Wikipedia:Today's featured article/September 19, 2008

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1888 e-print "Blind monks examining an elephant" by Hanabusa Itchō

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. Jains contrast all attempts to proclaim absolute truth with adhgajanyāyah, which can be illustrated through the maxim of the "Blind Men and an Elephant". In this story, one blind man felt the trunk of an elephant, another the tusks, another the ears, another the tail. All the men claimed to explain the true appearance of the elephant, but could only partly succeed, due to their limited perspectives. 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. Consequently, no single, specific, human view can claim to represent absolute truth. Anekāntavāda encourages its adherents to consider the views and beliefs of their rivals and opposing parties. Proponents of anekāntavāda 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. (more...)

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