Elephant In Gandhara School Of Art Indicates Whose Birth?
In early Gandharan art, when it was not yet permissible to represent the body of the Buddha himself, the portrayal of the Birth of the Buddha was depicted through the figure of his mother, Queen Maya, on a lotus (the symbol of miraculous birth), with two Naga elephants pouring the lustral water over her head.
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- 1 Was Buddha born from elephant?
- 2 What was predicted about Buddha when he was born?
- 3 What is the importance of elephant symbol?
- 4 What do elephants symbolize in Hinduism?
- 5 What animal is associated with the birth of the Buddha?
- 6 What was Buddha known as at birth?
- 7 What was unusual about Buddha when he was born?
- 8 Is Siddhartha Based on a true story?
- 9 Why is an elephant a symbol for a baby?
- 10 Who is the elephant in Hindu god?
- 11 What is the most sacred animal in Hinduism?
- 12 Are elephants lucky or unlucky?
- 13 What does the Thai elephant symbolize?
- 14 What does the elephant with its trunk up mean?
What does the Buddhist elephant represent?
Elephants in Buddhism Elephants have an important role in both the origins and the modern-day following of the Buddhist faith; a faith that is integral to Thai culture, Renowned for their wisdom, intelligence and patience, elephants have long been associated with the enlightened Buddha, whose teachings (dhamma) founded Buddhism.
Scriptures describe Buddha as the epitome of an elephant – calm, poised and alert. Like an elephant, he was said to turn around to see behind him instead of looking over his shoulder. It is said that, before being reincarnated in human form, Buddha lived as an elephant many times, which means that elephants are too sacred for Buddhists to eat.
Elephants frequently represent Buddha in Buddhist texts. Many believe Buddha is reincarnated from white elephants which descended from heaven. Even today, white elephants are associated with godliness and royalty, and revered because of their rarity. Queen Maya, who ruled northern India (now Nepal) over 2500 years ago, is said to have dreamed of a white elephant that disappeared into her side.
The Queen believed that this higher being had enabled her pregnancy and that her son would be a powerful leader. She subsequently gave birth to the Buddha Prince Siddhartha. The Lotus Sutra, a sacred scripture of Buddhism, describes the elephant as “meditating” and “utterly composed”. The scripture relates Buddhist values to the elephant’s physical attributes, stating that “Dhamma is in his belly”, the tusks represent “equanimity”, the large head represents “careful consideration” and the tail represents “solitude”.
Buddhists believe the physical world is generated by the inner energy, or karmic activity, of sentient beings. As guardians of Buddha and Earth, the elephants’ physical strength supposedly indicates mental strength and responsibility. Because elephants are so wise, many Buddhists believe elephant symbols can evoke ‘luminosity’- a clear state of mind pursued through meditation.
This may explain their prominence in Asian architecture (see journal post ). Elephants have been credited with helping Buddha to reach enlightenment (an understanding of the meaning behind the physical world). This understanding constitutes karmic activity, which many believe generates the physical world in order to guide followers.
The Buddha also used elephants in parables to teach his philosophy (look out for our next journal article on elephants and religious teaching). He chose the elephant’s way of life as one to aspire to: elephants, females in particular, are loyal to their leader (matriarch) and family; they only resort to physical aggression if needed for defense; they are usually calm, patient listeners.
This resembles the meditative state which Buddhists hope to embody for passive, reflective learning. People dedicated to pursuing enlightenment, or ‘Bodhisattvas’, are often depicted astride an elephant (as in our lead photo), suggesting that knowledge brings power. The Buddha spoke of the tendency of male elephants to seek solitude in the forest.
It is in a forest where the Buddha allegedly found enlightenment. Buddha said “there is no companionship with a fool; let a man walk alone, let him commit no evil, with few wishes, like an elephant in the forest”. Buddhist monks and nuns still practice in similarly remote areas, observing the elephants and the forest for spiritual guidance.
This idea is depicted in the parable of the Wise Tusker, in which an elephant is upset when other elephants carelessly destroy the forest and invade his space. He leaves for a secluded spot and finds Buddha, who had left his community to meditate. Solitude enabled them to connect and understand each other.
The Buddha said “this unites mind with mindthe enlightened sage and the elephant agree, they both love the solitude of the forest”.
The elephants and jungles of Thailand definitely make a peaceful and inspiring place, whatever you believe.References: DN.II,122 AN.III,346 Dhammapada, 330
Ud.4.5 See more here: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/lifebuddha/1lbud.htm https://www.buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=123 : Elephants in Buddhism
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Was Buddha born from elephant?
Maha Maya, also called Maya, the mother of Gautama Buddha; she was the wife of Raja Shuddhodana. According to Buddhist legend, Maha Maya dreamed that a white elephant with six tusks entered her right side, which was interpreted to mean that she had conceived a child who would become either a world ruler or a buddha.
- After 10 lunar months, feeling that the time of birth was near, she went to the Lumbini grove outside the city of Kapilavastu.
- While she stood upright and held onto the branch of a sal tree (in the posture adopted by mothers of all buddhas), the child came forth from under her right arm.
- Seven days after his birth (again, in accordance with the destiny of the mothers of all buddhas) she died and was reborn again in the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods (Tavatimsa Heaven).
The scenes of the conception and delivery of Gautama Buddha are often depicted in art.
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What was predicted about Buddha when he was born?
Buddhists celebrate birth of Gautama Buddha On April 8, Buddhists celebrate the commemoration of the birth of Gautama Buddha, the founder of, thought to have lived in India from 563 B.C. to 483 B.C. Actually, the Buddhist tradition that celebrates his birthday on April 8 originally placed his birth in the 11th century B.C., and it was not until the modern era that scholars determined that he was more likely born in the sixth century B.C., and possibly in May rather than April.
According to the Tripitaka, which is recognized by scholars as the earliest existing record of the Buddha’s life and discourses, Gautama Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha, the son of the king of the Sakya people. The kingdom of the Sakyas was situated on the borders of present-day Nepal and India.
Siddhartha’s family was of the Gautama clan. His mother, Queen Mahamaya, gave birth to him in the park of Lumbini, in what is now southern Nepal. A pillar placed there in commemoration of the event by an Indian emperor in the third century B.C. still stands.
At his birth, it was predicted that the prince would either become a great world monarch or a Buddha–a supremely enlightened teacher. The Brahmans told his father, King Suddhodana, that Siddhartha would become a ruler if he were kept isolated from the outside world. The king took pains to shelter his son from misery and anything else that might influence him toward the religious life.
Siddhartha was brought up in great luxury, and he married and fathered a son. At age 29, he decided to see more of the world and began excursions off the palace grounds in his chariot. In successive trips, he saw an old man, a sick man, and a corpse, and since he had been protected from the miseries of aging, sickness, and death, his charioteer had to explain what they were.
- Finally, Siddhartha saw a monk, and, impressed with the man’s peaceful demeanor, he decided to go into the world to discover how the man could be so serene in the midst of such suffering.
- Siddhartha secretly left the palace and became a wandering ascetic.
- He traveled south, where the centers of learning were, and studied meditation under the teachers Alara Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra.
He soon mastered their systems, reaching high states of mystical realization, but was unsatisfied and went out again in search of nirvana, the highest level of enlightenment. For nearly six years, he undertook fasting and other austerities, but these techniques proved ineffectual and he abandoned them.
After regaining his strength, he seated himself under a pipal tree at what is now Bodh Gaya in west-central India and promised not to rise until he had attained the supreme enlightenment. After fighting off Mara, an evil spirit who tempted him with worldly comforts and desires, Siddhartha reached enlightenment, becoming a Buddha at the age of 35.
The Gautama Buddha then traveled to the deer park near Benares, India, where he gave his first sermon and outlined the basic doctrines of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, there are “four noble truths”: (1) existence is suffering; (2) this suffering is caused by human craving; (3) there is a cessation of the suffering, which is nirvana; and (4) nirvana can be achieved, in this or future lives, though the “eightfold path” of right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
For the rest of his life, the Buddha taught and gathered disciples to his sangha, or community of monks. He died at age 80, telling his monks to continue working for their spiritual liberation by following his teachings. Buddhism eventually spread from India to Central and Southeast Asia, China, Korea, Japan, and, in the 20th century, to the West.
: Buddhists celebrate birth of Gautama Buddha
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How was Siddhartha raised what kind of family was he born into?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The Buddha was born into a noble family in Lumbini in 563 BCE as per historical events and 624 BCE according to Buddhist tradition. He was called Siddhartha Gautama in his childhood. His father was king Śuddhodana, leader of the Shakya clan in what was the growing state of Kosala, and his mother was queen Maya,
- According to Buddhist legends, the baby exhibited the marks of a great man.
- A prophecy indicated that, if the child stayed at home, he was destined to become a world ruler.
- If the child left home, however, he would become a universal spiritual leader.
- To make sure the boy would be a great king and world ruler, his father isolated him in his palace and he was raised by his mother’s younger sister, Mahapajapati Gotami, after his mother died just seven days after childbirth.
Separated from the world, he later married Yaśodharā (Yaśodharā was the daughter of King Suppabuddha and Amita ), and together they had one child: a son named Rāhula, Both Yashodhara and Rāhula later became disciples of Buddha.
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What is the importance of elephant symbol?
Why Elephants Are A Popular Symbol – Elephants represent many things: they’re symbols of luck and prosperity, but they are also powerful beings that use their mighty strength to remove obstacles and negative forces. They also represent wisdom, long life, memory and vitality.
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What do elephants symbolize in Hinduism?
India’s celebrated elephants: Can our actions at least speak as loud as our words? For centuries, India has regarded the majestic royal beast, the elephant, as its cultural symbol. The highly revered Hindu God, Lord Ganesha, is said to be a remover of obstacles and a provider of fortune and good luck.
- Considering this beloved God has been envisioned with an elephant head and a human body, elephants are believed to be an incarnation or representation of Ganesha.
- Furthermore, people believe that Lord Indra, the God of rain, thunder, and lightning, has a divine white elephant as a mount, thereby establishing elephants as a symbol of divinity and royalty.
These mythological and cultural Hindu beliefs have established elephants as sacred symbols of peace, mental strength, and power. In line with these views, over the years, people have worshipped and used elephants in several ways. For example, royalty has employed war elephants to strengthen their armies, flaunt the kingdom’s bravery and bring prestige and stature to their title.
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What animal is associated with the birth of the Buddha?
Elephant – In Asia and Africa, elephants are deemed sacred. They are symbols of beauty, power, dignity, intelligence and peace. The white elephant was significant in the Buddha’s birth. His mother, Queen Maya, dreamed of a white elephant who offered her a white lotus with his trunk and entered her womb.
