Syadvada-Theory of Non-Absolutism
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 :
- Syadasti : Relatively a thing is existent.
- Syannasti : Relatively, a thing is non-existent.
- Syadasti-nasti : Relatively, a thing is both existent and on-existent.
- Syadavaktavyam : Relatively, a thing is indescribable.
- Syadasti ca avaktavyam : Relatively, a thing is existent and is indescribable.
- Syannastica avaktavyam : Relatively, a thing is existent and is indescribable.
- 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 anthers substance, non-soul, it does not exist (Pr. 202).