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Anekantavada or "Manysidedness", the philosophical position that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, and that no single point of view is the complete truth was developed by the Jains some two and a half millennia ago, and yet also pertains to a central theme in the modern Integral paradigm, being found in Gebser's idea of the Integral Aperspective stage of consciousness, and Wilber's theme of all views being partial (hence his citing Hegel's phrase of "include and transcend" , in order to attain a more inclusive (but still partial) perspective).

The following summary is from Wikipedia - Wikipedia linkoriginal url

Anekantavada is one of the most important and basic doctrines of Jainism. It refers to the principles of pluralism and multiplicity of viewpoints, the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, and that no single point of view is the complete truth.[1][2]

This is to contrast attempts to proclaim absolute truth with adhgajanyayah, which can be illustrated through the parable of the "Blind Men and an Elephant". In this story, each blind man felt a different part of an elephant (trunk, leg, ear, etc.). All the men claimed to understand and explain the true appearance of the elephant, but could only partly succeed, due to their limited perspectives.[3] This principle is more formally stated by observing that objects are infinite in their qualities and modes of existence, so they cannot be completely grasped in all aspects and manifestations by finite human perception. According to the Jains, only the Kevalins - the omniscient beings - can comprehend objects in all aspects and manifestations; others are only capable of partial knowledge.[4] Consequently, no single, specific, human view can claim to represent absolute truth.

The origins of anekantavada can be traced back to the teachings of Mahavira (599-527 BCE), the 24th Jain Tirthankara. The dialectical concepts of syadvada (conditioned viewpoints) and nayavada (partial viewpoints) arose from anekantavada, providing it with more detailed logical structure and expression. The Sanskrit compound an-eka-anta-vada literally means "doctrine of non-exclusivity"; it is translated into English as "scepticism"[5] or "non-absolutism". An-ekanta "uncertainty, non-exclusivity" is the opposite of ekanta (eka+anta) "exclusiveness, absoluteness, necessity" (or also "monotheistic doctrine").

Anekantavada encourages its adherents to consider the views and beliefs of their rivals and opposing parties. Proponents of anekantavada apply this principle to religion and philosophy, reminding themselves that any religion or philosophy, even Jainism, that clings too dogmatically to its own tenets, is committing an error based on its limited point of view.[6] The principle of anekantavada also influenced Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to adopt principles of religious tolerance, ahimsa and satyagraha.[7]


[1] Dundas, Paul; John Hinnels ed. (2002). The Jains. London: Routledge. p. 231
[2] Koller, John M. (July 2000). "Syadvada as the Epistemological Key to the Jaina Middle Way Metaphysics of Anekantavada". Philosophy East and West (Honululu) Vol. 50 (Iss. 3): 400–07.
[3] Hughes, Marilynn (2005). The voice of Prophets, Volume 2 of 12. Morrisville, North Carolina: pp.590-91
[4] Jaini, Padmanabh (1998). The Jaina Path of Purification. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass p. 91
[5] Monier Monier-Williams, English Sanskrit Dictionary, 2 volumes, (London: Kessinger Publishing, 1851). Still the standard reference for Sanskrit in English, many reprints, latest 2008, offered at Universität zu Köln (University of Cologne) and several mirror websites.
[6] Huntington, Ronald. "Jainism and Ethics".
[7] Hay, Stephen N. (1970). "Jain Influences on Gandhi's Early Thought", in (ed.) Sibnarayan Ray: Gandhi India and the World. Bombay: Nachiketa Publishers, pp. 14–23

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