The elephant bodyguards

This is a striking incident in King Shivaji's life. A neighbouring king invited him to pay a visit and so Shivaji and his entourage went to see this king. During their meeting, Shivaji noticed that this particular king kept quite a few bodyguards plus two or three elephants beside him.

Shivaji asked the King, "Where is the need for these elephants? Here, we two are friends. You do not need protection."

The King answered, "I have to be prepared. If an enemy comes even at this very moment, my elephants will charge and trample that person."

"Am I then your enemy?" asked Shivaji.

"No," said his royal friend, "you are my true friend. But I have to be wise. The elephants are my bodyguards."

"Oh, these are your bodyguards," said Shivaji, quite puzzled.

"Yes," replied the King. Then he added, "Tell me, Shivaji, do you not keep bodyguards?"

"Certainly!" said Shivaji. "But I do not keep elephant bodyguards. I have human bodyguards."

"Can human bodyguards protect you if an entire army comes to attack you?" queried the King.

"My human bodyguards can protect me against any untoward events," insisted Shivaji. Then Shivaji asked one of his bodyguards to step forward.

The other King laughed. "Are you saying that this bodyguard alone can challenge and defeat my huge elephant?"

"Yes, he can," said Shivaji.

The other King felt that this debate had gone on long enough. He said, "All right, Shivaji, ask your bodyguard to kill my elephant here and now."

Shivaji gave the command and the bodyguard went and stood directly in front of the elephant. The elephant became enraged and charged the bodyguard, who turned and ran away. The other King was very satisfied with the outcome of the engagement, but it was far from over. In a tricky way, the bodyguard circled the elephant unnoticed and then he stepped forward and cut its trunk with his sword. The elephant's trunk was bleeding profusely and it was in extreme agony. Finally, in front of the two Kings and all those who had assembled, it lay down and died.

Shivaji calmly said to his host, "Here is the proof that my man-elephant is infinitely stronger than your animal-elephant. That is why I need only my human bodyguards."

Sri Chinmoy, Shivaji, Agni Press, 1997