An Examination of Brahma-sutra

A Perspective in Jaina Philosophy and Religion

An Examination of Brahma-sutra

Prof. Ramjee Singh

( II. 2. 33)

( From the Jaina Standpoint )

Aphorism & Contradiction – The aphorism under examination seems to be an innocent statement about the Law of Contradiction. However, the purpose of this aphorism is to examine the Jaina logic of seven paralogisms, which is declared to be a wrong theory on the ground of the impossibility of the presence of contradictory qualities in one and the same substance.

However, I think that many of the misgivings could have been avoided had there been a sincere effort to understand the Jaina point-of-view more sympathetically by trying to realize the importance of what is called, `universe of discourse’. For, even the Law of contradiction means that two contradiction terms B and not B cannot both be true at the same time of one and the same thing A. In other words, two contradictory propositions can not both be true, i.e. one must be false. A man can not at the same time, be `alive’ and `dead’. This means that the products of thought should be free from inconsistency and Contradiction, i.e., valid in Hamilton’s sense. However, Mill goes ahead and holds that it must also be true, i.e., agree with the reality of things. It means that “before dealing with a judgment or reasoning expressed in language, the import of its terms should be fully understood, in other words, logical postulates to be allowed to state explicitly in language all that is implicitly contained in thought.” The Pragmatists also complain against `Formal Logic’ for its neglect of the `context’. Even Mathematical Logicians, according to whom, there is “no essential connection between connotation and denotation” admit the conception of a Universe of Discourse in the sense of `a given context, or range of significance’.

The Four-cornered Negation and Contradiction – The four-cornered negation of the Madhyamika Buddhists throws light on the problem. According to them, Reality is not (neither B, nor not B nor both B and not B, nor neither B and not B). Now, if Reality is, neither being nor non-being can be negated. But, the Madhyamikas hold that though the Reality is not Being or Non-being it can not be different from them. Thus even the neither nor (i.e. neither Being nor non-Being) has to be negated, and consequently there has to be a double negation.

This looks like violating the Law of Contradiction, for the denial of the contradictories suggests the possibility of a possible in between the two contradictories. Professor Raju, however, suggests a technical device for the relief of the Buddhists to meet this charge of the possible violation of the Law of Contradiction. In the doctrine of four-cornered negation if we distinguish between contrary and contradictory opposition in the manner of western logic, we will see that two contraries can be negated but not the two contradictories.

Law of Contradiction and the Advaita Vedanta – To Sankara, Being and Non-being are contraries not contradictories. Reality is Being; Non-being is unreal; but there is the third order of reality which is neither Being nor Non-being, This is the phenomenal word which is neither real nor unreal but phenomenal, this is Maya.

To illustrate this point, a reference to the Upanisadic account of the self would be instructive, self is mobile and yet immobile, distant yet near, transcendent yet immanent.” Sankara, in his interpretation of this verse anticipates the objections of his opponents with regard to the question : how thest contradictory predications are made about the same subject ? Sankara says that there is no fallacy here (naisadosah) because two contradictory statements have been made from two separate standpoints. Atman is said to be immobile and one viewed from the ultimate point of view, when the Atman is free from all conditions. But it can also be described as mobile (more mobile than mind itself) when it is associated with the powers of limiting adjunct, of being an internal organ. Similarly, Atman is described as far and distant because it is beyond the reach of the ordinary mind, but for the wise people, it is described as being there within (tadantrasya sarvasya). Similar statements with contradictory predications are found at other places and Sankara has no other alternative but to reconcile them with the help of his multi-valued logic, the merit of which he unfortunately forgets while criticizing the Jaina theory of affirmative-negative-predications (asti-nasti-vada). However, if we remember the Jaina doctrine of reality as identity-in-difference which is both a permanent and changing entity manifesting through constant change of appearance and disappearance, then we can easily understand that reality when looked at as the underlying permanent substance may be described as permanent, but when viewed from the point of view of the modes (paryaya) which appear and disappear, it may be described as non-permanent and changing. This difference of aspect is the well known Jaina doctrine of Naya. It is indeed a tragedy that Sankara, while making a distinction between the Vyavaharika and Paramarthika points of view throughout his commentary forgets the same in respect of Jainism. In common experience, we find in the same object, the existence of one thing (pot) and the non-existence of the other (cloth). This does not mean that the same thing is both pot and cloth, hence there is no contradiction. Examples of co-existing self-contradictory attributes are daily perceived but only from different points of view. For example, in the same tree, the trunk is stationary while the branches and leaves are in motion. Like Kunda-kunda, Sankara examines every problem from the two points of view, practical and real, and this doctrine is the supporting edifice of the Advaita Philosophy. The same material clay or gold may be transformed into various forms. So to speak of a thing as one or many entirely depends upon the points of view we adopt. The same substance `mud’ is spoken differently as jar, jug. etc. Devadutta although one only, forms the object of many different names and notions according as he is considered in himself or in his relation to others; thus, he is thought and spoken of as a man, Brahmin, son, grandson, etc. Does it not exactly look like the Jaina point of view of asti-nasti-vada ?

