The Elephants’ Captivity
The saints tell us we are held to this creation by the mind and our ego. Our ego, backed up by the rest of mind, is running our life and we are imprisoned by our attachment to worldly pleasures and possessions – rather like the elephants in the following story:
Along a dusty highway in India a man caught up with a line of elephants and their trainer. He observed the docility of the elephants and thought that it must be a poor life in captivity for such wonderful beasts. Suddenly he paused, confused by the fact that each of these huge creatures was held only by a slender rope tied to one leg. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from the fragile restraint, but for some reason they did not. When he reached the trainer, the man asked why they made no attempt to get away.
“Well,” the trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller, we use the same-sized rope to tie them, and at that age it’s enough. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, and they never test it.” The man was amazed. A powerful and enormous creature was denied its freedom because of the limitations of its conditioning.
Just like the elephants, because of our mind’s conditioning, we come to believe that this physical world and it’s temptations – the world we live in and our physical body – are all that there is. The tragedy is that we are not even aware of this conditioning. We just let it happen.
Again and again we get bound to the people, places, and things we encounter. Each of these attachments holds us. Our past actions have brought us into this life, into this body, and have given us a destiny. Our destiny puts us in circumstances in which we are blind to where we have come from and where we are going. As we get more and more entangled in the web of action and reaction, we collect and sustain a huge karmic debt, and as a result we keep coming and going in the cycle of birth and death.
The story of the elephants reveals the power of conditioning and how it limits our perception of reality. The good news for us is that the story also shows that our conditioning doesn’t alter the reality. (The rope remains insignificant whatever the elephants think!) All we need is someone to convince us that there is something else out there for us and we can reach it. If one of those elephants had pulled away, the others would have understood that they too could regain their freedom.
There is a parallel here with what the Masters do for us. The Masters present the true story of the Creator, Spirit and individual soul, a story that is surprisingly simple. Even a child can understand it – it is just our stubborn mind that does not like to accept simple truths. We tend to look for complicated and complex explanations which we can tear apart intellectually and make even more complex.
Masters tell us that we are in a body but we are not the body; that we are spiritual beings going through the experience of being human. As spiritual beings we are the same essence as the formless conscious energy which we have yet to experience. The soul is potentially very powerful. Maharaj Charan Singh writes in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
The soul is just being dominated by the mind. We do not know what soul is, in fact, because we are so much a slave of the mind. We begin to think probably that our mind is the soul. Actually the soul is something far superior to the mind.
At present our soul is in a dormant state, completely unaware of its source and where it belongs. Underneath this fleshly incarnation of body and the machinations of mind, we are a drop of the divine Shabd. Our soul has come from regions far beyond mind and matter. But in the everyday consciousness of our life, we live in ignorance. Our soul is buried under layers of desires, passions and karmas: we fail to see what we really are. Maharaj Sawan Singh writes in Spiritual Gems:
Soul is misguided by mind, and mind by senses, and senses by objects of sense. Objects control the senses, senses control the mind, and mind controls the soul. The whole order is thus reversed. With proper guidance, mind should control the senses and the soul should control the mind. What a shame that soul, the child of Sat Nam in Sach Khand, is subservient to senses, and senses are hopelessly attached to material objects. Let us now reverse the order. With Master’s help and guidance, let us commence the journey back.
Saints come to wake us up from our deep slumber, and show us how to become free from the shackles of the body and mind, so that we can reach our source – the Shabd. We have to move beyond our thoughts, beyond even time and space to experience Shabd, as it cannot be channelled through any human words or theories. Shabd is the essential fabric of our existence. We are attracted to the Shabd because it is bliss, light and love and is associated with the higher consciousness in all of us. There is nothing outside of it. Shabd is everywhere and is the conscious energy that connects everyone and everything.
Masters explain that this world will never become a happier place, because it is designed to be a training ground for the soul. We have attained this human form after going through different species of plant, insect, bird and animal life. We cannot even imagine for how many lives we have been coming and going in this world, in various forms. But at last, and with the grace of God, the higher mind develops a longing for self- and God- realization.
Now it simply remains for the soul to finish its store of karmas, before it can merge into the Lord. In other words, by attending to meditation, we have to clear our karmic accounts before we can finally leave and go back to our home. Remembering the message brought to us by the Masters will help us overcome wrong concepts that keep us here – such as the belief that we are powerless captives, like the docile elephants in the story. We are not!
The living Masters who have experienced the truth and lived by its principles give us their teachings and the method to help us practise Shabd meditation and show us the way to liberate our souls. Saints are the manifestation of the Shabd, and are the essential link between the disciple and ultimate spiritual release. Saints diffuse the perfume of truth and bring awareness of a higher consciousness through their teachings. Guru Angad Sahib writes in the Adi Granth: “Were a hundred moons to rise together with a thousand suns, it would be, with all that light, utter darkness without the Guru.”