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Mahavira (599–527 BC), the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, developed an early philosophy regarding relativism and subjectivism known as Anekantavada. As a result of this acceptance of alternate religious practices, the phenomenon of proselytisation is largely absent in these religions but not unknown. Converts are welcome to the Jain faith.
Anekāntavāda (Sanskritअनेकान्तवाद, "many-sidedness") refers to the Jain doctrine about metaphysical truths that emerged in ancient India.[1] It states that the ultimate truth and reality is complex, has multiple aspects.[2] Anekantavada has also been interpreted to mean non-absolutism, "intellectual Ahimsa",[3] religious pluralism,[4] as well as a rejection of fanaticism that leads to terror attacks and mass violence.[5]
According to Jainism, no single, specific statement can describe the nature of existence and the absolute truth. This knowledge (Kevala Jnana), it adds, is comprehended only by the Arihants. Other beings and their statements about absolute truth are incomplete, and at best a partial truth.[6] Anekāntavāda is a fundamental doctrine of Jainism.
The origins of anekāntavāda can be traced back to the teachings of Mahāvīra (599–527 BCE), the 24th Jain Tīrthankara.[7] The dialectical concepts of syādvāda "conditioned viewpoints" and nayavāda "partial viewpoints" arose from anekāntavāda in the medieval era, providing Jainism with more detailed logical structure and expression. The details of the doctrine emerged in Jainism in the 1st millennium CE, from debates between scholars of Jain, Buddhist and Hindu schools of philosophies.[8]
The principle of anekāntavāda was one of the ancient principles that influenced Mahatma Gandhi.[9][page needed]


Syādvāda (Sanskritस्याद्वाद) is the theory of conditioned predication. It is derived from the Sanskrit word syat (स्यात्) which literally means "perchance, may be, perhaps".[27] The word has roots in the more ancient Vedic era literature. For example, sutra 1.4.96 of Panini's Astadhyayi explains it as "a chance, may be, probable".[27] However, in Jainism, syadvada and anekanta is not a theory of uncertainty, doubt or relative probabilities. Rather, it is "conditional yes or conditional approval" of any proposition, state Matilal and other scholars.[27][28] This usage has historic precedence in other ancient Indian religions (Buddhism and Hinduism), particularly in its classical Sanskrit literature with the phrase syad etat meaning "let it be so, but" or "an answer that is 'neither yes nor no', provisionally accepting an opponent's viewpoint for a certain premise". Traditionally, this debate methodology was used by Indian scholars to acknowledge the opponent's viewpoint, but disarm and bound its applicability to certain context and persuade the opponent of aspects not considered.[27][29]
According to Charitrapragya, in Jain context syadvada does not mean a doctrine of doubt or skepticism, rather it means "multiplicity or multiple possibilities".[28] Syat in Jainism connotes something different from what the term means in Buddhism and Hinduism. In Jainism, it does not connote an answer that is "neither yes nor no", but it connotes a "many sidedness" to any proposition with a seven fold predication.[29]
Syādvāda is a theory of qualified predication, states Koller. It states that all knowledge claims must be qualified in many ways, because reality is manysided.[30] It is done so systematically in later Jain texts through saptibhaṅgīnāya or "the theory of sevenfold scheme".[30] These saptibhaṅgī seem to be have been first formulated in Jainism by the 5th or 6th century CE Svetambara scholar Mallavadin,[31] and they are:[29][32][33]
  1. Affirmation: syād-asti—in some ways, it is,
  2. Denial: syān-nāsti—in some ways, it is not,
  3. Joint but successive affirmation and denial: syād-asti-nāsti—in some ways, it is, and it is not,
  4. Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, and it is indescribable,
  5. Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syān-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is not, and it is indescribable,
  6. Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is, it is not, and it is indescribable,
  7. Joint and simultaneous affirmation and denial: syād-avaktavyaḥ—in some ways, it is indescribable.
Each of these seven predicates state the Jain viewpoint of a multifaceted reality from the perspective of time, space, substance and mode.[29][32] The phrase syāt declares the standpoint of expression – affirmation with regard to own substance (dravya), place (kṣetra), time (kāla), and being (bhāva), and negation with regard to other substance (dravya), place (kṣetra), time (kāla), and being (bhāva). Thus, for a ‘jar’, in regard to substance (dravya) – earthen, it simply is; wooden, it simply is not. In regard to place (kṣetra) – room, it simply is; terrace, it simply is not.[34] In regard to time (kāla) – summer, it simply is; winter, it simply is not. In regard to being (bhāva) – brown, it simply is; white, it simply is not. And the word ‘simply’ has been inserted for the purpose of excluding a sense not approved by the ‘nuance’; for avoidance of a meaning not intended.[34]
According to Samantabhadra's text Āptamīmāṁsā (Verse 105), "Syādvāda, the doctrine of conditional predications, and kevalajñāna (omniscience), are both illuminators of the substances of reality. The difference between the two is that while kevalajñāna illumines directly, syādvāda illumines indirectly".[35] Syadvada is indispensable and helps establish the truth, according to Samantabhadra.[36]


