The term Anekäntaväda consists of three terms: ‘Aneka’, ‘Anta’, and ‘Väda’, The term ‘Aneka’, means ‘many or more than one’, ‘Anta’ means ‘aspects’ or ‘attributes’ and ‘Väda’ means ‘ism’ or ‘theory’. In its simple sense, it is a philosophy or a doctrine of manifold aspects. It has been variously described and translated by modern scholars. Prof. S. N. Dasgupta expresses it as ‘relative pluralism’ against ‘extreme absolutism.’ Dr. Chandradhar Sharma translates it as ‘‘doctrine of manyness of reality’’. Dr. Satkari Mookerjee expresses it as a doctrine of ‘non-absolutism’. This is also expressed as a theory of ‘conditional predication’ or ‘‘theory of relativity of propositions.’’ Since the doctrine of ‘Anekäntaväda’ is opposed to absolutism or monism (Ekänta-väda), we would prefer a phrase ‘‘doctrine of non-absolutism’’ to convey the meaning of Anekäntaväda. The doctrine of Anekäntaväda can be subdivided in two categories:
• Naya-väda relates to thoughts and analysis
• Syädväda relates to speech
What we know by the analytical process of Naya-väda, we express by the synthesis of Syädväda and the base of both is knowledge. According to the Jains, in order to have a complete and comprehensive judgment of reality one has to take into account the main substance that has the element of permanence and undergoes changes in various forms. In this process of change, the previous form dies away and a new form comes into existence. The birth of the new form is called Utpäd (emergence), the death of the old form is called Vyaya (disappearance) and the substance, which remains constant during this process of birth and death, is called Dhrauvya (Permanence). When one is able to comprehend all these three, one can arrive at a proper judgment about the thing in question. When the self takes the form of a human being, you can know it as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’. When it takes a form of vegetable, you can describe it as ‘grass’. All these descriptions are true from the standpoint of the forms that the self has assumed. Therefore, when we recognize a thing from the point of view of the modification or change, it is called ‘Paryäyärthika Naya’. Paryäya means modification, change. However, when we recognize that thing from the point of view of substance, it is called Dravyärthika Naya. In the former mode is predominant and substance subordinate, in the latter substance predominant and mode subordinate. The former considers changing aspect of reality while the latter considers its permanent aspect.
The greatest contribution that the Jains have made to the world of thought is by their theories of Naya-väda and Syädväda. The word ‘Syäd’ in Sanskrit means ‘perhaps’ but in Jainism it is used to show the relativity of a judgment and the word ‘Naya’ means ‘Standpoint’. Truth or reality is always complex and has many aspects. If one is impressed by one of the aspects of a complex reality and begins to identify the reality, only by that aspect, he is bound to make a wrong judgment about reality. Therefore, the Jain seers exhort us to look at the complexities of life and knowledge from every standpoint and from positive as well as negative aspects. They recognize that the comprehension (view) of an ordinary human being is partial and hence valid only from a particular point of view, which cannot give a correct or even a nearly correct comprehension of the whole. The complex reality has not only an infinite number of qualities but also an infinite number of relations. Again, it may be looked at differently by different people and under their different circumstances. It assumes different forms and appearances for which due allowance ought to be made. All this makes it difficult to form a correct judgment about it unless a systematic and logical method is found to identify it. This method is called Naya-väda.
As Dr. S. Rädhäkrishnan observes: "The doctrine of Nayas of Standpoint is a peculiar feature of Jain logic. A Naya is a standpoint from which we make a statement about a thing. What is true from one standpoint may not be true from another. Particular aspects are never adequate to the whole reality. The relative solutions are abstractions under which reality may be regarded, but do not give us a full and sufficient account of it. Jainism has a basic and fundamental principle that truth is relative to our standpoint."
Thus ‘Naya’ can be defined as a particular viewpoint; a viewpoint which gives only a partial idea about an object or view which cannot overrule the existence of another or even a contrary view about the same object. If an object or theory is judged only from one standpoint, the judgment is one sided and it is termed as ‘Ekänta’. ‘Eka’ means ‘one’ and ‘Anta’ means ‘end’. Thus, Ekänta means one-sidedness. The Jains therefore ask us to judge from all aspects, which is called ‘Anekänta’. This is the basic principle of Jain philosophy. Every fundamental principle of Jain philosophy is based on Anekänta. Throughout its approach, Anekänta has been to accept the different aspects or even contradictory aspects of reality and to evolve a synthesis between the contradictory philosophical theories.
