An Elephant Parable


There are three types of elephant. Two come from Africa, the Forest and Bush variety, and one from Asia sometimes known as an Indian elephant. These mammals are the largest that walk on land today.

Elephants have nearly perfect round feet that are designed to act like shock absorbers under great weight and reduce in size when lifted off the ground. This one small act allows them to move through deep mud with ease. An elephant can live up to 70 yeas of age. You can tell its age by counting the rings on the feet.

Two of the first traits one often will think when they hear the word elephant is tusk and memory. The word elephant comes from the Greek word meaning ivory. It is still ranked as one of the smartest beasts along with cetaceans and hominids (or dolphins and monkeys.) This leads to the phrase “an elephant never forgets.”

Pachyderm means thick-skinned animal. An elephant has skin that measures an inch in depth all over the body except for the areas of the mouth and ear where it is paper-thin.

With all of these wonderful qualities that elephants poses it is no wonder why The Buddha chose this creature for his parable

The Blind Men and the Elephant
A Hindu fable by John godfrey Saxe

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
`God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!'

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, `Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!'

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
`I see,' quoth he, `the Elephant
Is very like a snake.'

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
`What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,' quoth he;
`'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!'

The Fifth who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: `E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most:
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!'

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
`I see,' quoth he, `the Elephant
Is very like a rope!'

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

So, oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim For preacher and monk the honored name! For, quarreling, each to his view they cling. Such folk see only one side of a thing. Jainism and Buddhism. Udana 68-69: Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant