Thursday, 20 March 2008

Anekantavada

The Blind Men and the Elephant
It was six men of IndostanTo 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 approached 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 an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like ~ Is mighty plain," quoth her;
"'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,
Than, 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!

Moral
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!
-John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

Anekantavada: The Relativity of Views.

Ill leave you to moralise over this whilst i travel down south and pick C up from boarding school!

34 comments:

the mother of this lot said...

I love this story!

KAREN said...

What very wise words - if only more people would live by them!

Have a safe trip.

Mima said...

I hope that your journey to pick up C goes well, love the story, great moral about seeing the little things without checking out the big picture. It is also all too easy to end up disagreeing with people about things that are unimportant.

Elissa - Managing Autism said...

Have a safe trip! xx

Sweet Irene said...

This is how you continue to challenge us, Casdok, to never become complacent in our points of view and opinions, but to always keep us on our toes and alert to the whole story and the whole person behind the story.

Jen said...

That was one of the first story poems that I remember my parents reading to me...nice to see it again!

Have a safe trip back with C!

Maggie May said...

Its all a matter of perception!
I have heard this poem before but think it is really superb.

buffalodickdy said...

I've been through training that illustrates everyone sees or hears something different- even though we all saw or heard the same thing!

Mrs. C said...

I read the link, and I'm not sure you can combine religions as described and still be a genuine part of the religions and/or philosophies you're combining.

I'm not sure you can combine Jainism with Islam since I'm not a Muslim, but I'm quite sure you can't combine it with conservative Evangelical Christianity.

Jesus said that he is THE way THE truth and THE life and NO man cometh unto the Father BUT by me (John 14:6, emphasis obviously mine).

Of course there are other scriptures in the Bible that would give the same point, but I'm trying to be brief. As Christians, we're supposed to be different and instead of a part of an elephant being felt by a blind man, we're supposed to give LIGHT to a dark world and spiritual sight to those who are spiritually blind.

We fail utterly sometimes. I know I do, daily. ;]

Just my perspective. Hope you have a peaceful train ride with the Stanleys. All the pictures I've ever seen of the English countryside have been SO beautiful.

Hotwire said...

fantastic!

Jeni said...

This poem/story is sooooo true! Very relevant too right now with the conflict being stirred up here about Sen. Obama and his relationship with his pastor -a bit of a firebrand, ya know. I read your blog every day but don't usually comment but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate and usually agree with your words. Just often that I become a bit "uninspired" to speak myself on others blogs.

laughingwolf said...

hope your time with your son is wonderful!

captain corky said...

Have a good and safe trip!

Phil Plasma said...

Have a safe trip!

E said...

A bit like our presidential politics

Angela said...

This is soooo good. You've outdone yourself again!

craig andrew said...

And the seventh on couldn't even find the elephant C;)

monsoon-dreams said...

i have heard this story in my childhood.i think indostan is india(hindustan).anyway,a good one,with a good message:-)

Nancy said...

The first time I heard this story, I was in 2nd grade. I was amazed by it and had kept it as a favorite. I remember buying a copy for my first born and still, we have it.

=)

nitebyrd said...

Have a safe trip there and home.

I agree with "e", it sounds like our politicians trying to relate to the working man and/or working woman. They haven't a clue.

Dianne said...

A lovely story.

Hope your trip is swift and happy.

Jim said...

hmmmmm a lesson for us all I think........

Hope you had a safe trip

CrazyCath said...

Hope you have a safe trip. Weather is wild here! Go carefully...

Philosophical post, as always...

icey98 said...

At last i have found a mom blog site in the Uk!

Hi im Tina from Wolverhampton, West Mids, United Kingdom.

I have been searching for a while to find mom sites like mine in the UK.
Im going to add you to my blogroll hope that ok!?

If you want to pop by my place its
http://mummydiariescouk.blogspot.com/

All the best

FXSmom said...

Have a safe trip getting C :)

dykewife said...

i used that story on my final exam in sociology of religion. i likened each of the philosophers to one of the blind men, saying that all of them had part of the picture but none of them had it in totality. it must have worked, i got 79% in the class.

vivavavoom said...

have safe travels!

Angela said...

Seems like something I would do.

Dave Coulter said...

How true. No wonder we humans screw up the complicated (i.e. elephants and larger) stuff!

Dad Stuff said...

Thanks for finding this poem for me. It's a good reminder.
Have a safe trip.

Eileen said...

I remember this story, from when I was younger. What a great message! Have a safe journey picking up C.
XOXOX

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

I've always loved this story. :-)

ChainingMagic said...

This one almost slipped into time for me! It is so true for many things, thank you for bringing it to light again.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Love it . . .thought provoking and next time I hear someone being an 'authority' I shall think of this poem.