The Elephant and the Moon - Continued
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s regards the Moon, this is again a widely used metaphor. The moon is up in the sky and is a metaphor for God, Ultimate Reality, Mind, Enlightenment, etc. as for the elephant. Someone is trying to point out the Moon in the sky by pointing to it, either literally with their finger or figuratively with words in the form of religious or spiritual instruction. The point of the metaphor is that the intention is to have the recipient of the instruction become directly aware of the actual Moon up in the sky. In practice, it is very difficult not to have the pointing finger or the instructions in words become the object of attention, meanwhile completely missing the Moon above. The moon is taken as a particularly apt object of the metaphor as it is so variable in its aspect, between the changes with phase and also the changes as the moon rises and sets with its apparent size changing greatly because of atmosphereic lensing effects. There are many variations of this general theme. For instance, a famous satori or enlightment poem in the Zen tradition describes the student as carrying a wooden bucket of water in which the moon is reflected. The bucket is old and the binding hoops break and the bucket abruptly disintegrates, dumping the water instantly. The student undergoes an abrupt realization of the actual Moon as the moon reflected in the water disappears.

Illuminated Dropped Capital I  have used these metaphors myself because of the great amount of information they carry in a brief few words, if you know the traditional cultural context and all that is implied. I find that I understand things best in short descriptive text, verbal images, which can convey a great deal of information. If you will notice, that is how the gifts that were given to me came through, apparently in the best way keyed to my understanding. In my usage of these elephant and moon metaphors, I am trying to emphasize that neither I nor anyone else has "the word" and that each one of us must find our own version of the truth of the nature of God ~ Ultimate Reality, based on our experience, abilities and understanding. Also that the important thing is not what I or anyone else has said, but rather what each one of us experiences directly of God ~ Ultimate Reality. So grab your own Elephant and throw it up in the sky so you can see the Moon for yourself.

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   Copyright 2002,3 by Ted Vollers   
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