An elephant was brought to a dark building
By Indians, so they could hold a viewing,
So lots of people would come just to see –
They rushed into the darkness eagerly
It was impossible to see it there,
So people groped to feel it everywhere:
One man’s hand brushed its trunk – he said, “This creature
Is like a pipe.’ He based this on one feature.
Another could feel just its ears – that man
Believed the elephant was like a fan.
Another felt one of its legs alone:
“Its shape is like those columns made of stone.”
Another touched its back and then cried out:
“It’s similar to a throne without a doubt.”
When they heard “elephant” each one conceived
Only the part that they themselves perceived.
/ Rumi, Masnavi, Book III,1260–1267.
As people from the story grope for the elephant trying to find out how it looks like, we endeavour to recognise ourselves, our soul, and spiritual reality with our senses and intellect. We dwell in the dark house of our body and mind. The light of the soul hasn’t begun to shine in us yet.
/ From the book “The Secret Knowledge of Rumi and Kabir“