The Blind Men and the Elephant

“People should not worry as much about what they do but rather about what they are. If they and their ways are good, then their deeds are radiant. If you are righteous, then what you do will also be righteous. We should not think that holiness is based on what we do but rather on what we are, for it is not our works which sanctify us but we who sanctify our works.”      Meister Eckhart

‎Buddha taught us that that “The truth cannot be thought… must be lived”. The truth of what we are slips through the net of our conceptions. The foundational notion of Buddhist theory states that there are hints that the truth is in movement. The seven factors of awakening are a causal progression….the state of mindfulness leads to investigation, which leads to a burst of energy, which leads to joy. Joy leads to tranquility, and that calm leads to concentration. Finally comes equanimity, upekkha, an ability to be in the midst of life no matter what is happening, the inspired, dynamic state of equipoise that leads on to awakening. In a sense it is an act of faith, an act of opening to what is seen and unseen. It is a way of living that is constantly responsive, always in movement, ever renewing. I cherish the lessons that the Buddha continues to try to teach us today. The lessons have never been more relevant as his words in the Dhammapada teach us that: “For the yogi, always at the ready are, presence, wisdom and true compassion.”
Just yesterday, a student in the beginning stages of her journey into Buddhism, pinned me down and was bravely pressing the case that there are discrepancies in not only the Buddhadharma, but the Bible, and particularly in the New Testament. Our conversation reminded me of a Stephen Colbert episode from a few years ago where Colbert lassoed Bart Ehrman, a religious scholar. Colbert asked him if he ever considered that Jesus is like the Hindu parable about the blind men and the elephant. In Colbert’s version four blind men stumble into a pit in which an elephant has also stumbled (different traditions such as Sufi, Buddhist, Jain, etc have their own versions). How were they to understand this enormous thing that was in there with them? One touched a side of the elephant and said the elephant was like the wall. Touching the leg of the elephant, another said the elephant was a tree. A third touched the trunk and concluded the elephant was like a snake. The fourth touching that tail and presuming it was a rope.
“Isn’t it possible that you are missing the point?” asked Colbert. “And that Jesus is an elephant?” Colbert beamed, explaining that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were each only able to convey a small part of what happened because the story is just too vast to be encompassed by any one witness. Great stories are like this, mysteriously incomplete, asking something of us, asking to be part of us……