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January - March 2023

Andhagajanyaya in Samskrit अ गज ायः ॥ Vijay Joshi

(We are happy to introduce a new series of articles on Nyayas in Samskrit from this issue – Editor)



Samskrit is a beautiful language where entire story can be conveyed in collection of few words and vice-versa. In India, where there are different languages and people of different religions have been staying together, due credit also must be given to Samskrit being not only the mother of Indian languages but also is generally a source of same meaning to words when expressed in different languages when these flow from Samskrit.

Maxims in a language is not new to the readers. However, Samskrit has a tradition of Maxims, called Nyāya, which capture a situation in life, usually with a collection of words. A maxim is defined as “an expression of general truth or principle.” They are specifically used when characterizing a situation. A Nyaya explains complex theory through a simple illustration. Nyayas that represent metaphysical principles are called Shastriya Nyaya. Those that represent everyday experiences are called Laukika

Readers are aware of a story of four blind men who approached an elephant in order to get an idea of the animal. One touched his trunk, one his legs, one felt his tail and the fourth one long ears. The first man, who touched the elephant’s trunk described it as a fat serpent; the second man, who touched his legs described it as pillar, the third one who touched his tail described it as a rope and the last one who touched his ears described it as a wall. The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over the question of what it is like and their dispute delights the king. The Buddha ends the story by comparing the blind men to preachers and scholars who are blind and ignorant and hold to their own views. The above story originated in ancient India, from where it has been widely diffused. The Buddhist text Tittha Sutta, Udāna 6.4, Khuddaka Nikaya, contains one of the earliest versions of this story. Different versions are also found in many Hindu,

Jain texts as well. This is aptly described as Nyaya.

Andhagajanyaya, अ£गज�ायः, a popular maxim, which suggests that people believe that part of truth which is felt or perceived by them as ‘absolute truth’ (though that is only partial) whereas in fact, the whole truth is entirely different. This maxim is used in cases where an imperfect, partial or one-sided view of a thing is taken.

Today, every individual lives his life with certain amount of experiences and based on the experiences, makes set of rules or principles in his life to which such individual sticks many times to an extent that he prefers to compromise with higher truths rather than exploring deficiency of his so called perceived ‘truth’. The question is whether every individual is blind.

Every individual, just like any one of the blind men in the story, refuses to even acknowledge that truth can be different from his own experiences. Immature people deny various aspects of truth;

deluded by the aspects they do understand, they deny the aspects they don’ t understand. Due to extreme delusion produced on account of a partial viewpoint, the immature deny one aspect and try to establish another. This is the maxim of अ£गज�ायः ( The blind men and the elephant).It also teaches us that we ought to open our eyes to see the beauty of absolute truth and to realize that absolute truth is different than the one perceived by an individual. It also teaches us to be open- minded and accept other’s views to explore the probable fallacy in the argument in an effort of finding absolute truth. It indicates the ways to live happily in the society accepting every other being with the world as perceived by such other being.

To my mind, this is also the message of ‘ Isavasyam idam sarvam’ ( Isavasya Upanishad) with the understanding that everything in the universe is part of one complete whole that is inseparable from God.