- The royal sages predicted the birth of a great monarch or a Buddha.
- In Buddhism, elephants symbolize mental strength on the path toward enlightenment.
- They are tranquil and obedient, steadfast and unstoppable once set on a path; and have large ears to listen to the Dharma.
- At the beginning of practice, the uncontrolled mind is symbolized by a gray elephant.
After practicing and taming the mind, the controlled mind is symbolized by a white elephant, strong and powerful, which can be directed toward liberation. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva rides a six-tusked elephant evoking the Power of Knowledge for man’s awakening, found in Chapter 40 of the Flower Adornment Sutra,
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Are elephants Buddhist or Hindu?
It is elephants’ elevated standing in Indian culture that prevents them from being killed, even when they bring destruction to people and property. Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindus, and to members of the Hindu religion, the elephant is a sacred animal.
- Elephants are sacred animals to Hindus.
- It is the living incarnation of one of their most important gods: Ganesh, an elephant-headed deity who rides atop a tiny mouse.
- There are many stories of Ganesh’s creation, but the best known say he is the son of Parvati, the Hindu goddess of the mountains and wife of the greatest god, Lord Shiva.
One day, Parvati desired a guard as she took a bath, so she created Ganesh from dirt to stand watch. But the boy did his job too well; he refused to let Lord Shiva see his wife. Angry, Shiva cut off the boy’s head. To console his grieving wife, Shiva gave Ganesh the head of an elephant.
- According to Hindu scholars, each part of the deity has a symbolic function.
- Ganesh’s head itself symbolizes the ability to acquire wisdom and knowledge, while his big ears bestow the patience to listen carefully.
- Ganesh’s small eyes can behold the future and recognize truth, while his long trunk is able to sniff out good and evil.
His big belly symbolizes the ability to digest both the best and worst in life. The tiny mouse upon which Ganesh rides symbolizes the ability to move quickly and decisively. “All obstacles, whatever they may be, will be rooted out by worshipping Ganesh,” promises an ancient Hindu text.
- Today, following Shiva’s command that anyone beginning a new undertaking worship Ganesh, Hindus often invoke the elephant god’s name at the beginning of worship, trips, and projects — such as the elephant taming adventure documented in The Elephant Men,
- Ganesh is also honored at the beginning of books, because he is said to have been a great scribe and patron of learning.
He is depicted on many temples; some even keep stables of real elephants for ceremonial events. In south India, for instance, there is a fall festival called Dussehra that is famous for its parade of elephants decorated with paint and cloth. Hindus, though, aren’t the only South Asians to worship elephants. Buddhists, for instance, believe so-called “white” elephants, a light-colored variant, carry special significance. In Thailand, white elephants are considered the king’s property, and wars have been fought over these relatively rare animals.
While Asian elephants are revered today as spiritual icons, they were once also feared as potent weapons of war. Countless ancient armies surged across Asia on elephants. Sometimes, however, these elephants proved a liability. When the great Timur, King of Samarkand, attacked Delhi in 1398, the city’s defenders boasted an intimidating elephant corps.
But the animals fled in panic and Delhi’s defenses crumbled after Timur’s men drove camels carrying grass torches on their backs toward the elephants. Terrified by the fire, the elephants stampeded. Soldiers weren’t the only ones to fear elephants; prisoners also had reason to tremble.
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How did Buddha become Ganesh?
Buddha as avatar of Ganesha – Buddha appears as a name of Ganesha in the second verse of the Ganesha Purana version of the Ganesha Sahasranama, The positioning of this name at the beginning of the Ganesha Sahasranama indicates that the name was of importance to the authors of that scripture, who were Ganapatya Hindus,
- Bhaskararaya ‘s commentary on the Ganesha Sahasranama says that this name for Ganesha means that the Buddha was an incarnation ( Avatar ) of Ganesha.
- This interpretation is not widely known even among Ganapatya, and the Buddha is not mentioned in the lists of Ganesha’s incarnations given in the main sections of the Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana,
Bhaskararaya also provides a more general interpretation of this name as simply meaning that Ganesha’s very form is “eternal enlightenment” ( nityabuddaḥ ), so he is named Buddha.
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What was Buddha known as at birth?
Category Historic, Religious Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. Among the pilgrims was the Indian emperor Ashoka, who erected one of his commemorative inscribed Ashoka pillars there.
The inscription on the pillar is the oldest in Nepal. An important site for the history lovers and Buddhists, the site is one of the most visited site in Nepal. Bodhi Tree, Lumbini is a tree covered in prayer flags situated just beside the pond. People come here to make wishes in hope of them becoming true.
They tie a flag around the tree per wish. The place is very peaceful and people generally do meditation there. Mayadevi Pond, Situated inside the Maya devi temple complex, is the place where Buddha’s mother used to take bath before giving him birth. It is also believed that the first bath of Siddhartha Gautama also took place here.
Lumbini Museum,displays artifacts from Mauryan and Kushana periods. The museum possess religious manuscripts, metal sculptures and stamps from all over the world depicting Lumbini. Lumbini International Research Institute (LIRI), located opposite the Lumbini Museum, provides research facilities for the study of Buddhism and religion in general.
Lumbini is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature.
Maya Devi Pond Janapnese Peace Stupa Bodhi Tree Lumbini
Why we are born according to Buddha?
Why were We Born? Why were We Born? “Why were We Born?” First of all, is this question a significant one for the average man? I think we can take it that this question is one that everyone is interested in and puzzled over. There may, however, be some who will raise an objection.
- The Buddha taught the non-existence of ‘the being’, ‘the individual’, ‘the self’, ‘you’ and ‘me’.
- He taught that there is no self to be born.
- So the problem ‘Why were we born?’ does not arise! ” This sort of objection is valid only at the very highest mental level, for someone who himself knows Freedom but for the ordinary man who does not yet know Freedom it is not a valid objection since it is not relevant, not to the point.
A person who does not as yet know Dhamma thoroughly is bound to feel himself involved in the process of birth and to have a great many problems and questions. He has no idea for what purpose he has been born. It is only an Arahant, one who has gone all the way in Buddha-Dhamma, who will really realize that there is nobirth, and on ‘being’ or ‘person’ or ‘self’ to be born.
For an Arahant the question “why was I born?” does not arise. But for anyone who has not yet attained the stage of Arahantship, even though he may be at one of the lower stages of insight such as Stream entry, and in whom the idea of ‘self’ and ‘of self’ does still arise, the question “Why was I born?” very definitely does exist.
So we are putting the question “Why was I born?” and we are taking it that this question is a relevant one for anyone who is not as yet an Arahant. Now let us have a look at the different ideas that naturally come up in the minds of different people in answer to this question “Why were we born?” If we ask a child for what purpose he was born, he will simply say that he was born in order to be able to play and have fun and games.
A teenage boy or girl is bound to answer that he or she was born for the sake of good looks, dating, and flirting. And an adult, parent, householder, will probably say he was born to earn a living, to save up money for his retirement and his children. These are the kinds of answers we are bound to get.
A person who has become old and feeble, is more than likely to have the foolish idea that he was born in order to die and be born again, and again, and again, over and over. Very few people consider that, having been born, we shall simply die and that will be the end of it.
- Right from early childhood we have been trained and conditioned to this idea of another world, another birth to come after death, with the result that it has become well and truly fixed in our minds.
- In any culture having its origins in India the majority of people, Buddhists, Hindus, and others, adhere to this doctrine of rebirth after death.
So people who are too old and senile to be able to think for themselves are bound to answer that they were born to die and be reborn. Generally these are the kinds of answer we get. If we go into it in rather more detail, we shall find some people saying they were born to eat because they happen to have a weakness for food.
- And there are bound to be some, those who are permanent slaves to alcohol and value nothing more highly, who will say they were born to drink.
- Others were born to gamble and would part with their own skin before they would give up their vicious habit.
- And there are all sorts of other things, some of them utterly trivial, in which people become so wrapped up that they come to regard them as the best of all things.
Some people, usually the so-called well educated ones, set a lot of value on prestige, they are very concerned about making a name for themselves. Such people were born for the sake of name and fame. So some people consider they were born for the sake of eating, some for the sake of sensuality, and some for the sake of name and fame.
The first of these, eating, is a necessity, but people carry it so far that they become infatuated with taste and addicted to eating. At the present time there is evidence of a general increase of interest in food. The rate of increase of newspaper advertisements promoting the art of eating would Lead one to conclude that not a few people are obsessed with eating and worship food.
These born eaters form the first group. The second group comprises those who were born for sensuality, for every kind of pleasure and delight obtainable by way of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body. Most people when they have satisfied themselves with eating go off in search of sense pleasures.
- Their subjection to the power of sensuality may be such that they can rightly be described as slaves to it.
- Ultimately all the kinds of infatuation we have mentioned so far can be included under sensuality.
- Even ideas in the mind, the sixth of the senses, can be a source of delight amounting to infatuation.
It can be said that such people live for the sake of sensuality, for the sake of visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and mental things serving as objects of desire. They constitute the second group. The third group consists of those born for the sake of name and fame.
They have been conditioned to worship prestige, to the extent that they would sacrifice their very lives for it. Name and fame, whether the means employed for attaining it bring benefit to others or only to the individual concerned, can still be of considerable worth, and in terms of worldly values is not something to be condemned.
But in terms of absolute values, to go so far as to become a slave to name and fame is a tragedy. It by no means puts an end to the unsatisfactory condition (dukka). So eating, sensuality, and prestige all lead to various kinds of obsession. Among poorer people, we hear more than anything else of the need to earn a living in order to get the necessities of life.
- For the poor man nothing is so important or necessary as earning a living.
- This then is his major concern, and it can be said that he was born to earn a living.
- He is all the time ploughing his fields, or attending to his business, or whatever it may be, so that this becomes his one and only concern, and he can never have enough of it.
In other words he really feels he was born to earn a living, and has never regarded anything as more important than this. The reason for this is that he has never moved among spiritually advanced people, never heard Dhamma from them. It is fairly certain that he has moved only among his fellow worldlings and heard only the talk of worldlings.
- This is something well worth thinking about.
- Such a person considers his way of life thoroughly right and proper and worthwhile; but in reality it is only half right, or even less.
- The magnitude of such a man’s obsession with material things shows that he lives to get much more than just enough to eat.
Now what each one of us has to concern himself with, and examine, and come to understand clearly is why we were born to earn a living and stay alive. When we have come to understand properly for what ultimate purpose we are here in this life, we realize that this business of earning a living is something quite incidental.
