ELEPHANT-MIND

The mind is an elephant in the forest of the body (sggs 221).
The mind is intoxicated, like the elephant with wine (sggs665).
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Spiritually speaking, when we talk about wild elephants, their three main aspects come to light: (1) elephants' lustful urges, (2) its conduct, which is like a drunkard being, and (3) its enormously fat size. The Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) compares all these aspects of an elephant with the human ego-mind (the consciousness of time-space-causation). The ego-mind sees infinite diversity in Unity. Although the ego-sense (Haume) seems real to us, but in reality it's a long dream. The ego-mind heads us to calamity, first creating delusion and wickedness (corruption or falsehood), and these later expand into sorrow.

  • ਮਨੁ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਸਾਕਤੁ ਦੇਵਾਨਾ ॥: Manu maigal saakat devaanaa: The mind of the faithless cynic is like a crazy elephant (sggs 415).
  • ਮਨੁ ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਕਾਇਆ ਉਦਿਆਨੈ ॥: Mann kunchar kaaiaa oudiaanai: The mind is an elephant in the forest of the body (sggs 221).

The first aspect (elephant's lustful nature) can be better understood by knowing as to how elephants are captured in India. Several methods are used to this end. One of these methods include using decoys of straw or trained female elephants to sexually attract or lure the wild beast for capture. Large pits are dug in/near pathways just behind the decoys. Once lured by lust, the elephant rushes towards the decoys and fall into the pit. Thus, it gets trapped there in the pit and captured. In this way, attracted by the lure of lust, the elephant loses its world and freedom. Similarly, the deluded ego-mind is enticed by the enchanting and mirage-like world appearance and its gross objects (Maya). The material world is a snare, like the pit if the senses are defiled.