Ramanuja and Contradiction – Like Sankara, Ramanuja also criticizes Jaina theory of seven paralogisms. No doubt, he recognizes substances and attributes as distinct but he says that asti and nasti cannot be predicated of the same thing from the Dravya point of view alone, i.e., the same substance cannot have the two contradictory predicates. Inspite of this, Ramanuja seems to be very much prejudiced against the Jaina theory when he asks : How can we say that the same thing is and is not at the same time ? However, Ramanuja forgets that if we describe a thing both from the standpoint of underlying substance (dravya) and its modifications (paryaya), we shall have no such difficulty. We meet with these difficulties because we prefer to live in the world of empty abstractions. In a sense, the Vedantic metaphysics of Ramanuja is the doctrine of one and many. It is one when we talk of the one Absolute Brahman, it is many when we know about the multiple jivas and the multiverse. And when reality is one and many at the same time, Vedantism itself becomes a sufficient argument in favor of Syadvada. How does the Absolute, which is one and only one, become the all ? How can the one Brahman consist of both conscious (cit) and unconscious (acti) elements ? If these contradictions can be reconciled by Ramanuja, he should not find fault with the very logical calculus of reconciliation adopted by the Jaina doctrine. Thus Ramanuja’s attempt to discover contradictions in Syadvada destroys the entire edifice of his metaphysics itself. Anekantavada pleads for soberness and loyalty to experience which discards absolutism. The dual nature of things is proved by a reduction-ad-absurdum of the canons of logic. the concept of pure logic which is prior to end absolutely independent of experience is dangerous. “Logic is to systematize and rationalize what experience offers”. In one word logic must be loyal to reason and experience alike. Even Vedanta ultimately relies on experience to prove the reality of the triune principle of existence, consciousness and bliss.

Some other Vedantic Acharyas and Contradiction – According to Vijnanabhiksu, unless the qualitative differences (prakarabheda) are recognized as true, two fundamentally opposite differences are recognized as true, it amounts to the Vedantic position. But can we not ask the Vedantist : how can ultimate differences be reconciled with the ultimate identity of Brahman ? Either they should accept identity as ultimate or differences as ultimate by accepting the differences from relative standpoints. We can speak of existence (bhava) and non-existence (abhava) of the same thing from two standpoints without being inconsistent. Existence and non-existence coexisting in the same thing is said to be contradictory because both of them are taken as whole-characteristics. It can be well reconciled by taking them as part-characteristics. Vallabha also suffers from the same defect as Vijnanabhiksu when he insists upon the fact that differences can be reconciled only in the enjoyment of bliss. However, it is difficult to follow how the formless Brahman assumes different forms, how the One becomes many ? If the law of contradiction is not violated here, the same charge cannot be leveled against the Jaina position when the contradictory attributes are said to inhere in the same object from the different relative standpoints.

Srikantha has clearly misunderstood the Jaina standpoint itself. While he accepts the possibility of reconciliation of the contradictory attributes in the same object from different standpoints, he outright denies that Jainas ever adhere to the relativistic logic.

Lastly, Nimbarka and Bhaskara, who broadly accept the Jaina principle of identity-in-difference or unity in diversity with regard to the nature of reality, also fail to appreciate the true import of Jaina principle. Nimbarka, for instance, refuses to admit the application of this principle in matters of Syadvada. His commentator Sri Nivasacarya’s explanation becomes unphilosophical when he says that the justification for admitting the principle of identity in-difference lies in the Sruti and not in logic.

Bhaskara argues that if non-absolutism (Anekanta) is universal, it becomes absolute (ekanta); it not, it is nothing definite. Thus “tossed between the two horns of the dilemma non-absolutism thus evaporates”. However, Bhaskara fails to note the Jaina distinction between valid non-absolute (samyak-anekanta) and invalid non-absolute (mithya-anekanta). To be valid, anekanta must not be absolute but relative. The doctrine of non-absolutism can be interpreted either as absolute according to Pramana or Naya respectively, which only suggests that non-absolutism is not absolute unconditionally. But the unconditionality of Anekanta or Syadvada is quite different from the normal meaning of unconditionality. This is like the idea contained in the expression “I do not know myself”, where there is no contradiction because there is no contradiction between knowledge and ignorance. Similarly, in the sentence, `I am undecided’, there is at least one decision that `I am undecided’. As a matter of fact, these critics of Syadvada fail to appreciate the fact that everything is possible only in relation to and as distinct from something other. Contradictory characteristics of reality are interpreted as to coexistent in the same object from different points of view without any offense to logic.