It is subsidiary to another big and important purpose, the real purpose for which we were born. Do we earn a living simply in order to stay alive and go on endlessly accumulating more and more wealth and property? Or do we do it in order to achieve some higher purpose? For most people this endless accumulation of wealth and property does seem to be the purpose of earning a living.
Few people stop short at earning just enough to satisfy their basic wants, to feed themselves and family, to provide the necessities for a happy life free from misery. For most people no amount of wealth and property is enough. Most don’t know where to stop, and have so much they don’t know what to do with it.
- There are plenty like this in the world.
- In terms of religion this kind of behaviour is considered, either explicitly or implicitly, to be sinful.
- In Christianity the accumulaltion of more wealth than necessary is explicitly stated to be a sin.
- Other religions say much the same.
- A person who goes on endlessly accumulating and hoarding wealth and property, who has become in some way or other infatuated and obsessed by it, is regarded as deluded and a sinner.
He is not as much of a sinner as someone who kills, but he is a sinner nevertheless. This then is how we ought to see it. We ought not to live just in order to go on endlessly accumulating wealth and property. We ought to regard it as simply a means to an end.
- We ought to acquire wealth simply to provide for our basic wants, in order that we can then go in search of something else, something better than wealth.
- And just what that something is we shall discuss later on.
- Now the man who lives for the sake of sensuality ought to give a thought to an old saying: ” Seeking pleasure in eating, sleeping, and sex, and avoiding danger all these man and beast have in common.
What sets man apart is Dhamma. Without Dhamma man is no different from the beasts”. This is an old saying dating back to pre-Buddhist times, and no doubt also current at the time of the Buddha. In any case it certainty accords with Buddhist principles. Human beings normally feel the same way as lower animals towards eating, sleeping, and sex, and danger in the form of disease, pain, and enemies.
The lower animals can handle these things just as well as human beings. Preoccupation with these things, which any animal has access to, indicates a none too high level of intelligence. And because those objects of sensuality have such an influence over the mind, it is difficult for any ordinary being to recognize them for what they are and break free from them.
To live for sensuality by way of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind will never lead to Liberation. The average run of people are far removed from the top level, the highest stage attainable in human birth. Having become obsessed with sense objects, they have got stuck half-way along the road, mid-way towards the goal.
They are not to be taken as a model. If this sensuality were really as precious as they seem to think it is, then they, together with their animal counterparts, ought to be rated the highest of beings. At this point we ought to mention that even celestial beings dwelling in the “heaven of sensuality” (Kamavaca radevata) are in no way especially well-off.
They too are subject to suffering and anxiety. They too are impure, constantly defiled by their inappropriate bodily, vocal, and mental actions, Devatas of this type, whenever they succeed in elevating themselves, leave their heaven of sensuality and go off in search of Buddha Dhamma and Sangha.
Sensuality, even in its highest form, is not by any means the highest thing for man, and no man should maintain that this was the purpose for which he was born. Now we come to prestige. For a man to think he was born for the sake of name and fame is a tragedy. A glance at this thing known as prestige shows it to be thoroughly insubstantial.
It depends on other people’s having a high regard for one; and it may well be that, though noone realizes it, this high regard is quite unfounded. When the majority of people are deluded, slow-witted, undiscerning, lacking any knowledge of Dhamma, the things for which they have a high regard and to which they give prestige are bound to be pretty ordinary and average things, in keeping with their ordinary and average sense of values.
- In their eyes the things advocated and taught by spiritually advanced people will hardly rate very high.
- In fact we invariably find that the more concerned people are with name and fame, the more worldly are the things they rate highly.
- The person who deserves to be rated highest is the one who is able to renounce worldly values and promote the happiness of mankind; but in practice we find all the prestige going to the people responsible for adding to the world’s confusion and distress.
This is an example of prestige in the eyes of the worldling, the man stuck here in the world. To say that we were born to gain prestige is as ridiculous as to say we were born to pursue sensuality or to eat. All these views are equally pitiful. They difter only in degree of sophistication.
- Now let us have a look at a saying of the Buddha which I believe may help us to answer the question of why we were born.
- Sankhara parama dukkha,
- Nibbanam paramam sukham.
- Etam natva vathabhu tam
- Santimaggam va bruhayeti.
- Compounding is utter misery,
- Nirvana is highest bliss.
- Really knowing this truth.
- One is on the Path to Peace.
To understand the first line of this quotation, we have first of all to understand properly the word “sankhara”. This word has several meanings. It can refer either to the physical, the body, or as in the present case to the mental, the mind. Literally “sankhara” means simply “compound” (both noun and verb), that is, the function we refer to as “compounding” (and the compound that results therefrom).
- Following this definition, then, compounding is utter misery, thoroughly unsatisfactory (dukkha).
- But it is not being stated that compounding is in itself misery, a cause of human distress and suffering.
- The word “compounding” implies no rest, just continual combining leading to continual “rebirth”.
- And the things responsible for this compounding are the mental defilements (kilesa).
These are the compounders. With the arising of ignorance, stupidity, infatuation, the root cause of the other defilements, greed and hatred, compounding takes place. They are responsible for the compounding function of the mind, causing it to grasp at and cling to one thing after another, endlessly, without let-up.
- The word “compounding” as used here refers to grasping and clinging with attachment (upadana).
- If there is no attachment, if contamination by attachment does not take place, then the term “compounding” is not applicable.
- Sankhara parama dukkha – All compounding is thoroughly unsatisfactory.
- This means that involvement which has reached the point of craving and attachment is nothing but misery.
Without this kind of compounding there is freedom from the misery of the unsatisfactory condition. It is this very compounding that is referred to as the Wheel of samsara, that cyclic process with its three aspects: defilements, action based on those defilements, and results of the action.
The defilements, producing satisfaction with the results of our actions (or karmas), prompt us to further action – and so the cycle of defilements, action, and fruit of action goes on endlessly. It is this process that is called compounding: and it is this endlessly repeated process of compounding that is referred to in the statement that all compounding is thoroughly unsatisfactory.
Now the second line: Nibbanam paramam sukham. This has become a household maxim. It refers to Nirvana (nibbana), the precise opposite of the compounded condition, in other words, freedom from sankharas, At anytime when compounding ceases, there is Nirvana.
Complete and final freedom from compounds is full Nirvana, momentary freedom from compounds is momentary Nirvana, just a trial sample of the real Nirvana. Anyone who has come to know fully the true nature of compounding will have no trouble in understanding by inference the opposite condition of freedom from compounding.
The word “Nirvana” can be translated “extinction,” or “cessation,” or “coolness,” or “freedom from distress”. All these meanings are consistent with the idea of stopping, of not compounding. Compounding is nothing but constant worry, trouble, distress, misery.
- Nirvana” implies the antithesis of “sankhara”, that is, freedom from this process of compounding.
- Now the next part of the quotation: “Really knowing this truth, one is on the Path to Peace”.
- This means that the realization of this truth leads one to seek the path leading to peace or Nirvana.
- Nirvana is sometimes called peace (santi), that is, stillness, coolness.
They are equivalent terms. So this realization prompts us to do everything possible to move in the direction of peace or Nirvana. From this we can gather that the Buddha wished us to know about the unsatisfactory condition (dukkha), to know about freedom from the unsatisfactory condition, and to set out on the path leading to this freedom from the unsatisfactory condition, in other words to Nirvana.
If a person has no idea of the possibility of Nirvana, and does not realize that Nirvana, being the absolute cessation of the unsatisfactory condition, is something to be valued above all else, then he will have no wish for Nirvana, and will never set out on the path towards it. As soon as a person recognizes this present condition as thoroughly unsatisfactory, and loses all wish for anything but the very opposite condition, he will start taking and interest in Nirvana and will set out on the path towards it.
What he has to do is have a good look at his own mind and subject it to a deep and detailed scrutiny, to discover whether or not it is in the compounded condition. When a person under the influence of defilements performs some action (karma), especially when he performs some action considered evil, such as drinking, killing, adultery, stealing, or the like, then he is compounding.
Compounding is based on ignorance, delusion, stupidity. It goes on until it produces feelings of pleasure and satisfaction in the mind of the doer. When he experiences the unsatisfactory result of his actions, he attempts to deal with it by further action, which only makes matters worse. The result is that compounding goes on more than ever.until the time comes when he recognizes this as an unsatistactory state of affairs and determines to put a stop to it.
He then has a look around for something that is not unsatisfactory, and so is able to get free from his evil ways. Now let us have a quick look at the man who does good, the sort that abstains from evil acts and performs only acts of the type usually called good.
- Such a man gets all the fitting results of his so-called good actions.
- He may get wealth and prestige, and all the things a good man could wish for.
- But if he were to examine his mental condition, he would realize that he is still subject to worry and anxiety.
- He experiences the suffering that always goes with wealth and prestige.
A man rich in fame is usually caused distress by that very fame; and the same goes for wealth and children. Whatever one happens to be attached to and finds satisfaction in is bound to be a cause of distress. So even good action, action in no way evil, sinful, unwholesome, does not by any means bring freedom from the unsatisfactory condition.
Just as an evil man suffers the torment due to an evil-doer, so a good man too is bound to experience his own particular type of suffering. A good man experiences the subtle inconspicuous type of suffering that comes whenever one clings to one’s own goodness. So when we examine it as a phenomenon of nature, we find that it is not only the evil man experiencing the fruits of his evil deeds who is whirling around in the cycle of compounding: the good man too, experiencing the fruits of his good deeds, is likewise involved in compounding.
Both of them are involved in compounding. There is no end to this process. It goes on and on incessantly. Thought is followed by action, and when the fruits of the action have been got, thinking follows once again. This is the wheel of Samsara, the cycle of wandering on.
Samsara is simply this cycle of compounding. As soon as a person has managed to comprehend this process, he is bound to start taking an interest in the opposite condition. He comes to realize that money, name and fame, and the like are of no help at all and that what is needed is something better than all these.
He then starts looking around for something better and higher, some other way. He continues his search until such time as he meets some spiritually advanced person, sits at his feet, and learns from him the Truth, the Dhamma. In this way he comes to know about that state which is the very opposite of all that he has so far had and been and done.
- He comes to know about Nirvana and the way to attain it.
- He arrives at the certitude that this is the goal that each and every man ought to attain.
- He realizes: “This is why I was born! “.
- Anything other than this is involvement, entanglement, compounding.
- This alone is the putting out of the flame, coolness, stillness.
His interest in Nirvana prompts him to seek the means of attaining it, and he is convinced that the treading of this path to Nirvana is the purpose for which he was born. There is one more small question to think over in this connection: “Am I glad I was born? Am I happy about it or not? “.
- Of course noone ever has any choice in the matter of birth.
- It never happens that a person is in a position to decide that he will be born.
- He simply is born.
