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Parent nodes: Gnosis


Sibling nodes: Anekantavada | Integral Approach


The Blind Men and the Elephant


elephant

The story of the Blind Men and the Elephant, as a parable regarding the fact that people tend to understand only a tiny portion of Reality and then extrapolate all manner of dogmas from that, each claiming only his one is the correct version,  has re-appeared a number of times in both Western and Oriental thought.  I have even seen a Unification Church ("Moonie") pamphlet entitled "The Whole Elephant".

More profoundly (especially in Sufism), the story is an allegory of gnosis. It would seem to be originally derived from the Jain concept of Anekantavada (manysidedness)


original version from the Buddhist canon

A number of Islamic versions

A western version, by the American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816 - 1887)

Edith Feistner and Alfred Holl, adobe acrobat document "Mono-perspective views of multi-perspectivity: Information systems modeling and "The blind men and the elephant". Vxj: Vxj University Press 2006 (rather technical online multidisciplinary essay, bringing together the perspectives of computer sciences and cultural history, tracing the history and use of this parable in detail)

See also Anekantavada - the Jain doctrine of "Manysidedness",



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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page originally revised 21 October 1998, last modified 11 December 2009