Learning is not all about remembering or acquiring knowledge. A mind, which is caught up in what it has learnt, often misses the obvious lessons of that knowledge.
A tale of a wise guru drives home this point. The guru taught the deep and sophisticated beliefs that he held to his pupils. In the course of teaching, he pointed out that God resided in everything and everyone. He then urged his students to treat everyone with deference and love as all were a part of the same God.
One of the disciples took this literally. Out on a job for the guru, he saw a mad elephant charging down the road. The mahout was screaming loudly and asking everyone to clear out. He was shouting that the elephant had gone mad and the situation was dangerous. The pupil who remembered the words of the guru affirming that God resides in everyone, paid no heed. He stood deferentially with his head bowed and eyes filled with love. As both he and the elephant were part of the same God, the elephant would not harm him. He paid no heed to the frantic appeals of the mahout and stood where he was. The elephant picked him up and flung him aside. As he lay bruised and bleeding he wondered where the guru had gone wrong. He felt angry, disillusioned and also a bit bewildered.
The guru and other pupils who came in search of him found him in a bad shape. He was in great pain and cursing. He was reproaching God and the guru who had let him down.
Hearing his laments the guru did not bother to explain but just smiled. As the other students suppressed their mirth, the guru said, ‘True, God resides in all. That includes the mahout as well. Why did he not listen to the mahout?’
The student may not have understood but the lesson remains. Action taken, based on knowledge one has not understood, can be disastrous. This is as true today as in the time when this folklore originated. Young minds rushing into acts of terror with self-righteous fervour often meet with disaster. That is the danger of following the scriptures with a narrow interpretation, while ignoring its larger humane message. As they rush into extreme acts they can’t see the mad elephant charging down the road!