Nayavāda (Sanskritनयवाद) is the theory of standpoints or viewpoints. Nayavāda is a compound of two Sanskrit words—naya ("standpoint, viewpoint, interpretation") and vāda ("doctrine, thesis").[37] Nayas are philosophical perspective about a particular topic, and how to make proper conclusions about that topic.[38]
According to Jainism, there are seven nayas or viewpoints through which one can make complete judgments about absolute reality using syadvada.[39] These seven naya, according to Umaswati, are:[38][40]
  1. Naigama-naya: common sense or a universal view
  2. Samgraha-naya: generic or class view that classifies it
  3. Vyavahara-naya: pragmatic or a particular view assesses its utility
  4. Rijusutra-naya: linear view considers it in present time
  5. Sabda-naya: verbal view that names it
  6. Samabhirudha-naya: etymological view uses the name and establishes it nature
  7. Evambhuta-naya: actuality view considers its concrete particulars
The naya theory emerged after about the 5th century CE, and underwent extensive development in Jainism. There are many variants of nayavada concept in later Jain texts.[38][39]
A particular viewpoint is called a naya or a partial viewpoint. According to Vijay Jain, Nayavada does not deny the attributes, qualities, modes and other aspects; but qualifies them to be from a particular perspective. A naya reveals only a part of the totality, and should not be mistaken for the whole. A synthesis of different viewpoints is said to be achieved by the doctrine of conditional predications (syādvāda).[41]


Inclusivist or exclusivist[edit]

Some Indian writers state that Anekantavada is an inclusivist doctrine positing that Jainism accepts "non-Jain teachings as partial versions of truth", a form of sectarian tolerance. Others scholars state this is incorrect and a reconstruction of Jain history because Jainism has consistently seen itself in "exclusivist term as the one true path".[51] Classical Jain scholars saw their premises and models of reality as superior than the competing spiritual traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism, both of which Jainism considered inadequate. For instance, the Jain text Uttaradhyayana Sutra in section 23.63 calls the competing Indian thought to be "heterodox and heretics" and that they "have chosen a wrong path, the right path is that taught by the Jinas".[51] Similarly, the early Jain scholar Haribhadra, who likely lived between the 6th and 8th century, states that those who do not follow the teachings of Jainism cannot be "approved or accommodated".[52]
John Koller states anekāntavāda to be "epistemological respect for view of others" about the nature of existence whether it is "inherently enduring or constantly changing", but "not relativism; it does not mean conceding that all arguments and all views are equal".[53]
In contemporary times, according to Paul Dundas, the Anekantavada doctrine has been interpreted by some Jains as intending to "promote a universal religious tolerance", and a teaching of "plurality" and "benign attitude to other [ethical, religious] positions". This is problematic and a misreading of Jain historical texts and Mahavira's teachings, states Dundas.[54] The "many pointedness, multiple perspective" teachings of the Mahavira is a doctrine about the nature of Absolute Reality and human existence, and it is sometimes called "non-absolutism" doctrine.[55] However, it is not a doctrine about tolerating or condoning activities such as sacrificing or killing animals for food, violence against disbelievers or any other living being as "perhaps right".[54] The Five vows for Jain monks and nuns, for example, are strict requirements and there is no "perhaps, just one perspective".[56] Similarly, since ancient times, Jainism co-existed with Buddhism and Hinduism, according to Dundas, but Jainism was highly critical of the knowledge systems and ideologies of its rivals, and vice versa.[57]

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