- But no sooner is he born than he comes into contact with sense objects by way of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind.
- He becomes engrossed in these objects, and finds satisfaction in them.
This means that he is glad of having been born and wishes to continue existing in order that he may continue experiencing these sense objects. And when people speak of making a lot of merit in order to have sense objects again after death, at a better, more refined, higher level than at present, this indicates an even greater desire to be born for the sake of these pleasant things.
The important point here is this: a person having been born, enjoys the forms, sounds, odours, tastes, tactile sensations, and mental images which his mind encounters. As a result he grasps at them and clings to them with egoism and possessiveness. He has been born and he finds satisfaction and delight in having been born.
He dreads death because death would mean no more of all these things. The essence of this is that no man is ever born of his own free will, as a result of some decision on his own part; birth just happens as a natural process characterising all living reproducing things.
- No sooner is a man born than a liking for this birth arises in him in the manner described.
- In the completely natural situation, that is, among the lower animals, the desire for birth is very slight and does not pose the great problem it does for man.
- A man should question himself and verify two things: “I am glad I was born.” and “I was born for some purpose.” Now if a man concludes that he is glad of having been born to carry out the highest task possible for a man, then his position is rather paradoxical.
If the real goal of life is freedom from rebirth, then he was born in order not to be reborn, and so ought never to have been born in the first place! Why should he be glad he was born and so given the opportunity to walk the path to Nirvana? If freedom from birth is such a good thing, why then is there birth in the first place? These are some of the questions that constitute ignorance, or at least that arise out of ignorance.
- ‘Was I born of my own free will or was birth forced upon me? “.
- Having been born, what ought I to be doing? “.
- The average person doesn’t delve so deeply into these questions.
- Accepting his birth as an accomplished fact, he simply asks himself the immediate question ‘What to do now? “.
- Believing he was born to accumulate wealth, he goes right on accumulating wealth.
Or if he believes he was born to eat, or to build up name and fame, then he works towards those ends. He feels that is enough. To get name and fame and be materially well off is all the average person wants. For him that is the ideal; and there are not a few people who take this sort of shallow view.
- But we are now in a position to consider this question rather more deeply.
- We have come to see that no amount of this kind of action or this kind of condition is by any means satisfactory.
- There is still something dissatisfying about it.
- Something is lacking.
- No matter how successfully we may pursue these worldly ends we are always left dissatisfied.
We are forced to recognize that something more is needed, and in the end we find ourselves drawn to the Dhamma. We come to realize that we were born to study this highest and most precious piece of human knowledge and come to understand it, in order to attain Freedom, the highest and most precious thing accessible to a human being.
There is nothing higher than this. This is the summum bonum, the best thing attainable by a human being. Suppose we accept that we have been born, and that having been born we have a certain task to do, a task so important that to carry it through to completion ought to be man’s highest aim. There can be no aim higher than this attainment of complete freedom from the misery of the unsatisfactory condition.
And by following the Buddha’s directions this complete freedom can be attained. The Buddhist teaching came into the world in order to inform people about the highest thing attainable by human beings. All the other religions existing prior to Buddhism had had this same objective, to answer the question: “Why was I born? “.
They had all been fully occupied with this same question: “What is that highest good for the sake of which man was born? “. Some of these religions considered sensual satisfaction to be the ultimate, the highest good. Some considered the summum bonum to be the pure non-sensual bliss of the brahmaloka.
Then there was a sect which maintained that man’s purpose in life was to seek bliss in the knowledge that nothing at all exists! There even existed the view that the highest thing attainable by man is the death-like condition of complete unconsciousness in which there is no awareness of anything whatsoever! These were the highest doctrines in existence at the time when the Buddha-to-be started his seeking.
When he searched and studied in the various ashrams, the highest teaching he was able to find was this. Being sufficiently wise to see that this was by no means the summum bonum, he set about investigating on his own account. Thus he arrived at the perfect insight which puts a final end to the unsatisfactory condition, and as we say, he attained Nirvana.
Even though people had been talking about Nirvana long before the time of the Buddha, the meaning of the word as used by him differs from the meanings it had for those sects. Mere words connot be relied on; it is the meanings that count. When we say we were born in order to attain Nirvana, we mean Nirvana as that word was used by the Buddha.
- We don’t mean the Nirvana of other sects, such as abundance of sensual pleasures, or the highest stage of mental concentration.
- When we say Nirvana is our goal, we must have in mind Nirvana as understood in the Buddha’s teaching.
- And in the Buddha’s teaching Nirvana is generally to be taken as the opposite of the compounded condition.
This is expressed in the Pali saying we have already quoted: Sankhara parama dukkha Nibbanam paramam sukham. Nirvana is simply freedom from sankharas, compounds. We must understand then that we were born in order to attain freedom from compounding. Some people may laugh at this statement that our objective in life is to attain “freedom from compounding”.
Compounding, this spinning on in the wheel of Samsara, is unsatisfactory. Freedom from compounding consists in having such a degree of insight that this vicious circle is cut through and got rid of completely. When there is freedom from compounding, there is no more spinning on, no more wheel of Samsara.
Our purpose in life is to bring to a standstill the cycle of Samsara, to put a complete end to the unsatisfactory condition. This complete freedom from unsatisfactoriness is called Nirvana. Now Nirvana is not something occult and mysterious. It is not some sort of miracle, something supernatural Further more, Nirvana is not something to be attained only after death.
This is a point that must be understood. Nirvana is attained at any moment that the mind becomes free from compounding. Freedom from compounding, at any moment, is Nirvana. Permanent cessation of compounding is full Nirvana; temporary cessation is just a momentary Nirvana, which is the kind we have been discussing.
The experiencing of temporary Nirvana serves as an incentive to go further, to head for permanent Nirvana, the full Nirvana that makes a man an Arahant. This state arises with the knowledge that sankharas, that is compounds and compounding, are misery, while Nirvana, freedom from compounding, is peace, bliss.
- So the answer to the question “Why were we born? ” is provided by this saying:
- Compounding is utter misery,
- Nirvana is highest bliss.
: Why were We Born?
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What was unusual about Buddha when he was born?
According to tradition, the historical Buddha lived from 563 to 483 B.C., although scholars postulate that he may have lived as much as a century later. He was born to the rulers of the Shakya clan, hence his appellation Shakyamuni, which means “sage of the Shakya clan.” The legends that grew up around him hold that both his conception and birth were miraculous.
- His mother, Maya, conceived him when she dreamed that a white elephant entered her right side ( 1976.402 ).
- She gave birth to him in a standing position while grasping a tree in a garden ( 1987.417.1 ).
- The child emerged from Maya’s right side fully formed and proceeded to take seven steps.
- Once back in the palace, he was presented to an astrologer who predicted that he would become either a great king or a great religious teacher, and he was given the name Siddhartha (“He who achieves His Goal”).
His father, evidently thinking that any contact with unpleasantness might prompt Siddhartha to seek a life of renunciation as a religious teacher, and not wanting to lose his son to such a future, protected him from the realities of life. The ravages of poverty, disease, and even old age were therefore unknown to Siddhartha, who grew up surrounded by every comfort in a sumptuous palace.
At age twenty-nine, he made three successive chariot rides outside the palace grounds and saw an old person, a sick person, and a corpse, all for the first time. On the fourth trip, he saw a wandering holy man whose asceticism inspired Siddhartha to follow a similar path in search of freedom from the suffering caused by the infinite cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
Because he knew his father would try to stop him, Siddhartha secretly left the palace in the middle of the night ( 28.105 ) and sent all his belongings and jewelry back with his servant and horse. Completely abandoning his luxurious existence, he spent six years as an ascetic ( 1987.218.5 ), attempting to conquer the innate appetites for food, sex, and comfort by engaging in various yogic disciplines.
Eventually near death from his vigilant fasting, he accepted a bowl of rice from a young girl. Once he had eaten, he had a realization that physical austerities were not the means to achieve spiritual liberation. At a place now known as Bodh Gaya (“enlightenment place”), he sat and meditated all night beneath a pipal tree.
After defeating the forces of the demon Mara, Siddhartha reached enlightenment ( 1982.233 ) and became a Buddha (“enlightened one”) at the age of thirty-five. The Buddha continued to sit after his enlightenment, meditating beneath the tree and then standing beside it for a number of weeks.
- During the fifth or sixth week, he was beset by heavy rains while meditating but was protected by the hood of the serpent king Muchilinda ( 1987.424.19ab ).
- Seven weeks after his enlightenment, he left his seat under the tree and decided to teach others what he had learned, encouraging people to follow a path he called “The Middle Way,” which is one of balance rather than extremism.
He gave his first sermon ( 1980.527.4 ) in a deer park in Sarnath, on the outskirts of the city of Benares. He soon had many disciples and spent the next forty-five years walking around northeastern India spreading his teachings. Although the Buddha presented himself only as a teacher and not as a god or object of worship, he is said to have performed many miracles during his lifetime ( 1979.511 ).
Traditional accounts relate that he died at the age of eighty ( 2015.500.4.1 ) in Kushinagara, after ingesting a tainted piece of either mushroom or pork. His body was cremated and the remains distributed among groups of his followers. These holy relics were enshrined in large hemispherical burial mounds ( 1985.387 ), a number of which became important pilgrimage sites.
In India, by the Pala period (ca.700–1200), the Buddha’s life was codified into a series of “Eight Great Events” ( 1982.233 ). These eight events are, in order of their occurrence in the Buddha’s life: his birth ( 1976.402 ), his defeat over Mara and consequent enlightenment ( 1982.233 ; 1985.392.1 ), his first sermon at Sarnath ( 1980.527.4 ), the miracles he performed at Shravasti ( 1979.511 ), his descent from the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods ( 28.31 ), his taming of a wild elephant ( 1979.511 ), the monkey’s gift of honey, and his death ( 2015.500.4.1 ).
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Was Siddhartha born of a virgin?
Site of Buddha’s Birth Discovered, Experts Say For a religion that asserts belief in a process of spiritual perfection achieved over multiple lifetimes, the birthplace of a Buddhist might be considered an unremarkable thing. But an international team of archeologists announced in Nepal this week that it uncovered the site where Buddha himself was born.
- It was remarkable news indeed, not only to 340 million Buddhists worldwide, but also to Buddhist and Christian scholars interested in how historical information about religious figures relates to religious faith.
- The discovery, the culmination of a 30-year archeological effort sponsored by the United Nations, also points up how much remains unknown when faith and fact converge.
Archeologists from Japan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh directed workers who dug for two years around the Maya Devi Temple in the town of Lumbini, 145 miles southwest of the Nepalese capital of Katmandu. There, in a garden traditionally believed to have been the Buddha’s birthplace, they unearthed a series of rooms, identified by a pillar put in place by the ancient Buddhist king Ashoka.
