Ancient Interfaith Story Of The Six Blind Men And An Elephant, A Parable That Applies To Science, School, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Relationship, Marriage, Dating, Greenwashing
An ancient story of six blind men and an elephant, plus many examples are provided that may serve to enlighten or increase awareness those for those brave few who choose to dive into this subject.
Share this story with your kids and/or your grandkids….
The Six Blind Men and the Elephant Children’s Story
SIX BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT LESSON PLAN FOR TEACHERS
PEACECORP: Students will examine the importance of perspective in how people perceive things.
THIS ANCIENT PARABLE IS CLAIMED BY MANY CULTURES AND RELIGIONS
Wikipedia; “It is a parable that has crossed between many religious traditions and is part of Jain
lore. The tale later became well known in Europe, with 19th century American poet John Godfrey Saxe
creating his own version as a poem.
The story has been published in many books for adults and children, and interpreted in a variety of ways.
The blind men and the elephant
(wall relief in Northeast Thailand)
UNIVERSAL INTERFAITH STORY
In various versions of the tale, a group of blind
men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk
. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.
The stories differ primarily in how the elephant’s body parts are described, how violent the conflict becomes and how (or if) the conflict among the men and their perspectives is resolved.
In some versions, they stop talking, start listening and collaborate to “see” the full elephant. When a sighted man walks by and sees the entire elephant all at once, the blind men also learn they are all blind. While one’s subjective experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth. If the sighted man was deaf, he would not hear the elephant bellow.
version of the story says that six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.
A king explains to them:
All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned.
The ancient Jain texts often explain the concepts of anekāntvāda and syādvāda with the parable
of the blind men and an elephant (Andhgajanyāyah), which addresses the manifold nature of truth.
This parable resolves the conflict, and is used to illustrate the principle of living in harmony with people who have different belief systems, and that truth can be stated in different ways (in Jain beliefs often said to be seven versions). This is known as the Syadvada
, or the theory of Manifold Predications.
Two of the many references to this parable are found in Tattvarthaslokavatika of Vidyanandi (9th century) and Syādvādamanjari of Ācārya Mallisena (13th century). Mallisena uses the parable to argue that immature people deny various aspects of truth; deluded by the aspects they do understand, they deny the aspects they don’t understand. “Due to extreme delusion produced on account of a partial viewpoint, the immature deny one aspect and try to establish another. This is the maxim of the blind (men) and the elephant.”
Mallisena also cites the parable when noting the importance of considering all viewpoints in obtaining a full picture of reality. “It is impossible to properly understand an entity consisting of infinite properties without the method of modal description consisting of all viewpoints, since it will otherwise lead to a situation of seizing mere sprouts (i.e., a superficial, inadequate cognition), on the maxim of the blind (men) and the elephant.”
twice uses the simile of blind men led astray. In theCanki Sutta he describes a row of blind men holding on to each other as an example of those who follow an old text that has passed down from generation to generation.
In the Udana
he uses the elephant parable to describe sectarian quarrels. A king has the blind men of the capital brought to the palace, where an elephant is brought in and they are asked to describe it.
When the blind men had each felt a part of the elephant, the king went to each of them and said to each: ‘Well, blind man, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what sort of thing is an elephant?’
The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over the question of what it is like and their dispute delights the king. The Buddha ends the story by comparing the blind men to preachers and scholars who are blind and ignorant and hold to their own views: “Just so are these preachers and scholars holding various views blind and unseeing…. In their ignorance they are by nature quarrelsome, wrangling, and disputatious, each maintaining reality is thus and thus.” The Buddha then speaks the following verse:
O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim
For preacher and monk the honored name!
For, quarreling, each to his view they cling.
Such folk see only one side of a thing.
, the 13th Century Persian poet and teacher of Sufism, included it in his Masnavi
. In his retelling, “The Elephant in the Dark”, some Hindus bring an elephant to be exhibited in a dark room. A number of men touch and feel the elephant in the dark and, depending upon where they touch it, they believe the elephant to be like a water spout (trunk), a fan (ear), a pillar (leg) and a throne (back). Rumi uses this story as an example of the limits of individual perception:
The sensual eye is just like the palm of the hand. The palm has not the means of covering the whole of the beast.
Rumi does not present a resolution to the conflict in his version, but states:
The eye of the Sea is one thing and the foam another. Let the foam go, and gaze with the eye of the Sea. Day and night foam-flecks are flung from the sea: oh amazing! You behold the foam but not the Sea. We are like boats dashing together; our eyes are darkened, yet we are in clear water.
Rumi ends his poem by stating “If each had a candle and they went in together the differences would disappear.” 
