Power, Patience, Prosperity: The Symbolic Meaning Of Elephants

Elephant statue in Chiang Mai

For the past week, I have been in Chiang Mai, Thailand and keep seeing elephants. Not the enigmatic grey mammals, but images of elephants; symbols. This is the work of my subconscious drawing elephants to my attention; in temples, on photographs, in business logos, trimmed out of bushes, decorations in gardens and shopping malls.

But why do I keep seeing elephants?

Because this is how the subconscious communicates with us. Through symbols and repetitive experiences. Symbolism is all around us today, yet is an archaic mechanism that has been handed down over millennia.

Consequently, the subconscious mind has a memory of this knowledge and tries to draw our attention to things we need to know. Symbolism is just one way for the subconscious to do that. Dreams are another.

Have you ever had a dilemma that caused you problems for days or weeks; even months? But then you’re in a conversation and somebody randomly says something that answers your problem.

Sometimes you overhear the solution in a conversation somebody else is having. Oftentimes, the information comes to you out of the blue in a book or, these days, on the internet.

All these experiences are the work of your subconscious mind drawing your attention towards information you need to know. This is the subconscious mind in “thrive” mode.

You will have all had experiences of the subconscious mind bringing information to your attention so that it becomes manifest in the conscious mind. Once information is in the conscious mind, you have the power to do something about it.

When you know this, you can use symbolism as a tool to help guide you through life.

When I first began the research for my latest book, ‘The Search For Truth’ I stayed in a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, and asked a monk there what elephants symbolised. He told me, “Thailand”.

Obviously, the monk was joking. But when I pressed him on it, he changed the subject. Perhaps the monk didn’t know, but I suspected he would have known something – even if it was only the superficial version offered to lay people by Buddhist authorities: elephants are a symbol of good luck, strength, tenacity, intelligence, peace and composure they tell us.

Keeping the deeper meaning of symbols secret is how secret societies work. And don’t be fooled into thinking modern religions are not secret societies. Certain factions of organised religions harbour ancient wisdom so that is concealed behind sacred symbolism and hidden from the knowledge of the masses they want to control.

The same exact symbols.

Airavata elephant symbol

Airavata is a three-headed elephant from Hindy mythology

These age-old symbols were developed by wise men long before any of the modern religions existed.

What’s more, organised religions conceal most of the ancient wisdom these symbols represent. All we are offered is a snippet of information which is nothing more than superficial advice, useless in and of itself.

When you have a deeper understanding of how the mind-body-energy system works with the natural laws of the Universe, you can apply the powerful teachings presented to us within religious texts in ways that are empowering, fulfilling and beneficial.

You have latent powers, they just need to be given a little nudge.

Esoteric Symbolism and Elephants

The ancient sages that developed esoteric symbolism used animals, plants and the elements of nature to explain the inherent qualities of man. The symbolism pertaining to elephants reveals the strength and steadfast character of these impressive animals.

>Whilst these qualities are the physical attributes of this powerful creature, the esoteric meaning relates to the human mind. Strength and steadfastness are merely qualities we need to cultivate in our thinking in order to transform kinetic energy (that has potential) into manifest energy (something we desire to create).

All energy has potential and all energy transforms. We manifest energy by how we think, feel and act.

Buddhist texts explain the way to reach Nirvana is to strengthen the mind and concentrate on one point of focus. We also have to show mental courage and patience to overcome adversity that life rolls into our path.

Strength of mind is the objective taught in many types of meditation practices.

The true meaning of the elephant is somewhat misconstrued today. For example, in Asia, it is common for people to hang up works of art throughout their home, or stand ornate statues by the front door. They do this because they are superstitious and believe the elephant totem will bring them good fortune, and good health.

But it is not the picture or ornament of the elephant that brings fortune. It is applying the qualities of elephants that manifest energies into experiences we consider to be “good fortune.” You don’t good luck or bad luck, you have good energy or bad energy.

elephant symbolism

Ganesha is the remover of obstacles and the placer of obstacles

This is also how symbolism works. Read on, and I will explain.

