Jainism as Meta-Philosophy (book review) S Gopalan

210317: i have decided i read this too quickly, too superficially, after several other texts on jaina philosophy. i have hence decided to read it again and place notes in this ongoing review:


1) the first note is the difference between concept of ‘western’ philosophy as ‘love of wisdom’ and its nearest indian equivalent ‘darsana’, which is ‘seeing’ reality. according to gopalan jaina (and buddhist) thought is embedded in the brahmanic world. ‘seeing’ includes ‘intuition’ and essential ‘logic’. ‘darsana’ has an in-built logic, the problems tackled are:


1: what is knowledge

2: what is its relation to object

3: types and sub-types of knowledge- perception, inference etc with subdivisions of each

4: sources of valid knowledge (pramana) in each case

5: relationship of knowledge to language

6: semantics and syntax

7: why and how far testimony is valid

8: elaborate theories of error

9: theories of validity (belief)

10: indeterminate perception, judgmental perception and judgment

11: nature and types of fallacy

12: whether and how far memory is source of valid knowledge


2) this is very dense text, and the second note is the life transformative assertion for all indic philosophy: while rational thoughts get you so far, ultimately you want ‘enlightenment’. ‘wake’ and ‘see’ the world. ‘intuition’ is as valid, if you go through logic above, as analysis and empirical perceptions. ‘ultimate reality’ is the practical goal...


‘ultimate reality’ is ‘sovereign’, that is, ‘self-establishing’, ‘self-evidencing’ and ‘self-luminous’, and while intellectual analysis is necessary it is not sufficient...


3) third note is the insistence on reality of jaina thought, in conscious and unconscious reality (jiva, ajiva) and reality with existence. ‘sat’ is what is. there are the typical three modes of reality, appearance (arising), persistence, disappearance (dissolution). these are real, not illusion, and both substance and motion are real. as always in jaina thought, it is from what point one looks at it. thoughts are as real as perceptions...


the real goes through modifications and quality but never becomes less than real. this is the ‘meta’ of ‘meta philosophy’: how jaina ‘rationale’ delineates its particular philosophy:


1: what is scope and subject matter of philosophy

2: what are methods of philosophical ‘system building’

3: what is the purpose of philosophizing


1: these can be divided into subjective and objective. eventually, as noted, the philosopher must turn to subjective world of human experience, and the ‘whole’ of reality must include both even if it starts with the objective first. seeing is not simply analyzing one way but both...


2: the methods applied are ‘how’ knowledge is gained, rather than knowing what that knowledge will be. jaina thought is concerned with ‘pramana’, means of knowing, sense organs including mind, rather than objects of thought and can be thus applied to systems of brahmans, jaina, buddhists, and this is how it can be useful for problems in each...


3: why philosophize or try to ‘see’ is something different in indic thought than philosophy: there is an insistence on life changing and not just thought changing. essential to jaina thought is ‘limited‘ knowledge, that is, from this or that point of view. the multiple points of view imply ‘unlimited’ knowledge of the world, ‘kevala-jnana’ that has superior luminosity of the sun over the stars...


210318: 4) i had through an earlier text espoused that the core teaching of jaina was ‘anekanta-vada’, or ‘many-pointedness’. this text includes ‘syavada’. as the first is well described in many other reviews and in simple translation, the only thing to note is that competing theories are not right/wrong but only incomplete, as they do not represent complexity of reality... essential ‘manifold’ nature ontology...


for duality of mind and matter is accepted, and diversity of each is in turn diversified, five constituents of matter (matter, space, time, motion, rest) reveals pluralistic universe. division continues to atoms, which together form ‘skandha’ (molecules). basic real is that all substances exist: this is physical universe. basic real two is that nothing exists: it is beyond the physical universe...


individual consciousness is one real way of perception of manifold diversity. substance and modes both exist. ‘brahmanic’ being is not rejected by ‘buddhist’ becoming: both are real, substrates are real, change is real. there is no persistence (continuance) without origin and destruction. continuity equals persistence, permanence equals immutability- obviously mistaken on level of modes but not substance...


‘nyaya’ is philosophy of standpoints, is ‘point of view’, and reality requires many different ones, though jaina mentions only seven, of which two divisions are made:


1: universal/particular

2: class point of view

3: empirical point of view


4, 5, 6, 7: on change


210319: 5) all ‘nyaya’ are valid from respective angles but wrong as refutations, compared to other ‘nyaya. from this point of view there is division into Substance and Modal.


‘particular’ is an instance of ‘universal’, may be distinguished analytically, not in reality distinct, but only relatively, not absolutely. viewpoints must be seen ‘in relation to’ and not in ‘contradistinction’....


in ‘class’ point of view reference is made to idea of object holding within integrated network of universal and particular- for instance ‘treeness’ and individual ‘tree’, around concept of genus rather than kind. this does not negate species...


‘empirical’ point of view allows no metaphysical system of class, refuses to accept thought rather than just sense experience. only what is ‘given’...


four other ‘nyayaya’ are concerned with change, the first ‘momentariousness’, which allows moments of permanence in the constant flow of changes. reality of moments does not invalidate constant changes.


‘syavada’: critical philosophy is jaina thought, synthesis rather than simple reconciliation, which is only:


1: s and not s

2: partial s partial not s

3: accept both through complementary aspects

4: reject both on common wrong presupposition

5: reject underlying problem as illegitimate or meaningless

6: concede limits of rational thought


‘critical construction’ rather than ‘critical destruction’ is key, is purpose to jaina questions, thus follow 2 and 3. this is not creation of something ‘new’ but synthesis from analysis. there is no limit on how jaina thinkers try to do so. jaina monks are prohibited from, among other things, making categorical assertions or negations.


‘syavada’ is ‘synthesis as criticism’ means ‘all’ theories are tentatively accepted. rival truth claims are in confluence of perspectives. as in:


1: all theories may be wrong (agnosticism)

2: some right, some wrong (indulgence in categorical assertions etc)

3: all theories may be right (jaina)


‘syat’ maybe (tentative) is key. example is pot maybe on table implies it is not on floor, in context of reference, now and not before, not later (say broken): this can cover seven uses of ‘syat’:


1: maybe reality is

2: maybe reality is not

3: maybe reality is and is not

4: maybe reality is indescribable

5: maybe reality is and is indescribable

6: maybe reality is not and is indescribable

7: maybe reality is, is not, and is indescribable


example: pot as reality

1: pot is at certain place, time, material, form

2: pot is not at certain place, time, material, form other than 1:

3: pot is at certain place etc, assertion and denial is possible, pot is of place, time etc and no other

4: pot is indescribable because is and is not cannot logically be simultaneous, though it suggests pot is of place, time etc this needs to be explained, though psychologically impossible to hold two ideas at once. no description of pot etc though 1: is and 2: is not are possible but does not violate non-contradiction.

5, 6, 7: combines 4 with 1, 2, 3. first 1 and 4, next 2 and 4, then 3 and 4. this is all great logic but i do not know if i follow it all.


conclusion: i have to rate this five as it inspires me to recall the jaina works i read about four years ago. i actually remember more than thought. this text extends the core analysis of many-pointedness (anekantavada) with reference to ‘nyayavada’ and ‘syadavada’. i am once again impressed by this philosophy. i need to read more... there are so many books to read and so little time...

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if you like this review, i now have website: www.michaelkamakana.com 220611: this is probably the most academically accurate of the translations I have read of this book, but still prefer commentary o