The Blind Men and the Elephant

Six blind men of Hindostan cartoonThis is a poem written by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887), as an adaptation of a famous Indian story. It is widely known in Buddhist and Jainist traditions. I thought I will share this as a reminder to everyone that each of us has our own version of universal truths, and each of  us has had a glimpse of these truths based on our individual experiences and walks.

In any given topic, maybe we are just talking about the same thing, from different angles? Instead of arguing “I am right and you are wrong”, maybe we should start learning to respect, reflect on, and appreciate the different views of the elephant as expressed by different people who has touched it. That through our different perspectives, we can see more clearly what the elephant really is, and how big the elephant is. Only then can we truly begin to dig deeper and realize the mysteries that lie beneath the surface.

This can only happen when we first become aware of, accept, and eventually do something about our own individual blindness.

On a more personal note, I think this story has a lot of applications, even (or especially?) in a martial art like Aikido. What do you think?

The Blind Men and the Elephant

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong.

(Please also see this article: “Bob“)


2 thoughts on “The Blind Men and the Elephant

  1. Reblogged this on Dima's Blog and commented:
    We menen nogal eens iets te weten.
    Ons daarbij beroepend op eigen ervaring of ‘zien is geloven’ en ‘meten is weten’.
    Toch blijken we de plank nogal eens mis te slaan.
    Hier een mooie metafoor voor dat fenomeen die op veel gebieden en in veel situaties toepasbaar lijkt.

    Liked by 1 person

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