The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something, but to be something.
– Muhammad Iqbal
Cow and Tiger
Once upon a time, a cow went out to graze in the jungle. Suddenly, she noticed a tiger racing towards her. She turned and fled, fearing that at any moment the tiger would sink his claws into her. The cow desperately looked for someplace to escape and at last, saw a shallow pond. Barely evading the tiger’s reach, she jumped into the pond, and in the heat of the chase, the tiger blindly leaped after her.
To the surprise of them both, the pond was extremely shallow yet filled with deep recesses of mud. After toppling over each other, the cow and the tiger found themselves a short distance apart, stuck in the mud up to their necks. Both had their heads above water but were unable to free themselves no matter how much they writhed.
The tiger repeatedly snarled at the cow and roared, “I am going to enjoy the sound of crunching your bones between my teeth!”
He thrashed about in a fury but soon became fretful as he found no prospect of escape.
The cow thoughtfully laughed as the tiger struggled to free himself and asked him, “Do you have a master?”
The tiger disdainfully replied, “I am the king of the jungle. Why do you ask me if I have a master? I myself am the master!”
The cow said, “You may be the king of the jungle, but here all your power has failed to save your life.”
“And what about you?” Retorted the tiger. “You are going to die here in this mud too!”’
The cow smiled mildly and said, “No, I am not.”
“If even I, the king of the jungle cannot free myself from this mud”, snapped the tiger, “Then how can you, an ordinary cow?”
The cow gently replied, “I cannot free myself from this mud, but my master can. When the sun sets and he finds me absent at home, he will come looking for me. Once he finds me, he will raise me up and escort me home sweet home.”
The tiger fell silent and coldly glared at the cow.
Soon enough, the sunset and the cow’s master arrived. He immediately recognized the plight she was in and lifted her to safety. As they walked home, the cow and the master both felt renewed gratitude for one another and pitied the tiger they both would have been happy to save if only the tiger had allowed them.
The cow represents a surrendered heart, the tiger represents an egoistic mind, and the master represents the Guru. The mud represents the world, and the chase represents the struggle for existence therein.
Let no man in the world live in delusion. Without a Guru none can cross over to the other shore.
– Guru Nanak