  • ਕਾਲਬੂਤ ਕੀ ਹਸਤਨੀ ਮਨ ਬਉਰਾ ਰੇ ਚਲਤੁ ਰਚਿਓ ਜਗਦੀਸ ॥ਕਾਮ ਸੁਆਇ ਗਜ ਬਸਿ ਪਰੇ ਮਨ ਬਉਰਾ ਰੇ ਅੰਕਸੁ ਸਹਿਓ ਸੀਸ ॥੧॥ ਬਿਖੈ ਬਾਚੁ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਚੁ ਸਮਝੁ ਮਨ ਬਉਰਾ ਰੇ ॥: Kaalaboot kee hasatanee mann bouraa re chalat rachio jagadees. Kaam suaai gaj bas pare mann bouraa re ankas sahiou sees. Bikhai baach har raach samajh mann bouraa re. bikhai baach har raach samajh man bouraa re: Like the straw figure of a female elephant, fashioned to trap the bull elephant, O crazy mind, the Lord of the Universe has staged the drama of this world. Attracted by the lure of sexual desire, the elephant is captured, O crazy mind, and now the halter is placed around its neck. || 1|| So escape from corruption and immerse yourself in the Lord; take this advice, O crazy mind (sggs 335-336).
  • ਕਾਮ ਹੇਤਿ ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਲੈ ਫਾਂਕਿਓ ਓਹੁ ਪਰ ਵਸਿ ਭਇਓ ਬਿਚਾਰਾ ॥ ਨਾਦ ਹੇਤਿ ਸਿਰੁ ਡਾਰਿਓ ਕੁਰੰਕਾ ਉਸ ਹੀ ਹੇਤ ਬਿਦਾਰਾ ॥੨॥ ਦੇਖਿ ਕੁਟੰਬੁ ਲੋਭਿ ਮੋਹਿਓ ਪ੍ਰਾਨੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਉ ਲਪਟਾਨਾ ॥ ਅਤਿ ਰਚਿਓ ਕਰਿ ਲੀਨੋ ਅਪੁਨਾ ਉਨਿ ਛੋਡਿ ਸਰਾਪਰ ਜਾਨਾ ॥੩॥ : Kaam het kunchar lai faankiou ouhu par vas bhaio bichaaraa...: Lured by sexual desire, the elephant is trapped; the poor beast falls into the power of another. Lured by the sound of the hunter's bell, the deer offers its head; because of this enticement, it is killed. ||2|| Gazing upon his family, the mortal is enticed by greed; he clings in attachment to Maya. Totally engrossed in worldly things, he considers them to be his own; but in the end, he will surely have to leave them behind ||3|| (sggs 671).
  • ਜਿਉ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਇੰਦ੍ਰੀ ਰਸਿ ਪ੍ਰੇਰਿਓ ਤੂ ਲਾਗਿ ਪਰਿਓ ਕੁਟੰਬਾਇਲੇ ॥: Jiou maigal indree rasi prerio too laagi kutubaaile: Like the elephant, driven by Kaam (lust, ਕਾਮ-ਵਾਸਨਾ ... becomes captive, similarly) you have become attached (entangled, captive...) to your family (sggs 862).
  • ਮੈਗਲਹਿ ਕਾਮੈ ਬੰਧੁ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਗ੍ਰਸਤ ਬਿਖਈ ਧੰਧੁ ॥: Maigalshi kaamai bandh. Jio grasat bikhayee dhandh: The elephant is trapped by its sexual urges. As the sinner (Bikaaree Jeev) is caught in his sins (ਵਿਛਿਆਂ ਦਾ ਧੰਧਾ, evil passions...) (sggs 838).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਕਉ ਦੀਨਾ ॥ ਕਾਮ ਰੋਗਿ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਬਸਿ ਲੀਨਾ ॥: Hayumai rog maanukh kayu deenaa. Kaam rog maigal bas leenaa: Mankind is afflicted with the disease of egoism. The disease of sexual desire overwhelms the elephant (sggs 1140).
  • ਕਾਮ ਮਾਇਆ ਕੁੰਚਰ ਕਉ ਬਿਆਪੈ ॥ ਭੁਇਅੰਗਮ ਭ੍ਰਿੰਗ ਮਾਇਆ ਮਹਿ ਖਾਪੇ ॥੧॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਐਸੀ ਮੋਹਨੀ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਜੇਤੇ ਜੀਅ ਤੇਤੇ ਡਹਕਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Kaam Maya kunchar kou biaapai.....: Lust-Maya afflicts the elephant. The snakes and bumble bees are destroyed through Maya. ||1||Such are the enticements of Maya, O Siblings of Destiny. As many living beings are there, they have been deceived ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1160).
  • ਮੈਗਲ ਜਿਉ ਫਾਸਸਿ ਕਾਮਹਾਰ ॥ ਕੜਿ ਬੰਧਨਿ ਬਾਧਿਓ ਸੀਸ ਮਾਰ ॥੨॥ ਮਨੁ ਮੁਗਧੌ ਦਾਦਰੁ ਭਗਤਿਹੀਨੁ ॥: Maigal jiou faasas kaamahaar ...: It is like the elephant, trapped by its own sexual desire. It is then caught and held tight by the chains, and beaten on its head. ||2|| The mind is like a foolish frog, without devotional worship (sggs 1188).

Second, if we let lose a drunkard elephant in the banana forest, it will go crazy and create havoc. Similarly, as asserted by the Gurbani, the ego-mind is like the drunkard elephant that constantly creates havoc in the forest of the body, day in and day out. That is why we are told to be sleeping unconsciously in an unending slumber, from which we do not want to be awakened. The deluded or ego-mind is like a mirage. When the mind rests in false ego-sense, the consciousness becomes conditioned and reflects through the defiled senses, from which arises the illusion of self-limitation of the consciousness (body-consciousness). When thus repeatedly experienced and thought of, the false ego-sense and the illusion of self-limitation acquire a false validity. Thus, egoism is self-created, an idea based on a false association of the Soul with the physical elements.

  • ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਗੁਪਤ ਹੋਇ ਰਹਿਓ ਨਿਆਰੋ ਮਾਤੰਗ ਮਤਿ ਅਹੰਕਾਰ ॥: Gobind gupath hoe rehiou niaaro maathang math ahankaar: The Lord of the Universe is hidden and unattached. The mortal is like a wild elephant, intoxicated with the wine of egoism (sggs1229).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਕਾਇਆ ਕਜਲੀ ਬਨੁ ਭਇਆ ਮਨੁ ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਮਯ ਮੰਤੁ ॥: Kabeer kaaiaa kajalee ban bhaiaa manu kunchar may mant: Kabeer, the body is a banana forest, and the mind is an intoxicated elephant (sggs 1376).
  • ਮਨੁ ਮੈ ਮਤੁ ਮੈਗਲ ਮਿਕਦਾਰਾ ॥: Manu mai matu maigal mikadaaraa: The mind is like an elephant, drunk with the wine (of false ego-sense - ਹਉਮੈ) (sggs 159).
  • ਮਨ ਕੀ ਮਤਿ ਮਤਾਗਲੁ ਮਤਾ ॥: mann kee matu mataagal mataa: The intellect of the mind is like a drunken elephant (sggs 351).
  • ਮਨੁ ਘਨੈ ਭ੍ਰਮੈ ਬਨੈ ॥: Man ghanai bhramai banai: The mind wanders through the dense forest (of the material world) (sggs 1272).
Third, on account of the inflated ego, the mind has become fat, like the elephant. False ego associated with the body-consciousness is the foremost evil; and all beings in this world are afflicted with this evil. In body-consciousness, all worldly relationships become bondage; all enjoyments turn into great disease; all desires for happiness is only mirage; one's own senses and mind become his worst enemy; man's wisdom goes weak; all actions performed in ignorance lead to unhappiness and mental restlessness; untruthful living becomes the norm; selfless love and compassion are not to be found in people's heart; in envy, people display unhappiness at the prosperity and happiness of others; weakness overtakes strength; cowardice overpowers courage; Kusang (bad association) becomes easily available while the Saadh-sangat (Holy company) is hard to come by. In body-consciousness, the Reality thus becomes unreal and unknown.
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਦੁਆਰਾ ਸੰਕੁੜਾ ਰਾਈ ਦਸਵੈ ਭਾਇ ॥ ਮਨੁ ਤਉ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਹੋਇ ਰਹਾ ਨਿਕਸਿਆ ਕਿਉ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਇ ॥: Kabeer mukati duaaraa sankurraa raaee dasavai bhaai. Manu taou maigal hoi rahaa nikasiaa kiou kar jaai: O Kabeer, the gate of liberation is narrow, less than one-tenth of a mustard seed. The mind has become as big as an elephant; how can it pass through this gate? (sggs 509).

What is the remedy or cure offered by the Gurbani? In other words, how can this wild elephant of the mind be tamed? By applying the "whip" or "prod" of the "Gur-Shabad", says the Gurbani. Sooner we apply the Gur-Shabad the better. Because, sooner than we realize, the elephant of the mind and the body-forest it lives in will become old and weary. In other words, the mortality of the human body is a certainty but the Self within is imperishable. We need undoing egoism and cultivating a sense of discrimination (Viveka) that is able to perceive the imperishable and changeless behind the perishable and changing aspects of the world.

