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The Jaina Theory of Relativity

    The Jaina Theory of Relativity

Syadvada is the Jaina theory of relativity; it makes ahimsa a synonym of Jainism. It can be compared with Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which is based on the principle that all motion is relative, regarding space-time as a fourth dimension. Both theories have a similar world outlook, including the absolute denial of the existence of God, the conviction that the world is objective and knowable, and that there is casual inter-independence of all processes in Nature. Einstein opposed social and national oppression, militarism and reaction, and voiced his protest against the use of atomic energy for military purposes.

The same man is regarded simultaneously as son, father, son-in-law, father-in-law, nephew, uncle, brother, cousin, husband and so on; yet there is no contradiction owing to an understood relationship which is termed in Jainism as syadvada . The triple stream of right vision, knowledge and conduct flows in one channel, the path to liberation, moksha-marga ; it branches into hundreds of fresh streams of different aims and objects, which as a whole are called 'not-one-end', anekanta , the applied form of which is syadvada .

Only a dispassionate study based on a sympathetic examination and rational analysis of all experience and beliefs helps mutual understanding and happy reconciliation even in the face of severe antagonism.

The science of laws governing the development of Nature, society and thought, is dialectics; it may be taken to be the background of the theory of syadvada . Dialectics concludes that the higher genera of the existent can each be conceived only as being and not being, as equal to themselves and not equal to themselves, as identical to themselves and as passing into 'something else'. Therefore, being contains contradictions: Single and plural, eternal and transient, immutable and mutable, at rest and in motion.

The art of dialectics terminates into the artistic image which is an unbreakable unity of intertwined opposites, such as the objective and the subjective, the logical and the sensory, the rational and the emotional, the abstract and the concrete, the general and the individual, the necessary and the accidental, the inner (inherent) and the outer, the whole and the parts, the essence and the appearance, the content and the form.

Out of all this emerges the universal Jaina motto: paraspar-opagraho jivanam - "the function of living beings is to help one another." The Jaina concept of reality is manifold; that's why Jaina philosophy is called anekanta , meaning non-absolutism. It is concerned with the thought process while syadvada indicates the manner in which that thought process is given expression to.

The Jaina theory of relativity likens the milkmaid, who, holding the ends of rope winding the churning-rod, pulls one end forth to let the other end be pulled back, then pulls the other end forth to let the one end be pulled back. She never pulls both ends forth at the same time, nor does she let both ends be pulled back at the same time; otherwise, the rope will either break or turn loose, disrupting the process of butter-making.

That the Jaina theory promotes ahimsa , is exemplified by an allegory: Two dogs came face- to- face midway on a log placed across a river to serve as a bridge. It was too narrow for one dog to turn back or to move aside to let the other cross. Realising that a tussle would make both drown, one of them lay on the log to facilitate the other to cross over his back, where after he got up and went across.


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