BEYOND Ghor there was a city. All its inhabitants were blind. A king with his entourage arrived near by; he brought his army and camped in the desert. He had a mighty elephant, which he used in attack and to increase the people’s awe.
The populace became anxious to see the elephant, and some sightless from among this blind community ran like fools to find it. As they did not even know the form or shape of the elephant they groped sightlessly, gathering information by touching some part of it and reported what they felt.
The elephant’s enormous strength was brought under control by self-discipline and transformed into mindfulness, equanimity. He felt neither attraction nor antipathy towards these human gropers, only disinterested benevolence. He noted the sensations of their touches and dismissed them.
He marvelled at these attempts to know him by touch alone. Could they not feel his shape by the shadow he cast on the breeze? Could they not hear his size and strength. Could they not smell his animal power? Most of all he marvelled at how they acted as if he were a passive, unfeeling thing.
They are foolish not because they attempt to know the whole of him from his parts. They are foolish because they treat a living sentient being as an object simply awaiting the pleasure of being known by them.
The elephant smiled mysteriously and the earth shook.