Buddha and the Elephant

One of Devadatta’s attempts to kill the Buddha was to make the elephant, Nalagiri, drunk and enraged enough to run the Buddha down.  When Nalagiri the elephant saw the Buddha coming at a distance, it charged at him full gallop.  As the elephant closed in, the Buddha’s metta was too much for the drunk, enraged elephant. As the elephant came close to where the Buddha stood, it stopped, became quiet and bowed. The Buddha then stroked the elephant’s trunk and spoke softly.  The elephant swept the dust at the master’s feet away with its trunk, placing it upon its own head.  It then retreated, walking backwards with its head bowed back to the stable. Usually elephants are tamed with violence but the Buddha tamed with kindness.

I love the image of an enraged animal (the mind) sweeping off the dust from the feet of the Buddha and then placing that same dirt on its head.  Then, placified, the beast walks back.  We are pacified sweeping the dust once kicked up by the Buddha.  Same dust.  Same Buddha.  Same practice.  When I prostrate, when I practice, I place the dust of the Buddha upon my head.  What he walked upon, I wear as a crown.

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