HINDU AND CHRISTIAN
A number of blind men came to an elephant. Somebody told them that it was an elephant. The blind men asked, ‘What is the elephant like?’ and they began to touch its body. One of them said: ‘It is like a pillar.’ This blind man had only touched its leg. Another man said, ‘The elephant is like a husking basket.’ This person had only touched its ears. Similarly, he who touched its trunk or its belly talked of it differently. In the same way, he who has seen the Lord in a particular way limits the Lord to that alone and thinks that He is nothing else.
John Godfrey Saxe Version
“The Blind Men and the Elephant” by John G. Saxe (read by Tom O’Bedlam)
One of the most famous versions of the 19th century was the poem “The Blind Men and the Elephant” by John Godfrey Saxe
And so these men of Hindustan
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.
The poem begins:
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
They conclude that the elephant is like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, depending upon where they touch. They have a heated debate that does not come to physical violence. But in Saxe’s version, the conflict is never resolved.
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
MODERN INTERPRETATION APPLIED TO SCIENCE
The fable is one of a number of tales that cast light on the response of hearers or readers to the story itself. Idries Shah
has commented on this element of self-reference
in the many interpretations of the story, and its function as a teaching story
…people address themselves to this story in one or more […] interpretations. They then accept or reject them. Now they can feel happy; they have arrived at an opinion about the matter. According to their conditioning they produce the answer. Now look at their answers. Some will say that this is a fascinating and touching allegory of the presence of God. Others will say that it is showing people how stupid mankind can be. Some say it is anti-scholastic. Others that it is just a tale copied by Rumi from Sanai – and so on.
IN MOVIES AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS
Shah adapted the tale in his book The Dermis Probe
. This version begins with a conference of scientists, from different fields of expertise, presenting their conflicting conclusions on the material upon which a camera is focused. As the camera slowly zooms out it gradually becomes clear that the material under examination is the hide of an African elephant.
The words ‘The Parts Are Greater Than The Whole’ then appear on the screen. This retelling formed the script for a short four-minute film by the animator Richard Williams
. The film was chosen as an Outstanding Film of the Year and was exhibited at the London and New York film festivals.
The story enjoys a continuing appeal, as shown by the number of illustrated children’s books of the fable; there is one for instance by Paul Galdone
and another, Seven Blind Mice, by Ed Young
In the title cartoon of one of his books, cartoonist Sam Gross
postulated that one of the blind men, encountering a pile of the elephant’s fewmets
, concluded that “An elephant is soft and mushy.”
INVERTED ELEPHANT STORY JOKE
Six blind elephants were discussing what men were like. After arguing they decided to find one and determine what it was like by direct experience. The first blind elephant felt the man and declared, ‘Men are flat.’ After the other blind elephants felt the man, they agreed.
“We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” –Werner Heisenberg
CHRISTIAN VERSION OF SIX ELEPHANTS STORY
A spoof on denominationalism using the famous poem The Blind Men and the Elephant
BLIND MEN AND ELEPHANT SONG
Natalie Merchant | The Blind Men And The Elephant
Album: Leave Your Sleep
Record Label: Nonesuch Records
“The Blind Men and the Elephant” by Natalie Merchant ( • • )
HOW DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES LEAD TO DIFFERENT REALITIES; ILLUSTRATED BY MAGIC TRICK AND WONDER, EVERYONE LOVES MAGIC, RIGHT?
Different perspectives lead to different realities – Speaker Dan Trommater
A hilarious magic trick illustrates how our perspective informs our perception. For more information on Dan’s leadership and management presentations, visit http://www.dantrommater.com
QUOTE BY VICE PRESIDENT HENRY WALLACE ABOUT DELIBERATE DECEPTION, CENSORSHIP AND GREENWASHING; CAUSING PEOPLE TO GET FALSE VIEWS OF THE ELEPHANT, ON PURPOSE
It is bad enough trying to communicate and understand one another without deliberate deception. But in this world, at least so far, greenwashing, propaganda, and outright lies are the norm.
Censored, Top Secret! Art And Science Of Deception; Global Corporations, ALEC, TPP, CIA, Journalism And The 1%, Whistleblowers, Voting, Elections And Solutions
or-well October 10, 2015
“The really dangerous American fascist… is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power… The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism… But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective, toward which all their deceit is directed, is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”
– U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace, quoted in the New York Times, April 9, 1944
Greenwashing; Fake ‘Green’ Products, Services And Industries; Misleading Half Truths And Public Manipulations
Top 100 Global Warming Denialist Groups Like Heartland, Are ALL Funded By HUGE Corporations, Scientist Caught Getting Paid By Them For ‘Deliverables’
List Of Hormesis And Radiophobia Theory Promoters, Organizations, Pro Nuclear Environmentalists; Hormesis Theory Debunked
SCHOOLS DON’T TEACH HOW TO THINK, THEY MAINLY TEACH WHAT TO THINK, AND TO FEAR OR ATTACK ANYONE WHO DOES KNOW HOW TO THINK AS A FEAR MONGER OR QUACK
Dr. StranglegloveMay 30, 2011 The infant brain is sensitive to radiation. But don’t worry, few people actually use them these days.
