Shri Babaji Maharaj narrated the parable of the king who wished to learn how to remain unattached in this world, while living in the midst of relationships.
One day the king was going out into his kingdom, dressed in rich, princely robes and astride a large decorated elephant. He met a mahatma coming his way. He stopped the elephant and saluted the mahatma and said to him:
Sire can you teach me how to live peacefully in this world without being attached to anything? My mind remains constantly in turmoil due to my numerous attachments. I cannot renounce the world because I have to attend to my subjects and my kingdom, and I cannot live peacefully in it either.
The mahatma pondered for a while and then said to the king rather abruptly: I will tell you soon. But first give me your elephant and your princely robes and let me ride on your elephant!
The king was surprised, but got off the elephant and gave his robes to the mahatma. The mahatma got on the elephant and began riding in splendour. The king walked by the side of the elephant. The mahatma really appeared to be enjoying the ride and the scenery and the salutes he was getting from the public. After a short while, he asked the king:
O king! Tell me, who is enjoying these princely vestments and the elephant?
You, sire, said the king.
Now tell me, O king – if the robes catch fire and are burnt, and the elephant dies–who will be grieved? asked the mahatma.
I will be grieved, said the king.
That is the secret of life, said the mahatma, “I am enjoying your robes and elephant but I am not attached to them–because I know they belong to you! How can I be attached to something that does not belong to me? I am enjoying them in an unattached way. Therefore when they go, I shall not be grieved. Rather I shall think it is your loss because they belong to you.
“In a like manner when you think of this world and all its objects and relationships as belonging to God, then you enjoy everything, without becoming attached to it, and taking it to be from Him! And when anything is gone you are not grieved because you know you had no real relationship with it and were never really mentally attached to it. You knew it belonged to God alone. This is the way of leading a life of renunciation in the midst of worldly attachments, of living like a saint while being a man of the world.