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The Man Born Blind

There was a man born blind, and he said: “I do not believe in the world of light and appearance. There are no colours, bright or somber. There is no sun, no moon, no stars. No one has witnessed these things.”

His friends remonstrated with him, but he clung to his opinion: “What you say that you see,” he objected, “are illusions. If colours existed I should be able to touch them. They have no substance and are not real. Everything real has weight, but I feel no weight where you see colours.”

A physician was called to see the blind man. He mixed four simples, and when he applied them to the cataract of the blind man the grey film melted, and his eyes could see. The Tathagatha is the physician, the cataract is the illusion . . . and the four simples are the four noble truths.

The author of this story is unknown and greatly appreciated!

What is the Spiritual Moral / Meaning of the “Man Born Blind” Story?

In the spiritual journey, we often encounter individuals who, like the man born blind in this story, remain steadfast in their disbelief of higher truths beyond their immediate perception. They cling to their convictions, denying the existence of a greater reality beyond what their senses can grasp. This serves as a poignant reminder of the limitations of human understanding when confined to the narrow confines of the material world. It challenges us to transcend the boundaries of our physical senses and awaken to the deeper truths that lie beyond the realm of appearances.

The man's insistence that the world of light and appearance is mere illusion reflects a common misconception that plagues many seekers on the path to spiritual enlightenment. It symbolizes the veil of ignorance that clouds our perception and prevents us from recognizing the inherent beauty and sacredness of existence. Like the blind man, we may find ourselves trapped in a state of spiritual blindness, unable to perceive the luminous reality that surrounds us. Yet, just as the man's vision was restored by the physician's intervention, so too can we awaken from our spiritual slumber and behold the divine radiance that permeates all creation.

The physician in the story serves as a metaphor for the enlightened beings who guide us on our journey of self-discovery and awakening. Like a compassionate healer tending to a patient's afflictions, the Tathagatha—the Buddha—offers us the remedy for our spiritual blindness. Through his teachings, he provides us with the means to dissolve the veil of illusion that obscures our perception and prevents us from seeing the truth. The physician's skillful application of the four simples represents the transformative power of the Four Noble Truths—the foundational principles of Buddhist philosophy—which serve as the antidote to the suffering caused by ignorance and delusion.

The cataract that obstructs the blind man's vision serves as a powerful metaphor for the veil of ignorance that shrouds our perception of reality. It symbolizes the barriers and limitations that prevent us from experiencing the fullness of existence and recognizing the interconnectedness of all beings. Like the man's cataract, our spiritual blindness obscures our vision and distorts our understanding of the world around us. Yet, just as the cataract was dissolved by the physician's remedy, so too can we transcend the veils of illusion and awaken to the boundless wisdom and compassion that lie at the heart of existence.

The man's newfound ability to see the world in all its splendor serves as a testament to the transformative power of spiritual awakening. It represents the moment of enlightenment when the veils of ignorance are lifted, and the truth is revealed in all its radiant glory. Through the grace of the Tathagatha's teachings, the man is liberated from the confines of his limited perception and granted the gift of clear vision. His experience serves as an inspiration for us all to cultivate the inner sight necessary to perceive the divine beauty that permeates every aspect of creation.

In essence, this story serves as a profound allegory for the journey of spiritual awakening and enlightenment. It reminds us of the inherent potential within each of us to transcend the limitations of our physical senses and awaken to the deeper truths of existence. Through the guidance of enlightened beings and the transformative power of spiritual practice, we can dissolve the veils of ignorance that obscure our vision and behold the luminous reality that lies beyond the realm of appearances. As we embark on this sacred journey of self-discovery and awakening, may we heed the teachings of the Tathagatha and embrace the path of liberation and enlightenment with open hearts and minds.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. As you contemplate the blind man's steadfast disbelief in the world of light and appearance, what parallels can you draw to moments in your own life when you've been reluctant to embrace new perspectives or truths that challenge your existing beliefs?
  2. Reflecting on the blind man's assertion that colors and celestial bodies are mere illusions, consider how his perspective might mirror your own perceptions of reality. How do you discern between what is real and what is illusory in your own experience?
  3. In the face of his friends' attempts to convince him otherwise, the blind man remains resolute in his convictions. How does his unwavering commitment to his beliefs inspire you to reflect on the strength of your own convictions and the willingness to stand firm in the face of opposition?
  4. Explore the role of the physician in the story as a catalyst for the blind man's transformation. How does this metaphorical healer resonate with your own experiences of seeking guidance or support on your journey of self-discovery and enlightenment?
  5. Contemplate the significance of the cataract as a symbol of the barriers and limitations that obstruct the blind man's vision. In what ways do you identify with the notion of spiritual blindness and the struggle to see beyond the veil of illusion in your own life?
  6. Reflect on the transformative power of the four simples applied by the physician, which dissolve the grey film and restore the blind man's sight. How does this metaphorical remedy speak to your understanding of the Four Noble Truths and their potential to alleviate suffering and awaken insight?
  7. Consider the implications of the blind man's newfound ability to see the world in all its splendor. How does his journey from darkness to light inspire you to reflect on your own capacity for growth, transformation, and awakening?
  8. Explore the theme of perception versus reality as depicted in the story. How do the blind man's initial perceptions of the world contrast with the truth revealed to him through the physician's intervention? In what ways do you navigate the complexities of discerning truth from illusion in your own life?
  9. Reflect on the broader spiritual implications of the story, particularly the idea of awakening to deeper truths beyond the surface appearances of reality. How does the story invite you to explore the nature of reality and the quest for spiritual enlightenment in your own journey?
  10. Finally, contemplate the overarching message of the story: the possibility of transcending spiritual blindness and awakening to the luminous reality that lies beyond the veil of illusion. How does this narrative inspire you to cultivate a deeper awareness, insight, and appreciation for the beauty and sacredness of existence in your own life?