A Jain seer would say, both are correct from the standpoint from which they look at the problem, but both make their statements, which do not conform to the principle of Anekänta and hence do not give a correct judgment of reality. Jains say that changes are as real as the original substance. A jug made of a clay substance cannot be used as anything except as a jug and since the use is real, the form of a jug which clay has assumed cannot be unreal. If the clay substance assumes some other form of an earthen vessel meant for cooking, that vessel could not be used as a jug even though the clay substance remains the same. If this is so, how can we say that the form the substance assumes at a particular time is unreal and only the substance is real? The substance of clay appears to be the only real thing to those who concentrate on substance and ignore the form. It is not correct to say that because there is a change in the form, the changing form is unreal. If it is real even for a moment, its reality must be accepted and recognized. If a comprehensive view of the whole reality is to be a comprehensive perception of a thing, it is possible only when its permanent substance (Dravya) is taken into account along with its existing mode (Paryäya). As Ächärya Siddhasen states “we can understand a thing properly by perceiving its various aspects.”
Classification of Nayas
Jain philosophers have given broad classifications of different aspects (Nayas) through which we can perceive a thing. Naya can be classified as the following 2 types.
Absolute point of view (Nishchaya Naya)
Here one takes a substance and picks up one of its attributes (Guna) and analyzes one part of its attribute. This is called absolute point of view, e.g. to call a clay pot as a clay as it is made of clay. Here clay is a substance and one of its attributes is represented in the form of a pot. The standpoint that concentrates on the original pure nature of a thing is called Nishchaya Naya. It implies the real or the ultimate meaning or interpretation of an object.
Practical points of view (Vyavahär Naya)
The substance and its attributes are interdependent and can never be separated. To consider them as separate is called the practical point of view. For example, to know is an attribute of the soul. In addition, to consider knowledge in a separate way from the soul is called practical point of view. In the practical point of view, one takes into account the association of a substance with another substance. Even though it is not right to know a substance this way, day-to-day activities become somewhat easier. E.g. we use clay pot to hold water, so now we call this pot a water pot. Here the pot is not made of water, but clay. However, because of water’s association with the pot, we call it a water pot. The right way of telling will be that this is a pot made of clay, and we use it to store water. This absolute way of saying a sentence takes a long time and not practical. That is why we call it a water pot. It conveys the meaning. The day-to-day activities become easier thereafter. Even though the soul and body are separate, we use the word interchangeably. We do indicate the body as living because of the association of the soul and body.
From Nishchaya Naya or absolute stand point, a soul is independent, self existed and uncontaminated by matter. From Vyavahär stand point it can be called impure as soul is bound with Karma leading to the cycle of birth and death. Such classification of Naya or standpoints enables identification or distinction of objects or theories according to particular class of Naya.
Classification of Naya:
1. Naigama Naya: Generic and Specific view or teleological view
2. Sangrah Naya: Collective view
3. Vyavahär Naya: Practical view
4. Rujusutra Naya: Linear view
5. Shabda Naya: Literal view
6. Samabhirudha Naya: Etymological view
7. Evambhuta Naya: Determinant view.
There are hundreds of sub classifications of these seven Nayas but without going in details, we shall presently discuss the bare outlines of these seven Nayas. Before doing so, it may be noted that first three Nayas are with reference to the identification of the main substance called ‘Dravya’ and hence are known as ‘Dravyärthika Nayas’. The remaining four refer to the standpoints, which identify the modes of the main substance and hence are known as ‘Paryäyärthika Nayas’.
Dravyärthika Nayas (Substantial Point of View)
Dravyärthika Naya means the standpoint that concentrates on a substance (the generic and permanent aspect). Dravyärthika Naya (substantial standpoint) considers all things to be permanent or eternal. For example, it states that a pot qua substance clay is permanent or eternal. In this point of view one considers the substance as a whole and gives its modes subsidiary status. E.g. while talking about the soul, one will consider the soul as immortal, was never created, nor will it ever be destroyed. On the other hand, Paryäyärthika Naya regards all things as impermanent, because they undergo changes (transformations). Hence it declares that all things are non-eternal or momentary from the standpoint of modes or changes. The standpoint that grasps the generic aspect is Dravyärthika Naya. And the standpoint that grasps the specific aspect is Paryäyärthika Naya.
