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USING IDIOMS 活用成語

The Blind Leading the Blind, 1568, Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
《盲人為盲人領路》,一五六八年,老彼得‧布勒哲爾作。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese practice

問道於盲

to ask directions from the blind

(wen4 dao4 yu2 mang2)

「在所有婆羅門中,就連作聖典的先知、傳聖典者......都無一人能說,『我知真理,我親見真理,只有這才是真的,其他都是假的。』」這段話是出自《商伽經》,這是北印度巴利語口傳佛經,後來在西元前二十九年斯里蘭卡舉行的佛教第四次結集期間,才以書面形式寫下來。這段話的意思是說:真理是有問題的,最純粹的真理是不可知的,要可靠地傳遞真理也是不可能的。「譬如盲人排隊,後者只能以手牽前者衣」,《商伽經》接著說:「帶隊者為盲人、中間者為盲人、跟隨者為盲人。同樣地,諸婆羅門之所說宛如盲人排隊,如果是真的......那麼,婆羅門之信仰豈不是沒有根據的?」

即便是學識淵博的人,若要獲取真正的知識,也實為盲目的──這個比喻,也可以追溯到《石氏奧義書》(約西元前五世紀),其中說道:「處在無知中,愚蠢地認為自己是明智和博學的,愚蠢地漫無目的地走來走去,就像被盲人帶路的盲人一樣」。這句話後來被羅馬抒情詩人賀拉斯用拉丁文改寫──「caecus caeco dux」(the blind leader of the blind,盲人的盲人領袖)。賀拉斯的卒年約在佛教第四次結集舉行時。稍晚此概念也出現在《聖經》中──在新約的馬太福音和路加福音,這些福音書原是在西元第一世紀以通用希臘語所寫成。例如馬太福音第十五章第十四節寫道:「若是瞎子領瞎子,兩個人都要掉在坑裡。」

希臘醫師及哲學家塞克斯圖斯‧恩丕里柯(西元一六○~二一○年)的名字,是來自他所屬的「Empiric」醫學學派,這個字也衍生出英文「empirical」(經驗)一詞,認為對信仰應持懷疑態度,且應避免對不可知之事作出論斷。恩丕里柯在其書《懷疑論要點》中,對跟無知的老師學習提出質疑,他寫道:「非專家也不會去教導非專家──如同盲人去引導盲人。」

這句話後來被收錄在希臘文及拉丁文諺語集《Collectanea Adagiorum》(古典名句集)中,由荷蘭人文主義者伊拉斯謨所編,出版於西元一五○○年,比老彼得‧布勒哲爾(約西元一五二五~一五六九年)的畫《盲人為盲人領路》年代還早七十年。此畫的名稱「The blind leading the blind」便是現今通行之成語,用來諷刺那些不知道自己在做什麼的人之愚蠢。

這句話的中文說法,源自唐朝名作家、詩人及文官韓愈(西元七六八~八二四年)在《答陳生書》中的自嘲。他寫道,「足下求速化之術,不於其人,乃以訪愈,是所謂借聽於聾,求道於盲,雖其請之勤勤,教之云云,未有見其得者也」(你如果急於求成,就不該來找我,應該去找那些大人物,否則就如同向聾人請教聲音、向盲人問路一樣,不管如何懇切,都不會有什麼收穫的)。韓愈筆下的「求道於盲」,後來演變為「問道於盲」,首次出現在南宋初陳亮(西元一一四三~一一九四年)給宋孝宗(西元一一二七~一一九四年)的上書《戊申再上孝宗皇帝書》:「是以二十年間,紛紛獻策以勞聖慮,而卒無一成,雖成亦不足恃者,不知所以用淮東之勢者也,而書生便以為長淮不易守者,是亦問道於盲之類耳」(因此在二十年之間,大臣紛紛提出方案,想要解決皇上的憂慮,結果無一可行;即便可行而又不足以依靠的原因,是不懂得借用淮東地勢的道理。朝廷中的書生便因為這樣,以為長淮不易防守,這些書生就像被問路的盲人一樣)。

現今「問道於盲」這個成語,有兩種用法:一種是嘲笑別人外行領導外行、所託非人;另一種作為自謙的說法,例如以下對話:「我想請教您關於這問題的看法。」「哪裡哪裡,您真是問道於盲了!」(台北時報林俐凱譯)

你向他請教感情的問題就是問道於盲,他自己的婚姻狀況都亂七八糟,自身難保了。

(Asking him advice about relationships is like asking the blind to lead the blind. His own marriage is a mess.)

英文練習

the blind leading the blind

“There hasn’t been among the brahman seers of the past, the creators of the hymns, the composers of the hymns... even one who said, ‘This we know; this we see; only this is true; anything else is worthless.’” So said the Canki Sutta, an orally transmitted text of the Buddhist Pali Canon composed in North India, and eventually set down in writing during the Fourth Buddhist Council in Sri Lanka in 29 BC. That is, truth is problematic, probably unknowable in its purest form by humans, and impossible to transmit reliably. “Suppose there was a row of blind men, each holding on to the one in front of him,” the sutta continues: “The first one doesn’t see, the middle one doesn’t see, the last one doesn’t see. In the same way, the statement of the brahmans turns out to be a row of blind men, as it were… this being the case, doesn’t the conviction of the brahmans turn out to be groundless?”

The metaphor of even learned men as essentially blind in terms of achieving true knowledge can be traced back to the Katha Upanishad (c. 5th century BC), in which it says, “Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind.” It was rendered in Latin by the Roman lyric poet Horace — who died around the same time the Fourth Buddhist Council was being held — in the phrase caecus caeco dux (“the blind leader of the blind”), and, slightly later, in the Bible, in the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke, originally written in the common Greek language of the first century. Matthew 15:14, for example, says “If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

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