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The Elephant is Dancing

July 29, 2011

Many years ago a story was told about an elephant who encountered four blind men.

Wait a minute, that’s not how the story was told.  Rewind and write again.

Once upon a time four blind men came to an elephant. They sought to understand it, and not being able to see the entire elephant, each blind man called what he could sense by touching it.

Rope, said the one who touched the whisking tail.

Snake, said one who touched the sinewy trunk

Tree, maintained the one feeling the strong legs

Fan, said one who was trying to hold on to the ears whisking the flies away.

That is more-or-less the story that has been told and retold, written and re-written till it has passed on to the folklore of many nations. It touches a chord deep within our psyche, and as it vibrates, we feel the story is ‘our story’. We feel we are the blind men. It doesn’t even matter where the story originated. It is ‘mine’. So goes a tale that is timeless, ageless, and touches  truth.

As it has been told, the men have become six in number, the tree becomes a pillar [or is it the other way around?] , the story is attached to this tradition or that, but essentially it is a story with a moral, or a lesson that teaches us that our perspective dictates our perception. As it is traditionally told, the story shows the value of sangha, community, communal learning in getting to know the entire story. It gives this lesson in an enjoyable way.

These lessons are as valid today as they were hundreds of years ago when the story was first received. Communal learning however, is not easily accepted. It requires that we know that each person is not speaking the whole truth, but also that each is speaking their truth.

Some years ago, it became clear that unless we can look at the wholeness of the elephant, we cannot really accept that the other blind ones are perceiving clearly and speaking truthfully. We distrust others, or don’t fully accept different points of view. There are gaps in vision which can  be bridged if each person can see the wholeness of the elephant for themselves.

I began to circle the elephant, take the place of each of those blind men, kept changing  perspective,begin to know as much as possible of the elephant .

Even in an era of individuality, it is possible to know the entire situation. Even more important, as we begin to see the elephant, we begin to understand ourselves. The wholeness of who we are, the different ways we can sense, perceive, think, know. We can sense that inner light that guides us into knowing the world in which we live. We can absorb the sangha into ‘my’self.

I feel now that the elephant is turning. It does not stay still as it is  touched, poked, prodded, stroked. It is  alive, it lifts its leg, flaps its ears, curls its trunk, flicks those flies off with its ears…the whole scene becomes more real, more alive, more fluid.

The elephant does not stay still as we sense it, nor even as I circle it. It moves. I  feel that the elephant is turning, and the one-way sensing has become a two-way dance.

This reminds me of Rumi, and his dervish dancing. I know that as I access the world wide web – aspects of the akashic records manifested into form – I will find some connection.

I am not disappointed.

In Masnavi, Rumi retold the story and stated:


“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: of 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.’

Ah, this takes me into another direction and I skip off dancing.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 20, 2012 4:12 am

    I love this story. It helps me to forward ideas, get the audience to stretch out in a direction or to a degree they never knew they could, to their benefit opening that channel for other viewpoints. Thank You for sharing.

  2. Diane permalink
    March 22, 2013 9:17 pm

    Thank you Minkashi. For me the story is a parable about scholarship,and the temptation to want to be “right” more than true. Also, I wonder if I might have permission to copy the photograph to include in a collage?

    • March 23, 2013 8:56 am

      Thanks for dancing by Diane. I love to hear about the different ways this story expands our consciousness. And re the image – yes of course. I found it on the web and couldn’t find who it was from.

  3. Diane permalink
    March 22, 2013 9:18 pm

    Very sorry, I mistyped your name, Meenakshi – do forgive.

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  1. When the blind come together | Journey to Wholeness

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