Stories By Swami – Mercenaries in Religion

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(Delivered in Minneapolis on November 26, 1893:

Reported in the Minneapolis Journal)

“I will tell you a story of five blind men. There was a procession in a village in India, and all the people turned out to see the procession, and specially the gaily caparisoned elephant. The people were delighted, and as the five blind men could not see, they determined to touch the elephant that they might acquaint themselves with its form. They were given the privilege, and after the pro cession had passed, they returned home together with the people, and they began to talk about the elephant. ‘It was just like a wall,’ said one. ‘No it wasn’t,’ said another, ‘it was like a piece of rope.’ ‘You are mistaken,’ said a third, ‘I felt him and it was just a serpent.’ The discussion grew excited, and the fourth declared the elephant was like a pillow. The argument soon broke into more angry expressions, and the five blind men took to fighting. Along came a man with two eyes, and he said, ‘My friends, what is the matter?’ The disputation was explained, whereupon the new-comer said, ‘Men, you are all right: the trouble is you touched the elephant at different points. The wall was the side, the rope was the tail, the serpent was the trunk, and the toes were the pillow. Stop your quarrelling; you are all right, only you have been viewing the elephant from different standpoints.”

Religion, he said, had become involved in such a quarrel. The people of the West thought they had the only religion of God, and the people of the East held the same prejudice. Both were wrong; God was in every religion.

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