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The awesome Elephant Theory

Updated on October 8, 2015

I was sifting through the pages of my old notebooks when I came across the mention of one of the most significant theories I have ever heard in my life - The Elephant Theory! I know that the mention of its name will perplex many but well, the name need not have any relation to the theory. This interesting theory was propounded by my favourite Physics teacher from high school and it changed my perspective about the Universe I live in, completely. And when my eyes fell on that piece of paper, memories came flooding in. Nostalgia made me rush to the computer to share this awesome theory with everyone who lends me an ear!

Now that I have caught your attention, let me explain this theory in the same manner as it was done to me, years ago.

Once upon a time, there was a two-dimensional (2D) world...

Wait a minute! What is a two-dimensional world????
It is that world where there are only lengths and breadths - no heights! Instead of the globe that forms our world holding everything, in the two dimensional world, everything is completely fit on a huge circular, flat sheet.

Moving back to the story, the people in this two dimensional world were agog with excitement. They had been observing and studying 7 heavenly bodies and after lots of efforts by their best scientists, had finally arrived at equations to describe their motion. It was common knowledge and observation that the 7 bodies were somehow linked and that they always moved together. And now, the scientists had perfect equations that described their motion.

Theories were made to govern the movement of the observed seven heavenly bodies of the 2D world
Theories were made to govern the movement of the observed seven heavenly bodies of the 2D world

Research papers were released and doctorates conferred upon many who were working at thi 'frontier' science. But then, something that always happens in the world, happened - someone noticed an anomalous motion of the little body shown to the extreme right in the 2-D body system.

And in order to accommodate this apparent discrepancy, new equations were written, the existing theories modified and greater research was encouraged. There was success and the discrepancies in the theory were solved. Once again, the scientific community rejoiced and all were happy. The joy was short-lived as more anomalies came up and the scientists made more efforts and modifications.This iterative process went on and on. So much was the continuous tweaking that one also felt that maybe the first theory was actually right and the anomaly observed then was only a freak. While this continuous freaking and tweaking went on, Science benefited and grew to amazing proportions in the 2D world.

No theory could explain completely the different anomalous movements of the different bodies.
No theory could explain completely the different anomalous movements of the different bodies.

Science progressed but the mystery of the seven bodies was never solved completely. Science could never satisfactorily explain the movement. The geniuses among the scientists worked harder on this frontier area of research. And then, one day, one among them received a brilliant flash of intuition! In a moment, he knew the entire dynamics of the seven bodies. He predicted the next movement due for the little body and wonder of wonders- that proved to be exactly true!

The scientific community was thrilled. They sought the magical equations from this genius. They were, however, in for disappointment! He gave no equations. Instead he said,
This is actually very simple. Equations cannot solve it for it is beyond the mind. All you need is to broaden your vision. The answer will be clear!
That seemed so cranky!

“Give us a damn equation”, they screamed.
“All your equations are right but all of them are wrong too!” was his reply
“He is not a scientist but a crazy philosopher!"
"He may get the answers right but that is either plain fluke or amazing coincidence - definitely not scientific."

They concluded thus and his ability to predict the movement was considered some hoax or magic. When people swore that they had experienced his predictions come true, they were branded as fools and misguided souls. The scientist was also branded by some as a black magician / a con artist / a religious nut. However, there were a few in the 2-D that decided to trust their own experience. They placed their faith in that scientist and began to do as he said. They broadened their vision and immediately, they too knew the answer! They were thrilled at the simplicity and magic of the method. But could they give some equations?

They could not! However, now, they too had the answer and began to say,
“Broaden you vision and become like us. Then you too will see the solution.”

Again, there was divided opinion whether these people were great scientists or great fools. But little did the ignorant realize that one had to broaden one’s vision from a 2D to a 3D perspective and everything would become so simple.

For the seven bodies were nothing but the stomach, four legs, trunk and tail of an elephant seen in cross section! The crazy movement of the bodies was in fact the happy romping of an elephant!

How can you ever make theories that govern how the legs, trunk and tail of an elephant move? They are completely random - till one is able to see the whole picture, the elephant!

Central body is the tummy, the four corners are the legs, the remaining two are the tail and trunk!
Central body is the tummy, the four corners are the legs, the remaining two are the tail and trunk!

How many times we see and yet do not see only because we lack broadness of vision? And when someone with that broad vision inspires us to become like him so that we too see and experience the solution, do we make efforts?