This can be subdivided as follows
Naigama: Generic or Specific or Teleological
Sangrah: Collective Generic
Paryäyärthika Nayas (Modification Point of View)
Modification point of view (Paryäyärthika Naya) Paryäyärthika Naya regards all things as impermanent, because they undergo changes (transformations). Hence it declares that all things are non-eternal or momentary from the standpoint of modes or changes. In this point of view one considers modes of a substance as a primary subject. The substantial consideration becomes secondary. One considers a substance with origination and perishing of its modes, e.g. while talking about soul, one will consider ever-changing modes of soul. One will consider the four realms (Gati) of existence, birth, growth, decay, death of a living being, etc. This can be subdivided as follows
Rujusutra: Linear Point of View
Shabda: Literal or Verbal
Evambhuta: Determinant Point
01. Naigama Naya (Generic)
The etymological meaning of the word Naigama is the end product or result. Tattvärtha-sära gives an illustration of a person who carries water, rice and fuel and who, when asked what he was doing, says he is cooking. This reply is given in view of the result, which he intends to achieve though at the exact time when the question is put to him he is not actually cooking. His reply is correct from the point of view of Naigama Naya, though technically it is not exactly correct because he is not actually cooking at the time when he replies. The general purpose, for which we work, controls the total series of our activities. If someone passes his judgment on the basis of that general purpose, he asserts Naigama Naya, i.e., the teleological viewpoint. These empirical views probably proceed on the assumption that a thing possesses the most general as well as the most special qualities and hence we may lay stress on any one of these at any time and ignore the other ones. It overlooks the distinction between the remote and the immediate, noting one or the other as if it were the whole, depending upon the intention of the observer. A man has decided to perform an act of theft. The religious works regard him as defiled by the sin of theft, though he has actually not performed the act of theft. The standpoint adopted by the religious works is that the act, which is sought to be undertaken, is as good as being accomplished. This is also an instance of Sankalpi - Naigama.
02. Sangrah Naya (Collective point of view)
We get this Naya (viewpoint) when we put main emphasis on some general class characteristics of a particular thing ignoring altogether the specific characteristics of that class. Such a view is only partially correct but does not give the idea of the whole and it ignores the specific characteristics of that thing. In the collective point of view, the knowledge of an object is in its ordinary or common form. The special qualities of the object are not taken into account. E.g. there were 500 people in the hall. Here we are now considering only general qualities like people and not considering like how many were men, women, children, old, young, etc. One considers the general attributes of a substance like a substance has existence and eternality. Now these attributes are common to all six universal substances. Here we are considering the general attributes of a substance and ignoring the specific attributes of each substance. Concentrating on a common quality, viz., consciousness that is found in all souls, one can say that all souls are equal. Its scope is more limited than Naigama Naya.
03. Vyavahär Naya (Practical):
If we look at a thing from this standpoint, we try to judge it from its specific properties ignoring the generic qualities, which are mainly responsible for giving birth to the specific qualities. This amounts to the assertion of empirical at the cost of universal and gives importance to practical experience in life. This point of view sees an object in its special form rather than the common form. The special attributes of an object are taken into consideration. The practical view, concentrates on the function of a thing or being. It is analytic in approach and often uses metaphors to explain the nature of things.
On the basis of the collective point of view, and after describing things in a collective form, it is necessary to find out their special characteristics. For example, when we utter the word “medicine” it includes all branches of medicine but when one says allopathic, osteopathic naturopathic, homeopathic, etc. then we can understand its specialty. This can be further divided by its name, patent, quality, uses, etc. These divisions are examples of a distributive point of view and have a tendency towards greater exactitude. With understanding of Naigama Naya we should recognize the potentiality of achieving liberation by all souls. As all souls are capable of liberation, we should appreciate that potentiality in all souls. And we show our respect and humbleness to all living beings. When we act accordingly with all, this becomes Vyavahär Naya. Many times we act in accordance to Paryäya, however if we realize to Dravya we can reduce our internal and external conflicts.
