An elephant is going from, say, San Francisco to Los Angels. Traveling south. There are several ants and other similar small creatures on that mammoth elephant. For those tiny insects, size of this elephant is not comprehendible. It's like anything more than they have seen in their life. As a result, these insects do not know in which direction the elephant is going, let alone where the elephant is headed to. Those insects move on the body of that elephant as though they know where they are going and how to get there. Guess what? Where they all will end up in? Los Angeles, Right? Since the elephant is headed to LA, regardless of what these tiny insects do, they will all reach LA. Some insects may move from the head of the elephant to the rear of the elephant by the time the elephant makes it to LA. They may have thought they were going in the direction of San Francisco. But, since they were moving on an elephant which was headed to LA, they all end up in LA too.
So what? Evolution is like that. If we subscribe to the hypothesis that we are all spiritual beings undergoing a human life (vs. human beings trying for spiritual experiences), we can easily understand the profundity of this elephant analogy. We are all like those tiny insects on the elephant. Some divine force is making that elephant go in the right direction. To the ultimate destination where the individual soul unites with the God. So, regardless of what we as tiny creatures do, we all end up in the final destination one way or the other. Sooner or later.
What can we do to hasten this process, if it is something we want to? Smart ants on the back of the elephant align their motion to the motion of the elephant. Say that there are some ants on the far end of our mythological elephant. They have been blessed and made aware of this evolution. They are in a hurry to get to the destination as quickly as possible. So, instead of wasting their time and energy on going here and there on that massive elephant's back, they proceed to the front end of the elephant with single minded devotion and determination. They will encounter tremendous challenges on the way. They will all face many distractions on the way. They will meet many of their fellow creatures who are wasting their time and energy on frivolous material pursuits. But, these enlightened ants are so determined that when the elephant reaches LA, they want to be at the end of its trunk so that they can do one jump and be at the final destination. Unity at last!
This is exactly what we as spiritual beings can do to hasten our own evolution. Like it or not, we are all being lead to higher levels of consciousness by God every moment. His elephant is going to LA. Like it or not, we will all go to his kingdom. But, it's up to us as where we want to be when His elephant stops at the final destination. Do we want to be like those enlightened ants which moved doggedly from the far end of the elephant all the way to the very front to the tip of its trunk so that they can just hop on Nirvana? Or do we want to be like other ants which pursued meaningless activities all along the journey and when the elephant reached LA, they were on at some remote corner on that elephant's body. Bear in mind that our elephant is very big and for a small creatures like ant being on far end of the elephant may mean a couple of life time's struggle to get to the front and reach Nirvana. So, we do not want to be somewhere remote due to mindless pursuits in our multiple lives to end up like those ants who have to spend few more life times to get to their real destination.
Original elephant analogy, I heard in discourse by Sri Bannanje Govindacharya of Udupi, Karnataka, India. Sri Bannanje is a very learned authority of Indian scriptures. He used this analogy so beautifully that 2 minutes he spent talking about gave me probably 20 years worth of insights. In his case, the elephant I think went from Udupi to Manipal :)
You can listen to many of his discourses at - http://www.kannadaaudio.com/Songs/Discourses/home/
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