"Pashyannapi Na Pashyati Mudho Mudho Mudho" my master Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba exhorts. It means, "The fool is unable to see in spite of seeing." This blindness in spite of seeing is what makes us fail in seeing the elephant!

I am grateful to my high school Physics teacher for having taught me the wonderful Elephant Theory.


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© 2011 Aravind Balasubramanya


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    • aravindb1982 profile imageAUTHOR

      Aravind Balasubramanya 

      7 years ago from Puttaparthi, India

      Sairam VKN,

      Indeed interesting are the ways in which God and the universe connects us. Glad that you arrived here. And yes, I am the same Aravind who spoke in Chennai in August 2014. :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Dear Arvind,

      Today, just before I started to write a foreword and was wondering how to start, I opened the Daily Message from RadioSai. There was a very appropriate line in it, followed by ' Pashyannapi na pashyathi mudho '. I wanted to check if 'cha ' should be introduced in it. So, I googled this line and your blog came up. So, now in know, Swami blessed what ever I wrote.

      Are you the same Arvind who came to Chennai in August 2014 and gave a talk at Sundaram at the Chennai Metro District Conference? VKN

    • OhioGrant profile image

      Grant Coleman 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      The amazing thing here is that I wrote a very similar hub about an elephant story. Similar in point at least. The elephant is quickly becoming one of my favorite creatures. I love this concept! Check out my elephant hub and tell me what you think. I think you will be astonished to find that the moral of our stories is very much the same, despite taking a totally different route to get there. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Dr. O. P. Sudrania 

      9 years ago

      "Where science stops, Spirituality starts", Sri Satya Sai Baba used to say. This theory is a stark example of his saying. How deja vu is His prediction.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Sailesh Sir is simply AWESOME!!!!!! wish I could get back to school :)

    • profile image

      Pooja Digumarti 

      9 years ago

      otra vez demostrado que las grandes verdades se esconden en pequeñas historias

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      thanx barru for taking me back to my 12th std awareness class and reminding me of the eternal debate: Are you awake?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love, love, love this Anna! :)

      You know when I read things like this, I just know there was a reason why God gave me an over-active imagination ;) To tell me, whatever we think is impossible, is in fact, ALWAYS POSSIBLE.

      Thanks Anna!

    • aravindb1982 profile imageAUTHOR

      Aravind Balasubramanya 

      9 years ago from Puttaparthi, India

      @ Spirit Whisperer - What you say is very true- NOthing explains better than a story or a parable! :)

      @ Debarshi - That is definitely another powerful example for being in the world but not allowing the world get into you! Thank you for sharing it.

      @ Padmashree - Thank you for the compliments aunty! I too am one among those attempting to keep a broad vision always!

      @ Mr.Happy - Thank you......I have blessed to meet some awesome teachers!

      @Arpita - thank you lil one. I feel most happy when young minds are inspired!

    • profile image

      Arpita Mallajosyula 

      9 years ago

      such simple and lovely ways to explain such winderful profound concepts...!!! really really nice aravind anna...!! and the plane example was also very nice...jus thngs of everyday life but very few of us look at the lessons they silently give us... :)

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Haha! Thank you. Great lesson - I loved it!

      Yes, you are an awesome teacher. May Wakan Tanka always walk with you.

      Peace, Amigo.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Strangely put but thought-provoking theory! And who better than a cameraman can be more familiar with this concept, zooming in and zooming out..Also called Macro-view perhaps:)Old habits die hard and we mostly operate with our good old habit of micro-view, (which I feel has it's own significance too). Besides the many advantages we can have with such a vision, macro-view really helps when we are in a difficult helps us keep our cool, it helps us take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Most of us know all this but how much are we putting into practice is the million-dollar question! We just need to keep trying and trying to practice broadening our vision as often as possible.

    • profile image

      Jayanthi Iyer 

      9 years ago

      Out of the world!Beyond my imagination but so nicely explained.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Dear Arvind,

      This reminded me of a similar situation. Imagine a plane flying up high in the sky, free and unhindered. But it's shadow, falling on the rugged land below has to go over all the ruggedness of the land, sometimes climbing up the hill, sometimes falling on the lake or the river, sometimes caressed by the swaying grasses. While the plane in its true state is untouched, unsullied, it's shadow goes through all the trouble and misery...does it ring a bell?

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      9 years ago from Isle of Man

      Aravind this is truly genius. You have described the human condition so accurately by so simple a story. Is it no wonder that the great teachers like Jesus used parables to breach the walls that defend us from the truth! Thank you.


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