IT IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO DESCRIBE A HUGE INVISIBLE YET DEADLY TOXIC AND RADIOACTIVE NUCLEAR ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Trying to describe the huge toxic and deadly but invisible nuclear elephant in the room is a HUGE job, and it takes MANY more than six blind men trying to do the job.
Educating the public on what you THINK you found out about this secret, invisible, but deadly toxic elephant hiding in the living room is another huge challenge, because there are other blind men who are going to argue with you, about what you think you found, and they are considered the ‘experts’, and make their living selling these invisible nuclear elephants, as a good and healthy thing to have around.
Those nuclear elephants groups of blind men are going to deny that anyone else is even worth listening to, and cast dissenters to their nuclear elephant ‘expertise’ as fearmongers and quacks..
All in all, there is lots of blindness to go around.
Now where is that blind mans cane???
tap, tap, tap…
What is the role of fear around nuclear power plants, plus the invisible man made radiation coming out of them? Is there a healthy and rationale reason to fear nuclear weapons and the invisible radioactive ‘leftovers’ from 2,400 open air nuclear tests?
Is feeling fearful healthy or unhealthy when it comes to man made radiation and the invisible nuclear elephant?
Fear And The Nuclear Elephant In The Room
THE IAEA PLUS PRO HORMESIS APOLOGISTS BLAME RADIATION VICTIMS AND CLAIM THAT THE ROGUE NUCLEAR ELEPHANT WHICH IS DESTROYING PROPERTY AND KILLING PEOPLE DOES NOT EXIST
It is bad enough to have a rogue elephant destroying property and killing people. It is even worse when the owner of that elephant and promoter for the whole nuclear industry claims that the elephant does not exist and then blames YOU, for pointing at the elephant.
Radiophobia – IAEA Blames Victims For All Cumulative Radiation Damage And Negative Health Effects, Claims All Man Made Radiation Heals People Via Hormesis
Funny video about different perspective’s inside relationship and/or dating; it will leave you laughing..
This ancient story applies to anyone who has a particular belief system, political party, religion, philosophy, relationship, marriage, dating, or way of thinking/seeing/hearing anything. Everyone filters what they hear, see, feel and think through a ‘lens’ that is the result of cultural conditioning, religion, education, beliefs, expectations, ego, and family traditions, in addition to media bias and nationalism. The end result of all of these filters applied in any ordinary person’s life is that each person is blind to a certain extent, just like the blind men in the fable. Each person is blind to their own bias and conditioning. Everyone is in effect, like a blind man feeling an elephant, which symbolizes reality.
The more sure any person is of their own version of reality, religion, philosophy, isms, politics or whatever else, the more they seem to be dogmatic, fundamentalist, fascist or extreme. The only way to see reality is to combine the ‘pictures’ of many different ‘blind’ people, because everyone has part of the elephant, but no one can see it all.
By combining everyone’s religion, philosophy, politics, education, experience, there is a much greater chance of describing the elephant accurately and finding the ultimate truth of anything. If this story teaches anything, it is the value of diversity, tolerance, and a warning against being dogmatic, fundamentalist, absolutely sure of anything or deceptive. It is hard enough trying to figure life out and figure out the truth of anything, without deliberate lies, propaganda and deceptions.
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“In philosophy departments throughout the world, the Blind Men and the Elephant has become the poster child for moral relativism and religious tolerance” and “if we know the Whole Elephant is out there, shouldn’t this drive us to open our eyes wider and seek every opportunity to experience more of Him?”
The Lie We All Live, (and the solution)
THE SOLUTIONS ARE ALL THERE, BUT IT TAKES WORKING FROM A PLACE OF LOVE, COOPERATION, AND FACILITATION, USING A BOTTOMS UP COOPERATIVE PROCESS
Wouldn’t you agree that because no one person can describe an elephant that is our future alone from the top down, it would be best to figure out what the elephant of reality is together, using a cooperative bottoms up approach, preferably in a coop type of business structure?
What Is A Cooperative And How Does It Work To Generate Profits And Income For Members? Benefits, Origins, Meaning, Identity, Types, And Numbers, Comparison To Communism And Capitalism
Together, the global village of humanity can accomplish miraculous things, as long as it deals with problems by asking; what works for seven future generations without causing harm?
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