Anekantavada/Jainism

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Contents

Anekantavada/Jainism

All Reality Is Relative

Pranav Khullar

Ahimsa, the most important tenet in Jainism, explores the psychological intent to hurt and harm another and turns the focus inward from an actual act of violence to the intentionality of the act. Ahimsa is seen as the abjuring of violent and hurtful thoughts for another, possible only when we realise the relevance of ‘parasparopagraho jivanam’ – the concept of interdependence. All life is inextricably connected and ahimsa is nothing but expression and mindfulness of natural empathy for another.

Ahimsa, an ethical principle, is rooted in the Jaina metaphysics of anekantavada which details the many-sidedness or anekanta of reality; that no single point of view can be construed as being the whole truth. The story of the five blind men who gave their own perspective of the elephant is a good example of the way we tend to see one or two aspects of anything and perhaps jump to the conclusion that what we perceive to be is the whole truth, whereas it is not the only truth. There could be as many versions of the truth as there are those trying to comprehend it.

The philosophical concept of anekantavada is further elaborated upon in the abstruse logic of ‘saptabhanginaya’ – the doctrine of seven conditioned predications, wherein each statement is expressed from seven different relative points of view, and each view is prefixed by a "maybe" or "relatively" (syad), so perhaps a thing is real, and perhaps it isn't, in relative terms, and it could be both real and unreal. Similarly, something could be indescribable, maybe real but indescribable. This dialectic of the relativity of knowledge, popularly known as syadvad, rules out any categorical or absolutist pronouncement, and shows how each judgement can effectively be only relative and conditional. Syadvad dissects the empirical world psychologically, and in so doing, seeks to reveal the relativity of the mind itself.

This theory of dealing with partial truths is also the philosophical basis for ethical living with the principle of ahimsa, for it prepares the ground for acceptance and respect of opposing views. This would help introspection of one's own claims and enable respecting varied opinions.

Anekantavada is positioned midway between the Vedantic assertion of Brahmn as Absolute and the Buddhist postulation of 'change as permanent' and offers its own pragmatic blueprint for a more peaceful existence, where all views are accommodated out of the belief that all minds are relatively conditioned, and are actually interdependent. But this analysis of the empirical world is also ironically meant to be a call to the path of renunciation, after having understood the unreal and relative nature of things, and who, through right conduct, right faith and right reflection, has progressively detached himself from externalities and is now ready to follow and attain the ‘Mahavira state of mind’ – "where karmic matter has thinned out and the soul expands to be one with the cosmos’’.

Anekantavada is the cornerstone of Jaina thought, the metaphysics of which defines the Jaina ethical way of living with compassion through the five anuvratas laid down for the shraviks or laypersons. The five anuvratas are: ahimsa, satya, asteya or non-stealing, brahmacharya or celibacy and aparigraha or non-possession. It then provides, in rare cases, the trigger to pursue the Jaina ideal of renunciation – Kaivalya-Jnana – possible by living the ascetic life of a sramana. This was how Mahavira set out in search of the real nature of reality, to explore what lay beyond the contours of the conditioned mind.

Humanitarian in essence

The Times of India Apr 10 2015

Pranav Khullar

Jaina Philosophy Is Humanitarian In Essence

The fundamental issue of liberation from human bondage is deconstructed in Jaina thought, through a detailed analysis of the nature of reality and the notion of karma.In its unique assertion that the soul itself is a material cause of drawing a veil over its real nature, the Jaina tradition shifts the onus from external causes and influences to pinning responsibility on oneself for one's salvation ­ the soul itself has the capability to become free also. The interplay between the structure of the soul and the processes of karma is itself rooted in the dynamics of anekantavada, a metaphysical dissection of the empirical world.

Many sides to reality

In detailing anekanta or the manysidedness of reality , and positing that no single point of view can be construed as the whole truth ­ since empirical knowledge is limited and relative to the perspective from which it is seen or known ­ the Jaina was emphasising the similarity of the soul-condition of each soul. That is, we may be unique, but we are all the same also.

This metaphysic is further elaborated upon in the abstruse logic of `saptabhanginaya' ­ the doctrine of seven conditioned predications, wherein each statement is expressed from seven different relative points of view, and each view is prefixed by a `maybe' or `relatively' (syad), so maybe (relatively) a thing is real, or unreal; perhaps it is both real and unreal. On the other hand it might be indescribable and so on. This dialectic of the relativity of knowledge, popularly known as syadvad, rules out any categorical or absolutist pronouncements and shows how each judgment can effec tively be only relative and conditional.Syadvad dissects the empirical world psychologically and in doing so seeks to show the relativity of the mind itself.

