A wise teacher came among a community of the blind. He taught the people what they needed to do to cure their own blindness. The people whom he taught were so in awe of his wisdom and compassion that they wanted to know more about who he was. Being blind, they used their hands to feel him to understand his features. Each person touched a different part of him. Only being able to become acquainted with a small part of the teacher, they each concluded different things about his nature and traits. Each person was so self-assured about his or her limited perception of the teacher, though, that each presumed to understand the full truth about him.
The teacher was only with the people a short time. Almost as soon as he left, the people began arguing about who and what he was. News of his visit, as well as news of the disagreements about his nature, passed quickly through the community. Each person who had encountered him in person told a different story about his visit and gave a different interpretation of his nature. As the stories spread, the details were slightly changed with each retelling, and each person formed an opinion about the teacher based on which story they had first heard or based on which story made them feel best. None of them acknowledged the teacher’s imperfections—they could not idolize an imperfect being.
The people began to divide into groups based on which opinions about the teacher they believed. There was great disagreement between the different groups, and the people spent much time debating the minute details of all aspects of the teacher’s superficial nature. Almost all of their opinions were either wrong or misleading because they were taken out of context. The people were so obsessed with validating their faulty perceptions and opinions about the teacher that they ended up ignoring most of his teachings about how to heal their blindness. Each group remembered only small remnants of the teacher’s original cure, remnants that were usually ineffectual on their own or which gave only the barest inklings of sight. Some people realized that the cures promised by the different groups didn’t work. They became disillusioned, and spent their time attacking the groups and the teacher, rather than seeking out a real cure. They relished every opportunity to point out the mistakes and foibles of the teacher and the leaders of the groups. The members of the community of the blind lived out their lives in unnecessary darkness, clinging to false, misleading, trivial, and petty beliefs about the teacher, rather than searching for a cure to heal themselves.