This nyāya is concerned with the lamp in a house. In the light of the same lamp, someone reads, someone writes, some others do other work. Thus the same lamp is useful for a variety of things. Likewise if something has multifaceted application then this nyāya is used to describe that. In the other two nyāyas called dehalīdīpa-nyāya, kākākṣi-nyāya, a thing has two applications. The specialty here is that it has more.
Likewise when one word is used along multiple things this nyāya is applicable. E.g. in muṇḍakopaniṣat there is a sentence which goes as follows
“सत्येन लभ्यस्तपसा ह्येष आत्मा सम्यग्ज्ञानेन ब्रह्मचर्येण नित्यम्”
Śrī-śāṅkarabhāṣya deciphers this as “nityam satyena, nityam tapasā, nityam samyagjñānena”
26. Ante raṇḍāvivāhaścet ādāveva kuto na hi
Finally if one has to marry a widow why not do it in the first place! This nyāya originated during the times when widow remarriage was frowned upon. Someone who has committed a mistake, keeps arguing till the very end before finally admitting it, instead one could accept it soon enough. When defeat is certain, why spend a lot of effort in futility?
“The blind and the quail” vartakā means quail. It is a bird which is slightly bigger in size than a sparrow. A blind man sitting on a rock was clapping. A curious passerby asked him, “Sir, why are you clapping?” The blind man replied, “Out of these birds which are flying around, one might just get stuck in between my palms! Then I’ll use it”
If something happens by sheer coincidence this is used to describe such events. Somadeva in his work, Yaśastilakacampū gives this example: “The jīva who is stuck in the tumultuous ocean of samsāra by fate gets the life of a human. Even there rarely one is born in a noble lineage and gets the company of good people. That is indeed like ‘andhakavartakīya’”
“The blind men and the elephant” the story is indeed famous.
There were blind men in a town. They were desirous of knowing what an elephant looks like. They found a tamed elephant and tried to gather something about it by their sense of touch. One got hold of the trunk and assumed that it was like a snake. Another touched the ear and thought it looked like a winnow. Another touched its leg and assumed it to be like a pillar. Another touched its stomach and assumed it to be like a storage container. Another got hold of its tail and assumed it would be like a rope. Finally after the elephant went away the blind men disputed its appearance.
Thus without proper knowledge about something there are bound to be disputes. Their learning was right in some aspects but wrong in other aspects. Thus the dispute arose due to lack of discernment. Likewise the fanatics quarrel about the Supreme, the beings and the world. They are again correct in some limited sense, but not in the holistic sense. A wise man would consider all aspects of all the opinions and arrive at the correct conclusion. He’d find the unnecessary quarrels of the fanatics humourous. Wouldn’t the same be true for someone who has actually seen the elephant and observed the quarrel amongst the blind men?
In the Bṛhadāraṇyaka vārttikā, Sureśvarācārya says: “The unwise assume many forms of the brahman which is devoid of emotion and spotless. This is an example of the very same andhagaja-nyāya.”
“The blind man and the cow’s tail”. A blind man has lost his way and is struggling. A mischievous fellow comes along and the blind man asks him to show the way. He takes him to a nearby cow which was grazing, and makes him hold its tail. Then he said that if he holds on to it he’ll be automatically led to the desired destination. One can only imagine the plight of the blind man!
If someone who is ignorant is made to believe something and is deceived then this nyāya is used to describe it. Śrī-śaṅkarācārya in the sūtrabhāṣya writes as follows. “A śāstra should show the right way to someone who is ignorant. If it says that the inanimate is itself the ātman, then the ignorant would believe it. He’d never learn what the ātman actually is. He will thus lose śreyas on one hand and acquire false knowledge on the other. This is an example of andhagolāṅgūla-nyāya.
“What purpose would a mirror serve for a blind man?” Anything would be useful only to someone who has the required wisdom to use it. Someone who is oblivious of a thing’s utility might ridicule it. The thing wouldn’t incur any loss due to this. There is a verse in yogavāsiṣṭha–
यस्य नास्ति स्वयं प्रज्ञा शास्त्रं तस्य करोति किम् ।
लोचनाभ्यां विहीनस्य दर्पणः किं करिष्यति ॥
[For someone without wisdom what use would a śāstra be? What use would a mirror be for someone who is blind?]
A fanatic who dismisses science and a scientist who dismisses the vedas are both blind in a way. This is applicable to both.
A set of blind men were going in a line. One man held the person in his front, the next person in line held this man and so on. All were blind! They all thought that they were on the right way and the person in front of them knew where to go! They don’t know that the person in front is blind too. Even if they are aware, “But the man in front of him or in front of that man must be someone who isn’t blind!” is their feeling. A passerby was surprised to see this. He addressed one amongst them, “Sir. You are going on the wrong path. You wouldn’t reach the place you desire. On the other hand there is a possibility that you’d fall in some pit and find yourself in danger.” That blind man was enraged, “What do you mean? So many of us are going on the same path. What if I’m blind? Wouldn’t the man in front know where to go?” the passerby replied, “But sir, they are all blind. They are not on the correct path.” The blind man was further enraged, “Oh! So you mean all these people are blind, but only you can see? You must be indeed blind. I’d not believe you. Ten people are better than one. It's better to believe all these people whom I’m already acquainted with instead of believing a stranger like you!”
Thus if something is followed blindly without any logic or experience this nyāya is applicable. Haradatta uses this in padamañjarī. “In grammar some words have been designated as ‘correct usages’ How did ācārya Pāṇini figure this out? From his predecessor, a grammarian called Apiśali. How did Apiśali know? From his predecessors. Therefore this looks like andhaparamparā-nyāya.” Note that here he is building the pūrvapakṣa, in the siddhānta this nyāya hasn’t been implied.
This is the fifth part of the multi-part translation of the Kannada book "Sandarbha Sukti" by Mahamahopadhyaya Vidwan Dr. N Ranganatha Sharma. Thanks to Dr. Sharada Chaitra for granting us permission to translate this wonderful work. The original in Kannada can be read here