The Elephant and the Silversmith

by Kripamaya das

Not too long ago my wife and I went out to California to visit our daughter. On Christmas day, Shalu, the sister of my daughter’s husband, gave me a beautiful red diary. On the cover was an embossed, hand sown elephant with its trunk high in the air. I asked her:

“What is the significance of the elephant? She replied:

“It is the elephant of good luck”

“Why is that?

“Just see how the elephant has lifted up its trunk. In the same way this little book can lift up your spirits.”

As I flipped through the empty pages I thought “How is that possible? This book is as vacant as my brain, I’ve never kept a diary…probably never will…so how on earth will this book lift my spirits?”

The following Sunday my daughter invited about twenty devotees over to usher in the New Year with a kirtan. After prasadam the diary was lying on the floor near the altar. Just to pass the time I picked it up and showed it to a young devotee named Vaikuntha das who had come from L.A. with his wife Dauji Krishna dasi. After looking over my shoulder to make sure Shalu was not around I whispered:

“Prabhu! What do you think I should do with this diary? I’ll never use it! It looks too precious to throw out. If I give it away and Shalu finds out I’ll be in her dog house”.

Vaikuntha das took the diary from my hand, stroked its velvet cover and exclaimed,

“Hey! The elephant on this cover reminds me of a verse from the Bhagavad-Gita”

“What? What are talking about?”

Without any hesitation Vaikuntha das immediately quoted the Sanskrit and English to the 27th verse of the tenth chapter where Lord Krishna says “Of elephants I am Airavata, who rose out of the ocean, born from the elixir of immortality.” I was amazed.

“How could you remember that so quickly? It was as if you plucked it right out thin air”

“Easy…I just finished memorizing the Sanskrit and English of the tenth chapter. Now I am working on the transliterations.”

“You memorized the entire tenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita?” I gasped

“Sure! It is fun memorizing verses. Our minds are like a muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Not only does memorizing slokas purify our hearts, it is like doing pushups with the mind. You told me you like to walk every day to keep your body fit…right?


“Well… In the same way memorizing slokas helps our minds from becoming obese and out of shape.”

“Yea… But… I’ve tried memorizing verses…” I whined, “It gives me a headache!”

Vaikuntha das was perplexed by my words. For a moment he looked at the dairy. Then looking me straight in the eye he handed me the book and said:

“You know something? Elephants have great memories. I think that’s why Krishna wants you to have this diary. Since Airavata rose out of the nectar of immortality there is something you can do with this book that is truly nectarine and uplifting?”

“What’s that?

“Why don’t you write down the names of the devotees you meet, record their favorite Bhagavad-Gita verses, and ask them to teach them to you? By the blessings of the vaishnavas you’ll improve your memory and never forgot Krishna’s instructions.” Then he added: “Don’t worry! Srila Prabhupada said “Even if you only remember one verse, if you fully realize that verse and carry it with you wherever you go, you’ll achieve perfection in Krishna consciousness.”

I thanked Vaikuntha das for his encouraging advice. With these thoughts dancing about in my mind I set about my little task.

Since then many devotees have shared with me their favorite Bhagavad-Gita verses. One of the most inspiring exchanges I had was from a devotee I’ve been corresponding with over the internet. After I e-mailed him to find out his favorite verse he sent back this reply:

“Thank you for the Krishna conscious inspiration and for the opportunity to associate with you. My favorite verse is:

“ ‘Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.’ BG 18:65

“The words that stay with me the most are “I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” They reveal Krishna’s unfathomable love for all of us. For myself, I need to be reminded of this, that Krishna is actually our very dear friend, and loves us more than we can conceive of at the present time. He wants us back, more than a loving father wants his lost sons back. He so kindly, gently and lovingly gives us the simple instructions on how to come back to Him. “Just always think of me …” (if only we were capable of following His instructions. Now I am inspired to send two more texts related to this. The first one is an excerpt from a morning walk conversation with Srila Prabhupada, which struck me as one of Srila Prabhupada’s most important instructions. The second is a parable I copied from a site called Here they are:

“No. 1

“A Morning Walk with Srila Prabhupada on March 23, 1968 in San Francisco

“ ‘ .. The practices recommended, they are very valuable. But it is not possible to follow them all in the present age … [Because] Everything is reducing. So our method is to pray to Krishna to give us the necessary strength … that’s all … Otherwise, by regular practice, oh, this age is very difficult … unfavorable. First thing is, memory is very short; you cannot remember … Life is very short … Life is short, at the same time, so much disturbed …by anxiety, by disease …by natural disturbances …Short life … that is also disturbed by disease and lamentation … Every moment there is something for which you have to lament–oh … Life is short, and it is so much disturbed … So how it is possible to practice? Therefore, this one practice–chanting Hare Krishna, and hearing–that is very nice …and praying to Krishna, “Please give me strength. Hare, O energy of Krishna, O Krishna, I am fallen; I have no strength. Please accept me … Ah, that’s all … I have no qualification … I am frail … I am trying, but I am failing … All these appeals should be made … And Krishna is all-powerful; He can do anything. Even if we do not perform … Trying our best, if we fail, oh Krishna will help us … Just like a child tries his best to walk, but he falls down; the mother takes up, “Alright, come on … walk” … Like that … ‘ “

“No. 2

“A Biblical prophet said in Malachi 3:3 says: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study class and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next class. That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse that says: “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.” She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. the man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?” He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy— when I see my image in it.” If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.”

After reading my friends e-mail I thanked Lord Krishna, I thanked Vaikuntha das, and I thanked the elephant on my book for lifting up my spirits. Last but not least, I thanked all the devotees who shared with me Krishna’s pearls of wisdom, especially Shalu for giving me the gift.

your servant
Kripamaya das

P.S. My dear reader, if you would like to share with me one of your favorite Bhagavad-Gita verses please feel free to do so by sending it to
Better yet… if by Krishna’s mercy we meet somewhere along the rocky ridges of New Vrindaban, please teach me that verse. You’ll make my day.

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