It’s All About Your Viewpoint

The Blind Men and The ElephantWe all see things in very different ways, mainly because we tend to be restricted by our own viewpoint.

The Buddha used to tell an amusing parable about six blind men and an elephant to explain how the differing views are come by.

Each man has a different idea of what the elephant is, each being able to touch a different part of the animal.

This poem, by John Godfrey Saxe, sums up the scene and explains the moral behind the tale …

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.
The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

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!

MORAL.

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!

John Godfrey Saxe ( 1816-1887)

Just Bite Your Tongue

Just Bite Your TongueSome situations in life just get stuck, they just refuse to offer a resolution, be that through indecision, lack of control or reluctance to move on.

Having the patience, with a person or situation, to see things through to their conclusion takes Wisdom, Courage and Compassion for the following reasons:

The Wisdom to see that the desired path is both achievable and may lead to the correct outcome.

The Courage to stick to the path, despite setbacks or obstacles.

The Compassion to see things from another’s viewpoint, whether it agrees with your viewpoint or not.

One big problem with being patient, is that you never know what the outcome will be until it’s happened.

Walking In Another Person’s Shoes

Another Person's ShoesThere is an old saying, that before you criticise someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticise them, you have a pair of their shoes, and you are a mile away 🙂

But seriously, it is easy to see the faults in another when you are only seeing things from your point of view.

There is a wise Buddhist saying that says ‘we hate in others, what we refuse to see in ourselves’. Before you start picking on someone for their faults, make sure that you don’t have the same faults yourself.

Seeing the other persons viewpoint takes wisdom, courage and compassion, particularly in the heat of the moment. But taking a few seconds to allow yourself to become mindful, and then trying to reach a balanced view will do no harm, and may help resolve the issue once and for all.

Managing Expectations

Great Expectations Miss Havisham?We all live with hopes and expectations, of ourselves, of others, and of the outcome of situations in our lives, and it is all too easy to be disappointed when those expectations are not fully met.

However, you must also remember, that your happiness is in your own hands, so being unhappy when your expectations are dashed, is your own decision.

In my own experience, I find that taking some quiet time to examine why I am disappointed helps to solve the problem. Sometimes, upon reflection, my expectations are too high, even unrealistic you might say, sometimes the simple acceptance that my expectations are not those of others explains the outcome.

But allowing your expectation of others to be, even in part, the basis of your own happiness shows a lack of wisdom, so learn from the pain, don’t repeat the mistake and move forward.

So to help maintain your happiness, set realistic and flexible expectations for yourself and of others, and accept that failing to meet those expectations does not mean failing altogether.

In Another Person’s Shoes

Another Person's ShoesThere is an old saying, that before you criticise someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticise them, you have a pair of their shoes, and you are a mile away 🙂

But seriously, it is easy to see the faults in another when you are only seeing things from your point of view.

There is a wise Buddhist saying that says ‘we hate in others, what we refuse to see in ourselves’. Before you start picking on someone for their faults, make sure that you don’t have he same faults yourself.

Seeing the other persons viewpoint takes wisdom, courage and compassion, particularly in the heat of the moment. But taking a few seconds to allow yourself to become mindful, and then trying to reach a balanced view will do no harm, and may help resolve the issue once and for all.

Through Fresh Eyes

Through Fresh EyesA great work of art is one that truly moves and inspires you. The test is when you yourself are moved. Don’t look at art with anyone else’s eyes. Don’t listen to music with others’ ears. You should view art with your own feelings, your own heart and mind.

If you allow yourself to be swayed by the opinions of others, ‘It must be good, because everyone else is raving about it’ or ‘It must be bad, because nobody else likes it’, your feelings, your sensibilities, even your confidence, which are the basis of every artistic experience, may wither and die.

To enjoy art to the fullest, you must abandon any preconceived notions, and look at things through fresh eyes. You should then confront the work directly, with your whole being. If you find that you are deeply moved, then for you, that is a great work of art.

Precisely the same applies to your faith. What moves you is a personal thing, it should not be based on what other people feel, nor should they influence you in any way. Have the wisdom, courage and compassion to stand firm and hold onto your own beliefs.

Points Of View

Three Fingers Point Back At YouWhen you become submerged in difficult situations, when the way forward looks bleak and less than inviting, it can be tempting to start pointing a finger at others to lay the blame at their door.

But there is an old Buddhist saying about pointing. When you point, one finger points out, away from you, towards the one you are blaming. But look at your hand, three fingers are pointing back, at you, towards the person who is also to blame. Meaning that for each inference you point at others, three will be pointed back at you. But there is another way.

If you are honest with yourself, really, truly honest, and you examine the situation from all angles, you will almost certainly find that you are indeed responsible for making some of the causes that, in conjunction with another or others, has contributed to the outcome in which you find yourself.

Rather than trying to apportion blame, take responsibility for your own mistakes, you will find it a very cathartic experience, I know, I’ve been there. The unsurprising side effect is that it will also change the way in which others perceive you. They will recognise the Wisdom, Courage and Compassion in your new found attitude, and will respect you for all it represents.

A Fresh Pair Of Eyes

A Fresh Pair Of EyesA great work of art is one that truly moves and inspires you. The test is when you yourself are moved. Don’t look at art with anyone else’s eyes. Don’t listen to music with others’ ears. You should view art with your own feelings, your own heart and mind.

If you allow yourself to be swayed by the opinions of others, ‘It must be good, because everyone else is raving about it’ or ‘It must be bad, because nobody else likes it’, your feelings, your sensibilities, even your confidence, which are the basis of every artistic experience, may wither and die.

To enjoy art to the fullest, you must abandon any preconceived notions, and look at things through fresh eyes. You should then confront the work directly, with your whole being. If you find that you are deeply moved, then for you, that is a great work of art.

Precisely the same applies to your faith. What moves you is a personal thing, it should not be based on what other people feel, nor should they influence you in any way. Have the wisdom, courage and compassion to stand firm and hold onto your own beliefs.

Open To Suggestions

Open-MindedYesterday’s post about karma elicited a comment from Frank King, giving us an alternative viewpoint. Whilst it might be tempting to stifle arguments that counter my view of life, I feel it is more honest to embrace and offer them for discussion.

When open and engaged, we are experiencing the greater self. When closed off, we are putting forth our “lesser self.” The lesser self is a deluded condition, while the greater self is synonymous with the Buddha nature.

To live for the greater self means to recognize the universal principle behind all things and, thus awakened, rise above the suffering caused by awareness of impermanence. A belief in something eternal is needed to enhance our quality of existence.

By believing that this lifetime is the be-all and end-all of existence, we will miss out on living a truly profound life. When our viewpoint expands beyond the boundaries of our present existence to include the entire, eternal universe, we can live deeply fulfilling lives.

Another Viewpoint

VulnerabilityA conversation today, based on a question that Bumble asked me a while ago, has lead me to look at myself, and others, from a completely new viewpoint.

Bumble’s question was whether I was attracted to vulnerable people. At the time it caught me on the back foot, and I naturally answered in the negative. I said that I was accepting of people who had issues, but that I wasn’t actively attracted to such people.

However, and I may possibly be the last person in the universe to hear about Brené Brown, after watching her lecture on Vulnerability, I may have to revisit my answer, and indeed, my whole approach to connections and life.

Not a huge amount to do with Buddhism, until you get to the bit about Courage, Compassion and Connectivity. I’m not going to try to explain it, watch it for yourself.

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