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The Story of Gajendra, the Elephant

You will have to control your tendency to look outwards towards the body and its deeds and towards the mind with its thoughts and feelings. Instead, develop the inward vision of the sacred self. This is the true vision, the integral vision. There is a fine example of this in the ancient spiritual classic called the Bhagavatam. It is the story of Gajendra, an elephant who was caught by a crocodile. This elephant, Gajendra, had a strong ego and he was convinced that with his great strength he would be able to fight and free himself from the crocodile. But here two facts must be known; elephants are very powerful on land, crocodiles are very powerful in the water. When an elephant enters the water he will not have so much strength, and when a crocodile comes out on land he will also be less mighty than in his natural habitat, the water. In this case, because the crocodile was in the water he was able to exercise all his great strength. But the elephant, Gajendra, was very arrogant; he was blown up with ego and felt that no crocodile could ever be equal to an elephant, who was the lord of the forest. He did not know that a crocodile in the water would be more than a match for any elephant away from land.

For a long time they fought relentlessly. Finally the elephant got tired and lost all his physical as well as mental strength. He had placed all his confidence in his physical and mental prowess, but having exhausted all that, he began praying to the Lord. As long as his vision had been directed to his body he did not look towards God. As long as he had confidence in his own bodily and mental strength, the thought of God did not arise and the Lord's grace did not descend. When the elephant lost his physical and mental power and turned towards God, immediately Lord Vishnu hurled his sacred discus, and freed Gajendra from the catastrophe that had overtaken him. Now, the discus spoken of here does not refer to a mere weapon used by the Lord; but it refers to his grace. You evoke God's grace by turning your vision towards God. Then God turns his vision towards you.