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Blind men and the elephant

There is an incredible parable of the blind men and the elephant which has its roots in the history of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

It's believed that the Buddhist text Udana 6.4 contains one of the earliest versions of the story, dating back to around 500 BCE.

The Blind Men and the Elephant: A Short Story about Perspective

6 Blind Men touching the Elephant - a metaphor of Perspective
Blind Men and the Elephant

The Moral(s) of The Blind Men and The Elephant

There are so many incredible lessons to be learned from the story of the blind men and the elephant!

1. We all have limited experience (which means partial perspective).

Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong.

Each man believes that his individual perspective is the whole truth – and it is!

It's just that it's only partial truth.

Even referring to it as "truth" is a stretch, as you'll see in below.

Even if two people have the same experience, the subjective interpretations of that single experience will most likely be different.

For instance, two of the men could have touched the exact same part of the elephant and thought it was something different.

“The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception.” — Marcus Aurelius

2. If we don’t remember these limitations, we can get into trouble with ourselves and others.

“Disputed loud and long, each in his own opinion”

With ourselves, we can become deluded – thinking we’ve figured everything out and understand the whole of something.

If we take this approach with others – who may feel the exact same way – it can lead to conflict that often escalates. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

“I have one major rule: Everybody is right. More specifically, everybody – including me – has some important pieces of truth, and all of those pieces need to be honoured, cherished, and included in a more gracious, spacious, and compassionate embrace.” — Ken Wilber

3. The "elephant" represents things we can't see in life.

"And prate about an elephant! Not one of them has seen!"

In the poem, we observe the blind men's ridiculous situation.

We can see the elephant they can't see.

In real life, we are the blind men and can't see these "elephants."

4. They can be anything: truth, reality, spirit, etc. Ultimately, we don't know what the truth is.

“The most obvious, important realities are often the hardest to see and talk about.” — David Foster Wallace, This is Water (Summary)

Our brain is blind. It lives in a vault of silence and darkness inside your skull.

Consider the world around you. Your brain is not directly experiencing it. Instead, it is locked in a vault of silence and darkness inside your skull. All it experiences are electrochemical signals coursing around through its neurons. From these signals, it creates your experience of the outside world. Your reality is a dark theatre. Our conscious experience of the outside world is one of the great mysteries of neuroscience. We don't know how private subjective experience emerges from a network of cells. - David Eagleman, Neuroscientist

5. Accept that everyone is different, but we are all part of the same group.

So, the ideal of nature is to develop the individual and communities to their full potential.

“The full life of humanity can only be achieved by allowing each individual and community to flourish.” — Sri Aurobindo

Thanks for reading...


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