by Deepa Baruah | 2017 | 46,858 words
This page describes the The doctrine of Syadvada (doctrine of conditional predications) from the study of the philosophy of Jainism: one of the oldest religions in India having its own metaphysics, philosophy and ethics. Jainism is regarded as an ethical system where non-violence features as an important ethical value.
The theory of syādvāda is one of the most important theories of the Jainas to explain the nature of reality. It has been later developed into saptabhaṅgīnaya or sevenfold judgment. The Jainas hold that a thing has innumerable characters, and for having the full knowledge of an object, one should consider all these aspects. That means, one should not only take positive aspects of a thing but also take its negative aspects. This is called syādvāda.
A thing or object can be viewed from different points of view, i.e., it can be existent or non-existent, one, many etc. According to Prabhācandra, from various relations, a person is a father, brother, uncle, son etc. For an instance, Devadatta is the father of his son, brother of his brother, son of his father and so on. Hence, Devadatta possesses many aspects like father, son etc. When his son calls him, he uses the word father, i.e. in relation to his son, he is father. So, relatively Devadatta is a father. Syādvāda means this relativity of judgment. As a matter of fact, when an object which possesses many characters (anekāntātmaka) is expressed in a particular form of judgment, the expression is known as syādvāda. Here, the word syāt is used for the expression of different points of view or judgment.
The word syāt means probable, perhaps, may be. So, syādvāda may mean the theory of probability. But, the Jainas use the term ‘somehow’ as the syāt. It has already been mentioned that reality is many-sided and it is not possible to express all the aspects of a thing. So, all the assertions are relative, limited and conditional.
Hence, the Jainas use the term syāt or somehow to express both its positive and negative aspects.
According to Syādvādamañjarī an object is known in three ways, which are called durnīti, naya and pramāṇa. Sadeva is durnīti. That means an object saying as absolutely real is durnīti. Sat is naya, i.e., the statement of some relative truth is naya, and e.g., an object is real. Syātsat is pramāṇa. It means that the statement of the relative aspect of thing by qualifying it with syāt is called pramāṇa. Reality has infinite attributes. It is not possible to know all the aspects. A thing is real as well as unreal;universal as well particular; permanent as well as momentary; one as well as many. Viewed from the point of view of one angle, i.e., of substance, it is real, universal, permanent and one; while from another point of view, i.e, of modes, it is unreal, particular, momentary and many. For an example, the Jainas quote the story of the blind-men and the elephant. One blind-man who touched the leg of the elephant said that it was like a pillar. The second blind-man who touched the trunk of the elephant said that it was like a python, the third blind-man who touched the tail said that the elephant was like a rope, and then the next person who touched the side of the elephant said that it was like a wall etc., and then all the blind-men quarreled among them. But, one who can see the whole elephant can easily know that each blind-man feels only some part of the elephant, which they mistakes to be the whole elephant. The description of the elephant quoted by one blind-man was correct only partially, but as a whole, these descriptions are not true. One can know only some aspects. So, all the judgments are relative, conditional and limited. So, the term syāt is used to describe some aspects of a thing.
Significance of Saptabhaṅgīnaya:
Syādvāda is also called saptabhaṅgīnaya. According to Prabhācandra, saptabhaṅgīnaya is that conditional method, in which certain attribute of a thing is imagined without incompatibility in a certain context through affirmation (vidhi) negation (pratiṣedha). Saptabhaṅgīnaya is of two types, viz., (i) pramāṇasaptabhaṅgī and (ii) nayasaptabhaṅgī. When a thing is described with all its qualities, i.e., as a whole, then it is called pramāṇasaptabhaṅgī. It is the nature of complete judgment. When one quality of a thing is described, but not all, then it is called nayasaptabhaṅgī. It is the nature of incomplete judgment.
Saptabhaṅgīnaya means the theory of sevenfold judgment, because the modes are of seven kinds. But, a question may arise here as to why should the number be seven, neither more nor less? Prabhācandra here replies that the modes are of seven kinds, because the questions are of seven kinds. The questions are of seven kinds, because the willing of knowing the things is of seven kinds. The willing is of seven kinds, because doubts are of seven kinds. Doubts are of seven kinds, because the natures of the things or objects are of seven kinds. So, syādvāda or saptabhaṅgīnaya possesses seven modes as an ontological truth.
