The following is an excerpt from the chapter titled “No Such Thing As a Tru Story”, from author Pema Chodron’s book, “The Wisdom of No Escape”. I’m republishing it here as a reference for this post and because I think it is a wonderful parable which beautifully illustrates the subjective nature of reality and the dangers of subscribing to fixed belief system (or, at least, claiming the primacy of one’s own belief system).
Which way to right belief?
It is said that if you hold on to your beliefs, there will be conflict. There’s a wonderful story about this. There was a god who knew how men and women love to believe things to be true and make clubs and religions and political systems with the people who agree with them. They just love to make something out of nothing then write its name on a banner and march down the street waving it yelling and screaming. This god decided to prove a point about the human condition and might, in seeing the absurdity of it, have a good laugh. (A good laugh is the best way to kill the Buddah). He constructed a big hat and divided it right down the middle. The left side was brilliant blue and the left side was flaming red. Then he went to a place where many people were working in the fields on the left side of the road and many other people were working on the right side of the road. There a god manifested in all his glory; no one could miss him. Big and radiant, wearing his hat, he walked straight down the road. All the people on the right side of the road dropped the hoes and looked up that god; all the people on left side of the road did the same. Everybody was amazed. HE then disappeared. Everyone shouted “We saw God! We saw God!” They were all full of joy until someone on on the left said “there he was in all his radiance with his red hat!”. And people on the right side said “No, no, he had a blue hat”. This disagreement escalated until the people built walls and began to throw stones at each other. The god appeared again. This time he walked in the other direction and then disappeared. Now all the people looked at each other and the ones on the right said “Ah, you were right, he did have a red hat”. We’re sorry, we just just saw incorrectly. You were right and we were wrong.” At this point they didn’t know whether to fight or make friends. Most of them were completely puzzled by the situation. Then the god appeared again. This time he stood in the middle and turned to the left, and then he turned to the right, and everyone started to laugh.