The Blind Men and the Elephant’ story is being used with pre-teens as teaching story illustrating how people can have differing perspectives, a great idea. Yet the original story as told by The Buddha, was more than that. It was an explanation for the sometimes violent conflicts between religious authorities. Following is the story from a Buddhist online source: http://www.kheper.net/topics/blind_men_and_elephant/Buddhist.html
This was the Buddha’s response to followers who asked about all the arguments and fights among the hermits, scholars and monks about meaning of life, the soul, God and such.
A raj had a group of blind men gathered together:
He said to the blind men assembled there, ‘Here is an elephant,’ and to one man he presented the head of the elephant, to another its ears, to another a tusk, to another the trunk, the foot, back, tail, and tuft of the tail, saying to each one that that was the elephant.
“When the blind men had felt the elephant, the raja 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?’
“Thereupon the men who were presented with the head answered, ‘Sire, an elephant is like a pot.’ And the men who had observed the ear replied, ‘An elephant is like a winnowing basket.’ Those who had been presented with a tusk said it was a ploughshare. Those who knew only the trunk said it was a plough; others said the body was a grainery; the foot, a pillar; the back, a mortar; the tail, a pestle, the tuft of the tail, a brush.
“Then they began to quarrel, shouting, ‘Yes it is!’ ‘No, it is not!’ ‘An elephant is not that!’ ‘Yes, it’s like that!’ and so on, till they came to blows over the matter.
“Brethren, the raja was delighted with the scene.
“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.”
Then the Exalted One rendered this meaning by uttering this verse of uplift
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.
If only more of todays’ so called religious leaders grasped this basic wisdom, then religion would actually be more of a force for peace and understanding rather than conflict and division. The more that all of us are humble enough to recognize that we can see but one facet of the Truth (or God), the more we can be open to learning from one another.
I am interested in your responses to this.