The Blind Men and an Elephant

My car broke down today, and I say it was intentional. Sometimes, God needed to cause an inconvenience just so that he can show me an experience I needed in order to grow.

Somewhere along the way, my "craving" got the better of me and I had to eat at that particular joint, which happened to only be open so much later, much to my disappointment. 

Who I saw today changed the mood of my day entirely.  

First, I saw an old man in his 80s. As he sang and played a musical instrument, he greeted my morning with a sincere blessing which I was grateful for. For the music and joy, I contributed a token of appreciation. 

Then I came to a coffee shop to rest my tired feet, and enjoyed a wonderful bowl of Tao Suan with extra youtiao. 

I saw an old man limping into the coffee shop with his blind grandchild who looks to be in his early 20s. They sat in front of me enjoying their Tao Suan with extra youtiao. 

Then I cried. 

There is an old man sitting in front of him worried about who will be good enough to take care of his blind grandchild, better than he ever could, when he finally passes on. 

We all take our eyes and ears for granted. We all fail to appreciate every good that we are enjoying today with sincere gratitude. Sometimes we even cause petty nuisances amongst ourselves, when that effort itself could have been better spent making our world a better place.   

"Blind monks examining an elephant", an ukiyo-eprint by Hanabusa Itcho (1652–1724).

"Blind monks examining an elephant", an ukiyo-eprint by Hanabusa Itcho (1652–1724).

I had this pocket of moment as soon as I was done running errands and putting baby to sleep, to google.

Here is a beautiful story I found on Wiki of Buddha who used the elephant parable to describe conflicts:

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 assert the elephant is either like a pot (the blind man who felt the elephant's head), a winnowing basket(ear), a plowshare (tusk), a plow (trunk), a granary (body), a pillar (foot), a mortar(back), a pestle (tail) or a brush (tip of the tail).

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."

It would be great if everyone was humble enough to sit through peacefully and see the beauty of a big elephant together. It is ok to have a point of view, nobody is wrong about the different views. In fact everyone is right, from a different perspective.

What is wrong, is if you have to put someone down just to prove that you are the only one who is right with dishonesty and unfair means. Do to others what you would want others do unto you. 

Times like that, I would choose love and grace, and withdraw into silence. The Buddha shared that the right speech must bring happiness and help others, hence, the hard truth, if it does not help and worse, cause harm and unhappiness, then I'd rather not say a word. 

An eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind. (Gandhi)