Parable Of The Elephant’s Bath – Swami Sivananda

A mahout took an elephant to the Ganga and gave it a nice bath for over an hour. He applied pounds of soap and scrubbed its whole body nicely. He was thoroughly satisfied. He took it out of the water and was driving it home. The moment the elephant reached the bank of the Ganga, it took with its trunk a large quantity of dust and dirt and smeared its whole body with it. The Mahout realised that all his effort was wasted upon it. He drove it back to the forest and made it lift logs of wood. He extracted much work from it. Whatever effort he put forth in this direction was not wasted at all! He realised that the elephant was fit only for this, and it was wiser to take work from it than to waste time in bathing it.

Elephant is a Tamasic being. A Tamasic man given to all kinds of vices is comparable to the elephant. The Mahout is a saintly soul. The saint tries to clean the vicious man with the soap of scriptural knowledge and bathes him with Japa, Kirtan, etc. But the moment he finds a chance, the vicious man sprinkles dust and dirt upon himself.

The saint understands the vicious man’s nature. He puts him to hard work. He extracts much useful work from him. The vicious man works like the elephant. Work eventually purifies him.

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