Q. Describe what meditating is like…

A. Unfortunately there are many confusing sectarian answers . But I love a good story, so here is one that I use when people ask what meditating is like.

The Buddha used  this story, wherein six blind men are asked to describe a beast they have never seen- the elephant- to illustrate how sectarian disagreements are narrow, selfish and skirt the truth.  The Jain createelephant feeling described it and was adapted by Hindu, Buddhist and Sufi.  Here is my version:

“A king has grown weary of the disrupting fundamental disagreements between various holy sects. To show the priests how divisive their arguments are, he directs his prince  to summon six blind men to examine a pack elephant tethered in the town square, and give their  verdict  on what they are examining. The crowd is hushed as the blind men are led to the beast.

Each inpsector takes hold of a different part of the animal — in the Buddhist version, the men assert the elephant is either like a pot (the blind man who felt the elephants’ head), a winnowing basket (ear), a plowshare (tusk), a plow (trunk), a granary (body), a pillar (foot), a mortar (back), a pestle (tail) or a brush (tip of the tail).

The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over trying to answer the question, each one claiming HIS version is the correct one. After the crowd has a good laugh, the King intercedes, saying,

“All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned alternately”.

The Buddha ends the story: “Just so are these preachers and scholars holding various views blind and unseeing…. In their ignorance they are by nature quarrelsome, wrangling, and disputatious, each maintaining reality is thus and thus.” The Buddha then speaks the following verse:

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.

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