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Jain philosophy


Anekāntavāda · Syādvāda · Nayavāda · Jain Cosmology  · Ahimsa · Karma · Dharma · Nirvana  · Kevala Jñāna  · Mokṣa  · Dravya (Six substances)  · Navatattva (Nine or seven categories)


Kundakunda · Samantabhadra Umāsvāti or Umāsvāmi · Siddhasena Divākara ·

Aklanka  · Haribhadra · Hemacandra · Mānikyanandi  · Vidyānandi  · Prabhācandra · Yaśovijaya ·

Pt. Sukhlāl  · Dr. Mahendrakumār Nyāyācārya

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Syādvāda (Devanagari: स्यादवाद) is the Doctrine of Postulation of Jainism. In other words, Syādvāda provides the body of teachings or instruction which one uses to derive a postulate or axiom. The starting assumption or postulate is given as saptabhanginaya, from which other statements are logically derived. By using saptabhanginaya the theory of relativity encompasses the truths about one system or thought which are the same in one system as in another system in uniform motion relative to it. It is henceforth impossible to determine the truth of a system within its own thought structure, and such development or furtherance of various claims of truth can be observed only in relation to other systems in uniform motion resulting in a qualified prediction as shown in the theory of Manifold Predictions.[1] Therefore each truth is valid within its one system, various truths are synthesized and are mutually exclusive. Amongst several truths about a particular thing, one or the other or both may in fact be valid.



All the Jain works from before 200 AD are in the Prakrit language, and many of these are scribed in old Kannad script. After 400 AD the commentaries, ritual and liturgical language works of Jainism are in Sanskrit(संस्कृता वाक् saṃskṛtā vāk), Hindi, and regional languages. This article gives translations and interpretations of meanings of the Prakit and Sanskrit words into English. In the English language there is no direct translation of the one word Sanskrit terms given above, but rather a concept in the English language is given to portray the thought symbol of Mahavira's philosophy. The word syadvada comes from two roots. Syat means "may be", whereas vada means "assertion". Placed together syādvāda becomes the assertion of what may be, the assertion of possibilities.[2]

Theory of Sevenfold Predications

From Jain Epistemology describes the saptabhanginaya "sevenfold predication".[2]

  • 1.Syād-asti — "in some ways it is"
  • 2.Syād-nāsti — "in some ways it is not"
  • 3.Syād-asti-nāsti — "in some ways it is and it is not"
  • 4.Syād-asti-avaktavyaḥ — "in some ways it is and it is indescribable"
  • 5.Syād-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ — "in some ways it is not and it is indescribable"
  • 6.Syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavyaḥ — "in some ways it is, it is not and it is indescribable"
  • 7.Syād-avaktavyaḥ — "in some ways it is indescribable"

The order for these propositions is altered below.

Saptbhangi: A syllogism for evidence based inference 3

The Saptbhangi syllogism comes from the vacch nay tradition (Syadvad) of tools, rules, modules and methods for reasoning and discourse. Its paradigm is that words are the means for the mind to mind communication. Words in a conversation express cognized awareness of sense inputs about an object of concern (pramey) to create the awareness of the object that listener can cognize. A shared cognition mediated by words is normative of argumentation and such words also facilitate further reasoning about the object. Equivocation in assertions and doubt (syad) in propositions about an object beyond direct scrutiny are minimized with independent evidence (praman) to affirm assertions, to verify and calibrate propositions. Doubtful propositions tentatively retain information in unresolved or undecided affirmed assertions that may otherwise be discarded. This syllogism provides a framework for wide ranging logics to resolve semantic arguments as well as self-reference paradoxes 3.

The Saptbhangi inference propositions develop in two steps from assertion about an object of concern. First, equivocation in an assertion is minimized with independent evidence, or it may be rephrased to conform to the evidence. Eight propositions are obtained from three assertions that equivocate existence of an object. The first assertion asti for it exists (A) may be affirmed on the basis of observable and measurable sense inputs from the object. Its cognized awareness forms the basis of its word description. The second assertion avaktavya for it is undescribable (U) is for example affirmed if the awareness of the object is not described. A tangible object also exhibits context dependent action and behavior consequences. The third assertion nasti for it does not exist (N) is for example affirmed if the object has no context-dependent action and behavior consequences of its presence versus its absence. NAU assertions in a proposition together relate to the cognized sense inputs for word description and for reasoning of the consequences of an object. The set of eight NAU propositions in Table 1 is a template for the possible relations to be interpreted for an inference:

Propositions with N (does not exist), A (exists), and U (undescribable) assertions affirmed (+) or not-affirmed (-) by evidence