  • ਮਨੁ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਵਸਿ ਆਇਆ ਰਾਮ ॥: Man maigal gur sabad vasi aaiaa raam: The mind-elephant is overpowered by the Gur-Shabad (sggs 576).
  • ਜਿਉ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਮਸਤੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਤਲਿ ਕੁੰਡੇ ਗੁਰ ਅੰਕਸੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਾਵੈਗੋ ॥: Jiou maigal masat deejai tali kunde gur ankas sabad drirraavaigo: Just as the wild elephant is subdued by the prod, the mind is disciplined by the Gur-Shabad (sggs 1310).
  • ਮੇਰੇ ਮਨ ਗੁਰ ਮੁਖਿ ਧਿਆਇ ਹਰਿ ਸੋਇ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਮਨਿ ਵਸੈ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਹੋਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Mere mann gurmukhi dhiaai hari soi. Gur kaa shabad manni vasai taa mann tann nirmal hoi ||1||Rahaaou||: O my mind, become Gurmukh, and meditate on God. When the Gur-Shabad abides Within the mind, the body and mind become pure (i.e., the senses withdraw from sensuousness, etc.) ||1||Pause|| (sggs 32).
  • ਮਨੁ ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਪੀਲਕੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਕੁੰਡਾ ਜਹ ਖਿੰਚੇ ਤਹ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਸਤੀ ਕੁੰਡੇ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਉਝੜਿ ਪਾਇ ॥੨॥: Manu kuncharu peelaku guroo giaanu kunddaa jah khinche tah jaai. Nanak hasatee kunde baahraa phiri phiri ujharri paai ||2||: The mind is the elephant, the Guroo is the elephant-driver, and Knowledge (Gur-Giaan) is the whip. Wherever the Guroo drives the mind, it goes. O Nanak, without the whip (of Knowledge or Giaan), the elephant (of the mind) repeatedly wanders into the wilderness (of Maya). ||2|| (sggs 516).
  • ਆਸਾ ॥ ਗਗਨ ਨਗਰਿ ਇਕ ਬੂੰਦ ਨ ਬਰਖੈ ਨਾਦੁ ਕਹਾ ਜੁ ਸਮਾਨਾ ॥ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਪਰਮੇਸੁਰ ਮਾਧੋ ਪਰਮ ਹੰਸੁ ਲੇ ਸਿਧਾਨਾ ॥੧॥ ਬਾਬਾ ਬੋਲਤੇ ਤੇ ਕਹਾ ਗਏ ਦੇਹੀ ਕੇ ਸੰਗਿ ਰਹਤੇ ॥ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਮਾਹਿ ਜੋ ਨਿਰਤੇ ਕਰਤੇ ਕਥਾ ਬਾਰਤਾ ਕਹਤੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਬਜਾਵਨਹਾਰੋ ਕਹਾ ਗਇਓ ਜਿਨਿ ਇਹੁ ਮੰਦਰੁ ਕੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ॥ ਸਾਖੀ ਸਬਦੁ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਨਹੀ ਉਪਜੈ ਖਿੰਚਿ ਤੇਜੁ ਸਭੁ ਲੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ॥੨॥ ਸ੍ਰਵਨਨ ਬਿਕਲ ਭਏ ਸੰਗਿ ਤੇਰੇ ਇੰਦ੍ਰੀ ਕਾ ਬਲੁ ਥਾਕਾ ॥ ਚਰਨ ਰਹੇ ਕਰ ਢਰਕਿ ਪਰੇ ਹੈ ਮੁਖਹੁ ਨ ਨਿਕਸੈ ਬਾਤਾ ॥੩॥ ਥਾਕੇ ਪੰਚ ਦੂਤ ਸਭ ਤਸਕਰ ਆਪ ਆਪਣੈ ਭ੍ਰਮਤੇ ॥ ਥਾਕਾ ਮਨੁ ਕੁੰਚਰ ਉਰੁ ਥਾਕਾ ਤੇਜੁ ਸੂਤੁ ਧਰਿ ਰਮਤੇ ॥੪॥ ਮਿਰਤਕ ਭਏ ਦਸੈ ਬੰਦ ਛੂਟੇ ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਭਾਈ ਸਭ ਛੋਰੇ ॥ ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰਾ ਜੋ ਹਰਿ ਧਿਆਵੈ ਜੀਵਤ ਬੰਧਨ ਤੋਰੇ ॥੫॥੫॥੧੮॥: Aasaa || Gagan nagar ik boond na barakhai naad kahaa ju samaanaa ... (sggs 480).

Undoing egoism simply means transforming it into the Divine Self. The ego-mind (Haume) alone is the seed for the body. When the tree (body) dies, the seed (ego or Haume) does not: the ego-mind goes on to create another body for itself. Only when the seed (false ego) perishes, the tree also dies (body or individualized consciousness, skepticism or doubts, all evil passions, etc.) with it!

  • ਬੋਇਓ ਬੀਜੁ ਅਹੰ ਮਮ ਅੰਕੁਰੁ ਬੀਤਤ ਅਉਧ ਕਰਤ ਅਘਨਾਂ ॥: Boeio beej aham mam ankur beetat aoudh karat aghanaan: O man, you have planted the seeds of egoism, and the sprout of possessiveness has come up. You pass your life making sinful mistakes (sggs1387).
  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸਹਜੈ ਦਾ ਖੇਤੁ ਹੈ ਜਿਸ ਨੋ ਲਾਏ ਭਾਉ ॥ ਨਾਉ ਬੀਜੇ ਨਾਉ ਉਗਵੈ ਨਾਮੇ ਰਹੈ ਸਮਾਇ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਏਹੋ ਬੀਜੁ ਹੈ ਸਹਸਾ ਗਇਆ ਵਿਲਾਇ ॥: Satgur sahajai daa khet hai jis no laae bhaaou. Naaou beeje naaou ougavai naame rahai samaai. Houmai eho beej hai sahasaa gaiaa vilaai: The Satguru is the field of intuitive wisdom. Plant the seed of the Divine Name there. One who is inspired to love Him, the Divine Name sprouts up within him, and he becomes absorbed in the Name. Then his egoism, which is the seed of skepticism, perishes (sggs 947).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org