Common logical sutras that offer great philosophical insights based on daily observations
Srila Prabhupada often used to quote Sanskrit logic sutras, or nyaya, in his talks and writings. These sutras are like proverbial expressions and indicated various commonly known truths. By quoting the appropriate logical nyaya in the right context, one could drive home a certain point very effectively.
Nyaya helps in churning our intelligence and discriminating the right from the wrong. In this article, we will see a collection of nyaya sutras that Srila Prabhupada quoted in his teachings.
1. Kupa-manduka-nyaya – The logic of the frog in the well
“The frog in the well” logic illustrates that a frog residing in the atmosphere and boundary of a well cannot imagine the length and breadth of the gigantic ocean. Such a frog, when informed of the gigantic length and breadth of the ocean, first of all does not believe that there is such an ocean, and if someone assures him that factually there is such a thing, the frog then begins to measure it by imagination by means of pumping its belly as far as possible, with the result that the tiny abdomen of the frog bursts and the poor frog dies without any experience of the actual ocean. Similarly, the material scientists also want to challenge the inconceivable potency of the Lord by measuring Him with their froglike brains and their scientific achievements, but at the end they simply die unsuccessfully, like the frog.
Sometimes a materially powerful man is accepted as God or the incarnation of God without any knowledge of the factual God. Such a material assessment may be gradually extended, and the attempt may reach to the highest limit of Brahmaji, who is the topmost living being within the universe and has a duration of life unimaginable to the material scientist. As we get information from the most authentic book of knowledge, the Bhagavad-gita (8.17), Brahmaji’s one day and night is calculated to be some hundreds of thousands of years on our planet. This long duration of life may not be believed by “the frog in the well,” but persons who have a realization of the truths mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita accept the existence of a great personality who creates the variegatedness of the complete universe.
2. Rajju-sarpa-nyaya – the logic of the rope and the snake
Misconceiving one thing for another thing is called illusion. For example, accepting a rope as a snake is illusion, but the rope is not false. The rope, as it exists in the front of the illusioned person, is not at all false, but the acceptance is illusory. Therefore the wrong conception of accepting this material manifestation as being divorced from the energy of the Lord is illusion, but it is not false. This illusion gives rise to fear, and by equipping ourselves with the knowledge of Vedic scriptures, we become totally fearless.
3. Andha-pangu-nyaya – The logic of the blind man and the lame man
Srila Prabhupada used to say how the United Nation has failed to create real unity in the world. “I have given this philosophy of andha-pangu-nyaya to the American students. A lame man and a blind man may not be able to achieve anything alone. But if the blind man picks up the lame man on his shoulder, the lame man can give directions to the blind man with his eyes. So let America supply the money, and let them take our direction for the culture. That will be the real United Nations.”
4. Kaka-taliya-nyaya – the logic of the crow on the palm tree
This indicates how cynics and speculators waste their time arguing about useless things. One time a crow came and sat on a palm tree. As soon as it sat on it, a palm fruit from the tree fell on the ground. Some people who saw this scene said that the fruit fell because the crow sat on the tree, while others said that the fruit was anyway going to fall and the crow happened to sit on it just when the fruit fell from it.
Similarly many people argue about the exact cause of a living entity’s downfall into the material world. Or some wonder whether the jiva fell down from the Vaikuntha planets or the Brahman effulgence. All such discussions are useless. The real issue is, How can we return to the spiritual world?
5. Sakha-candra-nyaya – the logic of the tree branch and the moon
Although the moon appears to be located in the branches of a tree, it is actually situated very far away. Similarly, none of the avataras, or incarnations, of Lord Krishna are within this material world, but they are visible by the causeless mercy of the Lord. We should not consider them to belong to this material world. As stated by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (9.11):
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord of all that be.”
This is another explanation: A teacher directed his student to look at the branches of a tree. The goal, however, was for the student to see the rising moon through the branches. The idea is that first one must be given a simpler example. Then the more difficult background is explained.
6. Tandula-vrscika-nyaya – The logic of the rice and the scorpion
Sometimes from a heap of rice, you see a scorpion coming out. Foolish men think that the heap of rice is giving birth to a scorpion. But that is not the fact. Scorpions lay their eggs within the heaps of rice, and by the fermentation of rice, newborn scorpions comes out. So actually, rice is not producing the scorpion. It is coming out under some chemical fermentation process.
Foolish scientists are putting forward this evolution theory that man is coming from monkey, but no monkey is producing a man. Nobody has seen. They put forward some theory, but it is not a fact.
This logic indicates the tendency of foolish people to follow the crowd. In a herd of sheep, every sheep follows the one in front. If the lead sheep falls in a ditch, all the sheep will follow suit. Today’s society is in a similar situation. Politicians, movie stars, sports stars and businessmen are leading the society, and all the people are imitating their activities. The leaders have no values or principles in their lives, and they are leading the whole society into a hellish condition.
8. Aja-gala-stana-nyaya – the logic of the nipples on a goat’s neck
The nipples on the neck of a goat may seem like sources of milk, but to try to get milk from such nipples will be foolish. Similarly, we should not expect any creative power from the material ingredients; setting aside the Supreme Lord as the cause of all causes is the logic of aja-gala-stana-nyaya.
We must believe in the power of the purusa, who impregnates prakrti, or nature. Because the Lord wished to lie down in meditation, the material energy created innumerable universes at once, in each of them the Lord lay down, and thus all the planets and the different paraphernalia were created at once by the will of the Lord.
9. Ardhakukkuti- nyaya – the half-hen logic
Once a man kept a hen that delivered a golden egg every day. The foolish man thought, “It is very profitable, but it is expensive to feed this hen. Better that I cut off her head and save the expense of feeding her. Then I will get the egg without any charge.” The impersonalists accept the sastras in this way. They think, “Oh, this is not good; it is inconvenient. We shall cut this portion out.” When Krishna says, “One should see Me everywhere,” the rascal Mayavadis think it is very palatable, but when He says, “Give up everything and surrender to Me,” they disagree. They accept what is convenient and reject what is not.
But the acaryas do not distort the sastras in this way. When Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna said, “I accept whatever You have said.”
Vamsibihari Dasa is the editor of Bhagavaddarshan, the Hindi edition of Back to Godhead.