N A U bit map 1 - - - 0 0 0 2 - + - 0 1 0 3 - - + 0 0 1 4 - + + 0 1 1 5 + - - 1 0 0 6 + + - 1 1 0 7 + - + 1 0 1 8 + + + 1 1 1

1. May be it is emptiness of nothing or null with no affirmed assertion. [N-A-U-] node (0 0 0) of maximum equivocation accommodates the affirmed assertions for the other seven propositions. 2. May be it exists is a true (T) proposition for affirmed existence (A+) supported by not affirmed non-existence and is not asserted as undescribable: (0 1 0) or [N-A+U-]. 3. May be it is undescribable is a false (F) proposition for not affirmed existence or non-existence asserted as undescribable: (0 0 1) or [N-A-U+]. 4. May be it exists asserted as undescribable is a doubtful (D) proposition for not affirmed nonexistence and affirmed existence yet undescribable: (0 1 1) or [N-A+U+]. 5. May be it does not exist is a valid proposition for affirmed non-existence that is consistent with not affirmed existence and is not undescribable: (1 0 0) or [N+A-U-]. 6. May be it is a contradiction of affirmed existence and affirmed non-existence that is not affirmed as undescribable: (1 1 0) or [N+A+U-]. 7. May be it does not exist with affirmed nonexistence and not affirmed existence and undescribable: (1 0 1) or [N+A-U+]. 8. May be it is a contradiction of affirmed existence and affirmed non-existence and also undescribable: (1 1 1) or [N+A+U+].

The logical inference of each of the propositions tentatively follows from its affirmed assertions. As in sculpting a rock, the criteria-based identity of the object emerges as a particular and as a member of a class by carving away the extraneous to minimize equivocation with evidence and to resolve inconsistencies and eliminate contradictions with additional assertions. N-A-U- (0 0 0) is the maximally noncommittal null (X) proposition with no affirmed input for the three assertions. Validity of each of the other seven propositions is calibrated with its affirmed assertions. N-A+U- (0 1 0) rephrased as A+N-D- is it exists, and not non-exists, and not un-describable. Congruence of A+ with orthogonal and inversely complementary N- and U- provides a consistent cognitive basis to interpret it as a true proposition (T) that paves the way to identify, conceptualize and verify and represent the existence. The total number of propositions (2n) increases exponentially with the number of assertions (n). The X and T position remain the same but with additional support. However, the others with contradictory, inconsistent or invalid assertions may be interpreted as false (F) or doubtful (D). If the identified contradictory states are discarded, the focus of reasoning would be to minimize the D in relation to the identified T and F states.

A distinguishing feature of the saptbhangi syllogism with equivocating orthogonal assertion is that it considers validity of evidence to affirm an assertion separately from the validity of the logical inference from the relations between the assertions in a proposition. For example in the binary proposition A+N- affirmed existence is supported by independent not affirmed non-existence. Three relations are apparent if the proposition read as combined assertion of existence AND NOT non-existence. Assertion A+ is logically related to N- with the connectives AND & NOT. Thus as a valid proposition A+N- asserted A+ and also the implied N-. It makes it a logically consistent with the proposition A+ NAND N+. In the binary logic NAND is abbreviation for NOT-AND that corresponds to not both. Other binary connectives are derived from NAND. In effect, two different kinds of negations implicit in NAND are distinguished as non- and NOT for the validation by evidence from the validation by logical connectives in a sapthbhangi proposition.

