All the standpoints are right in their own respective spheres – but if they are taken to be refutations, each of the other, then they are wrong. But a man [sic] who knows the “non-one-sided” nature of reality never says that a particular view is absolutely wrong. – B. K. Matilal

The most important idea I have ever discovered is anekanta-vada. Literally meaning “non-one-sided.” That is, reality can be viewed from different angles, seen from different standpoints, interpreted through different perspectives.

But I don’t think you can appreciate how wise this is without having viewed reality from at least two different worldviews. For me, this has been Buddhism and Christianity.

It is famously illustrated by the parable of the blind men and an elephant:

It is a story of a group of blind men who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and conceptualize what the elephant is like by touching it. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant’s body, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then describe the elephant based on their limited experience and their descriptions of the elephant are different from each other. In some versions, they come to suspect that the other person is dishonest and they come to blows. The moral of the parable is that humans have a tendency to claim absolute truth based on their limited, subjective experience as they ignore other people’s limited, subjective experiences which may be equally true (Wikipedia).

Published by

Jay N. Forrest

Zen Humanist Teacher.