Wednesday, March 05, 2008

elephant mind

Taming your wildly active mind

-Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English
from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book
Ancient Pali texts liken meditation to the process of taming a wild elephant. The procedure in those days was to tie a newly captured animal to a post with a good strong rope. When you do this, the elephant is not happy. He screams and tramples, and pulls against the rope for days. Finally it sinks through his skull that he cant get away, and he settles down. At this point you can begin to feed him and to handle him with some degree of safety. Eventually you can dispense with the rope and post altogether, and train your elephant for various tasks. Now you've got a tamed elephant that can be put to useful work.
In this analogy the wild elephant is your wildly active mind, the rope is mindfulness, and the post is our object of meditation, our breathing. The tamed elephant who emerges from this process is a well-trained, concentrated mind that can then be used for the exceedingly tough job of piercing the layers of illusion that obscure reality. Meditation tames the mind.


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