Ancient roots and assumptions of the Jain Nyay. 4

The Nay methods for reasoning with real world inputs evolved as an integral part of the Jain thought in India. Its cornerstone is the conservation principle (tangible reality is the net of inputs and outputs) attributed to Rishabhnath (ca. 3000 BC). By the time of Parshvanath (850 BC), this principle was interpreted for reasoning and inference from sense inputs and analogies. Other assumptions include: (1) World in front of the eyes (pratyakch) is what it is, it does what it does, it is neither created from nothing nor does it disappear into nothing. (2) A conscious (chetana) organism extracts information from the sense inputs about the phenomenal world of its experience. Such images are interpreted as perceptions (itthi) by the internal world behind the eyes (parokch, mind). (3) Awareness of the images is also cognized in relation to other inputs and beliefs. Criteria-based descriptions (anugam) of the cognized parts provide information and evidence to abstract, represent, reason, interpret, assert and evaluate the consequences. (4) Complexity of the external world may be daunting and its behavior unpredictable, however a useful starting point for its understanding is its reality that is never contradictory. (5) As spectator, actor and decision maker, an organism interprets perceived parts of inputs to make choices that may be life altering and make one happy, anxious or regretful. (6) Organisms bear the consequences of individual and collective actions. Such interdependence calls for reasoned conversation to resolve conflict to arrive at a rational basis for coexistence, including a social contract for live, let live, and thrive. Mahaveer (599-527 BC) revitalized the Nay methods with the belief that all organisms interpret their experience to address concerns. Human ability to reason and deliberate to make choices and take decisions can further minimize gulf between belief and words through practice. If common sense aligns inputs with perceptions, it takes reasoned uncommon sense to align perceptions with independent reality of the phenomenal world. Scrutiny of the content and context of propositions with identified assumptions encourages an open-ended search for certainty that proves and improves as some uncertainty goes away with each day. In response to a query from his discussion leader Indrabhuti Gautam (607-515 BC), Mahaveer emphasized that a belief is inferred not only from its content and context that knows and how it came to be known, but to realize its full potential it is also necessary to know what one does not know, what else is needed, and what may falsify and contradict it. Saptbhangi Syad Nay of the prior oral tradition is elaborated in several works written over the last 2000 years 2. The emphasis of Nay methods is to build shared knowledge about objects of concern with assertions affirmed by independent evidence. The role of evidence in support of reasoning (up-nay) and decision (nir-nay) is elaborated in Gautam’s Nyay Sutr compiled by Akchapad (ca. 100 AD). This text does not mention the word Nyay. Apparently it come in the title through the Nyaya Bhasya commentary by Vatsyayana (ca. 400 AD) where the word Nyay appears in the text only once in an insignificant context. Apparently by AD 500 the evidence-based Nay reasoning had morphed under the influence of Naiyayik beliefs into Nyay Darshan based on the evidence of insights from the scriptures. Limitations of the scriptural evidence in relation to the logic of true and false (tark) were also recognized. Note that the modern usage of Nyay connotes evidence based judgment with the authority of rule. Bhadrabahu I (ca 350 BC) emphasized four inferred states it is (T), it is not (F), it is both (D), or it is neither (X) of a proposition with two assertions. Umaswami (ca AD 200) noted that the authority of an affirmed assertion for reasoning is in the evidence ( ). Evidence affirms a certain aspect of the object as a particular or as a class, or its functional state or current state, or as addressed in the past. An inference is valid within the bounds of all of its assertions affirmed in real time. Samantbhadra (ca. AD 300) emphasized that evidence-based validity is necessarily incomplete unless the remaining doubt, if any, is also resolved. Siddhsen Divakar (ca. AD 500) reiterated that reasoning is not possible unless assertions about the content and context of the object are affirmed by evidence. Buddhists surmised nothingness (shoonyata) as the ultimate reality against which the perceived content and context are transitory constructs of mind. It was rebutted by Akalank in a decisive debate in Kanchi (AD 670): shoonyata as a state without a basis in the content and context of an object is also without value for reasoning. Hemchandra (AD 1050) emphasized: Unless supported by evidence an assertion is no different than nothing. As mentioned above, it is like a null matrix to organize, represent and interpret sense experience. Gunratn (AD 1435) reiterated reliance on criteria-based assertions affirmed by independent evidence as antidote against omniscience of ad hoc. More recently Hiraiynna 5 noted that the four syad states, is and is not with both is or is not and neither is nor is not, challenged the dichotomy of true or false in the faith-based Vedic absolutism. It also identified contradiction of the undifferentiated Upnishadic reality of it is so, and also it is not so (eti eti, neti neti). Such interpretations to identify the syad states are not red herrings of relativism4, skepticism or deviant logic, nor the metaphysics of four-cornered truth5. Also attempts to cast the saptbhangi in the mould of Western binary logic or rhetoric are found in virtually all modern academic works on Indian Nyaya, Jain logic, Syadvada and Syad Nyaya. It is not surprising that such efforts confined to the literal interpretations have failed to touch the deeper structure of the Saptbhangi Syad Nay. Its features of general interest are outlined below.

No assertion is entire of itself. Cognized awareness of an object rooted in independent reality is a basis of its descriptions. Such descriptions permit shared reasoning and feed back supported by additional assertions about criteria-based attributes, relations, and action and behavior consequences (anekant) as illustrated in a parable in which six blind men encounter a beast (elephant) that they know little about. Conundrum breaks out as each man interacts with a different part of it and sees (infers) the whole differently. Confusion with asserted facets of reality is a common experience not only for cognition in individuals but also for the convergence to a mutually agreed version of the object as a named entity. Imagine the stages through which conceptions of objects like sun, bacteria, air, or even a chair have evolved before convergence to their current conceptions that continue to evolve. Like the sense inputs, the evidence-based assertions also access a part of the reality of an object. Inference develops from a synthesis of their criteria based relations. A deduction is possible if all parts and relations are known, and discovery of a new part or relation modifies the deduction. Induction builds on a known generalization such as all swans are white, and it does not deny the possibility of black swans. The inference (anuman) of fire from the sight of smoke in the Jain Nyaya is not only consistent with such invariance, but the real-time basis for the inference is the relevance (hetu) of the concomitance (avinabhav) of the smoke with the burn characteristics of the fuel. Concomitance of the reality of the object and the evidence to an inference is like a lamp that illuminates itself and others within its reach. It balances the abstract frames of reference in the generalization with the particulars in the real time for a hypothesis that remains coupled to all valid inferences. A successful hypotheses that is falsifiable but are not falsified permits prediction, innovation, and evolution of shared knowledge with paradigm shifts.

