HomeChildrenMana the Elephant With a Heart of Gold, Part I

Once upon a time, ages ago, in the Himalayan forest, there was a white elephant. His name was Mana and he had two superb long tusks. He was the descendant of a whole line of white elephants that came from the Hui-Sai forests in the kingdom of Siam, and they could speak the human language.

No circumstance, however bad, altered his kindness and warm-heartedness. Mana was a model of generosity and of wisdom for all the surrounding animals. Any creature that met him was touched by the pure love and simplicity he radiated, and would in turn love and respect him. Through their songs and cries the animals would often mention him and his incredible compassion, but he would say nothing.

When he was younger, the tall white elephant decided to go on a quest in faraway countries, and on his journey he met two remarkable men, Tierno and Hatim, who really impressed him.

Tierno, who was notable for his wisdom, said to him, “The more beneficial good action is the one that consists in praying for one’s enemies.”

Tierno’s teaching helped Mana understand that evil begets evil. So he decided to behave properly with all living creatures and to bless inwardly any creature he came across.

In the Syrian deserts, he met Hatim, a benevolent young prince of the Tai tribe.

Hatim would say, “Generosity is a tree of paradise.”

Chief of all the herds of elephants in the Himalayas

After coming back from his tour, Mana became the chief of all the herds of elephants living in the Himalayas, which meant a great multitude ruled by wickedness and hatred. He did his level best to calm down conflicts, always using kind words spoken through his tender heart.

Then his ruling time expired

He had retired and was living a solitary life; he spent it thinking, meditating and praying. All the animals could feel only respect and love for him. He would welcome, guide and help whoever needed him. They all called him ‘the good king of the elephants’.

One day in the forest, the animals heard a man who was desperately trying to find his way among thorny bushes. Shrubs and vines barred his path, but he went on through the inextricable tangle of plants, looking lost and haggard. Having gone round and round in circles, he was finally exhausted. His clothes were torn, his body was covered with blood and he hopelessly wrung his hands.

Then he pleaded, “Please, help me!”

Nobody answered. There were no men around.

The white elephant heard all this and went in the direction of the man, finding him caught in the thorn bushes. He came nearer and held his trunk towards the man. Frightened, the man stepped back. The elephant froze. So did the man. The elephant made a step ahead, but the man stepped back again. The elephant approached more slowly this time.

The man said to himself, “This elephant stops every time I step back. Maybe it does not want to hurt me,” so he stopped moving.

Good-hearted Mana approached him and asked, “Why are you crying and complaining, man?”

“I’ve lost my way in this forest, and I’m afraid I am going to die,” the man answered.

“Don’t be afraid,” Mana replied. “I am going to put you back onto the road to Gorakhpur and there you will find your folks.”

He very cautiously put his trunk around the man, put him on his back and started walking out of the forest.

Feeling reassured, the man accepted Mana’s help.

On his way, he thought, “What a lovely story to tell my friends!”

Then he watched his surroundings attentively. He wanted to remember all the incidents and asperities, the mountains, the hills, the ponds, the streams and the big trees. On reaching the main road, the elephant set the man gently on the road and said, “Here you are. This is the road, man. It will take you right to Gorakhpur. Go in peace! Now, I will ask only for one thing: Don’t tell anybody what happened and how I helped you, whatever the questions you are being asked.”



The man was greedy

The man thanked the elephant and, as he left for Gorakhpur, he was in a lively mood. But he was greedy and covetous, so his thought went to the kind elephant’s beautiful tusks. As soon as he arrived, he went back to Varanasi and popped into a shop where they sold ivory objects. He asked them, “How much would you give, dear masters, for the tusks of a living elephant?”

“You ask?” the eldest said. “The tusks of a living elephant are far more expensive then those of a dead one. Bring them to us and you will get good money for it.”

As he was walking home, the man said to himself, “The elephant looked very kind. I could convince him to give me one of his tusks. That would mean a lot of money.”

No sooner said than done. He took a saw and went back to the Himalayan forest where the good king of the elephants
lived. Surprised to see him back, the white elephant asked, “Why have you come back man? What brings you here?”
“Misery, my dear white elephant,” the impostor answered. “I have nothing to eat. Give me your tusks. I will sell them in Varanasi and that will earn me a living.”

Shocked by such a shameless demand, the white elephant thought the matter over and concluded that it had to be so. He answered, “Do you realize what you are asking for?”

The man remained silent.

“Okay, brother man. I will give you one of my tusks.

Have you got a tool to cut it?”

“I have brought a saw,” the greedy fellow said.

So the elephant lay down and let the man saw one of his tusks.

Feeling happy, the man added, “My dear elephant, one tusk won’t do without its pair. Let me have it, so that I won’t have to come back when the money for the first one is spent.”

The determination and effrontery of the man dumfounded the elephant. “Are you going to leave me without any defense?” he asked. “Don’t you know they were precious to me and that I am going to miss them? Thanks to them, I have survived. Well, brother man, if you really think they will be useful to you, take them and do what you think is right. So, take my second tusk,” Mana said kindly.

Fearing neither God nor man, the ruthless guy took the tusks away without expressing any thanks. He sold them for a very good price indeed to the craftsmen in Varanasi. For some time, he led a debauched life, and he soon squandered all the money he received from the sale.

Then he went back to the Himalayan forest to see the kind-hearted elephant and said, “Dear white elephant, I’ve sold your tusks, but the money has already gone. Again I am in a state of great misery, starving to death. Have mercy on me. Give me what is left of your tusks so that I may sell them too.”

“What is your name, nameless man?” Mana asked.

“Goruk,” the man replied with a slight grin that distorted his embarrassed smile.

The white elephant took a long look at the dishonest man. He had a glimpse of the man’s lost soul, locked in all his gross coverings, in his passions, his desires, his excessive jealousy. He said to himself that since he had already given his tusks, why not continue. Goruk cut them again, took the ivory away and left without thanking Mana.


All the creatures were in turmoil

The animals had seen it all and they spread the news all over the Himalayas. They were in turmoil and could not understand how a creature could behave so poorly, guided by greed alone. Each one of them had a point of view, but they all agreed to condemn the man’s attitude.

The facts reached the ears of Lord Tiger who, feeling offended, agreed with the animals: “We won’t take it!”

Let him be in peace

It was not long of course before the man’s money was squandered anew and greedy Goruk was again on his way to the Himalayan forest. On meeting the white elephant, he stated bluntly, “You gave me your tusks and all that was left of them. Now you must give me the roots. You don’t need them anymore, whereas I could draw money from them.”

Good-hearted Mana lay down again and let ungrateful Goruk help himself to the roots of his tusks. He grasped the head of the elephant and dug out the roots where the two beautiful tusks formerly emerged. He took them away with him, purring with pleasure at the idea of the money he would get by selling them. There were no thanks, nothing for Mana, the generous elephant.

As Mana watched him go, he felt compassion and thought, “Well, I’ve given him everything he asked for. I hope it will help him. Let him be in peace!”

To be continued…



Illustrations by THOMAS KLEIN



Papiguy from Montpellier is a retired communication trainer, psychotherapist, and assistant of the director of the Grotowski Theatre Laboratory in Poland, leading creation sessions through the voice. In 1981, an encounter with Babuji rev... Read More