The Elephant in Symbolism

On a fundamental level, we are told elephants are a symbol of strength and wisdom. On a deeper level, the elephant calls to us with a reminder to focus your powers on your inner strength; break bad energies – habits, attitudes and personality traits. Once you do this you transform energy in a different way because you are thinking, feeling and doing things in a different way. As a result, you will have different experiences.

This mammoth of an animal is also a reminder for you to be responsible and accountable for your actions, to have the mental strength to stick to your goals and improve your ability to overcome emotions.

The pull of emotional strings is the hardest thing to overcome. This is the work of the dark aspects of the programmed subconscious; the little demon voice that leads you astray or tries to tempt you into self-gratification and indulgence.

Overcoming emotional weaknesses and being able to control urges is one of the hardest challenges you will face in life. These are the times when you are called upon most to summon the qualities of an elephant; strength, persistence and commitment.

The Symbolic Meaning of Elephants in Africa

In African folklore, elephants are honoured as former chiefs. They are venerated for their cooperation, endurance and devotion. The lesson for African tribes is to remain faithful to their leader.

The esoteric meaning of the “leader” to which you should remain obedient is your higher conscious mind, the Cosmic Intelligence that will give you everything you need. All you have to do is be silent and trust your intuition.

Just like elephants, the Super-Conscious mind is powerful and nurturing. But it is also destructive. This is the yin and yang that is inherent in nature. Energy also opposite charges; positive pole and negative pole. Everything in nature needs to find equilibrium.

If you create energies with an uncontrolled mind, your conscious thoughts will stampede through life like a rampaging elephant. These traits are obviously the negative aspects of an elephant and something you never want to experience.

So why would you want to have this experience in your mind?

But an elephant is naturally calm and peaceful despite being a great hulk of a beast. This is how you want to train your brain to be. Have confidence in your higher-self and good luck will come to you.

To trust the Universal Mind (God) to which you are intricately connected, you have to be able to listen. By ‘listen’ I mean, be still, silent, quieten the mind and become immune to all distractions. The ability to listen is represented by the huge ears of the elephant.

Walking elephants

This is why it is important to train the brain to be still and concentrate on one single point of focus. If you are not silent, you are not listening. Thus you will not be guided by your Super Intelligence.

The elephant totem is also connected with the element of water thus reminds us to connect with our feminine principles; nurturing, compassionate and caring. These are also qualities of the elephant that help teach us how to bring harmony into our lives.

When you have harmony in your life, arguments and disappointment cease. You feel content all the time and have control over your emotions – or to put it another way, you have control over the elements.

This is one of the meanings given to us in the Christian parable of Jesus calming the storm.

Elephant Symbolism in Buddhism

In Buddhist legend, the elephant is synonymous with the birth of Buddha; to be precise, a white elephant representing the purity of mind – the mind of a Bodhi.

It is said that on the night Queen Maya fell pregnant with Siddhartha (the future Buddha), a white elephant came to her in a dream, presented her with a white lotus and proceeded to circle around her three times before entering her womb on the right side of her body.

The white elephant is therefore connected to fertility, the ability to create. Again, we see here the elephant depicted as a symbol of mental strength – concentration – which is the principal aspect of how we manifest things we need in life.

The story of the historical Buddha’s inception promotes the idea of training your mind to be pure – empty and silent; and strong – fearless and determined.

Furthermore, it is said that when an elephant appears in a dream, it denotes overcoming an obstacle – a symbol associated with the elephant-headed god Ganesha. However, the Hindu god is also known to be the placer of obstacles, revealing that the mind can create a smooth passage or one fraught with difficulty.

This concept is also evident in Buddhist iconography. Grey elephants running wild or with demons on their backs denote a mind that is uncontrolled. Like an elephant fleeing in fear or rage, the uncontrolled mind is destructive.

It is important to note here, even though elephants represent good fortune, they can also represent bad fortune. It all depends on how you control your mind.

Let’s look at another example, this time from Hindu myth.

The Symbolic Meaning of Elephants in Hinduism

The elephant-headed Ganesha is probably the most recognised god of the Hindu pantheon. In keeping with the wider symbolic meaning of the elephant, Lord Ganesha is considered to be the “Lord of Good Fortune who provides prosperity, fortune and success.”

Ganesh. Hindu elephant symbol

It’s important to note here the distinction between the meaning of the words prosperity, fortune and success. Ordinarily, they would be associated with money – thus in a physical or material aspect.