Paradox of binary T or F.

Sets of independently affirmed assertions not provide increasingly fine grained propositions, and resulting inferences are antidote for reasoning against paradoxes and fallacies. Circular reasoning with self-referential propositions invariably lead to a null of neither is nor is not (X) that is like the emperor’s clothes without a cognitive basis for the asserted content in the context of the emperor’s body. Descriptions of miracles, dreams, and hallucinations also lack cognizable content and context. So does if God did not create the world then who did where neither the actor nor the action is independently established. Certitude of ad hoc that contradicts facts of its own reality does not affirm any form of tangibility no matter how expedient, believable, useful, purposeful and meaningful they appear. As for the role of faith in people’s behaviors, about two thirds of the inmates in maximum security prisons in U. S. A. claim to be religious Christians, and the same in the total American population. Versions of omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent are indistinguishable from the empty space that can not be interpreted even as a node X of not-affirmed assertions. The crux of atheism (na-astik) is that even without an observable basis for existence (A) an entity could be cognized from meaningful descriptions (U) that map consequences of its presence versus absence (N).

Quantum logic and computing.3

The 3x8 bitmap of the saptbhangi propositions can be suitably portioned to implement logic gates. The classical computing bit has either F (0) or T (1) scalar state. The quantum logic is implemented with qubits (quantum bits) of quantum states. A qubit of two basis vectors (0 1) and (1 0) includes their linear combination by quantum superposition (1 1) and interference (0 0). A qubit with n vectors can simultaneously maintain 2n states, which cuts down the number of memory swaps during a computing operation. In principle, each additional vector in a qubit increases the computing speed by 2-fold. Superposition of the basis vectors permits reversibility of quantum logic operations that conserves information. A family of reversible and conservative gates are generated from n+1 bit inputs for n valued logics.

Doubt is a necessity.

Cognized awareness of an object from its attributes and behavior consequences is a function of the actor-spectator mind that is also the basis for the description of the experience. A response to real-time inputs requires extrapolation to weigh outcomes and consequences of the plausible options. Brute logic of the doubtful states dictates that for survival with incomplete information in real time it is prudent to conserve affirmed information and retain viable options. Logical doubt also wards against make-beliefs while addressing emotive (meaning and desires), existential (values) or skeptic concerns. Such features are hallmark of natural languages where the processing continuum of possibilities resolves layers of meaning that impregnate words. Fine-grained awareness of probable but unresolved states and their relations provides a cognitive basis to formulate assertions for reasoning. An assertion partitioned for equivocation is a step towards resolution. Assertions affirmed by independent evidence prune equivocation and enhance the degree of belief. Possibly for such reasons organisms build sense awareness from orthogonal inputs from different sense organs. Questionable inputs and assumptions corrupt interpretation and inference.

Blind Men and an Elephant

There is a conundrum put forth in the story of blind men and an elephant. This story can be analyzed from several perspectives of spirituality, with the Jain version of the blind men and an elephant bringing together all statements in synthesis.[1]


The ability to dogmatically uphold and support the theory of manifold predictions appears self-defeating. The question for the truth, therefore feels unattainable once the reality is seen to be multifaceted from various points of view. However, this dilemma is resolved because Kevalis, are those who have found infinite knowledge and they can arrive at the ultimate truth or wisdom of the matter. Those who are not Kevali, and only exist in the mundane world would have only a portion of the truth and arrive at sevenfold predication.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b "ELEPHANT AND THE BLIND MEN". Jain Stories. Retrieved 2006-08-29. 
  2. ^ a b P.C. Mahalanobis. "The Indian-Jaina Dialectic of Syadvad in Relation to Probability (I)". Retrieved August 4, 2007 

3. Jain, M.K., Logic of evidence-based inference propositions. Current Science, 2011. 100: p. 1663-1672. 4. Jain, M.K., Nay: English translation of the seminal works (URL 1999. 5. Hiraiynna, M., Outlines of Indian Philosophy. 1921, London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. 420.

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