The 3 wise monkeys and the associated proverb are known throughout Asia and in the Western world.
The phrase see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil first emerged in Japan in the 17th century and was later adopted worldwide as a message of peace and tolerance due to Mahatma Gandhi’s visual metaphor of the three monkeys, with one of them covering his eyes, the second his mouth, and the third his ears.
There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb including associations with being of good mind, speech and action.
The vision of these three monkeys is a way to peacefully fight against contemporary colonialism, oppression, and injustice.
According to Osho Rajneesh, the monkey symbolism originated in ancient Hindu tradition and Buddhist monks spread this symbolism across Asia. The original version contains 4 monkeys and the fourth monkey covers his genitals—means don’t do anything evil.