Saturday, February 18, 2017

Blind Men and the Elephant (群盲撫象)

We are all familiar with the fable: the Blind Men and the Elephant from the Buddhist religious tradition of India. The king calls a group of blind men and asks them to examine an elephant and tell him what it is. A diocesan bulletin gives us the story and the writer's meditation.

Each blind person gives their thoughts on the section of the elephant they touch. Touching the ivory tusk one blind man imagined a large turnip, another felt the trunk, like a pestle, the tail was a rope, the legs like pillars, the belly was a wall. Shakyamuni (Buddha) tells his disciples they are like these blind men with their lack of understanding. They all have only a partial understanding of who the Buddha is.

In the same way, we Christians are only accepting a part of the God we worship. We believe in a Trinity but each of us with our different environments and individual personalities experiences God's grace  differently. One person experiences God as revealed in nature, another in his love showed to us in Jesus, another in the Holy Spirit working in our souls. God comes to us in many different ways.

Korea is made up of those who come from different Providences of the country but we are all Koreans. We all value experiencing God in different ways. Consequently, we don't want to disparage the way others experience God. If we combine all the opinions of the blind men we come to a truer synthesis of  elephant.

The elephant fable has much to teach us in the way we see God. Under the banner of Church, Jesus gives us the community of faith with its many understandings of the mystery of God. 

By the working of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is working thru us in our daily life. No matter what our position  in the community of faith, the level of our knowledge, we are all brothers and sisters of Jesus, disciples, and members of his body, and active subjects of his Gospel.

We can with this fable stress the relativity of what each one experiences as if this is the essence of what the fable wants to say, forgetting that the elephant was always present and much bigger than what each one imagined. Each was limited by their experience of the elephant but it doesn't mean the elephant wasn't there. Objective truth is there and we with the help of others, speaking and interrelating with others within the church and society come to a greater understanding of the God we believe in and who continues to work in us and through us.

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