The Parable of the Blind Men & the Elephant

The Parable of the Blind Men & the Elephant

A reflection on practice by Other Teachers & Folks We Value

“The fool who knows he is a fool
Is that much wiser.
The fool who thinks he is wise
Is a fool indeed.”
The Buddha from the Dhammapada

There was a mighty elephant with a strong trunk and long tusks, trained by a good master, and willing and serviceable. This elephant, led by his trainer, came to the land of the blind. Very soon the rumors went in the land of the blind that an elephant had come to their country. So the wise men and teachers of the blind came up to the elephant and began to investigate him. And when the elephant was gone, they met and discussed the animal among themselves.

There were some who said he was like a great thick snake; others said he was like a snake of medium size. The former had felt the trunk, the latter the tail.

Further, there were some who claimed that his figure was like a high column, others declared he was large and bulky like a big barrel, still others maintained he was smooth and hard but tapering. Some of the blind had taken hold of one of the legs, others had reached the main body, and still others had touched the tusks.

In the end they abused and scolded one another over their disagreements, and finally every one of them swore that everyone else was a liar and was cursed on account of his heresies.

Everyone of these blind men was honest in his contentions, sure of having the truth and relying on his own experience. But the elephant trainer knows that every one of them has a parcel of the truth, that every one is right in his way, but wrong in believing his outlook to be the whole truth.

The master of the elephant was an Enlightened One. He brought the elephant of truth into the land of the blind, and those who listen to him well will understand that all the claimants have parcels of the truth. Those who takes refuge in his doctrine will cease to bicker and quarrel.

Sutta Pitaka – Khuddaka Nikaya

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