The Three Wise Monkeys of Marrakech

IMG_0546The 3 Wise Monkeys and Gandhi

Rumour has it that Mahatma Gandhi made the exception to his rule of non -possessions by having a statue of the 3 Monkeys at his home in India. I have the opposite problem…. I have far too many possessions so I had absolutely no problem sweeping up this bronze cast of the 3 Monkeys on a recent sojourn in Morocco.

Just as it enticed Gandhi, this sculptural imagery mesmerised me the first time I gazed up at the sanzaru (Japanese for 3 wise monkeys) in Nikko, Japan some twenty years ago. If mobile phones had been around, it would have been my screensaver as it’s an image and saying that is both enticing and protective and something useful to remind ourselves of on a daily basis.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

The monkey imagery is fairly obvious and requires little or no explanation. According to Buddhist tradition, the tenets of the proverb are not dwelling upon evil – see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. Obviously, in this day and age, some stuff leaks in, whether it’s what’s happening in the world or a negative thought you might have against someone who has harmed you. That’s life, but one thing for sure is that things are better when we focus more on the good, rather than the bad. We have that choice every day. I limit the amount of ‘bad’ news I absorb by looking less and less at the daily news feed or TV. The late self help guru Wayne Dyer’s voicemail apparently told people only to leave a message if it was positive! Good one Wayne -that certainly makes people think before they speak…monkey wisdom in action.

A bronze casting of the 3 Wise Monkeys in the souks of Marrakech???

Indeed, I was pretty surprised to see them hanging out there too. A few months ago having been reminded of the 3 monkey imagery, I started to introduce it into my yoga practice. At the end of every yoga session I now cover my eyes, ears and mouth and say to myself ‘see all good, hear all good and speak all good’. I have also added ‘think all good’, by acknowledging the mind’s eye. So, when I saw them in the souk I was pretty sure it was a case of happenchance, or serendipitous adventure, as I like to call it.

lady, lady, we have treasures, come in and see”

Well, who wouldn’t be enticed by the promise of treasures….after a good four hours wandering around the souks in the heat, I was glad for the cool and shade of a shop. I was after slippers, truth be told. As I glanced around I spotted plenty of tea glasses and Aladdin’s lamps (no slippers) and then suddenly, low and behold, just as I was about to walk out, there sat the three monkeys. There they were, just hanging out, waiting to be taken back to London to inspire my mindfulness writing and get themselves the publicity they needed through this blog! It was a lesson in bartering. I only actually had a spare £20, the vendor wanted £80. I left the souk with the monkeys wrapped in newspaper, shoved into my bag, minus the £20. Bargain!

It’s what you do that counts, not the order you do it in…..

These 3 monkeys are slightly quirky as you’ve probably gathered – unlike the traditional proverb, they “speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil.”

I’d like to be able to say that this is the Arabic interpretation of the proverb. My ignorance may be corrected, however, I reckon whoever took the time to make this cast may not have been aware of the order in which the monkeys (traditionally) speak their truths. Or, perhaps, it is cultural relativity or lost in translation…I know not.

And so what…It’s a bit like life, it’s what you do and say that counts, not the order in which you do or say things. We spend so much time being concerned about ‘how’ things ought to be done or said that sometimes, we miss the point and the moment.

Juggling Monkeys, reframe proverb 

As this bronze casting has juggled the monkey messages around, I see it as the perfect opportunity to reframe the proverb to put a positive spin on the wisdom of the 3 wise monkeys. If we are to put any faith in the law of attraction or neuro linguistic programming (NLP), we know that we tend to believe our thoughts and what we say. And the more we think such thoughts, the more we believe them. So any mention of ‘evil’ despite the positive intention is focussing on a negative emotion.

Embracing artistic licence and breaking the traditional order of their messaging, the reframed proverb of these three wise Marrakech monkeys goes something like this:

Speak all good

See all good

Hear all good and

……..why not add a fourth for good measure:

Think all good.

Spread the word of the Wise Marrakech Monkeys my friends and if you so wish, find ways to incorporate their wisdom into your daily life.


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