Early at school millions like me were introduced to the Three Wise Monkeys of Mahatma Gandhi , symbolising the Gandhian thought that one must not See / Hear / or Speak Evil . The Monkeys were nameless symbols of Propriety .
Some years later , one gathered that they did in fact have Japanese names :
The one covering his eyes is Mi-zaru : literally meaning Don’t See
The one covering his ears is Kika-zaru : literally meaning Don’t Hear
The one covering his mouth is Iwa-zaru : literally meaning Don’t Speak
Where did this Monkey- business start ! One theory traces this back to the Confucian code of Good Conduct :
Look Not at What is Contrary to Propriety
Listen Not to What is Contrary to Propriety
- Speak Not What is Contrary to Propriety
- Make No Movement Which is Contrary to Propriety
The first three tenets conform to the three Zarus of Japan. Where , one might ask , is the fourth symbol of propriety
Indeed , in a carving in a Buddhist shrine in Nikko , Japan , there reportedly appears a fourth monkey , with his arms crossed across his chest , by the name Shi-Zaru : literally meaning Don’t Do : symbolising Do No Evil
Possibly this facet of Confuscianism originated in China ( where else !! ) & travelled to Japan , where it was typically miniaturised & converted to the ubiquitous symbol of propriety ( inexplicably to the exclusion of the fourth monkey ) . At some point in time , this symbolism travelled all around the world : to GB where it got frightfully truncated & awfully abridged to what eventually came to be known as the Gentlemen’s code of ” Looking the other way “ ( especially from inconvenient reality ) , & to India through the goodness of MG who might have found an appropriate verisimilitude between his philosophy & the symbolism of the three wise monkeys. Indeed , the Mi / Kika / Iwa threesome may in fact have inspired a part of MG’s philosophy ( no disrespect intended )
In our present state of Societal transition , we are probably a nation that has less comfort with MG’s three Monkeys than with the Omerta , a code of silence associated with the Italian Mafia : “Non vedo, Non sento, Non parlo” ( literally meaning “See nothing, Hear nothing, & Say nothing “) .
Cheers & have a GN