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What is the significance of Jaina Philosophy of Anekantavada?

The word Jainism is derived from ‘Jaina’ which means ‘Conqueror’ – One who has conquered his passions and desires. It is applied to the liberated souls who have conquered passions and desires and karmas and obtained emancipation. The Jainas believe in 24 Tirthankaras or ‘Founders of the faith through whom their faith has come down from fabulous antiquity. Of these, the first was Rsabhadeva and the last, Mahavir, the great spiritual hero, whose name was Vardhamana. Mahavir, the last of the prophets, cannot be regarded as the founder of Jainism, because even before him, Jaina teachings were existence. But Mahavir gave a new orientation to that faith and for all practical purpose, modern Jainism may be rightly regarded as a result of his teachings. He flourished in the sixth century B.C. And was a contemporary of the Buddha. His predecessor, the 23rd Tirthankara, Parshvanatha is also a historical personage who lived in the eight or ninth century B.C.

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The Jaina metaphysics is a realistic and relativistic pluralism. It is called Anekantavada or the doctrine of meanness of reality. Matter and spirit are regarded as separate and independent realities. According to the Jainism, sat is neither eternal nor ephemeral. It also cannot be regarded as both eternal and ephemeral in different forms. Sat is always Changeable. But it never loss of its own self. So every object has more than one attribute.

The Kevali can have indirect knowledge of all these different attributes of an object. But an ordinary mortal can see object only from one stand point at a time. So when we consider an object we must keep in view its different attributes. Theory of regarding reality as all sided, eternal and ephemeral, animate and inanimate etc. is termed as Anekantavada. It is also known as Parinama Nityatvavada. Syadvada is based on this theory.

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According to the Jainas, an object can be viewed in three ways. The knowledge, which views the part as the whole is known as Durniti. If knowledge is regarded as it is, without judging it to be either partial or absolute, then it is termed as Naya. When the knowledge is accompanied by the consciousness that it is limited, relative and sopadhi and that it can be interpreted in different ways according to different standpoints, it is termed as Pramana or syadsat.

To denote Pramana the epithet syad must precede Naya. Syad is supposed to be the signal of truth. It is relative and it has gradual knowledge. Syad eliminated the contradiction between divergent stand points. Rejecting syad vadatanta mounts to the adoption of anta Veda which goes counter to all experiences.

According to the Jainas, Pramana cannot be nirupadhi and aikantika. Affirmation and negation both are to be found in every paramarsa. From the stand point of Dravya, the object is sat, eternal, universal and one, while from the stand point of paryaya, it is a sat, particular, ephemeral and many. The Jainas have anekantavada by the anecdote of an elephant and six blind persons. These blind persons wanted to have an idea of the shape of an elephant. Touching the different parts of the body of the elephant with their hands, they mistook the particular parts for the elephant. Thus different persons touched different parts – ears, trunk, forehead, legs, belly etc. and they formed their own conception about the shape of elephant accordingly. One of them compared it to a fan, another to a pillar. For another blind person it resembled a wall and so on. For every one of them, his own knowledge was absolute and correct, while that of others was wrong and contrary to facts. According to the above mentioned illustration all philosophical schools embody one sided truth. Similarly, all the philosophers harpan their own theories and criticize the theories of others.

A person, who has eyes to see knows that all the blind persons are equally wrong in their conception. From its own standpoints, every philosophy is correct. But if it pretends to be the sole embodiment of absolute truth and dubs other philosophies as false and fallacious, then it is thoroughly mistaken. The modern objective realists have pointed it out to be the fallacy of exclusive particularity.

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The Jainas have divided Naya into two separate categories viz., Drvyarthika and Paryayarthika Naya. The former considers an objects in the light of its Dravya or substance, which the latter keeps in view the paryaya and upadhi of the object concerned.

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