Types of Saptabhaṅgīnaya:
Syādvāda or saptabhaṅgīnaya or the sevenfold judgment or steps are as follows:
- Syādasti: a thing is existent.
- Syānnāsti: a thing is non-existent.
- Syādasti ca nāsti ca: a thing is both existent and non-existent.
- Syādavaktavyam: a thing is indescribable.
- Syādasti ca avaktavyam: a thing is both existent and indescribable.
- Syānnāsti ca avaktavyam: a thing is both non-existent and indescribable.
- Syādasti ca nāsti ca avaktavyam: a thing is existent, non-existent and indescribable.
According to Prabhācandra, a thing can be known from the point of view of its own material, place, time, form and it becomes a positive entity. But, a thing which is in relation to other’s matter, place, time and form, it becomes a negative entity. Therefore, the word syat is used to describe the nature of the thing. He also argues that first of all, the existent is used. Then the non-existent is used. After that both existent and non-existent are used together. But, both existent and non-existent cannot be described simultaneously. It is called indescribable. These four judgments are fundamental. After, adding the first judgment to the fourth, the fifth judgment is found. Similarly, adding the second judgment to the fourth, the sixth judgment is found. After that by adding the third judgment to the fourth, the seven or last judgment is found.
These sevenfold judgments are elaborately explained by Prabhācandra in his Prameyakamalamārtaṇḍa in the following way:
(i) Syādasti: Somehow a thing is existent from a certain point of view. For an instance, a pot is existent in the form of its own dravya (substance), kṣetra (place), kāla (time) and bhāva (form). That means, a pot is existent with reference to its own substance such as clay, its own place where it stands, and its own time i.e. the present time in which it exists and its form points to its particular shape, such as a contract neck. This is called Syādasti.
(ii) Syānnāsti: Somehow a thing is non-existent from a certain point of view. For an instance, a pot is non-existent because of paradravya, parakṣetra, parakāla and parabhāva. That means, a pot is non-existent with reference to another substance, such as gold, another place, such as some other room, another time of preceding its manufacture or succeeding its destruction, i.e. the past and the future times and it’s another form, such as a broad neck. This is called syānnāsti.
(iii) Syādasti ca nāsti ca: Somehow a thing is both existent and non-existent from a certain point of view. For an example, a pot is existent in the form of its own material, place, time and form and it is also non-existent because of another form of material, place, time and form. It is called syādasti ca nāsti ca.
(iv) Syādavaktavyam: Somehow a thing is indescribable from a certain point of view. For an example, a pot is indescribable, because it is both existent and nonexistent at the same time from the point of view of its own and other forms of material, place, time and form. As a matter of fact, both existent and non-existent cannot be simultaneously attributed to one thing at the same time. It is only being mutually exclusive. This is called syādavaktavyam.
(v) Syādasti ca avaktavyam: Somehow a thing is existent in the form of its own nature and is indescribable. For an instance, a pot is existent with reference to its own nature, but also indescribable if both its existent and non-existent forms are being mutually exclusive. So, it exists, yet indescribable. It is called syādasti ca avaktavyam.
(vi) Syānnāsti ca avaktavyam: Somehow a thing is non-existent and indescribable. For an example, a pot is non-existent with reference to the material, place, time and form of another thing and also indescribable. This is called syannasti ca avaktavyam.
(vii) Syādasti ca nāsti ca avaktavyam: Somehow, a thing is existent, non-existent and indescribable from a certain point of view. For an example, a pot is existent with regard to its own material, place etc., and it is also non-existent with reference to another form of material, place etc. It is also indescribable if both the points of view are being mutually exclusive. It is called as syādasti ca nāsti ca avaktavyam. Thus the doctrine of syādvāda holds a unique position in Jainism. Syādvāda is said to be the foundation of the Jaina philosophy. Syādvāda is a synthetic method of sevenfold judgment or steps to define the nature of a thing positively and negatively.