Long, long, ago, before the Buddha was the Buddha, a beautiful baby elephant lived in the forest of India. Her skin was as white and silky soft as the feathers of a swan. While she was growing up, all the people who ventured into the forest and happened to see her there were amazed at her beauty. When she was fully grown, her size and strength were so great that the people who saw her were even more astounded. Word spread across the land about this great, big, strong, white, beautiful elephant.
When the king of that land heard about the elephant, he wanted it for himself. He sent his elephant trainers out to find her. After much hunting in the forest, they did. They caught her in a huge hempen net, drove her back to the palace grounds, and chained her to a stake.
The king wanted to be sure that the elephant would obey his every command, so when the elephant didn’t do what the trainers told her to do-and often they could not understand what they were asking-they jabbed her with their training sticks. Soon red, blue, and purple bruises broke out all over her beautiful white skin, and she was constantly terrified.
One day the elephant went crazy with fear. She reared up her hind legs and her chain broke loose. The terror-stricken trainers scurried away, and the beautiful, white elephant escaped. she ran up into the mountains, so far and deep that the trainers couldn’t find her. They searched and searched for a long time, but at last they gave up. Eventually they forgot about her.
But the elephant did not forget about them. Every time the wind moaned, whined, shrieked, or blasted, she dashed off in terror, racing abound in big, loopy circles, thrashing her trunk wildly from side to side.
Even though she was free, she might just as well been recaptured by the king’s trainers, for now her mind was so often troubles she forgot to eat. Her big strong body became thin and weak. Running in heedless fear, she would frequently trip and collapse over rocks, fallen branches, or in holes in the ground. Red, blue, and purple bruises broke out all over her beautiful white skin.
the only thing close to peace the elephant ever felt was when she’d lean against one special tree to catch her breath. This tree had a smooth, thick trunk and a big, sheltering crown of leaves where the wind would gently whisper.
Now at this time the Buddha was this tree.
Whenever the elephant would rest against the tree, it could sense the fear that was tormenting her, and so it felt great compassion for her. finally, one day when the elephant was shaking against its bark harder than she ever had before, the tree could no longer stay silent. Waving its leaves and stirring the wind, it whispered these words:
Do you fear the wind?
It only moves the clouds and dries the dew!
Look inside your mind-
There, fear alone has captured you.
As soon as the tree finished whispering these words, the beautiful elephant smiled. Suddenly she realized that she had nothing to worry about but her own habit of always being afraid. From that day on she was a peace with herself. She enjoyed her life in her mountain home. She had finally found her freedom.
A tale from India retold by Jack Maguire
What fear from your past is robbing you of your present happiness?