There he was, Nalagiri, charging down the narrow streets of an Indian city.
Yet, that was some 2500 years ago! Fortunately for him and everybody else around at the time, the Buddha was there for him. Sometimes your mind also starts on a rampage like Nalagiri, doesn’t it? Then a little Nalagiri strategy could do.
So who was this Nalagiri? Nalagiri was an elephant. Not just a menial elephant either, but one belonging to the Royal family of Rajgir. He was a well fed, huge tusker who was skillful even in warfare. Unfortunately, the “royalty” to whom he belonged, was not so royal after all. Those royal folks were mean. For, his Master was none other than King Suppabuddha, whose son was Devadatta. Prince Devadatta, the Buddha’s cousin, was jealous of the Buddha from his childhood days.
Devadatta planned to kill the Buddha while He was in Rajgir by using Nalagiri, who was in musth. While the elephant was in the stable, they fed it with toddy, which is a kind of sweet cider that the elephants take to. This made the poor elephant totally drunk. Then they irritated, and wounded the animal with the spear. Nalagiri was hurt and enraged.
The evil plotters thereafter, cunningly let it out loose through a secret gate, into the narrow streets of Rajgir, where the Buddha was coming down on alms round. The intoxicated elephant started down this street, furiously tearing down everything on sight. People ran for their lives. They shouted to the Buddha and his retinue of monks, walking along mindfully further down, to get away and flee. Everybody ran helter-skelter as they caught sight of the majestic elephant charging his way up the road from afar.
Only the Buddha and his faithful attendant Bhikkhu Ananda remained. With his gigantic body claiming almost the whole width of the narrow lane, the charging elephant closed upon the two monks. Bhikkhu Ananda leapt in front of the Buddha to save Him from being crushed. However, the Buddha urged him aside and came forward to face the elephant and the stampeding Nalagiri miraculously stood still at once.
The Buddha with his brilliant metta, flowing upon this furious elephant had calmed him down with His blessings. The angry animal sensed the kindness and compassion emanating from the raised palm of the Buddha’s hand. Thereby he was freed from his pain and drunkenness. A gratified Nalagiri bowed at his feet with tears running down his elephantine face.
Could this ever be possible? Yes, because the Buddha didn’t think about himself, when he saw this enraged elephant. He only felt the urgency of bringing the pain from which this huge animal was suffering to an end. So, that’s just what he did. With his unbounded metta, he ended the pain of that animal and the poor animal felt his loving kindness in his entire massive body. Nalagiri was relieved. As a result he bowed down at the Blessed One’s feet crying in gratitude.
Try a little Nalagiri strategy with your mind.
Of course, trying a little Nalagiri strategy doesn’t mean calming down charging elephants or roaring lions. We must not attempt these things like the Buddha. We should know our capacity. However, as metta leads the way in most things, it’s worth trying out. In Pali, metta literally means friendliness or kindliness.
Metta – Unconditional Loving Kindness.
The unique quality of the Buddha and indeed the Bodhisatvva, Prince Siddhattha, was his metta. In fact it was this quality which urged Him to renounce and go forth in search of finding a way out of suffering. He simply did not accept that beings are born to suffer. For Him the fact that beings get born to suffer was unbelievable, as He too as a Hindu believed in God (Athma) and creation.
If suffering is the lot by nature, there must be a way out too, offered by nature itself. He took it upon himself to save all beings from this predicament. In the end he found out that it was “craving” that causes suffering. We suffer because we identify with a “self.” “It’s me who suffers.”
In short, if a being were to be born, then live without craving, he would die not to arise again. There will not be any samsara, a round of birth and death. I feel that plants, which are not so evolved like animals, do not really get caught to this “craving.” Plants have only a sensitivity. Why Prince Siddhattha turned ascetic underwent immense hardships in search of a way to end suffering is because of his unconditional love, that he did not want to see anybody suffering.
So how could we stop craving? The Buddha has given us many methods and various techniques of meditation. However, what one should realize is whatever technique one uses, each one of them should be practiced on a base of loving kindness. I mean one’s heart should possess kindness first of all.
Thereafter, one must practice diligently to really “go against the grain.” What does going against the grain mean? It means that we should not always follow our senses. That is remain calm and not follow-up with what the sense feelings tell us to do. Say you see a beautiful flower. You just note the beauty, that’s all. Enjoy its fragrance, that’s all. Realize in gratitude what a wonder it is, making its environment so lovely.
However, don’t try to pluck it and put it in a vase. Thereby, you make it “yours.” You get my point? I am not asking you not to have flowers in vases or anything like that. This is just an attempt to make you understand that we can enjoy the beauty around us without clinging. Enjoy the blue skies, the birds and sunsets in silence, without clinging to them. If you talk while watching the sunset, you are not enjoying it fully. Watch it in silence mindfully. Then you enjoy it without clinging.
We get trapped so to speak. Trapped to follow our five senses, because we have got so used to grasping or clinging, according to our senses’ wishes. Thereby giving rise to craving all the time. The trick is to be mindful and remain in the present moment, without running to the past and future as an instantaneous follow up on what the senses offer.
When the mind does run and you catch it, just be mindful of that too, and be aware of the present moment, without reprimanding yourself for the lack of mindfulness. The mind is just like that, running all over. It has been so for eons, so you can’t stop over night. Practicing like that is going against the grain.
So metta leads the way. Try the Nalagiri strategy with your mind at meditation time. Whenever you catch the mind running to and fro, have loving kindness to that aspect as well. Allow things to be so, open your heart to the running mind and instead of being upset and scolding yourself, say, “mind, I know you are running all over the place. I accept you as you are” and love your running mind. Open your heart and embrace the running mind. Soon you’ll find the mind is calmed down.
Be mindful and note everything your six sense bases offer. When you don’t cling to what they offer you don’t follow their rule, and become a “self.” This is going against the grain with metta. Be mindful and peaceful within, living in gratitude to what life has to offer. Established in loving kindness within your heart, this way, you will soon find life’s problems easier to handle. Life will be led like the tamed Nalagiri.
Edited by Kate Bartolotta.
Pushparani Weerasinghe is a Ceylonese (Sinhalese) from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and is a faithful follower of the Buddha. She also blogs at Gauthama Buddha.