Philosophy: Jainism and Tolerance

Jainism is one of the major philosophical systems in the world.Many philosophies and ideals of Jainism are acclaimed by the people from all across the globe. The Jaina Philosophy is essentially considered to be the one with practical insights.

One of the principles/philosophies of Jainism, which is acclaimed by larger masses is that of Syadvada. This principle is the one which upholds tolerance and harmony among the multiple interpretations of the same reality. This is valid for every single aspect.

Brief about Syadvada:

  • Derived from the word “Syad”, which means, “relative” .
  • Thus, Syadvada is the Theory of Relativity of Knowledge.
  • According to this, each and every judgment is true from a particular condition of time, place, and circumstances.
  • Thus, none of the views about a particular thing is incorrect, although, they may differ from one another.
  • According to this theory, absolutely affirmation or negation of a particular view is not correct in principle.

Contemporary significance:

The major lesson from the theory of Syadvada is that of tolerance towards the views of others. This holds true for each and every field.

  • Democratic behavior:
    • The right to freedom of speech and expression is considered to be the cornerstone of a democracy.
    • In an environment where every other person takes offense, unfortunately, due to trivial things, the right to freedom of speech can hardly thrive well.
    • A scenario where Syadvada is understood well will be a truly democratic one.
    • There will no aggressive objections and offences but only debates and discussions in order to reach a consensus.
    • Thus, the theory of Syadvada can help in the establishment of an ideal democracy.
  • Individual Liberty and dignity:
    • Tolerance is also important for maintaining individual liberty and dignity. The sovereignty of an individual has to be respected whatever be the situation. In an intolerant environment, this can hardly be established.
    • Interferences and breaches of the individual sovereignty take place mainly when one tries to establish the hegemony of one’s beliefs in someone else’s life.
    • With an understanding of Syadvada or Relativity of knowledge, no one would try to impose one’s beliefs and practices on that of other as all will be considered true from a particular angle.
  • Religion:
    • One of the most important spheres which hold a high relevance when it comes to tolerance or intolerance is that of religion.
    • Religion essentially is an interpretation of the absolute or the ultimate reality.Though, the reality is one, the multiple religions which exist today are different paths to attain it.
    • However, there has been an increasing antagony and intolerance between different religions, mainly due to religious exclusivism(a principle which upholds only its own reality as true while falsifying others).
    • Here, an understanding of Syadvada can play a vital role. If it is well understood that each of the interpretation of religion is true and the variation lies only in terms of time, place ,and circumstances, an environment of tolerance and harmony could be established.

Therefore, Syadvada or Theory of relativity of knowledge holds high significance and relevance in the contemporary times and thus, need to be understood and inculcated well.




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