A monk asked Joshu, “The many blind men felt the elephant and each one spoke about a different part of it. What is the true elephant”
The Master said, “Nothing is unreal. ‘True’ is a dream”
The monk is making reference to a famous passage in the Nirvana Sutra, where various blind men feel different parts of an elephant. One feels the trunk, and believes he is touching a snake. Another feels the leg, and believes he is touching a tree, and so on. The suggestion is that the awakened person would simply see the elephant. That is, he would see reality as it is. The polarity is delusion/ enlightenment.
Joshu’s position is different. For him, it is our nature as human beings to be ‘blind’. That is what we need to wake up to. If we imagine that what we see is ‘true’ then we suffer through our arrogance. If we imagine that what we see is ‘false’ then the self asserts a sovereignty over experience which involves similar arrogance, though hidden, and similar suffering. If all our experience is held like something beautiful and precious, then suffering is diminished.