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April - June 2024

Andhadarpana Nyaya – अन्धदर्पण न्याय by Vijay Johsi

The expression ‘Nyaya’ used in ‘Mimamsa’ corresponds to the word maxim. This is one of the devices by which an experience secured from or a conclusion reached in a particular case can be used to explain a similar situation in a brief and telling manner.

‘अन्धदर्पण न्याय’ is one such maxim that conveys teachings in a unique way. The phrase consists of two words; ‘अन्ध’ and ‘दर्पण’ which indicate a blind man looking at the mirror. This phrase indicates that the blind man cannot see and therefore, the mirror is of no use to him.

The first compilation of Sanskrit maxims was done by Raghunathvarma Udasina in the 16th Century through his two books. This maxim appears in his Laukika-Nyaya- Ratnakara. The earliest quotation of this maxim is said to be by Chanakya [3rd Century B.C.]. “Books are as useful to an idiot as a mirror to the blind” is a well- known saying attributed to him.

The phrase of a blind man looking at the mirror is often used to describe a situation where someone is trying to understand or perceive something that is inherently impossible for him to comprehend or experience. It conveys the idea of a futile or impossible action emphasizing the impossibility of a situation.

A mirror is a specific sheet of glass that you hang on the wall or hold it in hand. When the light hits this type of mirrored glass, it reflects a scene in its view. One with the vision can see and grasp its contents to the fullest extent but without vision, it is difficult to even comprehend and understand even if someone describes it.

In such situation, the mirror is of no use to him.

There is a popular Subhashita (Sanskrit Quotation) that says:

यस्य नास्ति स्वयं प्रज्ञा शास्त्रं तस्य करोति किम् ।

लोचनाभ्यां विहीनस्य दर्पणः किं करिष्यति ॥

The one who does not have any intellect of his own, what can scriptures do for him/her? Like what a mirror can do for a person who is visually impaired?

Further deep reading reveals that Andha or blindness refers to incapacity of a person to see as regards vision which is required to enjoy the scene in the mirror. Extending this thought, the capacity to see for enjoying the scene reflected by mirror is absent. Hence, one who does not have capacity to enjoy resources in life can be indicated through this maxim.

It is a common knowledge that to build a structure, raw material should be appropriate and ready for construction. If there is only a pile of sand, one cannot expect to build a multistoried monument with it. Similarly, if one has no eyes, he cannot be expected to look at himself in the mirror, let alone the beauty of the nature around him. Even if someone is to describe the beauty of nature, it cannot be comprehended by him in its totality and complete sense.

Similarly, स्वयं प्रज्ञा(self-intelligence) is necessary for complete understanding of the meanings of scriptures (shastra). One has to exhaust one’s vasanas (behavioural tendencies, from previous experiences and births as per shastra) all by oneself. One can only pray that he gets the प्रज्ञा (intellectual awareness) soon enough so that one can delve deeper into the scriptures once he has the necessary skill set to do so. Example of blind man and mirror fits aptly into this.

In today’s world, education is limited to ‘books and examination’ with focus on results. This has led parents to spoon feed the child with so much readymade material that the capacity of the child to think independently is getting clogged leading to reduction in development and blocking of स्वयं प्रज्ञा of that child.

Similarly, in today’s world, we find that educated and qualified degree holders also fail in using basic commonsense while facing challenges in life.

They are educated but lack स्वयं प्रज्ञा as a result of which we have qualified but not intelligent researchers and not much of the new innovation has been taking place in spite of well qualified educated persons. Today, we have a store house of information readily available on every topic under the Sun through Google but there are very few who make appropriate use of that information. Blind man (Andha) is the person who does not have sufficient capability to use the resources (Darpan) that he has.

Andha Darpana Nyaya makes us introspect to look for स्वयं प्रज्ञा(self-intelligence). All of us may have resources (Darpan) but are we able to utilize the potential fully?