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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 innite 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, rst
creating delusion and wickedness (corruption or falsehood), and these later expand into sorrow.
- ~ = !: Manu maigal saakat devaanaa: The mind of the faithless cynic is like a crazy
elephant (sggs 415).
~HJ ~l~ _l~ !: Mann kunchar kaaiaa oudiaanai: The mind is an elephant in the forest of the
body (sggs 221).
The rst 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
deled.
~H ~l Jl H_J J H JlH P-l !~ ~l -P Hl J H_J J ~~ lJ l !! lH
HH JlJ JH - H_J J !: 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 gure 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).
~ Jl ~HJ J'l~ J J =l l lHHJ ! Jl lJ JlJ ~J~ _ Jl J lHJ !~! l ~JH
l lJ l l~ ~_ J ! ~l JlH ~lJ l ~ _l slJ JJ P !! : 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).
lP_ - l_l Jl lJ l- lJ ~JHl !: Jiou maigal indree rasi prerio too laagi kutubaaile:
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Like the elephant, driven by Kaam (lust, ~-= ... becomes captive, similarly) you have become
attached (entangled, captive...) to your family (sggs 862).
-lJ ~ H ! lP_ - lH !: 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 (l=lJ~
, evil passions...) (sggs 838).
J_ J- ~_ l ! ~ Jl- - Hl l !: Hayumai rog maanukh kayu deenaa. Kaam rog
maigal bas leenaa: Mankind is aficted with the disease of egoism. The disease of sexual desire
overwhelms the elephant (sggs 1140).
~ l~ ~HJ ~_ lH~ ! l~- l- l~ lJ !! l~ ~l Jl ! P Pl~ JJ~
!! JJ_ !: Kaam Maya kunchar kou biaapai.....: Lust-Maya aficts 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).
- lP_ Jl ~JJ ! ~l= Hl Hl l J !~! - J -lJl !: 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 reects through the deled 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.
-lH - Jl JlJ l~J - l ~J~J !: 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).
~HlJ ~l~ ~Pl H l~ ~HJ !: 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).
- l~J !: Manu mai matu maigal mikadaaraa: The mind is like an elephant, drunk with
the wine (of false ego-sense - J_) (sggs 159).
~l l - !: mann kee matu mataagal mataa: The intellect of the mind is like a drunken
elephant (sggs 351).
w H !: Man ghanai bhramai banai: The mind wanders through the dense forest (of the
material world) (sggs 1272).
Third, on account of the inated 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 aficted 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;
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all actions performed in ignorance lead to unhappiness and mental restlessness; untruthful living becomes the
norm; seless 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.
~HlJ ~l ~J ~= J = l ! _ - Jl JJ l~l~ l~_ ~lJ Pl !: 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.
- -J Hl =l ~l~ J !: Man maigal gur sabad vasi aaiaa raam: The mind-elephant is
overpowered by the Gur-Shabad (sggs 576).
lP_ - lP l ~J -J ~~ H l_==- !: 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).
J -J l l~l JlJ l ! -J ~ H l = lJ Jl !! JJ_ !: 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).
~HJ l~ -J l-~ ~J PJ lH J Pl ! ~ Jl ~J HJJ lJlJ lJlJ _-l= l !~!: 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).
~ ! -- -lJ l~ H HJ ~J P ! JHJ JJ J J l !! HH H
~J -J Jl ~ l- JJ ! Jl lJ P lJ ~J ~ HJ ~J !! JJ_ ! HP=JJ ~J -l lPl
lJ J ~lJ ! l H Jl Jl _P llH P lJ !~! = lH~ J l- J l_l ~ H ~
! HJ JJ ~J Jl~ J J J l~ H !! ~ H ~J ~ ~< ! ~ ~HJ _J
~ P lJ J !S! lJ~ J H sJ l sJ ! ~J ~HlJ P JlJ l~= Pl= H J !
!!t!: Aasaa || Gagan nagar ik boond na barakhai naad kahaa ju samaanaa ...: Aasaa. From the city
of the Tenth Gate, the sky of the mind, not even a drop rains down. Where is the music of the sound
current of the Naad, which was contained in it? The Supreme Transcendent Lord has taken away the
Supreme Soul. ||1|| O Father, tell me: where has it gone? It used to dwell within the body, and dance in
the mind, teaching and speaking. ||1||Pause|| Where has the player gone - he who made this body-
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temple his own? No story, word or understanding is produced; the Lord has drained off all the power.
||2|| The ears, your companions, have gone deaf, and the power of your organs is exhausted. Your feet
have failed, your hands have gone limp, and no words issue forth from your mouth. ||3|| The elephant of
the mind has grown weary, and the heart has grown weary as well; through its power, it used to pull the
strings ||5||5||18|| (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!
Hl HlP ~J ~~J Hl ~_ ~J ~w' !: 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).
l-J JP J lP J _ ! _ HlP _ _-= JJ l ! J_ JJ HlP J J -l~ l=l
!: 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 eld 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
Updated on Tuesday, February 14, 2012 11:37 AM (PST)
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