Blind men and their Elephants
Ramkrishna Paramahamsa once shared this parable:
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.
Over the ages, this simple Indian story has made the rounds of various religions, commutinites, cultures and even countries. It is time we it came back to us too.
Today, we have as many elephants as there are blind men, all intent on the trees and missing the woods. It seems that we have such a high opinion of our intellect that anything we did not say is wrong. It is only a matter of arguing enough to find that mistake. We can do that.
Here are some of our elephants:
Elephant: Corruption and Scams are a problem with the governance of the country.
- Blind Man 1: This is a problem with the unchecked misconduct of the leadership of the country. We need an independent Lokpal
- Blind Man 2: The country is being hijacked by unconstitutional elements
- Blind Man 3: This is a result of people not voting
- Blind Man 4: This is because of a lack of honesty in the common man’s actions.
Elephant: Teach the Gita to all Indian children
- Blind Man 1: The religious right is Talibanizing the country
- Blind Man 2: This is repression
- Blind Man 3: All religions or none should be taught
- Blind Man 4: We are deviating from the defining values of our culture, much needed influence being opposed.
Elephant: Indian Muslim Women Film Stars used to be icons that RULED the scene. Not any more
- Blind Man 1: Repression and intolerance increasing among Muslims
- Blind Man 2: No such thing is happening – some actresses exist
- Blind Man 3: Decreasing opportunities for Muslims
- Blind Man 4: Other communities entering the industry
- Blind Man 1: Azadi
- Blind Man 2: Pakistani Propaganda
- Blind Man 3: Indian repression
- Blind Man 4: Human rights abuse
Elephant: Laws to control the internet
- Blind Man 1: Necessary security initiative
- Blind Man 2: Violation of privacy
- Blind Man 3: Security risk to sensitive information of individuals
- Blind Man 4: Nothing to hide
- Blind Man 1: Wrong name. Trivializing serious issue.
- Blind Man 2: Much needed initiative. Absolutely correct.
- Blind Man 3: May provoke retaliatory abuse
- Blind Man 4: It is hopeless. Society will never change.
And the list goes on… I am sure you know a few. Do share.
Rumi ends The Elephant in the Dark with:
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.
Note: If you comment more elephants and blind men, I’ll add to list.