Elephant-Mind

First off the Gurbani is not meant for elephants, crow, dog, camel, monkey, frog, donkey, and so on! Neither they will attend and participate in congregations in Gurdwaras (or any other religious place for that matter)!

It’s for the human mind for learning and mends!

When the Truth that has not been personally experienced, one can not grasp it directly. However, with the help of examples, analogies, similes, allegories, metaphors, figurative or mystic representations and illustrations, idioms (ਮੁਹਾਵਰੇ), etc., the Truth becomes relatively easier to grasp. Such methods have extensively been used in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).

The Gurbani is the mirror for the mind – it shows the human mind its true face, and Awakens it from perpetual slumber. In other words,  the Gurbani only concerns itself with the mind (Aatmaa) and not the body or the external artifacts or religions paraphernalia and symbols.

Thus, as medicine is for the alive people not for dead, similarly the Wisdom of the Gurbani is for the minds of the living people, not for birds, animals, stones, or dead people.

In the Light or Wisdom of the SGGS, this post will reflect on the human mind that behaves like an elephant – over inflated sense of oneself.

In general, when we talk about a wild elephant, its three main aspects come to light: (1) elephants’ lustful urges, (2) its conduct or behavior  which is like a drunkard person, and (3) its enormously fat size.

The Gurbani compares all these aspects of an elephant with the human conditioned mind impacted with Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc.),  Haumai or false ego-sense (the consciousness of time-space-causation…).

(1). The first aspect (elephant’s lustful nature) can be better understood by knowing as to how elephants are captured in India.

One of the 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.

  • 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 ॥ …: 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 lust, the elephant is captured, O crazy mind, and now the halter is placed around its neck. O crazy mind! Be Wise and escape from sense-gratification and immerse yourself in Hari (i.e., Mool, Truth, Wisdom, Virtues…); take this advice. … (sggs 335-336).

Further in the above Shabad, Baabaa Kabeer says that as the straw figure of a female elephant is a trap for the bull elephant, grains are trap for the monkey, etc., similarly, the so called places or shrines of pilgrimage (Teerath-ਤੀਰਥ) are trap for the mind!

  • ਨਾਵਨ ਕਉ ਤੀਰਥ ਘਨੇ ਮਨ ਬਉਰਾ ਰੇ ਪੂਜਨ ਕਉ ਬਹੁ ਦੇਵ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਛੂਟਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਮਨ ਬਉਰਾ ਰੇ ਛੂਟਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਕੀ ਸੇਵ ॥੪॥੧॥੬॥੫੭॥: O crazy mind! There are so many places of pilgrimage in which to bathe, and so many gods to worship. Says Kabeer! O crazy mind, there is no liberation like this; only by serving Hari (Mool, Truth, Wisdom…) will you find liberation (from doubt, Maya…). ||4||1||6||57|| (sggs 335).

(2). If we let lose a drunkard elephant in the banana forest, it will go crazy and create havoc there.

Similarly, as the Gurbani asserts, the conditioned mind is like the drunkard elephant that constantly creates havoc in the forest of the body.

  • 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).
  • ਮਨੁ ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਕਾਇਆ ਉਦਿਆਨੈ ॥: The mind is an elephant in the forest of the body (sggs 221).
  • ਮਨੁ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਸਾਕਤੁ ਦੇਵਾਨਾ ॥: The mind of the Saakat is like a crazy elephant (sggs 415).

The deluded mind is like a mirage. When the mind rests in delusion, the conditioned consciousness reflects through the defiled senses.

When thus repeatedly experienced and thought of, the false ego-sense and the illusion of self-limitation acquire a false validity.

(3). On account of the inflated ego, the mind has become fat (haughty, bloated, arrogant, full of pride…) like an elephant. On account of cracked or modified state, the fat ego-mind sees infinite diversity in Unity.

Bloated with false ego-sense (Haumai), the deluded mind is enticed and then trapped by the enchanting and mirage-like world appearance and its gross objects (Maya).

  • 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).

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 expands into unhappiness or sorrow, the ego-mind heads us to calamity.

False ego-sense inflates body-consciousness. In body-consciousness, all worldly relationships become bondage; all enjoyments turn into disease…

  • ਮਾਇਆ ਫਾਸ ਬੰਧ ਬਹੁ ਬੰਧੇ ਹਰਿ ਜਪਿਓ ਖੁਲ ਖੁਲਨੇ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਕੁੰਚਰੁ ਤਦੂਐ ਬਾਂਧਿਓ ਹਰਿ ਚੇਤਿਓ ਮੋਖ ਮੁਖਨੇ ॥੩॥: (Jeeva – individual beings, mortals…) are bound by many bonds of Maya’s noose. By understanding the Divine (-Naam: Wisdom, Bibek, Truth…) they are released Maya’s bonds; (as in the elephant-crocodile story) the elephant caught in the water by the crocodile was released (from the crocodile) by remembering the Divine. ||3|| (sggs 976).

In body-consciousness, thus, our Mool (True Nature or Jot Saroop…) 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 or mending the ego-mind simply means transforming it into its Jot Saroop, within. How can this wild elephant of the mind be tamed? The Gurbani shows us how to overpower it – with the “goad” of the Gur-Wisdom or Bibek:

  • ਮਨੁ ਮੈਗਲੁ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਵਸਿ ਆਇਆ ਰਾਮ ॥: The mind-elephant is overpowered by the Gur-Shabad (Gur-Wisdom, Bibek). (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 (Gur-Wisdom, Bibek). (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 or Wisdom), the elephant (of the mind) repeatedly wanders into the wilderness (of Maya-ਕੁਰਾਹੇ). ||2|| (sggs 516).

3 replies 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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