Jainism Goes By Sy Ad-Vada

By Acharya Gopilal Amar


The same man is regarded at the same time as son, father, son-in-law, father-inlaw, nephew, uncle, brother, cousin, husband and so on; yet there is no type of contradiction owing to an understood relationship which is termed in Jainism as syad-vada.

The triple stream of right vision, knowledge and conduct flows in one channel, known as the path to liberation, moksa-marga; it branches in hundreds of fresh streams of different aims and objects, which as a whole are called 'not-one-end', an-ek-anta, and the applied form of which is famous as syad-vada.

Syad-vada is the Jaina theory of relativity; it makes Ahimsa a synonym of Jainism. It has much to be compared with German physicist Albert Einstein's Theory of Relaltivity (1905-1916), which is based on the principle that all motion is relative, regarding space-time as a fourth dimension.

Both of these theories have almost the same type of world outlook, including the absolute denial of the existence of God, the conviction that the world is objective and knowable, and that there is casual inter-independence of all processes in Nature. Moreove, in his public and political views Einstein, quite in tune with Jainism, 'opposed social and national oppression, militarism and, reaction, and voiced his protest against the use of atomic energy for military purposes.'

One relates his thinking to his own experiences and beliefs which may concern with himself, or with other beings or with both. In order to understand anyone of them, it is quite necessary to understand the other ones. Only a dispassionate study based on a sympathetic examination and rational analysis of them all, helps mutual understanding and happy reconciliation even in the face of severe antagonism.

The science of the general laws governing the development of Nature, society and thought, is dialectics; it may be taken to be the background of the theory of syad-vada. Dialectics concludes that the higher genera of the existent can each be conceived only as being and not being, as equal to themselves and not equal to themselves, as identical to themselves and as passing into 'something else', Therefore, being contains contradictions: single and plural, eternal and transient, immutable and mutable, at rest and in motion. This art of dialectics terminates into the artistic image which is an unbreakable unity of intertwined opposites, such as the objective and the subjective, the logical and the sensory, the rational and the emotional, the abstract and the accidental, the inner (inherent) and the outer, the whole and the parts, all essence and the appearance, the content and form.

Out of this all emerges the universal Jaina motto: Harmony with oneself results into the harmony with the universe and this is worded in the well known aphorism: paraspar-opagraho jivanam, which reads, 'the function of living beings is to help one another' like the mutual help between the master and the servant, or between the teacher and the taught.

The very foundation of Jaina philosophy is the concept of reality which is manifold, even infinitefold, hence highly complex and pluralistic in character. That is why the Jaina system is called also the philosophy of an-en-anta, meaning non-absolution. It is concerned with the thought process; while syad-vada indicates the manner in which that thought process is given expression to. The theory of syad-vada is analysed hereunder with special reference to the nature of Ahimsa.

The thought process with special reference to violence, as painful concentration (arta-dhyana) is thinking again and again (a) for the removal of disagreeable objects, (b) for regaining or retaining the agreeable objects, (c) in the case of suffering from pain, and (d) as a wish for enjoyment. Also the thought process as cruel concentration (raudra-dhyana) which relates to (e) injury, (f) untruth, (g) stealing and (h) safeguarding of possessions. The process corresponds to (i) the substance concerned, dravya, (j) extent of pervasion, ksetra, (k) time, kala, and (I) substantial thought activities, bhava.

Each of the eight points, (a) to (h), cross-checked with each of the four point, (i) to (1), make up the theory of syad-vada, which results into one wishing: May myself alwlays be friendly to living beings, enlighted in the company of the meritorious, have prompt compassion to those in distress and heart-felt indifference towards the perversly inclined.

The Jaina theory of relativity likens the milkmaid, who, holding the ends of , rope winding the churning-rod, pulls one end forth to let the other end be pulled f back, then pulls the other end forth to let the one end be pulled back. She continues with this process, but she never pulls both the ends forth at the same time, or she never lets both the ends pulled back at the same time; otherwise the rope will l either be broken or be loosened, to disrupt the process of butter-milking.

So does the Jaina theory of relativity, which, while considering the corresponding relation, between two opposite attitudes or attributes or means or any other things, takes up one side and keeps the other side in view and then, takes up the other side and keeps the first side in view. Contradiction in the opposite-to-each-other things is distinguished by the Jaina theory of relativity. The theory, as a matter of fact, considers, rather adjudges, how far one thing is one thing and how far the other thing is other thing.

This theory works as mastermind in detecting the grades and shades of violence. The six thought colorations (sad-lesya) exemplify this fact in an interesting but in a practical way. Widely discussed as well as picturized in Jaina texts dating from the third century B.C., the lesyas are compared with the psychology of the six kinds of persons gathered to get fruit from a tree; each of them, having his thought coloration:
(i) black: cuts it off at its very root,
(ii) blue: cut if up at its trunk,
(iii) grey: cuts its branches,
(iv) yellow: cuts its small branches,
(v) pink: simply shakes it to let the fruit fall down, and
(vi) white: only picks up the fruit dropped down by nature.

This ancient theory of lesya supported by such an allegory, seems to have travelled abroad. Some of the aphorisms concerning the interpretation of nature and the kingdom of man in the British thinker Francis Bacon's (1561-1626) Novum Organum seems to bear cognate theme: 'There are four classes of idols which beset men's nubds. To these for distinction's sake I have assigned names, calling the first class, Idols of the Tribe; the second, Idols of the cave; the third, Idols of the market-pince; the fourth, Idols of the Theater.'

Where and how the Jaina theory is applicable in promoting Ahimsa, is exemplified by an allegory: Two dogs happened to get face to face just in the middle of the log, placed across a river to serve as a bridge; it was too narrow for one to about turn or to let the other cross. Realizing the fact that tussle would make the both slip down deep in the river, one of them lay on the log to facilitate the other to cross placing his steps over his back, where after he got up and went across. Significantly enough, the word 'log-rolling' means 'roll my log and I will roll yours'. The human being should certaily be fuller of understanding and greater accommodating than the animal beings, to present a thrilling scenario where the healthy heartbeat of Ahimsa could be stethoscoped.

Now another allegory to exemplify the distress one has to suffer by not following the Jaina theory of relativity. Two goats struggled to death, one saying that there was much left for them to graze and the other stating that not even a single staw was left for them to graze. Both were right, one referring to the eastern pasture, the other referring to the western pasture. They had to suffer as they did not understand each other's meaning.

Several men, blind by birth, were made to know what an elephant was like. By touching different limbs of his body they compared those limbs with the things they had already come to know about. They were then apprised of the fact that all those things set together would make one thing as an elephant was. This much-read parable reveals the fact that all the partial truths, only when set together, would make one perfect truth.

And, this much is the message of the Jaina theory of relativity, which is logically represented in the words of English materialist philosopher John Locke (1632-1704): 'We are short-sighted, and very often see but one side of a matter; our views are not extended to all that has a connection with it. From this defect I think no man is free. We see but in part, and we know but in part, and therefore it is no wonder we conclude not right from our partial views. This might instruct the proudest esteemer of his own parts how useful it is to talk and consult with others, even such as come short of him in capacity, quickness and penetration, for since no one sees all, and we generally have different prospect of the same thing, according to our different, as I may say, positions to it; it is not incongrous I to think, not beneath any man to try, whether another man may not have notions of things which have escaped him, and which his reason would make use of if they came into his mind'.



Author : Acharya Gopilal Amar , Former Editor, Bharatiya Jnanpith, New Delhi.
Source : Souvenir Published By Shree Digamber Jain Mandir, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi-110070
at the time of Panch Kalyanak Pratishtha of the temple ( April 2004 )


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