The absolute and the relative

Jaina thought is positioned midway between the vedantic assertion of Brahmn as Absolute and the Buddhist postulation of `Change as permanent' and throws up a pragmatic blueprint for a more peaceful existence, where all views are accommodated out of the belief that all minds are relatively condi tioned, and are actually inter dependent. Anekantavada says that all perspectives of reality are uniquely true from the knower's own feel of reality; yet no single view can be con strued as complete or whole.

This theory of partial truths becomes the philosophical basis for ethical living, through the principle of ahimsa, for the metaphysic lays the ground for acceptance and respect for opposing views. The Jaina sees this as possible only in the realisation of `parasparopagraho jivanam' or interdependence, that all life and beings are inextricably bound with each other, and ahimsa thereby becomes a natural empathy for another being rather than just an outer sympathy . This idiom shaped Gandhiji's own notion of non-violence in the modern era.

The metaphysics of anekantavada provides the key to an understanding of the world of Mahavira ­ the multiplicity of the world is to be resolved through the emphasis on an ethical way of living, of compassion through the five anuvratas laid down for the shraviks (laypersons), ahimsa, satya, asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya and aparigraha (non-possession).

The metaphysics of anekantavada then provides, in rare cases, the trigger to pursue the Jaina renunciate ideal of kaivalya-jnana, just as Mahavira ventured forth, in search of the real nature of reality beyond the conditioned mind. The state of arhat or enlightenment is open for those who have first understood the nature of reality .

Peaceful co-existence

The Times of India, May 17 2016

Anekant Kumar Jain

The twenty-fourth Jain tirthankara, Mahavira, presented the theory of `anekant' that encourages interpersonal and communal harmony by promoting tolerance in the community . The same principle can be extended to intellectual, social, religious and other spheres. Anekant ensures peaceful co-existence to all peoples, however diverse their faith or background.

Today , everyone across the world is troubled by the growing intolerance between people and even countries.India has a long tradition of tolerance.Mahavira's philosophy of `anekantvada' refers to the importance of giving room for multiple viewpoints. In its most basic form, anekant means that there are multiple perceptions of truth, and that no single point of view can be considered absolutely right. This approach is quite different from dogmatic religions that insist: `My way or the high way .' At the core of anekantvada is the belief that the universe and everything in it, that is the objects of our perception, are infinite in their qualities. Whereas human perception is finite, and what's more, each human's perceptions are different based on the filter through which they see the world.

No two people are identical, and naturally it follows that there are as many different perceptions of the world as there are people! Thus, it is impossible for one individual to completely grasp all aspects and manifestations of the universe and truth. Statements like, `Only my religionsect is right and others are totally wrong,' are creating wars.`Other may be right' typeof-thinking can increase the tolerance quotient.

Anekant means belief in peaceful co-existence in both practical and philosophical ways. When you say `you or me' instead of `you and me' the trouble starts.The sanctity of religion has been destroyed by this view. “Only those have the right to survive who follow my religion, all the rest should be extirpated.“

The dictionary meaning of `tolerance' exposes the negative aspect of acceptance in a dominant manner. If tolerance is taken to mean `ability or capacity to tolerate', it will point to toleration out of compulsion, out of helplessness or out of dire need of survival. It may even indicate the attitude of treating the other person with condemnation or the attitude of a superiority complex and treating the other as inferior, as for example powerful nations tolerating weak, underdeveloped countries.

Hence, true anekantvada is that which treats all other views, including itself, with equanimity . By doing so, the concept of anekantvada demands surrender of undue pride in one's own existence and supremacy and developing humility and respect towards other perspectives. In situations of communal disturbances and religious tensions, approaching the problem in a spirit of anekantvada can help to solve these battles.

All religions are different pathways to the same goal, and no religion is superior or inferior to another religion. All religious faiths are equally respectable.The theory can be applied to many spheres of life where there are battles arising out of misunderstanding. And it can be well understood that it is the theory advocating equanimity among and respect towards all possible alternatives, rather than the ability to `tolerate'.

Similarly in a democratic form of government, the doctrine of anekant is very important for both the ruling and opposition parties to accept the existence of each other as real and learn to live with each other in a logical and peaceful manner.

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