anekanta and Democracy

Variety is a part of human nature. Even tastes and ideas differ from person to person. Nor is ordinary behaviour identical. There are a number of languages and sects. To keep them all united democracy follows the principle of equality of fundamental rights. Democracy does not divide people on the basis of inequality. On the other hand, it seeks to forge unity among diverse groups on the basis of equality.
Democracy cannot project a glorious image without balancing the claims of diversity and unity. The philosophical basis of this balancing system is Anekanta. According to Anekanta nothing is altogether disparate or identical. A general characteristic lends identity to things and a specific characteristic makes them disparate. Absolute insistence on identically destroys usefulness, for then individual specific characteristics cannot be put to use. Absolute insistence on disparateness makes things devoid of their basic generality. It is for this reason the Anekanta posits the following:

  • An object is perhaps identical - from a certain point of view all objects are identical.
  • An object is perhaps disparate - from a certain point of view all objects are disparate.

Unity can be strengthened on the basis of identity. Disparateness can be used to utilize an individual's specific qualities. Therefore, it is necessary to know the limitations of both identity and disparateness. A mechanical insistence on identity robs a nation of its meritorious and talented people. An absolute insistence on disparateness becomes the cause of a nation's disintegration. Therefore, there is need to develop a philosophy which balances and harmonizes identity and disparateness. Unity involves belonging to common geographic region. No one who lives within that region can be discriminated against in terms of their need for food, clothing, housing etc. Everyone enjoys an equal opportunity to develop. It is on this basis that everyone in a democracy has the right to become President, Prime Minister etc. What limits this right is individual excellence or quality. High offices can be manned only by those people who have a highly developed intellectual and administrative competence. Nature has plenty to offer. A democracy can be given a healthy base only by appreciating element of both identity and disparateness.

Jayacharya, the fourth Acharya of the Swetambar Jain Terapanth Order, applied a harmonious combination of the general and the specific on the basis of Anekanta in dealing with the Terapanth Religious Order. As a result the Order kept progressing constantly and avoided being embroiled in mutual conflicts. The above positive viewpoint remains an ideal to this day. Once Jaiprakash Narayan told Acharya Tulsi, "Your Order is a perfect example of socialism. What is needed is that it should now percolate down to each individual throughout society."

Anekanta and Economic Policy

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 engendered 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 or 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 of 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 centre 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.

Freedom and Dependence

The issue of freedom and dependence is also not beyond controversy. It cannot be explained on the basis of absolutism. No 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. No 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 all 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 for 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 one self 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 reconciling 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 engaged in solving them is not relativistic and reconciliatory. Inflated egos, imperialistic expansion, market monopoly etc. are international problems. Exclusive thoughts of national development ignoring global perspective also hinder solution of 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, co-existence and freedom. Such a training will be the best way of solving problems relating to world a 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 cannot be enunciated or propounded. What can be enunciated or propounded is only a fraction of truth. No human being can determine and enunciate more than only a small number of modes out of thousands of modes 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.


I see what is before me with my eyes.
With what should I see what is not before my eyes?
The one who answers this question is my guru.
There are many who trade in verbal conundrums.
The guru is one who relates his experience.


It is important to know the method to be forgetful so that we are free from tensions


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. Acharya
  2. Acharya Tulsi
  3. Anekanta
  4. Bhava
  5. Casteism
  6. Consciousness
  7. Contemplation
  8. Gandhi
  9. Greed
  10. Guru
  11. Jain Philosophy
  12. Jayacharya
  13. Mahatma
  14. Mahatma Gandhi
  15. Mahavira
  16. Soul
  17. Space
  18. Swetambar
  19. Swetambar Jain Terapanth
  20. Terapanth
  21. The Quest For Truth
  22. Tulsi
  23. Violence
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