(3) Syadvada (Theory of Relativity of Knowledge/Propositions)

Probability may be skepticism and Jainas are not skeptic, not agnosticism, not theory of speculative knowledge. Hence SYADVADA isn’t theory of probability. The word SYAD here is used in the context or sense of “relative” and the correct translation of Syadavada is Theory of Relativity.
Reality has infinite aspects, and with out limited perspective, we can only know some aspects, and from each relative point of view (Due to soul in bondage). Thus, every proposition is an incomplete yet definite picture of reality, and thus all our judgement are necessarily relative, limited and conditional. (Human knowledge is necessarily limited, conditional relative)
Hence, the Epistemological theory of Jaina Philosophy disallows categorical/absolute prediction.
As an example, Jainas cite the old story of six blind men and the elephant.
Everything exists from the point of view of its own substance. When we say “This table exists”, we cannot mean that this table exists absolutely and unconditionally. Our knowledge of the table is necessarily relative. The table exists in itself as an absolute real and infintely complex reality, only our knowledge of it is relative.
There are three forms of judgement (That we make)
  • Durniti (Bad Judgement) : It is taking a relative point of view or partial truth as the whole and complete truth. (Taking partial truth as permanent truth)
  • Naya (Judgement) : It is taking a statement as it is, without labelling a condition of partial or absolute.
  • Pramana (Valid Judgement) : By prefixing “Syat”, before a Nyaya, we acknowledge that every judgement can only be partial or relative, and thus gain knowledge in its correct form.
So, every nyaya in order to become pramana or valid knowledge, must be qualified by SYAT.

Justifications of Syadvada : Jiva, due to beginningless ignorance, lose faith in Teerthankaras and hence fall in the trap of Kasaya (Passions), attracts Karmic particles. These Karma causes hindrance in attaining knowledge. Thus, all we know as relative, conditional.
  • To make our ideas errorless and authentic.
  • To promote religious tolerance and harmony
  • It provides a valid middle path between Buddha’s theory of momentariness(Ksanivada) and Sankara’s theory of eternity (nityavada), by accepting and harmonizing both.
  • Opens a liberal Path
  • Support religious pluralism, hence multi-culturalism.
Criticism :
a) Buddhist and Vedatins have called that Syadvada is Self Contradictory (same thing has been defined as being real and unreal i.e Syat asati nasati) : Jainas defend themselves as they consider it to be different points of views. Hence this criticism is wrong and countered.
b) Vedatins have criticized that Syadavada as a doctrine of probability or speculator. But it is not so, as it is a theory of relativity of knowledge (syadvada). All judgements are relative and conditional.
c) Sankara :
  • Without an absolute, the theory of relativity cannot logically sustained. The absolute presupposes the existence of Relative. Ultimately all is manifested in the Absolute itself. Other school accepts the logic that we have partial, limited, relative knowledge, but for considering something to be RELATIVE, we need to compare it with something ABSOLUTE.
Because without the relative, the absolute can exist, but if the absolute is discarded, the relative is also lost. Hence, the absolute and relative are not equally valid or true. The Jainas forget that organic synthesis and not arithmetic addition leads us to reality. (Admission of Kevaljnana, which is called pure, perfect and intuitive knowledge. This is an admission of absolute knowledge. Thus, Syadvada is not a completely consistent theory)
Jainism is Biased against Absolutism
  • If all truths are only partial, Syadavada also is only partially true and hence incomplete. But since they consider their metaphysics of Anekantavada as the only absolute to reach to Kevaljnana i.e they are the only one teaching the whole truth. They themselves are considering a HALF HEARTED ABSOLUTISM and hence become inconsistence.
d) In Saptabhanginyaya or seven fold judgement of Syadvada, the last three are just recombination of what comes in the first four points. Last three points are superfluous and redundant.