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It is hard to trace the source of this lovely story, it is present in different religions from India.

In some versions of the story, the Buddha was there, in other versions the Buddha only told the story and there are also versions without the Buddha (participating or telling it)

Is this story on the Dhammapada? Is it from a Sutta? I would like to know if it is present somewhere in the Pali Canon

Can anyone help?

  • What does true buddhist story mean? – Thien Oct 20 '14 at 19:20
  • I will edit it, good point – konrad01 Oct 20 '14 at 19:24
  • I believe it's a Jain's parable of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anekantavada – Andrei Volkov Oct 20 '14 at 19:26
  • So the stories with the Buddha were just made up? It is a possibility... – konrad01 Oct 20 '14 at 19:30
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    Well... before Buddha became Buddha he was a Jain at one point – Andrei Volkov Oct 20 '14 at 19:32
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Is “the blind men and the elephant” a true Buddhist story? I would like to know if it is present somewhere in the Pali Canon.

Yes, the story is present in the canon:

"Once, monks, in this same Sāvatthī, there was a certain king, and the king said to a certain man, 'Come, my good man. Gather together all the people in Sāvatthī who have been blind from birth.'"

"Responding, 'As you say, your majesty,' to the king, the man — having rounded up all the people in Sāvatthī who had been blind from birth — went to the king and on arrival said, 'Your majesty, the people in Sāvatthī who have been blind from birth have been gathered together.'

"'Very well then, I say, show the blind people an elephant.'

"Responding, 'As you say, your majesty,' to the king, the man showed the blind people an elephant. To some of the blind people he showed the elephant's head, saying, 'This, blind people, is what an elephant is like.' To some of them he showed the elephant's ear, saying, 'This, blind people, is what an elephant is like.' To some of them he showed the elephant's tusk... the elephant's trunk... the elephant's body... the elephant's foot... the elephant's hindquarters... the elephant's tail... the tuft at the end of the elephant's tail, saying, 'This, blind people, is what an elephant is like.'

"Then, having shown the blind people the elephant, the man went to the king and on arrival said, 'Your majesty, the blind people have seen the elephant. May your majesty do what you think it is now time to do.'

"Then the king went to the blind people and on arrival asked them, 'Blind people, have you seen the elephant?'

"'Yes, your majesty. We have seen the elephant.'

"'Now tell me, blind people, what the elephant is like.'

"The blind people who had been shown the elephant's head said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a jar.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's ear said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a winnowing basket.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's tusk said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like plowshare.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's trunk said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like the pole of a plow.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's body said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a granary.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's foot said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a post.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's hindquarters said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a mortar.'

"Those who had been shown the elephant's tail said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a pestle.'

"Those who had been shown the tuft at the end of the elephant's tail said, 'The elephant, your majesty, is just like a broom.'

"Saying, 'The elephant is like this, it's not like that. The elephant's not like that, it's like this,' they struck one another with their fists. That gratified the king.

"In the same way, monks, the wanderers of other sects are blind & eyeless. They don't know what is beneficial and what is harmful. They don't know what is the Dhamma and what is non-Dhamma. Not knowing what is beneficial and what is harmful, not knowing what is Dhamma and what is non-Dhamma, they keep on arguing, quarreling, & disputing, wounding one another with weapons of the mouth, saying, 'The Dhamma is like this, it's not like that. The Dhamma's not like that, it's like this.'"
-Excerpt from Ud 6.4, Sectarians (1)

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