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Friday, May 25, 2012

Monkey No Hear, No Say, No See

Most everyone is familiar with the pictorial image of the three monkeys. One covers his ears, another covers his mouth and the third covers his eyes. This vivid proverb dates back to at least the 7th century and is part of the Vadjra cult that if we do not hear, talk or see evil, we ourselves shall be spared all evil.

In the 8th century A.D., a Buddhist monk from China introduced the three wise monkeys to Japan. I came across this grouping when on a visit to the Japanese Garden in Ft. Worth's Botanical Gardens. Still would like to get some for my garden.

Some contend it is nothing more than a reminder to not be so snoopy, so nosy, and so gossipy. Others say that it is a warning to stay away from places where immoral acts are taking place. Irregardless of the degree of warning these monkeys impart, in the present world we live in, how does one avoid seeing no evil. hearing no evil, or speaking no evil?

The Oxford American Dictionary--which I prefer to use because it retains many words no longer in common usage--defines 'evil' as both a noun and an adjective, with the adjective definitions being more explicit.

The shades of meaning for evil range from something very unpleasant or troublesome to something considered morally bad or wicked. Sometimes 'evil' merely denotes something harmful or intended to do harm as in the superstition of "an evil eye." That is to say, someone accused of having an evil eye is said to have a gaze or stare that could cause harm to others.

No matter how you personally interpret "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," It's impossible to hear that phrase used without thinking of three wise, but very cute, monkeys.

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