Spiritually speaking, when we talk about a wild elephant, its three main aspects come to light: (1) elephants’ lustful urges, (2) its conduct, which is like a drunkard being (3) its enormously fat size. The Gurbani compares all these aspects of an elephant with the human ego-mind (Haumai, Mayaic mind, conditioned mind, the consciousness of time-space-causation…). On account of it cracked or modified state, the fat ego-mind sees infinite diversity in Unity. Although the ego-sense (Haumai) seems real to us, but in reality it’s a long dream. First creating delusion and wickedness (corruption or falsehood), which later expand into sorrow, the ego-mind heads us to calamity.

  • ਮਨੁ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਸਾਕਤੁ ਦੇਵਾਨਾ ॥: The mind of the Saakat is like a crazy elephant (sggs 415).
  • ਮਨੁ ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਕਾਇਆ ਉਦਿਆਨੈ ॥: 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. One of these methods include using decoys of straw (“ਕਾਲਬੂਤ ਕੀ ਹਸਤਨੀ”) 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 (Kaam), 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). For the eg-mind, the enchanting material world is a snare.

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਕਉ ਦੀਨਾ ॥ ਕਾਮ ਰੋਗਿ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਬਸਿ ਲੀਨਾ ॥: Mankind is afflicted with the disease of egoism. The disease of Kaam (lust…) overwhelms the elephant (sggs 1140).

Second, if we let lose a drunkard elephant in the banana forest, it will go crazy and create havoc there. Similarly, as asserted by the Gurbani, the ego-mind is like the drunkard elephant that constantly creates havoc in the forest of the body. 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.

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਕਾਇਆ ਕਜਲੀ ਬਨੁ ਭਇਆ ਮਨੁ ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਮਯ ਮੰਤੁ ॥: O Kabeer! The body is (like) a banana forest, and the mind is (like) an intoxicated elephant (wandering in it). (sggs 1376).

Third, on account of the inflated ego, the mind has become fat, like the elephant. False ego-sense makes us body-consciousness. In body-consciousness, all worldly relationships become bondage; all enjoyments turn into great disease…

In body-consciousness, thus, our Mool (Source, Reality, Origin, Jot…) becomes unreal and unknown.

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਦੁਆਰਾ ਸੰਕੁੜਾ ਰਾਈ ਦਸਵੈ ਭਾਇ ॥ ਮਨੁ ਤਉ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਹੋਇ ਰਹਾ ਨਿਕਸਿਆ ਕਿਉ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਇ ॥: 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).

Undoing egoism simply means transforming it into Mool within. How can this wild elephant of the mind be tamed? The Gurbani:

  • ਮਨੁ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਵਸਿ ਆਇਆ ਰਾਮ ॥: The mind-elephant is overpowered by the Gur-Shabad (sggs 576).
  • ਜਿਉ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਮਸਤੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਤਲਿ ਕੁੰਡੇ ਗੁਰ ਅੰਕਸੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਾਵੈਗੋ ॥: Just as the wild elephant is subdued by the goad, (so) the mind is disciplined (ਮਨ ਨੂੰ ਨਿਯਮ ਅਨੁਸਾਰ ਕਰਨਾ…) by Goad of the Gur-Shabad (sggs 1310).
  • ਮਨੁ ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਪੀਲਕੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਕੁੰਡਾ ਜਹ ਖਿੰਚੇ ਤਹ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਸਤੀ ਕੁੰਡੇ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਉਝੜਿ ਪਾਇ ॥੨॥: The mind is the elephant; (if) the Guroo becomes the elephant-driver, and (His) Divine Knowledge (Giaan) the whip, (then) the mind goes wherever the Guroo drives it to go. O Nanak! Without the whip (of the Gur-Giaan), the elephant (of the mind) repeatedly wanders into the wilderness (of Maya-ਕੁਰਾਹੇ). ||2|| (sggs 516).

One reply on “Elephant-Mind”

Indeed very rich and wisdom packed thoughts have been shared in this article.

I had been contemplating on one of the quotes I jaust read this morning – •ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਕਉ ਦੀਨਾ ॥ ਕਾਮ ਰੋਗਿ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਬਸਿ ਲੀਨਾ ॥: (sggs 1140) and wasn’t sure about the term ‘maigal’. Thanks a lot for the time and effort you put in for the benefit of so many like me. Please keep sharing such gems.

Deep Regards.

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