Birth Memory

Extract from Padma and the Elephant Sutra

Maya pressed further, “And what of your birth, what do you remember of being born? Such a momentous event,” she squelched, “every elephant remembers it.”

Maya recalled her own stressful birth, a feeling which endured. Her long slumber, the insistent pressing. It pushed and squeezed her out of the gentle world where she lay secure and content. She shuddered, recalling the thud of landing on the ground, the intense cold, the piercing lights, and deafening sounds.

Talking with others, she realised not everyone shared her story. Often delayed, most calves continue to grow in the womb until tall enough to suckle. Some described their earliest memories as suffocating, a restless waiting. Others recalled their giddy excitement, the assault on their senses, and the sheer wonder of the new world.

She thought of her own deliveries, how she kicked and dragged her first with her hind leg until the reluctant newborn stood up and walked. Yet her youngest never stopped wriggling, hungry to live. If anything can break the amnesia which Padma suffers, perhaps it will be her birth memories.

“I remember the tree roots lifting me. The tree spirits told me my waiting was over, the moment had arrived. I remember rising from the water, acclaimed by many voices. When I stood in the clay, I did not know what I was. I listened to Aliya and understood everything she said, but I did not know what she was. When you washed me in the river, something began to stir in me, I realised I was a thing apart. Now I see, like you, I am an elephant. I am born of water and shall return to water.”

Maya considered Padma’s comments. Indeed, like our ancestors, we will transmute into the evanescent vapours. Returning to the timeless herds which traverse the earth, to rain life on all creatures, as is our destiny. But elephant is born of elephant. Of that I am certain.


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