Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Anne Twitty retells a classic Indian story on the nature of realization:

"A Student lives in India, a student of Vedanta. For years, forever, it seems, he has been receiving secret teachings from his guru, and at last he's got it, he not only hears, he KNOWS, he comprehends, that there are no opposites, all distinctions are illusory. God is All and All is God.

Deeply grateful and filled with bliss, he declares: God is the sole Reality. Then he bows deeply to his teacher and goes out into the world.

This being the time and place when the story is told, he finds himself walking along a narrow jungle path, uplifted, weightless, savoring his realization. Coming the other way, an elephant with its rider, the mahout, shouting to warn travelers of its approach.

But why should he concern himself with that? All is one; he and the elephant are one. Blissfully, he continues on his path. The mahout's cries, we assume, grow louder and louder, but our starry-eyed initiate is absorbed in his elation.

All obstacles have disappeared, there is no need to pay attention to duality, only this revelation, which is unchanging and will last forever. I am God, and the elephant is God. He proceeds to put his realization to the test of materiality.

A moment later, he is lying in a ditch, covered with bruises and smeared with mud. He returns, limping perhaps, and certainly filled with confusion, to his teacher. And what does his teacher tell him?

Yes, it is true that you are God and that the elephant is God. But why didn't you listen to the voice of the mahout, who is also God, shouting to you to get out of the way?

And from this, for us, arise unending questions:

Why don't we listen to the voice of the unexpected, shouting to us to change our course?

Why don't we listen to the voice of the fact that doesn't fit our theory?

Why don't we listen to the music of what happens instead of our inner dialogue?"

from Parabola Magazine, Spring 2005 Issue: " Awakening"


Blogger Trev Diesel said...

This is one of my favorite stories. I first heard it retold by Joseph Campbell and you wouldn't believe how many times it moves beyond a story into a practical application in my life. More than probably any other story, this one actually makes a difference in my life. Thanks for sharing this translation. Namaste.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Meredith said...

I love this story, too. In fact, Trev, didn't you post this same story? I think I read it there a while back. Metaphorical stories teach us a little below or deeper than ususal dialogue - it is memorable and applicable to a wide variety of situations. Almost all of us can identify with this students innocence and mistaken assuredness.

There are so many voices to listen to. The queries at the end are asking us to use our wisdom, discern carefully the voices we hear, even our own inner voice.

I love that soft suggestion to listen to the music we hear...however distant or far away...

10:23 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

This story is new to me, and like other commenters have said, it really speaks to me, too.

As a Quaker, I have needed to remind myself that when Friends conduct our business, we do so with the belief that each of us carries a piece of the (Divine) truth, and we all need to share the piece that we have. If we stop listening to one another, we may fail in identifying the truth when it comes across our path, or when it is screaming at us to Beware!

What's ironic about this story is that if the student had not had his realization, he most likely would have heeded the mahout!

So perhaps the story is not only a lesson that God is in the elephant and in the mahout, but could it also be that we might benefit from balancing our earthly experiences with our spiritual ones?

Liz, The Good Raised Up

12:48 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

Tommy, I miss your posts. Don't stop blogging. Come back, Tommy, come back!

6:18 PM  

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