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Jain View of Reality - A Hermenutic Interpretation

Jain View of Reality - A Hermenutic Interpretation
Item Code: NAY031
Author: Samani Rohini Pragya
Publisher: K. K. Publications, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9789383634477
Pages: 350
Other Details: 9.00 X 6.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.54 kg
In writing this work on hermeneutics and Jain philosophy, Samani Rohini Pragya has done a tremendous service toward advancing cross-cultural understanding. This service is of a twofold nature. First, in bringing together a survey of hermeneutics as developed by continental thinkers in the western world with a study of central Jain concepts such as anuyoga, niksepa, anekdntavdda, nayavada, and sydavada, her work illuminates both traditions-western and Indic-each in the light of the other. Secondly, however, and even more interestingly, the substance of these systems of interpretation, which developed in very different cultural contexts, points toward a way of understanding both ontological and textual realities that moves beyond traditional dogmatisms.

We live in an era in which the massive amount of information available to ever-growing numbers of human beings about diverse cultures, histories, religions, philosophies, and ways of being leads, all too often, to terrifying insecurity. In response to this situation, it is all too tempting for persons from a wide array of backgrounds to retreat into what is familiar: to withdraw into narrow, parochial ways of thinking and the comfort that these provide. In the worst cases, such a retreat sets up the conditions for violence. If one has a fear of the other, it is all too easy for this to devolve into hatred, and finally even to a felt need to destroy the other. Humanity and the planet cannot long survive if these tendencies continue to predominate.

The need of the hour is to indulge not our fear, but our curiosity: to learn not only about but also from the other beings with whom we share our world. This does not, however, need to entail surrender of our own point of view or of the cultural traditions that form our inheritance at a local level, whatever those traditions may be. The idea is not to stand outside of culture or history: impossibility, in any case. It is to adhere to our views in a way that is open to the wisdom available from other perspectives. In this way, we may all be able to advance ever nearer to a more complete understanding of truth and of the reality that we all inhabit.

This is the ethos that has informed both the hermeneutic tradition of Europe and the Jain tradition of India. An approach to reality and to the interpretation of text that draws upon both traditions is well-positioned to enrich human understanding: an approach that is pluralistic and non-dogmatic, while simultaneously informed by a deeply ethical sensibility that is the furthest thing from skeptical nihilism. Of course, no single book can save world. But the work of Samani Rohini Pragya points to the kind of interpretive approach that is urgently needed if humanity is to advance beyond narrow dogmatism and toward the wider, spiritually informed pluralism in which many worldviews, with all the wisdom they entail, can thrive.

To apply the hermeneutical method of interpretation. for bringing to the understanding of the meanings of the system of thought like Jainism, which is very rich in multiplicity of senses, both overt and covert, of its various doctrines, has an ulterior motive behind it. The motive is to bring into the open the hidden meanings, which would otherwise remain concealed unless they be taken out of their hiding and detected as unhidden.

Out of the different issues in Jainism, each of which is replete with multifarious facets of such concealed senses, Samani Rohini Pragya has chosen one, albeit the most important one, viz., the Jaina view of reality as embodied in its doctrine of anekdntaveda and subjected it to hermeneutic methodology of interpretation. The underlying intent is to whether the reality, as conceived by Jain thinkers lends itself to the hermeneutic gloss and whether on such gloss any new aspect of reality, hitherto unknown, comes to the fore. Since reality has been said to be anantadharmdtamakam, i.e. possessed of infinite number of attributes or characteristics of its own, not all of which are accessible to us at a time, but revealing themselves only successively, according to the point of view taken on it, there is every possibility that a new aspect of reality manifests itself to the observer who is looking at it from hermeneutic viewpoint.

This idea does not mean, however, that the dharma or the attribute perceived as belonging to the reality or the thing is subjective, having no base in the reality or the thing. It is already in the reality as objective feature of it, but for its cognizance, proper viewpoint is to be adopted.

Naturally, Samani Rohini Pragya, therefore, in the first part of her book, concentrates her attention on setting the proper hermeneutic viewpoint to be applied to the Jain view of reality. To get a general outline of hermeneutical method of interpretation and of the device of unmasking the concealed meaning, she discusses the hermeneutical view of different hermeneuticians, namely, Schleiermacher, Dithery, Heidegger, Gadamer and Hagerman, extracting the common methodological import despite of the notable differences in their views. In the course of this discussion, she traces the development of general hermeneutics, beginning with Schleiermacher's wider sense of general hermeneutics in view, which can be applied to the Jain view of reality. Apart from this, she disentangles, with full ability and adroitness, the methodological tools of hermeneutics, which, when followed properly, leads to the disclosure of new meanings.

What, however, is noteworthy, that the Jain thinkers already used the hermeneutical method of interpretation in their technique of interpretation called anuyoga, which is the procedure of bringing understanding to the meaning of texts such as the canonical texts of Jainism? The second part of the book has a chapter on anuyoga that forms the basis of Jain hermeneutics to set the tone and the tenor of the hermeneutic interpretation of the Jain view of reality. As reading progresses, it is evident that Samani Rohini Pragya has worked out even the minutest details of the hermeneutic zloss of Jain concept of reality.

Hermeneutics as a movement emerged in European protestant theology. It is basically concerned with the study of the methodological principles of interpretation and explanation, to the study the general principles of biblical interpretation. nevertheless, the field of hermeneutics as found in the contemporary development of this subject encompasses non- theological disciplines as well. The present study is an attempt to look at the nature and significance of hermeneutics as a general and more encompassing discipline than biblical exegesis. Specifically, it aims to explore the applicability of hermeneutics in non-theological field like the 'Jain View of Reality'. With this purpose in view, the hermeneutical views of Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher who a German theologian and philosopher, Wilhelm Dithery who was a German, historian, psychologist and sociologist, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, who where German philosophers and Jorgen Habermas who was a German philosopher and sociologist, have been considered to ascertain the course of development of hermeneutics and the common methodological import underlying them.

The prime purpose of this work, however, is to consider the Jain concept of reality in a hermeneutic frame-work of thinking and to detect its various dimensions. In pursuing the application of hermeneutic methodology of interpretation upon the Jain view of reality, enough care has been taken to guard against undue emphasis upon the superficial and ostensible similarities among ideas. The basic meaning of 'hermeneutics' as the method of interpretation of complicated mystical or otherwise abstruse texts for the clear grasp of their hidden meaning is no less applicable to one's vision of reality, though, however, in a much wider and in non-theological sense. For being an integrated whole of infinite number of aspects- a united whole of infinite number of attributes or, as the Jains hold, multidimensional (anantadharmatmakai, reality is almost interpreted as a recondite text, in which the full meaning conceals and reveals infinite meanings. It being multidimensional deserves sound tool of methodological interpretation. Methodological interpretation of literary work as investigation (anuyoga) is found in one of the Jain canons named as Anuyogaddrdim Sutta. In ancient times before the discovery of writings, the question of interpretation was more subjected to reality than to literary work. The method of interpreting reality is described at length in canonical as well as post canonical works of Jain philosophy. However, the hermeneutic gloss exhibits reality in a new format by bringing various dimensions of its meaning, even undisclosed ones, to the fore and this is what the present work significantly focuses upon.

The present work is divided into two parts. The first part is concerned with delineating the hermeneutic perspective so that it can be used in viewing the Jain concept of reality in the part two. Part one deals with Western hermeneutics to provide an idea of hermeneutics as a methodology and gradual development in this theory. Part two is concerned with the application of hermeneutic method to Jain view of reality, ultimately leading to the presentation of the Jain view as an example of ontological hermeneutics.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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