04. Rujusutra Naya (Linear point of view.)
It is still narrower than Vyavahär in its outlook, because it does not emphasize all the specific qualities but only those specific qualities, which appear in a thing at a particular moment, ignoring their existent specific qualities of the past and the future. The past and future modes of a thing are not real as they have served or will serve their purpose and do not exist at the moment. The approach of the Buddhists is of this type. To ignore the specific qualities of the past and future and to emphasize only continuing characteristics of Reality is the fallacy involved here. In this point of view, one considers ideas like reality, etc. as the direct grasp of here and now, ignoring the past and future. It considers only the present mode of a thing. Ruju means simple, sutra means knowledge. Suppose a man was a king and he is not a king now, thus his past is of no use in a linear point of view. Similarly, a person will be a king in the future, but is meaningless in a linear point of view. Only the present mode is recognized in a linear point of view making the identification easier and scope narrower.
05. Shabda Naya (Literal point of view)
The Verbalistic approach is called as Shabda Naya. This standpoint maintains that synonymous words convey the same meaning or thing, provided they are not different in tense, case ending, gender, number, etc. In other words, it states that two synonymous words can never convey the same thing if they have different tenses, case endings, genders, and numbers. So it is not appropriate to use words in different genders, number etc. to refer to the same object or event. The literal point of view uses words at their exact face value to signify the real nature of things. Each word has a very particular meaning. In the literal view, even changing the gender, numbers, words ending or tense of a word is thought to change its meaning and therefore to change the object to which it refers. Therefore, it is not appropriate to use words in different genders, numbers, etc. to refer to the same object or event. E.g. the words pot and pitcher signifies same meaning, but in the following sentence, the meaning gets changed, “why did you bring a pot? I only want a pitcher”.
06. Samabhirudha Naya (Etymological point of view)
It is different from Shabda Naya because it concentrates on the etymological distinction between the synonyms. If carried to the fallacious extent this standpoint may destroy the original identity pointed to by synonyms. It discards the conventional use of a word in favor of the meaning derived from its root. The etymological view asserts that, because the roots of synonyms are different, they are not actually “synonyms” in the sense of words that mean the same as each other. A group of words may basically mean the same things but as individual words, they represent a special condition, e.g. hut and palace are places to live. However, poor people live in a hut and king lives in a palace, in an etymological (word historical or derivation) point of view, it represents a specific quality or grammatical property of a word.
07. Evambhuta Naya (Determinant point of view)
This Naya recognizes only that word which indicates the actual action presently attributed to the individual. In other words, among synonyms only that word should be selected which a correlation with the action has referred to. In this point of view, the word or sentence, which further determines its characteristic property in its present state, is used. It recognizes only the action implied by the root meaning of a word. To be real, the object must satisfy the activity meant by the word. A word should be used to denote the actual meaning. e. g. the word thief is to be used only when a person is caught stealing and not because a person is a known thief. It represents a strict application of a word or statement.
Partial truth of Individual Naya:
As already noted, the purpose of pointing out to this detailed classification of Nayas is to show how differently, different individuals can view the same object. However, these different aspects are only partially true and since they are only partially true, they are not capable of being wholly true. They, however, cannot be rejected as wholly untrue also. These different aspects can be illustrated by the reactions of some blind people who were asked to go to an elephant and give its description after touching and feeling it. One who touched its legs described it like a pillar; one who touched the tail described it like a rope and so on. Each one was right from his own standpoint because he could experience only a particular limb of the elephant and not the whole elephant. Each one of them was, however, wrong because his description did not conform to the reality, which the elephant possessed. Only one who could see the whole could comprehend this reality.
Utility of Naya Theory
The analysis of Naya shows that every judgment is relative to that particular aspect from which it is seen or known. This is also called Säpeksha-väda that means relativity of our particular knowledge or judgment to a particular standpoint. Since human judgments are always from particular standpoints, they are all relative and hence not absolutely true or absolutely false. Their outright acceptance as a sole truth or rejection as totally false would not be correct. This led the Jain seers to their famous doctrine of ‘Syädväda’, which means the doctrine of relativity. Naya-väda reveals a technique to arrive at such an understanding. It teaches us that truth is revealed to us only partially if viewed from a particular aspect. Even if one finds that a proposition is quite contrary to the conviction he had for the whole life and hence the cause of great irritation to him, once he applies the principles of Naya-väda his irritation begins to subside. The simple reason being is that he begins to realize the real cause for that contrary proposition.