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The Blind Men and the Elephant : Facets of Ourselves

 The Blind Men and the Elephant : Facets of Ourselves


Who has not heard of the story of the blind men and the elephant? It has stood the test of time, and of universality. There are so many lessons it teaches that it’s worth going over them.[If you would like to go over the story, it is easy to find the story on the web- just type in the words “blind men and the elephant” in a Google search engine. There is a poem by John Godfrey Saxe which is also quoted in full.]

At various times in life, each of us is blind. When faced with a novel situation, we use our knowledge to understand it. Our brain, wired with the gestalt principle, fills in the gap. And voila! The leg of an elephant becomes the trunk of a tree, and the tail: a stout rope! Bringing this into everyday life: the different manners of people become “bad manners” or “wrong behavior”, and their customs, “strange customs”.

Each of us plays different roles: son/daughter, sibling, spouse, friend, companion. Our behavior in each of these roles reveals only a facet of ourselves. In the same way, we can see only a facet of the people whom we meet. Here is a question to ponder on and share: Is it important to get to know the facets of people we meet? The ones we don’t see in interacting with them? Why? Why not? How can we see those facets?

The blind men are also our senses. Each is beautifully designed to respond to one specific type of stimulus. Thus, eyes respond to light only and cannot sense sound waves, while ears do just the opposite. It would be fun to think how we would perceive the world if we had only one sense organ. Very limited! The lesson here is that it is the senses working in unison that make us understand the world around us.

But do we fully perceive even our physical reality? What about infra-red rays? Or ultra-violet? Scientific evidence shows us that they exist; and they can affect our well-being, but we cannot perceive them. Examples can multiply of physical things that we do not sense, but which do affect us. It’s amusing to think that if we had the eyes of a fly and could see 360„a, the world would be very different from what it seems to us. When we say “I believe only what I can see and hear and touch”- let us keep in mind this limitation.

Yet doesn’t each mother rightly claim to have “eyes at the back of my head”?

Well, somewhere we are aware that we have senses that extend beyond the conventional five! Or at least, we know that we need more senses than we have?

Perhaps we already do. We all are aware of “gut-feel”, prickly feelings, shudders at some places, a feeling that something is not quite right, a nice feel about a person or place which has nothing to do with the looks.

We have more senses that we know about. Isn’t it time to learn to use them?

Try an exercise.

When you are alone, whether in bed or in the shower, out walking or working out: take three deep breaths. Then become aware of all the things that your eyes can see: in front, focus on the nearest and farthest things. On the sides, focus on all the things that your eyes can see near and far. Then- close your eyes. Just watch what you see against the screen of your eyelids. Yes, there are names for those things: after-images, negative after-images. Yes, there are explanations. But just for now, just watch. No judging, no categorizing, no explanation. Just watch.

The blind person can open his perception to what s/he senses. Yes, the blind can see. They do see. They just have to know that they do. There are none so blind as those who WILL not see!

You can do this exercise with sounds. After the three cleansing breaths, become aware of all the sounds that you can hear around you. After a few moments, become aware of sounds that are outside the room that you are in. And then the very farthest sounds that you can hear.

How is it that we are not always aware of the sounds so far from us? Our ears are sensing them, but our brain is keeping them in our subconscious, because it can deal with only a few sounds at a time. It selects. We hear but we do not listen.

Now draw your attention inward, to the sounds made by your own body. What are the closest sounds that you can hear?

Isn’t it interesting how many sounds are all around and within us? The brain limits us to what we can deal with. Perhaps we need to stay in awareness of these sounds whenever we can. We are not limited by our senses. We are limited by what we have taught our brains that we can deal with.

Please write in and share your experiences. It is only through sharing that the blind men can get the whole picture of the elephant!

© Meenakshi Suri 2002

 Letters from readers- The Blind Men and the Elephant

[FOCUS AND PERSPECTIVE] [THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT] [The Arjuna Factor] [Window into Ourselves] [The Tree in the Storm] [HOLISTIC LIVING HOME]

Is it important to get to know the facets of people we meet? The ones we don’t see in interacting with them? Why? Why not? How can we see those facets!When we interact with people, our mind receives lots of information which when put in right perspective tells a lot about a person we are interacting with.

The question is, are we aware and conscious enough of our own state of mind – of what we think, of what we feel, why we feel, why we get particular emotion- to receive all the information that is given to us by people we interact with. In most of the cases the answer is no, the information that comes to us from people is absorbed by our mind and leaves a subtle feeling of what that person is. This is because our own state of mind is clouded by our emotions, fears, insecurities, and it is this cloud that pervents us from understanding what others are.

Therefore the key to knowing others is to know one own self.

In most of the cases, the repression of emotoins that we practise since our childhood leaves a big clould of unanswered questions that were never anwered in the first place. Emotions are the value repsonses to the objects we perceive- good for me or bad for me.

To say it simply what we expereince when we are under high emotoins is nothing but the feedback that we receive from a merciless computer that works in our brain. This is the computer which has recorded vast amounts of data in its memory and does the integration of this data when we perceive an object. It is this integration of data that gives us emotional high or low. There is a possibility that the data which is recorded in memory is a wrong one because of our childhood expereiences, and reressions of feelings and emotions that we practised since our childhood. The wrong data will lead to wrong emotoinal response.

For eg. how many of us can clearly describe the values we hold supreme in our own mind and how we act to retain these values. There are vlaues which were given to us by our parents and which have overshot their utility and are not workable today. They remain embbeded in our memory and lead to corruption of the data which in turn leads to wrong emotional repsonse.

To understand our emotions we need to understand our values. Are they life enchancing or life negating. A life negating vlaue which give pleasure to the body will ultimately lead to destruction of the body. For eg. a shot of heroin gives emotional and physcial high to the body but what does this lead to ultimately is the destruction of the mind.

The words that we speak follow a concept in our mind and once we are clear of our own inner state, we can understand the facets of people from the words they speak. The words directly lead to concepts and concepts will then lead to their inner states. The key to understanding people then is the undersanding of our inner state- our emotions, our values, and our thinking.

As written in Upanishads:

The day I know my inner self is the day I touch my infinite potential!

Do write back with your feedback!

Ashish Anand

I think if you see others in a light where u do not expect anything for favours done and love in an unselfish way,that u can enhance relationships with others.
The moment you expect a barter in your relationships,it is then that things start turning wrong and relationships sour.

One way is to try and enlarge the picture. We can never see the whole picture but we can definitely try and see more than we are currently. There are so many examples of misunderstandings which arise because of each one’s limited picture.
The moment you see what the other is seeing the misunderstanding vanishes.
Whenever we experience a misunderstanding if we just try and understand the other person’s perspective and where they are coming from, rather than reacting, I am sure most times the other person will also attempt to meet you half way.

© Meenakshi Suri 2002


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