Seeing a Part of the Whole Truth


The following story appears in the book, Building a Noble World, by Shiv R. Jhawar, p. 115-116:

The varying views of religionists are akin to the story told in India about six blind brothers who were washing an elephant. The first brother proclaimed that the elephant is like a huge wall; he had been washing the sides of the pachyderm.

Hearing this, the second brother disagreed, asserting that the elephant is like a flexible bamboo pole; he had been washing the trunk.

The third, thinking those two brothers were fools, insisted that the elephant is like two banana leaves; he had been washing the ears.

Hearing these absurd pronouncements, the fourth brother corrected them with his definition that the elephant is like a large fleshy roof supported by four pillars; he had been washing the legs.

The fifth brother laughed derisively, for to him the elephant was just two pieces of bone; he had been washing the tusks.

Now the sixth brother knew they were all crazy and declared definitely that the elephant was only a piece of rope hanging from heaven; he had washed the tail and, being the youngest and smallest, he couldn’t reach the top of the tail and so assumed it descended from the celestial regions of the gods.

At the height of the quarrel, their sighted father arrived and explained, “You are all right, and you are all wrong. Right, because you correctly described what you experienced, but wrong because each of you experienced only a part of the whole. The elephant is an aggregate of all these parts.”

—Excerpt from Journey to Self-Realization by Paramahansa Yogananda, pp. 180–181

Moral of the story
: God is infinite and can never be fully described by any religion. The same God is worshipped in each and every religion, even though the name of God may differ. When it is fully understood that the Absolute God can only be one, a person may follow one religion but will have respect for all other religions. “A comparative study of the scriptures of different religions would reveal that, despite widespread differences among their doctrines, mythology, forms, rituals, and ceremonies, all religions are one in Spirit. In reality, these religions complement, rather than contradict one another. For example, photographs of the sun taken from various locations or at different times of day look different, yet it is the same sun in all the photographs. The sooner religious people look upon all religions as equal and thus put aside their superficial differences, the more this world will benefit” (Building a Noble World, by Shiv R. Jhawar, p. 8).

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