be like an elephant [1/2]

be like an elephant [1/2]

In his book Strength in the Storm, author and spiritual leader Eknath Easwaran shares a beautiful teaching by Buddha and encourages us to be like an elephant. Why is that? Because it is the mightiest yet the gentlest of creatures on the planet. They have a tough, almost impenetrable exterior, yet they have one of the most tender hearts out there.

An elephant’s physical prowess is nothing short of extraordinary. If it chooses, it can always wreak havoc in a moment’s notice, pulling apart trees from their roots and swinging them away like stalks of grain with minimal effort. Every creature in the forest cooperates with the elephant and gives it a clear path to walk on. With no natural enemies, it advances majestically and unapologetically wherever it wants. Yet in spite of this legendary strength, the elephant is incredibly gentle and kind. If you offer it a grape on the palm of your hand, it won’t snatch it away, rather it will take the tiny fruit precisely and delicately with the tip of its trunk without even touching your skin. Once when I was in college, I went to a South Indian temple on a trip, and after I made the offering to the elephant standing in the yard, my friend asked me to bow my head and receive a blessing from the mighty being. I did so hesitantly not knowing what to expect, but in return got a paternal tap on my head. There’s definitely more to these creatures than meets the eye.

Elephants have had a strong bond with us, humans, over centuries and they’re amazing in every right — they’re exceptionally smart, wise, sensitive, and loyal. And when it comes to showing their mettle during tough times, they never back off. As Easwaran writes in the book, “All ancient armies had infantry and cavalry. But Indian armies had elephantry too, and they were mightiest of all. A trained elephant will not turn back from battle. It would rather die than run away. And when an elephant goes into battle, its strength and endurance are so tremendous that no matter how many arrows find their mark on its body, it ignores them and presses forward gallantly into the thick of the fight.”

This is how Buddha wants us to go through life — like an elephant. Here’s one of his verses: “Suffer harsh words as an elephant suffers arrows on the battlefield. People are people, often ill-natured.”