The Jaina philosophers held that everything in the world
is complex in structure and as such has many aspects. A thing that is
real, has three characteristics of production, destruction and
permanence (Pr. 204). Every object that seems to be permanent is liable
to both production and destruction. Each entity is one in many. That
being so, it would be improper to view a thing in only one of its
aspects and to hold, that the knowledge of that thing derived thereby is
final. On the contrary, it should be viewed in its many and various
aspects in order that may be properly apprehended. This view that every
object has a multiplicity of aspects is known as Anekantavada, the
doctrine of the manyness of real. The doctrine of relativity of
judgment (Syadvada) or Seven fold judgment (saptabhanginaya) is the
corollary of this doctrine of relative pluralism (Anekantavada). The
word ‘syat’ means relatively speaking and it signifies that every thing
of the universe can be looked at from many point of view. Reality has
infinite aspects which are all relative, conditional and we know only
some of these aspects. Our judgments represent different aspects of the
many-sided reality and can claim only partial truth. All our judgments,
therefore, are necessarily relative, conditional and limited. ‘Syat’ or
relatively speaking must precede all our judgments.
The Jaina logicians distinguish seven kinds of
judgment. Each judgment being relative is preceded by the word ‘syat’.
Thus it is known as Syadvada or Saptabhanginaya (Pr. 204 commentary).
These seven forms are as follows :
1. Syadasti : Relatively a thing is existent.
2. Syannasti : Relatively, a thing is non-existent.
3. Syadasti-nasti : Relatively, a thing is both existent
4. Syadavaktavyam : Relatively, a thing is
5. Syadasti ca avaktavyam : Relatively, a thing is
existent and is indescribable.
6. Syannastica avaktavyam : Relatively, a thing is
existent and is indescribable.
7. Syadastica nastica avaktavyam : Relatively, a thing
is existent, nonexistent and indescribable.
The significance of this Sevenfold judgment is that our
knowledge, regarding anything is relative; everything exists from the
point of view of its own substance, space, time and form and it does not
exist from the point of view of others substance, space, time and form
(Pr. 202-6). A Jar for instance, exists from the point of view of its
substance: clay, its space-the room in which it is, its time, the
present moment, and its form or mode which is its particular
shape-having narrow moment, and its form or mode which is its particular
shape-having narrow neck, broad, belly, red color, etc. The Jar does
not exist from the point of view of another substance, say silver or
gold, another room, another time and another shape etc. When we affirm
these two different standpoints (existent and non-existent) successively
we get the third judgment a ‘Jar’ is both existent and non-existent. If
we want to describe its existence and non-existence simultaneously, than
Jar becomes indescribable, i.e., neither real nor unreal. This is the
fourth judgment. Form of fifth judgment is that, from a particular
point of view, the Jar exists and it is also indescribable (Pr.
205-com.). Because there is no one word which can describe its
existence and non-existence simultaneously. Similarly the statement
that the ‘Jar’ does not exist, and is also indescribable, forms the
sixth judgment. Relatively, ‘Jar’ exists, also it does not exist and
somehow it is indescribable. This is the seventh judgment. These three
forms of judgments are really combinations of indescribable with ‘is’
‘is not’ and ‘is’ and ‘is not’ respectively. The same theory can also
be applied to the soul. The soul exists from the aspects of its own
substance, space, time and form and while from the point of view of
anther’s substance, non-soul, it does not exist (Pr. 202).