Engravings on the pillar, the archeologists said, pointed to this site as the place where a noblewoman named Maya Devi gave birth to Prince Siddhartha Gautama. “There’s never been any real doubt that this was the general vicinity of the birthplace of the Buddha,” said Donald Lopez Jr., a Buddhist scholar at the University of Michigan.
“But it sounds as if they’ve found the marker of the precise place. Anything from Ashoka’s time is quite a find. It’s like identifying the cave in Bethlehem where Christ was born.”
Like the New Testament story of the birth of Jesus, accounts in Buddhist scripture of Siddhartha’s birth are full of miracles, signs and wonders, the truth of which no archeological dig can ever verify.The miracle stories are found in early Buddhist scripture known as the Jataka Tales, a sort of Buddhist Aesop’s Fables that recount moral lessons from the multiple lives the Buddha lived-many in the form of animals-before he assumed human form in the Lumbini Gardens.”After the hundreds of lifetimes he was perfecting himself to be the Buddha, he was so highly evolved a being that when he died, he was able to choose the time and place and family in which he would be born in his next life,” said Gerald Larson, director of Indiana University’s India studies department.
Other scriptures relate how Siddhartha’s mother was on her way to visit her parents and stopped at the Lumbini Gardens to bathe in a pond. There, her child was born in an unusual manner: from under her right arm. “It was a form of virgin birth,” Larson said.
“He was so pure he couldn’t emerge through the usual route.” Other birth narratives speak of attending devis, or angels, to welcome the newborn baby and streams of hot and cold water pouring out of the sky to bathe him. After years of searching and spiritual discipline, tradition says, the young prince Siddhartha achieved enlightenment at the age of 35.
He became known as the Buddha-the awakened one-and spent the remainder of his 80 years on earth traveling and preaching the message that all sentient beings can achieve enlightenment. The core message he preached spread from India to Tibet, Nepal, China, Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan.
- Its many schools and sects have varying practices and beliefs.
- It’s almost like the quest for the historical Jesus.
- There probably is a historical core.
- The Buddha was a historical figure,” Larson said.
- But Buddhists don’t really care much about historical accuracy.
- Christians generally are very concerned about the historicity of Jesus.” Though Siddhartha Gautama was the founder of the Buddhist faith, Larson explained, Buddhists believe he was the 24th in a line of 25 Buddhas.
A new Buddha comes along every 10,000 years or so, they believe. Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, has yet to make an appearance. And although the archeological team contends that Buddha was born sometime in the 6th century B.C., different schools of Buddhism assign different dates for his birth.
“In fact, there is no agreement on what day, what month, what year or even what century the Buddha was born,” said the University of Hawaii’s David W. Chappell, founding editor of the Journal of Buddhist-Christian Studies. “Various traditions count time in different ways.” Chappell asserts that history is just as important to Buddhists as it is to many Christians, but in a different way.
“I’ve heard a number of prominent Christian theologians and biblical scholars who say history doesn’t matter for Buddhists as it does for Christians. And Zen Buddhists suggest that the state of being awakened is more important than proving that the Buddha actually lived,” Chappell said.
“It could be argued that charismatic Christians who are inspired by the Holy Spirit are as ahistoric as Buddhists. “But the fact that the Buddha did live and achieve enlightenment on earth is very important to the Buddhist sensibility. And the value of historical findings is a debate that will continue.
If you scratch the surface, both religions have traditions that value history and traditions that are free of history. And to see one more bit of historical evidence about the Buddha is very exciting.” : Site of Buddha’s Birth Discovered, Experts Say
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What were Buddha’s last words?
Life of Buddha: Buddha’s Final Words of Advice (Part 2) (Part Two) 31. The Buddha’s Last Words After the conversion of Subhadda, the Buddha spoke again to Venerable Ananda. “It may be, Ananda, that some of you will say, ‘without the Buddha, the Sublime Teacher, there is no teacher for us’. No, Ananda, you should not think in this way.
Whatever doctrine and discipline taught and made known by me will be your teacher when I am gone.” Then the Buddha, addressing the other monks said, “If any amongst you has any doubts as to the Buddha, the teaching, or the order of monks, ask me now so that afterwards you may have no cause to regret that you did not ask me while I was still with you.” But at these words, none of the monks said anything.
None had any questions, and all of them were silent. For the second and third time the Buddha addressed the monks in this way. And for the second and third time, all the monks were silent. The Buddha said, “Perhaps it may be out of respect for the teacher, that you do not question me.
- Let a friend, O disciples, tell it to another friend.” Still the disciples remained silent.
- Then Venerable Ananda spoke to the Buddha, “It is wonderful.
- It is marvellous, Lord! I do believe that in all this great company of monks there is not a single one who has doubts or questions about the Buddha, the teaching or the order of monks, or the path and the method of training and conduct.” “With you, Ananda,” said the Buddha, “this may be a matter of faith and belief.
But, Ananda, I know that not one single monk gathered here has any doubt or question about these things. Of all the 500 monks here, Ananda, he who is the most backward is a sotapanna, not subject to fall back to a lower state of existence, but is certain and destined for enlightenment.” Then the Buddha addressed all the monks once more, and these were the very last words he spoke: “Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you.
All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.” Then the Buddha lapsed into the jhana stages, or meditative absorptions. Going from level to level, one after the other, ever deeper and deeper. Then he came out of the meditative absorption for the last time and passed into nirvana, leaving nothing whatever behind that can cause rebirth again in this or any other world.
The passing away, or the final nirvana of the Buddha, occurred in 543 BC on a full-moon day in the month of May, known in the Indian calendar as Vesak.
Life of Buddha: Buddha’s Final Words of Advice (Part 2)
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Is Siddhartha Based on a true story?
Siddhartha, novel by Hermann Hesse based on the early life of Buddha, published in German in 1922. It was inspired by the author’s visit to India before World War I.
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Who do elephants symbolize?
Elephant Symbolism – These gigantic majestic beings are traditionally considered symbols of good luck, nobility, wisdom, fertility, and protection. All across the world, the elephant has long been considered a sacred animal, although the spiritual symbolism of elephants changes slightly from culture to culture.
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Why is an elephant a symbol for a baby?
WHAT’S TRENDING NOW: ELEPHANTS IN THE BABY NURSERY
- Elephants here, elephants there, elephants everywhere!
- You’ve seen elephants on the Discovery Channel, and now your seeing them in baby nursery’s!
- These gentle giants are making a HUGE comeback
One reason as to why your Pinterest feed is filled with elephants is due to the “Wildlife War” taking the world by storm. In recent years the elephant population has been diminishing at an alarmingly fast rate, but 2015 marks a year of new conservation. The 2015 elephant craze is also linked to cultural beliefs dating back to ancient Asia. Thousands of years ago elephants were depicted as symbols of strength, wisdom, and good fortune. Ancient civilizations believed that by honoring and respecting these peaceful creatures they could attain these qualities for themselves.
Today it seems as if the tradition lives on, as elephants make their stomp in the nursery. Not only does the presence of an elephant in your nursery promote wisdom and good luck, but it also encourages your little one to dream BIG! *fun fact- According to Feng Shui, when placed correctly the elephant can act as a guardian or protector of a household AND promote prosperity at the same time! To (Ele ) feng -Shui your nursery place an elephant in the room with its trunk facing upwards and away from the door.
And Voila! Now your guardian elephant can keep watch over your little one! When we saw that elephants were the new “It” animal of nursery’s, we created The Elephant Collection! The collection features burps, bibs, buckets, blankets, snugglers, and canvas prints adorned with an elephant applique, designed to capture the strength, wisdom and intelligence of these gentle giants.
- The Elephant Collection
- Chevron Elephant Canvas Print Chevron Elephant Snuggler Set for Him
- Elephant Bucket and Burps Gift Set Elephant Snuggler Bucket Gift Set
Click on the pictures above to get started personalizing an elephant gift of your own!!! & Check out our website for more cuddly elephants! : WHAT’S TRENDING NOW: ELEPHANTS IN THE BABY NURSERY
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What emotion does an elephant represent?
Elephants, the largest land animals on the planet, are among the most exuberantly expressive of creatures. Joy, anger, grief, compassion, love; the finest emotions reside within these hulking masses. Through years of research, scientists have found that elephants are capable of complex thought and deep feeling.
In fact, the emotional attachment elephants form toward family members may rival our own. Joy In the wild, joy is an emotion that elephants have no shame in showing. They express their happiness and joy when they are amongst their loved ones-family and friends. Playing games and greeting friends or family members all elicit displays of joy.
But the one event that stirs a level of elephant happiness beyond compare is the birth of a baby elephant. In Echo: An Elephant to Remember, the birth of Ebony is one such occasion. The excitement of several of the females in Echo’s family can’t be contained as they are heard bellowing and blaring during the birth of the new baby.
Another highly emotional occasion in an elephant’s life is an elephant reunion. This joyful meeting between related, but separated, elephants is one of exuberance and drama. The greeting ceremony marks the incredible welcoming of a formerly absent family member. During the extraordinary event, the elephants about to be united begin calling each other from a quarter a mile away.
As they get closer, their pace quickens. Their excitement visibly flows as fluid from their temporal glands streams down the sides of their faces. Eventually, the elephants make a run towards each other, screaming and trumpeting the whole time. When they finally make contact, they form a loud, rumbling mass of flapping ears, clicked tusks and entwined trunks.
- The two leaning on each other, rubbing each other, spinning around, even defecating, and urinating (for this is what elephants do when they are experiencing sheer delight).
- With heads held high, the reunited pair fill the air with a symphony of trumpets, rumbles, screams, and roars. Bliss.
- Love There is no greater love in elephant society than the maternal kind.
Nobody who observes a mother with her calf could doubt this. It is one of the most touching aspects of elephant social customs. The calf is so small compared to the adult that it walks under its mother, who, incredibly, does not step on it or trip over it.
- Mother and child remain in constant touch.
- If a calf strays too far from its mother, she will fetch it.
- The mother often touches her child with trunk and legs, helping it to its feet with one foot and her trunk.
- She carries it over obstacles and hauls it out of pits or ravines.
- She pushes it under her to protect it from predators or hot sun.
She bathes it, using her trunk to spray water over it and then to scrub it gently. The mother steers her calf by grasping its tail with her trunk, and the calf follows, holding its mother’s tail. When the calf squeals in distress, its mother and others rush to its protection immediately.
- It is easy to see why the bond between mother and daughter lasts 50 years or more.
- Grief One of the most moving displays of elephant emotion is the grieving process.
- Elephants remember and mourn loved ones, even many years after their death.
