THE DOCTRINE OF NAYAVADA
Meaning of a Naya
According to Jaina Philosophy the object of knowledge
is a huge complexity because (i) it is constituted of substances,
qualities and modifications, (ii) it is extended over past, present and
future times, (iii) it is extended over infinite space, and (iv) it is
simultaneously subjected to origination, destruction and permanence.
It is obvious that such an object can be fully
comprehended only in omniscience, which is not manifested in the case of
worldly beings who perceive through their organs of senses. But the senses
are the indirect means of knowledge, and whatever they apprehend is
partial like the proverbial perception of an elephant and concludes that
the elephant is like a log of wood, like a fan, like a well, etc.
In view of these conditions we find that the ordinary
human being cannot rise above the limitations of his senses; so his
apprehension of reality is partial and it is valid only from a particular
point of view known as Naya.
In other words, according to Jainism, reality is a
complex not merely in the sense of constituting aneka, i.e., manyness but
also because of its nature of anekanta, i.e., manifoldness of view-points.
That is why Jainism points to the fact that reality may be comprehended
from different angles. The attempt at comprehending anything from a
particular standpoint is known as Naya and the system of describing
reality from different points of view is termed as Nayavada, i.e., the
doctrine of Nayas. This is based on the fact that Jainism regards all
things as anekanta (or na- eikanta). In other words it regards all things
as anekanta (or na-eikanta). In other words it is held only under certain
In view of this, a naya is defined as a particular
opinion framed with a view-point, a view-point which does not rule out
other different view-points, and is, therefore, expressive of a partial
truth about an object, as entertained by a knowing agent.
Classification of Nayas
As nayas are modes of expressing things, there can be a
number of nayas through which reality could be expressed.
Paryaya-naya and Dravya-naya
To take an example, when different kinds of gold
ornaments are described from the point of view of the modes or
modifications of gold, it is termed the paryaya-naya or the
paryayarthika-naya, i.e., the modal point of view.
Similarly, when gold ornaments are described with
regard to their substance, i.e., gold, and its inherent qualities, it is
termed the dravya-naya or the dravyarthika-naya, i.e., the substantial
point of view.
Vyavahara-naya and Nischaya-naya
On the same lines, in spiritual discussion, the things
could be described both from a practical point of view and from a
realistic point of view. Thus when things are described from the common
sense or practical point of view, it is termed the vyavahara-naya; and
when things are described from the pure or realistic point of view, it is
termed the nischaya-naya.
Since naya is the device which is capable of
determining truly one of the several characteristics of an object(without
contradiction) from a particular point of view, the Jaina philosophers
formulated seven nayas. These nayas are:
Naigama naya, i.e., universal-particular, or
teleological point of view.
Sangraha naya, i.e., the class point of view.
Vyavahara naya, i.e., the standpoint of the
Rjusutra naya, i.e., the standpoint of momentariness.
Sabda naya, i.e., the standpoint of synonymous.
Samabhirudha naya, i.e., the etymological standpoint.
Evambhuta naya, i.e., the `Such-likes" standpoint
It is also maintained that these seven nayas could be
considered as sub-divisions of dravyarthika and paryayarthika nayas. Thus,
the first three nayas, viz.,
the naigama naya,
the sangraha naya, and
the vyavahara naya
are the sub-divisions of dravyarthika naya as they deal
Similarly, the last four nayas, viz.,
the rjusutra naya,
the sabda naya,
the samabhirudha naya, and
the evvambhuta naya
are the sub-divisions of paryayarthika naya as they are
concerned with modification of substances.
Similarly, the first four nayas are called artha nayas
in as much as they deal with objects of knowledge, whereas the remaining
three nayas are called sabda nayas in as much as they pertain to terms and
Further, each one of these nayas is considered to have
one hundred sub-divisions. Thus, according to this view, there are seven
We find that two other views are also expressed, viz.,
that there are only six nayas, i.e., the nayas (the
seven mentioned above) with the exclusion of the first naya, i.e., the
naigama naya, and
that there are only five nayas, in the sense that the
last two nayas (of the above-mentioned seven nayas), viz., the
samabhirudha naya and the evambhuta naya are included in the fifth (of
the above mentioned seven nayas) naya, viz., the sabda naya.
Significance of Nayavada
Nayavada is a warning to those philosophers who assert
that their system is absolute and all-comprehensive. It shows the way to a
reconciliation of conflicting view-points and harmonization of all
stand-points by appreciating the relativity of the different aspects of
But it is pertinent to note that nayas reveal only a
part of the totality and that they should not be mistaken for the whole.
Because of this infinite-fold constitution of a thing, there can be
infinite nayas and they can be classified into various categories. As naya
is defined by Saint Acharya Akalanka, the reputed philosopher-author, as
Nayo jnatur abhiprayah, i.e., naya is a particular approach of the knower,
a synthesis of these different view-points is a practical necessity;
therein every view-point must be able to retain its relative importance
and this is fulfilled by the doctrine of syadvada, i.e., the doctrine of
THE DOCTRINE OF SYADVADA
The doctrine of nayavada provides the framework for the
doctrine of Syadvada, since it clearly points out that reality can be
looked at from many different standpoints, and that no standpoint can be
claimed as the only valid one. The term Syadvada is derived from the term
syat meaning `in some respect'. If the aim of philosophical inquiry is to
comprehend reality, the Jaina philosophers point out that it cannot be
achieved by merely formulating certain simple, categorical propositions.
