During the period of his spiritual
pursuit, Bhagwan Mahavir developed sympathy for suffering, the idea of
sanctity of all life, liberality and compassion towards all, and
toleration of all religious views. He organized his spiritual order based
on his own inner experiences. His philosophical ideas have a refreshingly
attractive message appealing to the common sense of man. Some tenets of
his philosophy are outlined below.
MULTIPLICITY OF viewpoints (ANEKANTAVADA) AND
The spring point of the doctrine of
multiplicity of viewpoints is that human knowledge cannot be painted in
terms of religious colors. Knowledge knows no limitations and boundaries.
Religion and philosophy are not limited
to a particular country, period, or group. Different points of view are
mere additions to the human knowledge. When viewed together, they present
the picture of universal reality. Moreover, the knowledge of
reality cannot be obtained through the
senses. Whatever we perceive through the senses is merely the appearance,
it is not the world of reality. If we want to reach reality, we must
withdraw from the world of senses into that of inner experience. It is
through the combination of proper perception (samyak darshan), proper
knowledge (samyak jnana) and proper conduct (samyak charitra) that we can
attain self-realization and
understand the nature of reality.
The fundamental philosophical base of
Jainism is therefore the comprehensive view of reality. Jain philosophy
points out that the ultimate reality is complex in character and in order
to comprehend its nature, we must examine it from various points of view.
Attending to a particular aspect of reality to the
exclusion of other aspects may serve
some specific purpose under certain circumstances, but it is only a
partial vision of
reality. Over emphasis on a particular
aspect of reality not only distorts reality, but it also leads to dogmatic
slavery, mutual misunderstanding and conflict of interests. To recognize
the nature of reality in all its completeness, one has to review a variety
of aspects before arriving at any conclusion.
The logical crux of the aforesaid
process is that there is always the possibility of many standpoints in
relation to the same object, The same object can have primarily two
contradictory propositions, and,
therefore, can be described from one standpoint that it exists (asti) and
from another standpoint that it does not (nasti).
Every proposition is both "is" and "is
not" at the same time, and it is certainly impossible to speak of the same
from a single point of view. Two propositions, one affirmative (asti) and
the other negative are always asserted with reference to four aspects of a
A thing is or exists in respect of its
own substance, but it does not exist in respect of other substances. Take
the case of a piece of furniture. It may be made of ordinary jungle wood
and it may be so painted as to appear as rosewood. Now, the furniture is
(exists as) jungle wood, but is not (does not exist as) rosewood.
Similarly, a thing exists in its own
place and it does not, at the same time, exist in any other place. While
the cow is in her shed, she is not in the field.
Again, a thing is in its own time and is
not in another time. Raja Rammohan Roy existed before Gandhiji, but did
not exist after Gandhiji.
Likewise, a thing, while existing in its
own form does not exist in another form. Water below freezing point exists
as a solid, but does not exist then as a liquid.
These four aspects form the
asti-nasti-vada. This represents a pragmatic view in which an object may
be affirmatively described from one point of view of its own substance,
place, time and form, and negatively described from the standpoint of the
substance, place, time and form of
another thing. It is,
therefore, clear that both the
propositions, the affirmative and the negative, are true with reference to
the same object of reality.
In short, asti-nasti-vada implies the
contradictory attributes of asti ("is")
and nasti ("is not") to the same reality. It is interesting to compare
Hegel's dialectic principle which says
that an idea or event (thesis) generates its opposite (antithesis) which
leads to a reconciliation of opposites (synthesis).
Jain thinkers have further developed the
logic into the theory of seven aspects (saptabhangi) which postulates that
as many as seven modes of prediction are possible in any given case.
Therefore, no definite or absolute
statements can be made about any question. To the question "Is there
soul?" the Jain logic would admit of seven answers. These are:
(2) is not
(3) is and is not
(4) is inexpressible
(5) is and is inexpressible
(6) is not and is inexpressible
(7) is, is not and is inexpressible
There is an aspect in which there is
soul, there is also an aspect in which it is not possible to describe
soul, and so on. This is equivalent to saying that knowledge is only
probabilistic. The theory is also called
relativism (syadavada, the doctrine of "may be").