- When an elephant walks past a place that a loved one died he or she will stop and take a silent pause that can last several minutes.
While standing over the remains, the elephant may touch the bones of the dead elephant (not the bones of any other species), smelling them, turning them over and caressing the bones with their trunk. Researchers don’t quite understand the reason for this behavior.
They guess the elephants could be grieving. Or they could they be reliving memories. Or perhaps the elephant is trying to recognize the deceased. Whatever the reason, researchers suspect that the sheer interest in the dead elephant is evidence that elephants have a concept of death. Researchers have described mother elephants who appear to go through a period of despondency after the death of a calf, dragging behind the herd for days.
They’ve also witnessed an elephant herd circling a dead companion disconsolately. After some time, and likely when they realized the elephant was dead, the family members broke off branches, tore grass clumps and dropped these on the carcass. Another researcher noted a family of African elephants surrounding a dying matriarch.
The family stood around her and tried to get her up with their tusks and put food in her mouth. When the rest of the herd finally moved on, one female and one calf stayed with her, touching her with their feet. Rage and Stress Terror, rage and stress, unfortunately, are also commonplace in the elephant repertoire of emotions.
Terror afflicts baby African elephants who wake up screaming in the middle of the night after they have witnessed their families murdered and poached — a type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some researchers suggest a species-wide trauma is taking place in wild elephant populations.
They say that elephants are suffering from a form of chronic stress after sustaining decades of killings and habitat loss. The recent surge in cases of wild elephant rage reported by the media is a sad indicator of the kind of stress that wild elephants are undergoing. Nearly 300 persons are killed every year by wild elephants in India.
But the increasing numbers of deaths are closely correlated to the ever-increasing human presence in traditional wild elephant habitats, as well as the the effects of climate change, and loss of territory and resources. The ongoing competition between elephants and humans for available land and resources is leading to ever more unfortunate and often deadly consequences.
Human activity does more than put a stress on elephants to find resources. It can often disrupt the complex and delicate web of familial and societal relations that are so important in elephant society. Calves are carefully protected and guarded by members of the matriarchal elephant family. Any perception of danger triggers a violent reaction from the matriarch and, subsequently, the entire family.
The extremes a family will go to protect a vulnerable new calf are reported in the news stories as fits of unprovoked “elephant rage.” Charging a village, storming into huts where harvested crop is stored, plundering fields and, if disturbed, turning violent are some of the instances reported by the media.
Compassion and Altruism Compassion is not reserved for offspring alone in elephant society. Elephants appear to make allowances for other members of their herd. Observers noted that one African herd always traveled slowly because one of its members had never recovered from a broken leg. And in another case, a park warden reported a herd that traveled slowly because one female was carrying around a dead calf.
One perplexing report was of an adult elephant making repeated attempt to help a baby rhinoceros stuck in the mud. She continued to try to save the baby rhino despite the fact that its mother charged her each time. Risking her life for the sake of an animal that is not her own, not related to her, or even her own species is remarkably altruistic in nature.
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Who is the elephant in Hindu god?
Editor’s note: In honor of the Denver Art Museum exhibition Ganesha: The Playful Protector, we asked Dheepa Sundaram to write a guest article about Ganesha Chathurthi, the celebration of the Hindu god. Ganesha: The Playful Protector is on view through January 13, 2019.
- Festivities & Rituals Ganesha Chathurthi, sometimes referred to as Vinayaka Chathurthi begins on the fourth day of the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapada, which typically falls between August and September (this year it began on September 13).
- It is the birthday celebration of the Hindu god Ganesha who is known by 108 names within the tradition.
Since the colonial era, Ganesha Chathurthi has been seen as an important public celebration, initially promoted by the freedom fighter, Balgangadhar Lokmanya Tilak as a way to build religious community and solidarity. Now, it is widely celebrated across India, usually with the immersion of idols on the final day of the festivities.
These festivities can last anywhere from one to 11 days involving rituals, the creation and visiting of pandals (float-like representations of the deity often taking on various themes), the distribution of pamphlets with stories about the deity, colorful costumery in parades, plays, and musical productions, various foods and sweets in honor of the deity, and immersion of the idols in rivers.
The celebrations usually involve four primary rituals: Pranapratishtha or the production of a murti (idol) into which the deity is infused, Shodashopachara which refers to the 16 forms of paying tribute to Ganesha, Uttarapuja or the worship ceremony that permits the idol to be removed from the alter and prepared for immersion, and finally, Ganapati Visarjan or the immersion of the idol in the river.
- The most elaborate celebrations take place in the Indian state of Maharashtra in which Ganesha is seen as a particularly important deity.
- Ganesha, 600s–700s, Cambodia.
- Sandstone; 29 x 25 in.
- Lent by the National Museum of Cambodia.
- Photo by Jeff Wells.
- The Story of His Birth Ganesha is known as the remover of obstacles and the offspring of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and his consort the goddess Parvathi.
Several myths detail his birth and acquisition of the elephant head. These myths vary by region, tradition, and sect. A popular story about Ganesha’s birth begins with the goddess Parvathi, who is lonely and longing for affection. Thus, she creates a son from clay and ghee (clarified butter) and gives him life while her partner Shiva is meditating on Mount Kailash.
One day, Parvathi goes to bathe, asking her son to stand guard. While she bathes, Shiva returns only to be prevented entry by the young son he had yet to meet. Angered, he cut off his head and went to find Parvathi. Soon realizing what he had done, Shiva searched for the first being he could find, an elephant, and placed that head on the boy, naming him “Ganesha” or “lord of the elephants.” He then decreed that he would be the remover of obstacles, always worshipped first in any ritual.
Ganesha is also seen as the patron saint of the arts. More recently, Ganesha Chathurthi is not only celebrated in temples and homes, but also online. Adherents can now conduct rituals and worship ceremonies through apps, social media, and websites. Below are links that detail the ways in which ritual celebration takes place in virtual spaces as well as more information on the ritual celebration itself.
Learn More An overview of the puja (personal worship of a deity) conducted to celebrate Ganesha Chathurthi. Though designed for children to do the puja on their own, this online pamphlet offers stories that are traditionally associated with the puja as well. News article discussing the significance of the celebration, some of the myths associated, and where in India it is celebrated.8 Android apps to celebrate the puja this year.
Some of them have mantras (spiritual sayings) for chanting, others have devotional songs, and one is a how-to manual in conducting the appropriate puja to celebrate Ganesha Chathurthi. Touchable Ganesha statue and photo of Hindu devotees carrying an image of the elephant-headed god Ganesha for immersion in the Arabian sea.
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What is the most sacred animal in Hinduism?
Due to the multiple benefits from cattle, there are varying beliefs about cattle in societies and religions, In some regions, especially most states of India, the slaughter of cattle is prohibited and their meat may be taboo, Cattle are considered sacred in Indian religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and in African paganism,
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Are elephants lucky or unlucky?
Why Have an Elephant Near the Door? – In many cultures, an elephant symbolizes good luck, power, wisdom and fertility. And because feng shui is intentional about the placement of items in of the home, decorating goes beyond surface-level style. Elephant figurines placed inside the front door, near the home’s entrance, have two meanings.
An elephant statue in the foyer facing away from the door brings luck into the home. An elephant facing toward protects the house. It guards your home against all sorts of negative energy.
Though placed with intention, elephant statues make great decor as well. You can find them in a variety of materials, though brass is most popular. If you’re in the mood to nest, here are some ways to decorate your porch,
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What does the Thai elephant symbolize?
This fascinating article was written by one of the Phang Nga Elephant Park Volunteers, Holly Collicott, following her 3-month placement at the Park in 2018-2019 (please see About the Author at the end of the article). We are very grateful for Holly’s insightful and thoughtful article and note that credit has been given for the photographs used. Disclaimer: Please note that the views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Phang Nga Elephant Park or its representatives. Elephants in Thai Culture Elephants are the national animal of Thailand- they represent strength, loyalty and longevity. Many Thais believe, for example, that walking under one will bring luck. Thai and Buddhist literature about elephants are still the basis of popular stories today. The importance of elephants in Thai culture is rooted in history and religion, but is visible throughout modern Thailand. Elephants are incorporated in art, clothing, adverts and even beer bottles; they have also been used on Siamese coins and an elephant was featured on the national flag until 1917. A white elephant is still centred on the Royal Thai Naval ensign, because it represents royalty and power. Use of elephants in Thai architecture dates back hundreds of years and some buildings were specifically designed with elephants in mind. In the Arutthayan period (1351-1767), most bridges were made of wood or cement, but a select few were made of bricks. These were reserved for royalty and designed to support the weight of their elephants. Elephants are also incorporated into artistic designs. Wat Ban Rai in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, for example, was an ancient monastery, rebuilt in 2011 into a temple, with a giant elephant on the roof! Elephants feature in modern urban Thai architecture. The Elephant Building, built in 1997 in Bangkok, is shaped like a 102 m tall elephant. Bangkok is also home to the Erawan Museum of cultural artefacts- on its roof is a giant three-headed bronze elephant. Royalty and White Elephants Elephants have long been associated with the Thai Royal Family. Since ancient times, the number of elephants owned by a ruler has symbolised their status. In 1861, King Mongkut learned that the American President, Abraham Lincoln, had no elephants and found this so astonishing that he wrote and offered to send some, but Lincoln declined. The rare, so-called ‘white elephant’ is termed ‘chaang samkhan’ in Thai (meaning auspicious elephant). White elephants are not ‘white’ in the true sense, and are classified using an ancient grading system. All white elephants in Thailand are the legal property of the reigning monarch. There are currently believed to be 10 white elephants in Thailand, all owned by the King. The number of white elephants owned represents a monarch’s majesty, power and fortune. At one time, His Majesty, The late King Bhumibol owned 21 white elephants – an unparalleled achievement. White elephants are not allowed to work, or breed, so in the past they were wild caught. They are so few and so sacred, they are only viewed by the public on very rare occasions and have been used in royal ceremonies for hundreds of years. The King’s white elephants used to live in Chitralada Palace in Bangkok, but are now at the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, Lampang, where they have been for over 30 years. White elephants are also used in royal emblems. The Order of the White Elephant is the highest honour awarded by the monarch for service and bravery. Elephants in Religion and Mythology In Buddhism, the main religion of Thailand, elephants are guardians of Buddha, Earth and its temples. Their physical strength represents mental strength and responsibility. In ancient times, Buddhists supposedly noticed how elephants show thoughtful behaviour, intelligence and an ability to be trained. This led to their association with the enlightened Buddha, whose teachings founded Buddhism. The Buddha is said to be reincarnated from elephants, so they are one of ten animals which Buddhists must not eat. White elephants are worshipped as holy animals in Thailand. They symbolise