Thursday, 20 November 2014

Analogy as Approximation


Brh.II.iv.7:
As, when a drum is beaten, one cannot distinguish its various notes, but they are included in the general note of the drum or in the general sound produced by the different kinds of strokes.
(Madhvananda Swami trans)

Explication of the text as given by Swami Satchidanandendra in Method of Vedanta :
On this subject we have the Vedic text: “One cannot hear the individual sounds when a tatoo is beaten on a drum. One can only hear the sound of the drum, or of the beating of the drum’. This is the meaning. One can only hear the sounds that come forth from a drum that is being beaten as ‘the sounds of the drum ‘ - that is, one can only hear them as the universal ‘sound’ in particularised form; particularised here by the blows on the drum. The particular sounds cannot be perceived separate from the universal ‘sound’, as they do not exist independently of it. This principle must be applied in evaluating particulars everywhere. And from this we conclude that no particulars exist independently of the universals to which they belong.........
And we see by analogy that none of the particulars and classes found in the world during its period of manifestation exist independently of the (greatest and all-inclusive) universal called Being.
But how should we understand this term ‘universal’ (if it is to mean being in the profoundest sense?) It cannot be the universal called ‘Being’ as conceived by the Logicians which (is merely the objective universal that) accompanied by ( and dependent on ) the Witness-consciousness which is its own true Self. We know from our own direct experience that the universal called ‘Being’ in this sense has no existence apart from that Consciousness which is its invariable support................

Thus when the texts speak of the existence of universals and particulars, using the example of the drum and the rest, they do not intend to inculcate the idea that the Self is a supreme objective universal. Their purpose, rather, is to direct the mind towards the Self as Consciousness, which is itself neither a universal nor a particular, by teaching that neither universals nor particulars exist independently of Consciousness. Hence it is clear that the reference to universals and particulars is only a phase of the the method of teaching by false attribution followed by denial.


The analogy of drumming as being absorbed back into drum sound or the particular being resorbed by the universal is reminiscent of the well known problem of universals. We recognise something as a something. As the individual sounds of the drum merge into drumming so too individual conscious elements merge into consciousness as such. This is a form of meditation to move us past the fascination of the particular and is the import of the citation previously ascribed to Bhaskara.

Therefore it is correct to say that particulars have no existence as anything other than (massed) Consciousness. (Brh. Bhasya II.iv.7)

Note that this too is a false attribution followed by a retraction/denial. Analogies are suggestive approximations.

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