The Elephant in the dark, on the reconciliation of contrarieties
SOME Hindus had brought an elephant for exhibition and placed it in a dark house. Crowds of people were going into that dark place to see the beat. Finding that ocular inspection was impossible, each visitor felt it with his palm in the darkness.
The palm of one fell on the trunk.
‘This creature is like a water-spout,’ he said.
The hand of another lighted on the elephant’s ear. To him the beat was evidently like a fan.
Another rubbed against its leg.
‘I found the elephant’s shape is like a pillar,’ he said.
Another laid his hand on its back.
‘Certainly this elephant was like a throne,’ he said.
The sensual eye is just like the palm of the hand. The palm has not the means of covering the whole of the best.
The eye of the Sea is one thing and the foam another. Let the foam go, and gaze with the eye of the Sea. Day and night foam-flecks are flung from the sea: of amazing! You behold the foam but not the Sea. We are like boats dashing together; our eyes are darkened, yet we are in clear water
FromTales from Masnavi
, Jalal al-Din Rumi
Translated by A.J. Arberry