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Four blind men

By Shian (NamoAmitofuo), The Daily Enlightenment, Published on the Buddhist Channel, Jan 11, 2005

Singapore -- A blind man was leaving a friend's house at night when he was suggested to carry a lantern. Laughing aloud, the blind man snapped, "What do I need light for? I know my way home !" His friend patiently replied, "It's for others to see - so that they won't bump into you." Sneering, the blind man agreed to use it. A little down the road, someone accidentally bumped into the blind man, startling him. Fuming, he yelled, "Hey! You're not blind! So make way for the blind man!"

Further down the road, another person bumped into himThis time, he got angrier, shouting, "Are you blind? Can't you see the lantern? I'm carrying it for you!" The stranger replied, "You are the blind one! Can't you see your lantern has gone out?" The blind man was stunned. Upon closer look, the stranger apologised, "So sorry, I was the 'blind' one. I didn't see that you really are blind!" The blind man uttered, "No no, It is I who should apologise for my rudeness." Both felt greatly embarassed, as the man helped to re-light the lantern.

Even further down the road, yet another person bumped into the blind man. The blind man was more cautious this time, asking politely, "Excuse me, did my lantern go out?" This second stranger replied, "Strange! That was what I was about to ask you myself'Did my lantern go out?'" There was a brief pause... before they asked each other, "Are you blind?" "Yes!" they replied in unison, bursting with laughter at their predicament, as they fumbled with their lanterns, trying to help re-light each other's.

Just then, someone walked by. He saw their flickering matches just in time, and narrowly avoided bumping into them. He didn't know they were blind, or he would naturally had helped. As he passed, he thought, "Perhaps I should carry a lantern tooso that I can see my way better, so that others can see their way too." Unbeknownst to all, the blind man's friend was all along following behind quietly with a lantern, smiling, making sure that he has a safe journey home, hoping that he will learn more about himself along the way. -Shen Shi'an | pic:rommes.org

There are at least ten major Dharma morals to the story. Do you see them? Scroll to see.


The 10 Morals of the Story
An unconventional, extended version of a classic Zen story

1. The good friend is like the Buddha, who freely and compassionately offers the light of wisdom, which is symbolised by the lantern, to guide all beings on the way "home", which represents Enlightenment.

2. Using the lantern represents practising the Dharma (the Buddha's teachings that lead to True Happiness), not just for oneself, but for others too. The Buddha can only offer us the light of wisdom. It is us who must carry and use the lantern, and make it shine brighter and brighter. Just as the lantern protects others and oneself from harm, likewise does practising the Dharma. The light of the Dharma shows the way to Enlightenment and steers us away from obstacles on the path.

3. The first blind man represents those heavily shrouded by the darkness of delusion, complacence, arrogance, stubbornness, selfishness, presumptuousness and anger. Eager to point fingers at others and not himself, he is blind to his own faults while he assumes everyone else he comes across as wrong. On his way "home", he learns the Dharma through his encounters and transforms himself spiritually, becoming humbled by his own blindness and the unconditional compassion of others. He also learns to be more forgiving.

4. The first passer-by represents those of average spiritual capacity, who do not practise mindfulness diligently enough, who not pay much attention to the Dharma. Sometimes, they choose to be "blind" though they can see. 

5. The second passer-by represents those who seemingly oppose us, who actually show us our own faults, be it accidentally or intentionally. They are often our best teachers. He realises that there is no point in blaming those who are blind to their own faults. No one wants to be blind. Let us forgive the blind and help them see.

6. The second blind man represents those who mirror our own ignorance. They allow us to clearly see reflections of ourselves. It is difficult to light a lantern when you can't even see the lantern or light. The blind cannot lead the blind well. It is thus important to steadily practise the Dharma to see the Truth clearer and clearer, and not to be complacent in practice.

7. The last passer-by represents those who are enlightened to the importance of having the light of wisdom. He also sees the universal value of compassion for one and all.

8. The presence of the good friend thoughout the blind man's journey reminds us that the Buddha is always there for us with infinite compassion and wisdom. He is there even for the "worst" of sentient beings. We only need to open our heart and mind and practise the Dharma that He had taught to be benefitted by Him.

9. The blind man's unexpected bumping into strangers on the way home represents our unexpected stumbling onto obstacles on the path of practising the Dharma. Each and every obstacle however, need not be seen as obstacles but an invaluable opportunity or stepping stone to learn more about oneself, a chance to become wiser and kinder.

10. If you think of it carefully, other than the blind man's friend, all the characters in the story are spiritually blind to different extents. Which character resembles you? Have you lit your lantern yet? If yes, is it shining steadily, or has it gone out? Are you sure?


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