Reality being complex any one simple proposition cannot express the nature
of reality fully. That is the reason why the term syat, i.e., 'in some
respect', is appended to the various propositions concerning reality by
the Jaina philosophers without any absolute affirmation whatsoever in
regard to any one of them. That is why each affirmation is preceded by the
phrase `syat', i.e., `in some respect'. This indicates that the
affirmation is only relative, made somehow, from some point of view and
under some reservations and is not in any sense absolute.
Meaning of Syadvada
It is not enough if various problems about reality are
merely understood from different points of view. What one knows one must
be able to state truly and correctly. This need is met by the doctrine of
Syadvada or Anekantavada, i.e., many-sided view-point.
It is a fact that the object of knowledge is a vast
complexity covering infinite modes, that human mind is of limited
understanding, and that human speech has its imperfections in expressing
the whole range of experience. Under these circumstances all our
statements are conditionally or relatively true. Hence every statement
must be qualified with the term syat, i.e., `in some respect', or
`somehow', or `in a way', with a view to emphasize its conditional or
Statements of Syadvada
In this way, on the basis of Anekantavada or Syadvada,
while describing a thing seven possible statements or propositions or
assertions, seemingly contradictory but perfectly true can be made in the
following manner :
Syad-asti, i.e., in some respects, it is;
Syad-nasti, i.e., in some respect, it is not;
Syad-asti-nasti, i.e., in some respect, it is and it
Syad-avaktavya, i.e., in some respect, it is
Syad-asti, avaktavya, i.e., in some respect, it is
not and is indescribable;
Syad-nasti, avaktavya, i.e., in some respect, it is
not and is indescribable, and
Syad-asti-nasti, avaktavya, i.e., in some respect, it
is and is not and is indescribable.
These seven propositions are formulated by the three
expressions, viz., asti, nasti and avaktavya, the word syat being common
to all of them, and their combinations.
These propositions will be clear with the help of an
illustration. For example, a man is the father and is not the father and
is both -are perfectly intelligible statements, if one understands the
point of view from which they are made. In relation to a particular boy he
is the father; in relation to another boy he is not the father; in
relation to both the boys taken together he is the father and is not the
father. Since both the ideas cannot be conveyed in words at the same time,
he may be called indescribable: still he is father and is indescribable;
and so on.
Further, it may be noted that the seven propositions
can be formulated in regard to the eternality, identity and difference,
etc., of any object. The Jaina philosophers believe that these seven modes
of predication together give us an adequate description of reality.
Moreover, it is obvious that the combinations of points
of view cannot be more than seven as reality is open to seven statements
and not to more. The reason why the number of modes is neither more nor
less than seven is because it is believed that any complex situation is
amenable to treatment by this seven-fold technique if one is adept in
using it. Any attempt to add or subtract a mode will be found to be
impossible since addition finds the mode already there among the existing
seven modes, and subtraction will mutilate the essential limit from the
Thus the doctrine of Anekantavada, comprising these
seven propositions, is neither self-contradictory nor vague or indefinite;
on the contrary, it represents a very sensible view of things in a
Further, this doctrine of anekantavada is also called
the doctrine of saptabhangi, i.e., the doctrine of seven-fold predication,
because these seven possible modes of expression can be used while
describing a thing.
Syadvada and Nayavada
From the above propositions it is obvious that Syadvada
complements the Nayavada. Whereas the emphasis in Nayavada is on an
analytical approach to reality, on pointing out that different standpoints
can be taken, the stress in Syadvada is on the synthetic approach to
reality, on reiterating that the different view-points together help us in
comprehending the reality. As analysis and synthesis are not unrelated to
each other we find elements of analysis even in a synthetic view of
In more concrete terms : in nayavada there is the
recognition that over-emphasizing any one view would lead to a fallacy
that different views have their value, that each one of them reflects
reality and, therefore, that they together alone can give a sweep into
reality. Similarly, in Syadvada the systematic character of the modes of
predictions, is highlighted with a clear understanding that various
propositions have, each one of them, something to convey about reality
Significance of Syadvada
From the discussion of Syadvada it is clear that
Syadvada aims to unify, coordinate, harmonize and synthesize the
individual view points into a predictable whole. In other words, the
Syadvada, like music, blends discordant notes so as to make a perfect
Further, Syadvada is not a doctrine of mere speculative
interest, one intended to solve not only ontological problems, but has a
bearing upon man's psychological and spiritual life.
Moreover, the doctrine of Syadvada has supplied the
philosopher with cosmopolitanism of thought convincing him that truth is
not anybody's monopoly with tariff walls of denominational religions and
it has again supplied the religious aspirant with 'intellectual
toleration' which is quite on par with ahimsa for which Jainism has
eminently stood for the last two thousand years and more.
The essence of this doctrine of Syadvada, keeping off
scholastic terminology, seems just that as to matters of experience it is
impossible to formulate the whole and complete truth, and as to matters
which transcend experience, language is inadequate.
Furthermore, it is pertinent to note that apart from
the pains the Jaina philosophers have taken to describe reality, their
doctrine of Syadvada brings out the comprehensiveness of approach of the
Jaina Philosophers to these problems.