A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of the doctrine of nayas: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the eighth part in the series called the “the jaina philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 8 - The Doctrine of Nayas

In framing judgments about things there are two ways open to us, firstly we may notice the manifold qualities and characteristics of anything but view them as unified in the thing; thus when we say “this is a book” we do not look at its characteristic qualities as being different from it, but rather the qualities or characteristics are perceived as having no separate existence from the thing. Secondly we may notice the qualities separately and regard the thing as a mere non-existent fiction (cf. the Buddhist view); thus I may speak of the different qualities of the book separately and hold that the qualities of things are alone perceptible and the book apart from these cannot be found. These two points of view are respectively called dravyanaya and paryāyanaya[1]. The dravyanaya again shows itself in three forms, and paryāya-naya in four forms, of which the first form only is important for our purposes, the other three being important rather from the point of view of grammar and language had better be omitted here. The three nayas under dravyanaya are called naigama-naya, samgraha-naya and vyavahāra-naya.

When we speak of a thing from a purely common sense point of view, we do not make our ideas clear or precise. Thus I may hold a book in my hand and when asked whether my hands are empty, I may say, no, I have something in my hand, or I may say, I have a book in my hand. It is evident that in the first answer I looked at the book from the widest and most general point of view as a “thing,” whereas in the second I looked at it in its special existence as a book. Again I may be reading a page of a book, and I may say I am reading a book, but in reality I was reading only one of the pages of the book. I may be scribbling on loose sheets, and may say this is my book on Jaina philosophy, whereas in reality there were no books but merely some loose sheets. This looking at things from the loose common sense view, in which we do not consider them from the point of view of their most general characteristic as “being” or as any of their special characteristics, but simply as they appear at first sight, is technically called the naigama standpoint. This empirical view probably proceeds on the assumption that a thing possesses the most general as well as the most special qualities, and hence we may lay stress on any one of these at any time and ignore the other ones. This is the point of view from which according to the Jains the Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika schools interpret experience.

Samgraha-naya is the looking at things merely from the most general point of view. Thus we may speak of all individual things from their most general and fundamental aspect as “being.” This according to the Jains is the Vedānta way of looking at things.

The vyavahāra-naya standpoint holds that the real essence of things is to be regarded from the point of view of actual practical experience of the thing, which unifies within it some general as well as some special traits, which has been existing from past times and remain in the future, but yet suffer trifling changes all the while, changes which are serviceable to us in a thousand ways. Thus a “book” has no doubt some general traits, shared by all books, but it has some special traits as well. Its atoms are continually suffering some displacement and rearrangement, but yet it has been existing as a book for some time past and will exist for some time in the future as well. All these characteristics, go to make up the essence of the “book” of our everyday experience, and none of these can be separated and held up as being the concept of a “book.” This according to the Jains is the Sāṃkhya way of looking at things.

The first view of paryāya-naya called rjusūtra is the Buddhist view which does not believe in the existence of the thing in the past or in the future, but holds that a thing is a mere conglomeration of characteristics which may be said to produce effects at any given moment. At each new moment there are new collocations of new qualities and it is these which may be regarded as the true essence of our notion of things[2].

The nayas as we have already said are but points of view, or aspects of looking at things, and as such are infinite in number. The above four represent only a broad classification of these. The Jains hold that the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika, the Vedanta, the Sāṃkhya, and the Buddhist,, have each tried to interpret and systematize experience from one of the above four points of view,/and each regards the interpretation from his point of view as being absolutely true to the exclusion of all other points of view. This is their error (; nayābhāsa), for each standpoint represents only one of the many points of view from which a thing can be looked at. The affirmations from any point of view are thus true in a limited sense and under limited conditions. Infinite numbers of affirmations may be made of things from infinite points of view.

Affirmations or judgments according to any naya or standpoint cannot therefore be absolute, for even contrary affirmations of the very selfsame things may be held to be true from other points of view. The truth of each affirmation is thus only conditional, and inconceivable from the absolute point of view. To guarantee correctness therefore each affirmation should be preceded by the phrase syāt (may be). This will indicate that the affirmation is only relative, i made somehow, from some point of view and under some reservations and not in any sense absolute. There is no judgment which is absolutely true, and no judgment which is absolutely false. All judgments are true in some sense and false in another. This brings us to the famous Jaina doctrine of Syādvāda[3].

Footnotes and references:


Syādvādamañjarī, pp. 171-173.


The other standpoints of paryāya-naya, which represent grammatical and linguistic points of view, are śabda-naya, samabhirūḍha-naya, and evambhūta-naya. See Viśtṣāvaśyaka bhāṣya, pp. 895-923.


Viśeṣāvaśyaka bhāṣya, pp. 170, etc.

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