Dogmatism or rigidity in one’s belief system in today’s world has led to many clashes and disrespect among families or countries as a whole and disturbed the balance and peace in the society. Here, comes the importance of the principle of Anekantavada (theory of many-sidedness).
Anekantavada or non-absolutism is probably one of the most profound concepts ever developed in the history and trace its origin back to some 2600 years ago to the ancient religion of Jainism in India. While Jainism is synonymous to truth and non-violence, there are other important principles of this religion like Anekantvada which find relevance in today’s world as it ensures religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence of different thoughts and belief systems.
As we dive deep in to the teaching of Lord Mahavira and Jainism, Anekantvada as the solution to set up balance and peace in the society by eliminating intolerance and dogmatism in our belief system, definitely deserve everybody’s thought and attention.
ANEKANTAVADA: ENTERING INTO THE WORLD OF MULTIPLE VIEWS
Primarily, the concept of Anekantvada refers to the principle of pluralism and multiplicity of viewpoints. It states that reality can be perceived differently by different people and no single point of view is the complete truth and only taken together, they comprise the complete truth.
Simply put, Anekantvada is recognition of all perspectives and differences in beliefs. To regard everything from a relative point of view and see an element of truth in everything is Anekantavada.
A beautiful illustration of the concept is captured in Jain literature by the story of five blind men and an elephant. Five blind men who have never seen an elephant are asked to touch it and describe it. One man, who touches the trunk, describes it as a thick branch of a tree. The man who touches the tail disagrees and says that it is like a rope. The man who touches the side believes it to be a great wall. One who touches the leg says that it is like a pillar and the man who holds the ear, describes it as a huge fan. Putting an end to the dispute, a sixth man who can see, proclaims that, all are right but only partially. He says that an accurate description of the elephant lies in combining all your view points.” The moral of the story is that the complete understanding of any truth requires the consideration and acceptance of a variety of viewpoints and this is what Anekantvada is.
SIGNIFICANCE OF ANEKTANTVADA IN TODAY’S TIMES
Anekantavada can prove to be a great instrument to peaceful co‑existence and unity in the world today. Undoubtedly, it needs to be applied to every field of life as it shows us how to respect opinions of all free thinkers of the world, and, therefore, the roots of modern democracy could be traced in this Jain principle.
Anekantvada essentially establishes unity in diversity. Thus, for families to stay together, for nations to respect each and other and for the world to exist as a one harmonious place, adherence of the principle of Anekantavada is very important.