purity and are believed to be descended from heaven. Buddha’s mother, Queen Maya, was said to dream of a white elephant before becoming pregnant with Buddha, over 2500 years ago. White elephants are said to have enabled her pregnancy, and so represent fertility. Because they brought Buddha from heaven, he was destined to be a powerful leader. White elephants are associated with the Buddhist and Hindu god, Indra. He has a flying white elephant, called ‘Erawan’ in Thai, with 33 heads (but usually shown with 3). Indra and Erawan are thought to control the weather, so many believe that elephants can bring blessings of rain and good fortune. Erawan is said to carry Indra from Heaven to Earth, to bring fortune and battle demons to protect Earth. Elephants in Thai History Elephants were domesticated in Thailand for use in warfare, transport, farming and construction for centuries. They remain a symbol of power and status today. As mentioned above, they are still used in traditional and religious ceremonies, and on special occasions. Thai records about the use of elephants in combat date back to the late 1200s, under King Ram Kamhaeng. Duelling on elephants was a ritual reserved for rulers and high-ranking people. The monarch would ride at the front to fight and the elephant’s kwan-chaang (a Thai elephant carer, also known by the Hindu word mahout) would be at the back, directing the elephant. There were many such duels in the 1500s, which were often used to settle political disputes. A male elephant in musth was allegedly used by King Naresuan in 1593 to defeat the Burmese prince, Mingyi Swa, ending the Burmese invasion of Siam. Another documented version of events is that in battle, the King held some reserve elephants in the forest and feigned retreat. The Burmese army followed, were surprised by the King’s army and were roundly defeated. Elephants were used in warfare, much as horses were in the West. The power of rulers was measured by the number of elephants they had on the battlefield (often numbering tens of thousands). Those with more elephants were usually the victors. Victorious elephants were often awarded noble titles, along with the soldiers. Extensive use of elephants in combat (often males in musth, when they become aggressive) continued until the late 1500s. When modern firearms and canons were invented, it was clear that someone riding an elephant became an obvious target but the use of elephants in combat continued nevertheless until the early 1800s. Around this time, the first roads in Bangkok were made from old elephant tracks. Tens of thousands of elephants were then used for transportation into the 1900s, until alternative methods were developed. The elephant’s ability to drag several thousand kilograms led to their use in logging – clearing logs from the thick jungle. This was their main use by the late 1800s. It’s estimated that there were 100,000 logging elephants in Thailand 100 years ago (it is estimated that Thailand now has only around 3000 domesticated elephants). Logging elephants were often taken from the wild at 3-5 years old, and would first be taught commands such as to crouch down, stand up, pick up and stop. They would also learn to know and trust their kwan-chaang. Over the next 5-6 years into adulthood, they would learn to lift logs, drag them to the rivers and pile them, ready to be taken for manufacture in Bangkok. Some logging camps gave their elephants enough health checks, rest, food and water, with free roaming time in the hottest months. Others overworked their elephants, shortening their lives from the expected 70-80 years in captivity. The Result of the Logging Ban The Thai government banned private logging in 1989 to protect the forests and timber. Logging is still permitted in some southern areas, but only on government authority, and is illegal in protected areas, where wild elephants remain. Although vital to conserve the remaining forest and wild elephants, the 1989 ban left several thousand logging elephants (70% of Thailand’s domesticated elephants) unemployed. Of course, owners still had to financially support their elephants, and feed them (up to 250-300 kg of plants every day). As a result, many owners took their elephants to Myanmar, where logging was still legal, and others turned to illegal logging, where the elephants were often made to work faster and excessively often to the detriment of their health. Some owners took their elephants to Bangkok, where they endeavoured to earn money by getting the elephants to perform circus tricks or simply to beg from the tourists. Hot concrete, polluted air and water, and poor food often created pitiful conditions for the elephants, but was sometimes the only way a kwan-chaang could get employment and afford to feed his elephant. There were few legal alternative jobs available at the time with enough pay. In 1997, bringing elephants into Bangkok was banned, punishable by fines and confiscation of the elephant. However, there are still thought to be over 100 elephants working illegally in Bangkok obtaining money both from tourists and from Thai people who believe that in supporting the elephant they will get good luck. Since 2010, it has been illegal for people to feed city elephants or support this practice in Bangkok, punishable by arrest and fines. From 1984 to 1989, the number of tourists visiting Thailand increased from 2.3 million to 4.8 million per year and the trend continued in the following years. The booming industry provided employment opportunities, but a lack of infrastructure or regulations led to exploitation of elephants that increasingly were found performing at tourist attractions, or at tourist camps, often tethered with little or no chance to socialise or exercise freedoms. The kwan-chaangs were underpaid – they had nearly all of their income taken by their employers, or they had to rely on tips alone to survive – which sometimes resulted in elephants being overworked and getting inadequate feed. Food alone for an elephant can cost over $70 a day and kwan-chaangs often had to share ownership of one elephant, meaning the elephant was further overworked in order to support two or three families. Ecotourism and Thai Elephants Today There has been a recent movement to use tourism for sustainable, ethical employment for kwan-chaangs and domesticated elephants. It must be recognised that domesticated elephants are too dependent on human care to be released into the wild, but we can return them to a natural habitat. The money from ecotourism provides them with a safe home, good husbandry, medical care and a proper diet, while supporting kwan-chaangs and their families. Performing elephants still do exist in Thailand, but tourists are increasingly aware of animal welfare, so ethical tourism is rapidly becoming more popular. By supporting ethical tourism, tourists can help end the poor welfare issues surrounding domesticated elephants. Although some attractions are run for profit and not for the benefit of elephants, most people who commit their lives to working with elephants do so with good intentions. Many want to provide a safe and positive environment for the elephants, but do not have the funds to do so. Food, care and housing for a 4-6 ton elephant costs at least $1000 per month. Elephants cannot be ‘rescued’ in Thailand, as they are classed as ‘working animals’ under the Beast of Burden Act 1939. This makes them private property of their owners, so they must be bought or rented. An elephant in peak condition might cost $100,000 to buy. There is also a lack of education about appropriate care. Centres such as Phang Nga Elephant Park aim to be a role model for those who work with elephants to learn from and copy, with a view to to helping improve elephant welfare across Thailand. The term ‘unemployed’ elephants can lead people to conflate them with unemployed humans. They associate their employment with welfare, but this isn’t always the case. Standards of a human workplace should also not be applied to elephants, or vice versa, to avoid humanising the needs of elephants and dehumanising the needs of kwan-chaangs. Domesticated elephants remain important to the Thai economy. With numbers at about 3000, Thailand has a high population of domesticated elephants, second only to Myanmar and with a similar number to India. Compared to other Asian countries, a very high proportion of Thailand’s elephants are domesticated – there are only about 2-3000 remaining in the wild. One hundred years ago, there were 100,000 domesticated elephants in Thailand and a similar number in the wild. Tourism camps are therefore as important to protect them, as they are to the economy. The Role of Kwan-chaangs from Past to Present Kwan-chaangs (elephant carers) once had a very respected, honourable profession, originating from their role in historic battles. Traditionally, kwan-chaangs would live closely with their elephants, in their elephants’ natural habitat. They would know how to make best use of the forest to keep their elephant healthy. The role would be passed down by a father, who would train his son. Often from as young as 6, a kwan-chaang would develop his skills and understanding of his particular elephant. Both the kwan-chaang and his elephant would often come together in their youth and be together for life. It takes years to build a trusting, cooperative relationship, where the elephant responds to their kwan-chaang’s voice. Once a kwan-chaang knows his elephant, he can read their body language and predict how they will move. He can see if something is wrong with their health or mood. This traditional lifestyle is still practised in some hill tribes in remoter regions of Thailand. This practice could not meet the increasing demand for elephants in the rapidly growing tourism industry. To make matters worse, many owners were selling their elephants and not passing on their skills to their sons, who often preferred the wages and lifestyle of city jobs. Elephant camp workers sometimes only have a few days’ training and many are low-status immigrants from Myanmar. This has been a common practice used by tourism camps to get cheap labour. Employers have little commitment to protect their employees, who, if they are illegal immigrants, have no legal right to training, safe conditions or proper pay. Although the tourism industry has increased awareness of elephants’ welfare, it has decreased recognition of the people working alongside them. Workers are often forced into poor conditions, while caring for their elephants 24 hours a day. Due to low pay, they have no long-term commitment to the job. In such poor centres, the so-called carers are rarely paired 1-1 with elephants and develop little or no bond with them. This situation often results in the elephant not having a relationship with its carer, failing to cooperate fully, and as a result the attendant becomes fearful of his charges and unable to control it. This can lead to animal abuse and accidents. Mistreated or overworked elephants, as with other animals, can develop mental disturbances and may act unpredictably and even dangerously. Men at these sites may be called ‘kwan-chaangs’ or ‘mahouts’, but are not worthy of this respected title and their inadequacies lead to negative and inaccurate views of genuine kwan-chaangs. Being a true kwan-chaang is about more than feeding and cleaning up after elephants. Kwan-chaangs know that fearful, reactive abuse does not control an elephant, whereas proactive communication and a strong bond, based on mutual respect, and dedication do. A kwan-chaang is like a matriarch elephant, and usually think of their elephant as their family; this is important to the elephant too, since a captive female may lack the herd protection they would have in the wild. A proper kwan-chaang will live and work alongside his elephant. Every day, he will check their health and ensure they get several cooling bathes, about 200 L of good water to drink and 250-300 kg of food. (For a instructive short video about the life of a kwan-chaang click here ). It is not in a kwan-chaang’s interest to harm his elephant, which is his source of income! Abuse usually results from poor training and inadequate understanding, which centres like Phang Nga Elephant Park are trying to change by upholding the traditional practice of pairing elephants 1-1 with kwan-chaangs. We base this on both of their personalities, to secure the most trusting and cooperative relationships possible. Thai Law and How the Situation is Changing Legal Difficulties Surrounding Domesticated Elephants In 1921, King Vajiravudh decreed that wild elephants were owned by the state. Because of their cultural and economic value, hunting for sport became punishable by fines, or a prison sentence of up to 3 years. Asian elephants have also been protected internationally. Because of their endangered status, they were added to Appendix I of the CITES treaty in 1975 (Thailand joined CITES in 1983). However, due to their importance in the Thai economy, they are still classed as ‘working animals’ under the Beast of Burden Act 1939 which states that domesticated elephants are private property and can be used and traded at will. Beasts of Burden are at present excluded from national animal welfare and protection regulations. The Wildlife Reservation and Protection Act 1992 (WRPA) was set up by the Thai government to conserve wild animal populations. It prohibits hunting, capture and trade of wild elephants and their products. The government set up a Committee of Wild Animal Reservation to enforce the Act, and to inspect and maintain wild elephant reserves. International trade in wild elephants and their products has been banned by CITES, since they are under Appendix I, but WRPA helped