John Godfrey Saxe (1816 – 1887) poem.
|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.
|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!
|The Leg||Tree trunk||Hinduism||13.2%|
|The Trunk||Tree branch||Buddhism||5.8%|
|The Ear||The Hand fan||Other Religions||12.8%|
|The Belly||The wall/sac||Christianity||33.2%|
|The Tusk||The Spear||Islam||21%|
|The Tail||The Rope/Snake||Nonreligion||14%|
The Leg – The Tree Trunk/Pillar
Hinduism is recognised as the world oldest living religion that can be likened to any antediluvian tree, with a very complex rooting system and a heavy network of branches and leaves. Hinduism has no known founder; just like many rare, ancient tree species, whose origin and age is lost to history. It is the only tree that anchors the world’s religious beliefs and traditions into the prehistoric period. Hinduism showcases peculiar and unparalleled practices, where theistic and atheistic philosophical views coexist side by side. The unique feature of Hinduism, therefore, is in its tolerance to all and sundry. This is religion in its primitive form – a very natural religion into which all ancient beliefs make their submission.
The Trunk – The Tree Branch
Between the 6th and 4th century BCE, from the orthodox Hinduism, heavily entrenched in rituals and the worship of numberless deities, came one of the ascetic movement, later to be known as Buddhism. Buddha, the “Enlightened One,” totally rejected the worship of deities and rituals. His emphasis was more on meditation, as a means by which to escape from suffering, dukkha. He strongly understood and established that it is by eliminating ignorance, avidyā, that suffering can be eliminated. He taught that the origin of suffering is craving, tanhā and that once an individual ceases from all craving and hence all suffering, he reaches a blissful state known as nirvanā. Without any doubt, Buddhism is the “tree branch”, stemming from the “ancient tree” of Hinduism.
The Ear – The Big Hand Fan
A handheld fan is a piece of material used to conventionally cool oneself, mostly from heat and static air, by blowing the natural air onto oneself, or onto another person/object. The hand fan does not necessarily have to be made of any sophisticated materials. In the olden days, leaves, tree bark, animal skins or even one’s cloth (where that had come into use) were readily used. Going by this definition, all religions or traditions that could be found within immediate reach in any locality, and with or without efforts to win over any other tribes or races can be tagged as “The Ear of the Elephant” – “The Hand Fan.”
The Belly – The Big Wall
A wall stands for a dead-end, a restriction or barrier to protect the people within and to exclude the people without. This elephant’s belly region is, however, a very big cul-de-sac, a big pouch that houses about a third of the elephant’s body, with so many entrails therein. Christianity is a big wall and, at the same time, a big sac – the elephant stomach. This religion ‘houses’ one-third of the world’s population and consists of about 40,000 or more denominations of churches as for its entrails.
The Tusk – The Spear/Solid Pipe
A quick Google search for ‘Arab dagger/sword’ will confirm a unique elephant-tusk-shaped dagger commonly found in the Muslim world. The two popular types are Jambiya and Khanjar. History tells us of the conquest of Arabia by Prophet Mohammed to establish the Islamic faith which, in the beginning, was threatened with extinction no sooner than the Movement started. But the prophet and his followers had to fight back, to gain recognition. Like the children of Israel in the days of Nehemiah, with the dagger and sword in one hand and the message of Allah on the other hand, a great population was won over to Islam. Without any doubt, the elephant tusk denotes the Islamic religion.
The Tail – The Rope
The most demeaning way anyone could ever describe an elephant is to say that an elephant is like a rope. In our world of today, the only two groups of people who treat theism with disdain are the atheists and the agnostics. These two groups consider religion to be insignificant and unnecessary, or else that God is unknowable. The atheists and the agnostics, therefore, constitute the tail of the elephant.
The poem aptly represents our world in where many people “prate about an Elephant (universe)”, a God not anyone of us has ever seen. Apparently, all the six groups only see a part of the whole truth but fail to admit it. Who are the King and his men who made mockery of the entire group but capable of knowing and seeing the complete elephant?
(Excerpt from the Prologue to the book: THEY LIED TO US)