In a spiritual sense, prosperity relates to progression, fortune to good or bad luck and success to achievement. True wealth, richness, is overcoming material possessions and taking control of your emotions. When you can do this, you always feel content, satisfied, balanced and in harmony with your surroundings.

This is the state of Samadhi as the Hindus call it, or Nirvana as they say in Buddhism.

Lord Ganesh is considered to be one of the gods that reign over prosperity, fortune and success. So what does this mean?

We need to look deeper.

Other attributes assigned to Ganesh are knowledge and wisdom. He is often pictured holding a book of scripture. It is quite obvious that we need knowledge. But it is by adopting the patience associated with elephants that we acquire wisdom.

Wisdom is achieved by acting upon the knowledge you have you gained.

Ganesha is also associated with beginnings and is the remover of obstacles. When his trunk is raised, it is symbolic of overcoming obstacles. This is true for any elephant you see in iconography.

A lesser-known attribute of the elephant-headed God is that He is also the placer of obstacles. His role here is to test initiates and determine whether you have learnt your lesson and worthy of good fortune etc.

This is important to remember because in life, and along the spiritual journey, we will encounter obstacles. But these challenges mean you are on the right path. However, you only know this is you are consciously aware of the path you should be on.

When you flow through life without any direction and are ignorant of the subconscious mind, you learn very little. This is because they do not realise you are being tested or what you are being tested on.

But the subconscious mind wants to evolve. We are energy and energy has to transform. We are consciousness and consciousness wants to survive and thrive.

Airavata, the Flying Hindu Elephant

Many of the elephant statues you will find in the Hindu and Buddhist temples of South-East Asia are the three-headed elephant Airavata, also known as Erawan in Thailand. In myth, Airavata is sometimes described as having 33 heads, signifying he is a master of the mind.

Airavata, Hindu and Buddhist symbolism

Airavata, the 3-headed flying horse of Hindu myth in a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai

Airavata originally stems from Hindu mythology as the Vamana (vehicle) of Indra, king of the gods. In the Ramayana, Indra tells us that Airavata would not permit him to mislead people into thinking, or perhaps perceiving, something about him which was not true.

When the god was offered a garland of good fortune, Indra draped it on Airavata’s tusk in a gesture to say he had no ego. But Airavata knew better and cast the garland to the ground. Indra was grateful to Airavata for teaching him to be honest and without falsehood.

Here we see a reflection of the symbolic meaning given in Buddhism; the elephant remember is a symbol meaning ‘to be steadfast’ and unwavering for which you sometimes need the strength of mind to be patient.

Airavata could fly so is also known as the elephant of the clouds. Like Indra, the weather god, or thunder god, Airavata is associated with water and rain, indicating he resembles creative attributes.

Indra is the equivalent of the Zeus in Greek mythology and Thor in Norse mythology. All three carry a weapon that generates lightning bolts – a symbol that represents the connection between heaven and earth – the Super Conscious with the mortal conscious.

Airavata is an extension of this philosophical thought. In a battle against Indra and the dragon-demon Vritra, Airavata sucks up all the water from the Underworld and sprays it into the clouds.

This scene from Hindu myth reflects how a strong mind, when trained to be silent and concentrate, can cross the three realms; physical, ethereal and astral. Again, we see here why elephants are auspicious creates that represent power and peace.

When you practice dharma and bring your mind under control, you are easily guided by the Super-Conscious Mind and can live in a state of peace and harmony. The white elephant, a symbol of purity, serves as a reminder to maintain mental strength to overcome our faults and weaknesses.

With practice and patience, you learn to overcome obstacles. Mindfulness meditation helps you to cultivate your mind, emotions and actions. This is the process of transformation that will give you a better quality of life.

Just in case you’re wondering, the reason why I was seeing elephants is that I need to develop mental strength in my life again right now. On the one hand, I know I need to make a start on the writing of my book. On the other hand, I know I need a work-life balance to protect my health.

Subsequently, that means dropping some of my client work to free up time – at the expense of money. Writers don’t make a lot of money anyway so sacrificing a little more is not an easy decision to make. However, my subconscious has spoken. This week I started work on my book.

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