Buddhism is a 2,500 year old spiritual tradition which encourages individuals to develop their full potential. It is based on the belief that all human beings are capable of re-creating themselves. By cultivating awareness and kindness we can move towards a state where we perceive reality directly, free from the distortions of greed, hatred and delusion. Its teachings and practices (Dharma) give us the practical means by which we can realize what is best in ourselves. Buddhism appeals to both the heart and mind. Above all, it encourages us to trust in our own experience, showing that by our own efforts we can bring about positive change in ourselves and the world around us. - from SFBC.

Buddhism and Elephants

The Buddha once told the story of the blind men and the elephant (Udana 69f.). A former king of the town Savatthi, he related, ordered all his blind subjects to be assembled and divided into groups. Each group was then taken to an elephant and introduced to a differnet part of the animal - the head, trunk, legs, trail, and so forth. Afterward, the king asked each group to describe the nature of the beast. Those who had made contact with the head described an elephant as a water -pot; those familiar with the ears likened the animal to a winnowing-basket; those who had touched a leg said an elephant was like a post; and those who had felt a tusk insisted an elephant was shaped like a peg. The groups then fell to arguing amongst themselves each insisting its definition was correct and the others were wrong.
The study of Buddhism over the past century or so has resembled the encounter of the blind men and the elephant in many ways. Students of Buddhism have tended to fasten onto a small part of the tradition and assume thier conclusions held true about the whole. Often the parts they have seized on have been a little like the elephant's tusks - a striking, but unrepresentative, part of the whole animal. As a result, many erroneous and sweeping generalizations about Buddhism have been made, such as that it is 'negative', 'world-denying', 'pessimistic', and so forth. Although this tendency to over-generalize is now less common, it is still found in some of the older literature where authors tended to exaggerate certain feature of the tradition or assume that what was true of Buddhism in one culture or historical period held good everywhere.
- From Buddhism 'A Very Short Introduction' by Damien Keown

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