The Application of AnekĀntavĀda in Modern Thought

May, 2024 by Dr. Reshma Devendra


A̅gamas are the source of all philosophical thought in Jainism. Incidentally, the term Anekānta finds no mention in the A̅gamas. It was coined during the post-agamic literary development and “probably Siddhasena Divakar was the first to use it.”[1] The word anekānta-vāda is a compound word made up of three terms, anek, anta, and vāda. Anek means many, anta means aspects or attributes and vāda means doctrine. It is a doctrine of multiplicity and a philosophy of pluralism. Prof. S. N. Dasgupta calls it “relative Pluralism” against the absolutism of the Vedic tradition. Dr. Chandradhar Sharma calls it the “doctrine of many-ness of reality.” Dr. Satkari Mookerjee translates it as the philosophy of ‘non-absolutism.’ Closely associated with anekānta-vāda is syād-vāda or conditional prediction or theory of relativity of proposition. The doctrine of anekānta-vāda is opposed to absolutism or monism or ekānta-vāda.  Anekānta-vāda is considered as “the heart of Jaina metaphysics.”[2]

In a world that often gravitates towards binary thinking and rigid perspectives, the Jain philosophy of Anekāntavāda stands as a profound reminder of the multifaceted nature of reality. Anekāntavāda, often translated as the doctrine of non-absolutism or manifoldness, advocates for embracing the complexity inherent in existence. This essay explores the application of Anekāntavāda in various domains, ranging from interpersonal relationships to scientific inquiry, highlighting its relevance in navigating the complexities of contemporary life.

Understanding Anekāntavāda:

At the heart of Anekāntavāda lies the recognition that reality is multifaceted and cannot be fully encapsulated by any single viewpoint. Instead, it asserts that truth is multifaceted, with each perspective offering a partial glimpse of the whole. This principle encourages humility and openness, inviting individuals to acknowledge the limitations of their own perspectives while remaining receptive to alternative viewpoints.

Anekāntavāda in Relationships:

In the realm of interpersonal relationships, Anekāntavāda offers invaluable insights into fostering understanding and empathy. By acknowledging the diversity of experiences and perspectives, individuals can cultivate compassion and tolerance towards others. Rather than succumbing to the temptation of judgment or polarization, practicing anekāntavāda encourages active listening and the willingness to engage with differing viewpoints. This approach fosters harmonious relationships built on mutual respect and understanding.

Anekāntavāda in Conflict Resolution:

In situations of conflict, the application of Anekāntavāda can facilitate constructive dialogue and conflict resolution. It is necessary to uphold the independence of thoughts. There may be a difference in views, but the freedom to think is essential. By recognizing the validity of multiple perspectives, conflicting parties can transcend entrenched positions and explore common ground. This process requires patience, humility, and a willingness to engage in sincere dialogue. Through the application of anekāntavāda, conflicts can be transformed into opportunities for mutual growth and reconciliation. Coherence has been the hallmark of Jain philosophy. Prof. T.G. Kalghatgi rightly states, “The spirit of Anekānta is very much necessary in society, especially in the present day when conflicting ideologies are trying to assert supremacy aggressively. Anekānta brings the spirit of intellectual and social tolerance.”[3]

Scientific Inquiry and Anekāntavāda:

Freedom to think puts man on the progressive track. For any society to progress, the freedom to think is mandatory. Man has varied interests, and he accepts certain philosophical thoughts based on his interests, and they help him progress intellectually In the realm of science, anekāntavāda offers a refreshing perspective on the nature of knowledge and inquiry. While science traditionally seeks to uncover objective truths, Anekāntavāda reminds us of the inherent limitations of human understanding. Scientific knowledge is always provisional and subject to revision in light of new evidence or perspectives. By embracing the principle of anekāntavāda, scientists can adopt a more nuanced and humble approach to inquiry, recognizing the complexity of the phenomena they seek to understand.


In conclusion, Anekānta is intellectual ahiṁsa, which helps not only put the seeker on the path of liberation but also creates a society of peace, harmony, and tolerance. It kindles the spirit of reconciliation and mutual understanding. “It elevates the individual self to the realm of the universal or the cosmic Self.”[4] Anekānta strengthens Ahiṁsā the philosophy of anekāntavāda offers valuable lessons for navigating the complexities of contemporary life. By embracing diversity, humility, and openness, individuals can cultivate deeper understanding and empathy in their relationships. Moreover, the application of Anekāntavāda in conflict resolution and scientific inquiry holds the promise of fostering dialogue and advancing knowledge. In a world characterized by uncertainty and diversity, anekāntavāda serves as a timeless reminder of the richness and complexity of reality.


1 Acarya Mahapragya, Anekanta -Philosophy of co-existence, Jain Vishva Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan 2010. p.  21
2 Dr. Y. J. Padmarajiah, Jain theories of reality and knowledge. Motilal Banarsidass New Delhi 1963 p. 273
3 Vaisali Institute Research Bulletin, No. 4. p. 31.
4 Dr. Narendra P. Jain, A portrait of Jain Religion, Prakrit Bharati Academy, Jaipur, 2008 p. 112

About Author

Dr. Reshma Devendra is working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Jainology at Shri Shankarlal Sundarbai Shasun Jain College, Chennai, and works as a guest lecturer at the Department of Jainology, University of Madras. She has presented research papers at various forums.

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9 days ago

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