Elephants are inherently a very special animal, once trained, they are especially obedient and loyal to their owners. The fact that Buddha entered the womb under the image of a white six-tusk elephant represents the power of compassion and wisdom.
The six tusks represent the six realms of overcoming all obstacles, evil spirits, thereby promoting the perfect perfections of generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom.
On a full moon day, the future mother of the Buddha, Queen Ma Da, who was a princess of the Koliyan family – a branch of the Sakya clan, was observing the vesaka precepts (a course dedicated to abstinence). real), then Bodhisattva Siddhartha descended from the Tusita heaven in the form of a six-tusk white statue and entered her womb. At that time, elephants played a key role in warfare, transportation and were considered a powerful symbol of a country. In particular, the white elephant (white statue) also represents the perfect wisdom and leadership power of the royal family. According to the customary military arrangement at that time, the king organized four squads of warriors, the statue of soldiers being the vanguard that acted as a strong shield, the second layer was the cavalry team, followed by the chariot team. (combat chariots), and in the rear was the infantry.
Entering his mother’s womb under the image of an elephant signifies the power of Buddha’s compassion and wisdom. It also implies that he will win the battle against ignorance, by using the six tusks representing the six realms to overcome all obstacles, evil spirits, thereby promoting the perfect perfections including generosity, precepts, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom.
Elephant image in a previous life of Buddha
In an ancient kingdom, a man brought an elephant to the palace and offered to offer his elephant to the king. However, the king said, “You should tame the elephant first, and then give it to me.”
At the king’s command, the man trained the elephant, and then returned to the palace to leave an offering to the elephant. The king congratulated the mahout and said: “I want to ride this elephant into the forest for sightseeing, prepare well for the trip.” The mahout fed the elephant a lot of green leaves and bananas to his delight. The next day, the mahout put many layers of silk in a square wooden box, tied it tightly to the elephant’s back, and put on its head many gold and silver ornaments, like the decoration of a royal chariot. , sat firmly on the elephant’s neck to control it.The king sat comfortably in a square wooden box with silver-trimmed edges.
When they reached the middle of the jungle, the elephant sniffed the female elephant and ran faster and faster to give chase. The stronger the scent, the faster the elephant runs in the direction of his desired mate and leads them astray. The mahout tried to restrain the elephant by shouting, shouting at the frenzied animal and beating it with iron rods. Driven by lust, the elephant became uncontrollable and squirmed as if fleeing from a terrible fear. At this moment, the poor elephant was completely overcome by lust towards the female elephant.
Both the king and the mahout were afraid. Fearing for the life of the king and himself if he tried to linger on the elephant’s back, the mahout tried to shout to the king: “My lord, please hold on to a tree branch and let the elephant follow its will”. And the two, in a panic, managed to cling to a protruding branch to save their lives. The king was very angry and instructed the mahout to punish his elephant severely when they returned to the palace.
The mahout was stunned, clasped his hands together and prayed earnestly to the king: “My lord, my elephant is usually very loyal and works hard every day, doing whatever I ask of me. Your Majesty, if you can be generous, please be patient and wait until the elephant returns to the palace. It will return when it calms down. I only trained it in physical and technical strength. ability to work, but not training it in mind and lust, for I do not know how to train these skills.If Your Majesty believes in me, I will punish my elephant in front of Your Majesty in the royal courtyard. “.
A week later, the elephant returned to the palace regretfully, heavy with guilt and shame. The mahout, with deep sadness in his heart, heated an iron ball in the fire to catch the elephant in his mouth as punishment. The king and the whole family were present. The mahout, fearing that his beloved animal might suffer more severe punishment from the king, shouted angrily to be stern with the animal, then ordered the elephant to kneel on the ground and mouth open.
The poor elephant opened its mouth wide, its whole body trembled, its eyes filled with tears, it was about to accept the punishment by swallowing the hot iron ball as repentance for not fulfilling the task given to the king and master. its entrusted. The mahout, somewhat hesitantly, trembled and wept silently at the thought of the terrible pain the beloved animal had to endure.
While watching, the majestic regal king and other royal members, feeling a surge of shame and grief at the terrifying thought that the elephant’s soft tongue and mouth would be burned. With each passing moment, the trembling of the frightened elephant shook the ground. At that moment, stirred to the bottom of his heart by the elephant’s sensitivity and nobility, the king suddenly stood up, shouted and prevented the mahout from carrying out the cruel punishment. to that wretched creature. Overcoming the veils of conceit and privileged position that often obscured his vision, the king experienced a sudden realization that transformed his entire being.
In that moment, instead of ordering punishment for those who dared to act wrongly against a man of such great supremacy as himself, the king chose to open his heart to compassion, sympathy and understanding. forgive. Humbly realizing that we are all, like elephants, subject to blind passions until we perfect ourselves through meditation on self-nature, the king asked. the mahout: “Who can train the mind and get rid of lust in it? I would be happy to know of any person who is free from lust and vows that I myself and all my subjects will follow you. his way”.
The mahout replied that a person who had completely abandoned and eliminated lust and greed, the only one who was fully enlightened, was called the Buddha, who had understood the emptiness nature of all things. completely freed from the cycle of birth and death. At the moment of hearing the name of the Buddha, the king’s hair stood up and he felt an indescribable joy. Immediately he aspired to attain enlightenment in the future and offered a prayer: “May I become like the Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings.” When the king recited this prayer, he recalled many of his previous lives, and all the devas rejoiced in the king’s merit. This was the time when Gautama Buddha generated bodhichitta when he was a king in his previous life.
Lust is the dark veil that causes suffering to all beings, whether they are human or animal alike. This is why the Buddha said that all sentient beings suffer equally because of craving and ignorance. So, first, our mind, which is full of greed and lust, needs to be tamed by following the Noble Eightfold Path and realizing the truth of the Four Noble Truths.
Original: “Journey to Liberation – A life story of Buddha in Mahayana tradition