tackle trade within Thailand. However, as ‘Beasts of Burden’, domesticated elephants and their products can legally be traded within Thailand. Also, conservation efforts of the Royal Forestry Department (and the rest of the Committee of Wild Animal Reservation) cannot target domesticated elephants. If they were listed under WRPA, prospective owners could also be screened before obtaining elephants. Under the Beast of Burden Act, anyone who can register to own working animals, regardless of expertise, may keep an elephant. Legislation and Enforcement In 2002, the government Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) was formed and given responsibility to manage and implement WRPA. Capturing or killing a wild elephant is punishable by fines, or up to 4 years in prison. Licences for wild elephant capture have not been released in Thailand since the 1970s and illegal capture is now very rare, since populations are in protected National Parks. Illegal live exports from Myanmar are also rare. In February 2012, the Thai government increased security and law enforcement measures, to verify the identity and origin of captive elephants and enforce WRPA. Research of tourism camps by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC showed the number of elephant confiscations by the DNP in 2012 was 100 times that in 2011 and this number remained high in subsequent years. Surveys showed that the number of illegally caught wild elephants observed at these sites reduced over this time frame and trade suddenly halted at hotspots on the Myanmar border. The Beast of Burden Act 1939 stipulated that working animals must be registered with the Local Administration Department by 8 years of age, when each would get an ID card. Relocations must be reported and elephants without ID can be confiscated. In 2016, this was reduced to 90 days old. This virtually removes the window where illegally caught wild elephants could be passed off as ‘captive’. Since 2015, domesticated elephants must also be DNA registered with the government. The Beast of Burden Act has been amended so ID cards must include photos and tusk information, microchip code and DNA code. Although there is a risk that microchips can be swapped and documents faked, the DNA system guarantees the identity of an elephant. In future generations, it will also verify on registration that an elephant is descended from domesticated parents. The DNA tests are done by veterinarians in Thai government departments, the DNP and the Department of Livestock Development (DLD), and handed to the Department of Provincial Administration, who update the national database. Over 3440 domesticated elephants (>99% of the documented Thai elephant population), are now DNA registered. This system prevents wild elephants from being smuggled into the tourism industry. It also gives a more accurate figure for the captive elephant population and will help monitor their movements. The Ivory Trade The number of ivory products being sold in Thailand is a fraction of its former market, since the 1992 ban on wild elephant ivory trade. To abide by WRPA, ivory must only be sold alongside acquisition documents, to prove its origin. Thailand implemented a National Ivory Action Plan in 2014, which became the Elephant Ivory Act in 2015. This Act more tightly regulates the trade, import and export of domesticated elephant ivory. To possess ivory legally, the acquisition documents must now be presented to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP). The DNP verifies that the ivory comes from an approved dealer, registers the new owner and issues a certificate of possession for the item. If the owner cannot provide the certificate on the DNP’s request, the ivory is seized. The new DNA database for domesticated elephants should mean that this documentation can no longer be faked and supplied with wild elephant ivory, which can be DNA tested. The Elephant Ivory Act also states that changes of ownership, location or transformation must be reported, or the resulting fine is up to 3,000,000 baht (£72,000; $85,000). If traded, exported or imported without permission, the penalty is up to 3 years’ imprisonment, or a fine of up to 6,000,000 baht (£144,000; $170,000). The Department of Livestock Development The Department of Livestock Development (DLD) manages and enforces the welfare of working animals, like domesticated elephants. The Animal Epidemics Act of 1956 compels owners to obtain permission from the DLD before moving an elephant across Provinces, trading elephants or their products. The DLD ensures the safe movement, health and welfare of captive animals via their veterinary networks. The DLD has set up mobile veterinary teams, specifically for elephants. What Thailand is Doing for Elephants Enforcing the Law on Ivory Trade In 1997, CITES mandated that there were two systems to monitor illegal elephant hunting and product trade. Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) is used to map carcass findings and track populations and mortality rates. Local authorities and NGOs in Thailand collect the data. The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) is used to track illegal trade in elephant products, using seizure records. These systems have been checked regularly since their setup and help direct protective measures and management efforts. A government database was set up in 2015, to record all legal ivory possession, approved traders, stocks and trade. Illegal ivory seizures are also logged, to help direct investigations. Ten government agencies and Thai police make up a subcommittee for Ivory Law Enforcement. Hundreds of inspections are carried out each year, by 79 patrol teams. Inspection checkpoints exist across the country and 11 special task forces were set up for trade intelligence in high-risk areas. Airport security is heightened, with the aid of new detection technologies. There are 100% inspections for high-risk routes. Seized ivory has been incinerated since 2015, to comply with CITES regulations and prevent leakage into markets. In 2015, 20 organisations were made responsible for increasing public awareness of ivory trade laws. Campaigns by Thai authorities informed tourists about the ban on exporting ivory. Their efforts targeted airports and attractions, but were enforced by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in offices worldwide. Tens of thousands of media broadcasts have also informed local people about the laws of ivory trading. Thanks to increased awareness, many people contact information centres for controlling ivory trade each year and have registered the ivory they possess. Security and campaign efforts are reinforced by a National Committee on CITES, split into subcommittees for regulations, registration, law enforcement and public awareness. They meet regularly throughout the year. Efforts to reduce trading are showing signs of success. Research by TRAFFIC in 2016 showed a 96% reduction of ivory on sale in Bangkok markets, since 2012. Protecting Wild Elephants Since 2004, Thailand has been a leading country in engaging CITES authorities with ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations), to make a regional network to combat illegal trade of wild species. This led to the Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) being formed in 2005, by CITES officials, immigration services, customs and police. It enormously helps countries to share data on cross-border trafficking and best practices to prevent this. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has been transporting wild elephants to protected forested areas and building food sources for them. National Parks are being developed, where people can visit wild elephants in a natural environment. In the last decade, the DNP has worked with charities and social clubs in Thailand to increase the frequency of wild elephant counts, engaging the public. In March 2017, the DNP recorded that the population of wild elephants in protected areas had increased by 10%. The wild population of elephants in Thailand is reportedly increasing by 7% per year. Minimising Conflict with Humans Feeding the exponentially growing Thai population calls for more farmland. Environmental and Forestry groups, and the Thai Royal Family, are working to protect the remaining forest. His Majesty The late King Bhumibol encouraged mountainside farmers to plant Vetiver grass, which acts as a barrier against flood damage and slows water flow to prevent land drying, keeps fields in use for crops and avoids further conversion of forest to farmland. His Majesty The King also campaigned to reduce global warming. His actions helped protect the remaining habitat for elephants. Elephant conservation charities, such as the Southern Thailand Elephant Foundation (STEF) promote the use of sustainable agriculture, by growing elephant food on converted land that was used for rubber and palm oil plantations. The increasing number of plantations has caused conflict between people and elephants. Wild elephants stray onto farmland to feed, since their habitat is so fragmented and they must roam about 6 km 2 a day for food. This frustrates farmers, who can kill the elephants to protect their crops. Hundreds of elephants were killed from the 1900s to the 1980s, as a result. The Thailand Research Fund began funding research into solutions for this human-elephant conflict over 20 years ago and in 2003, collaborated with Wildlife Fund Thailand to monitor and profile elephants that strayed outside the forest. However, conflict still resulted in 107 human and wild elephant casualties and deaths from 2012-2018. This included deaths of at least 25 wild elephants, nearly all of which were due to high voltage electric fences. With the development of new technologies, it became easier to monitor wild elephants and assess what worked to reduce conflict. Surveillance systems and safe low voltage fences are becoming more popular, to prevent disturbances. More recently, the government has introduced trenches to prevent elephants from trying to access crops. Farmers also plant trees, as a barrier. These are now common and successful measures. Environmental workers and corporate sponsors have also introduced salt licks to forested areas, to lure wild elephants away from farms. The DNP and park rangers have announced plans to introduce more alternative elephant food sources and more buffer zones between elephants and human settlements. The DNP also plan to reimburse farmers who have lost their crops due to elephants. The role of elephants in Thai culture is still at risk; they are seen by some as a nuisance, not the symbolic icon they once were. Aligning Objectives for Elephants and People Many domesticated elephant camps in Thailand educate local people and tourists about the challenges facing wild elephants, and ways to help. This not only supports wild elephants, it also builds understanding between people. Some want to preserve the role of domesticated elephants in their culture, while others are more concerned with increasing wild populations. By aligning our goals, the situation for elephants overall is more likely to be improved, than by furthering conflicts of interest. In this spirit, in 1998, the Prime Minister’s Committee for Elephant Protection chose 13 th March to be Thailand’s National Elephant Day. The annual campaign helps preserve the important role of elephants in Thai culture and religion. It also increases public participation in their protection, by providing fundraising opportunities for conservation and tourism centres alike. Another government initiative has been to train city kwan-chaangs as forest rangers. This returns them and their elephants to nature, while providing a future for both. The work also helps protect wild elephants and their habitat. National Parks now have armed rangers – many have been injured or killed by poachers, while defending elephants. Improving the Welfare of Domesticated Elephants In 2002, the Department of Livestock Development released guidelines for elephant camps, to improve standards of factors like housing and food. The main reason that these are not always enforced is a lack of funding. In 2015, the ASEAN Captive Elephant Working Group was formed of about 40 elephant specialists, veterinarians, researchers and conservationists. They have released a set of goals to realistically transform the tourism industry. This includes a certification system for tourism parks, which would also ensure that kwan-chaangs and elephants are adequately trained. The Thai government is currently implementing laws that will mean kwan-chaangs need a licence and that elephant park owners need a permit from the DNP, that must be renewed every 3 years with inspections. Her Majesty Queen Sirikit and the Forest Industry Organisation have set up a mobile veterinary project to provide check-ups and treatments to elephants across Thailand. Non-Governmental Organisations are also being used to care for domesticated elephants and many use funding from international organisations to provide mobile veterinary services, using voluntary workers. They include ‘Friends of the Asian Elephant’, which set up the first elephant hospital. Most NGOs are based in the north of Thailand, so it was important to set up STEF, to provide free treatment for elephants in the south. This enables keepers to take better care of their elephants. Increased tourist awareness about elephant welfare has also encouraged higher standards of care. The focus is now on preventing health problems, instead of reactive treatment. It is commonplace in ethical parks for kwan-chaangs to check their elephants’ basic health every day, in addition to regular veterinary check-ups. As more domesticated elephants from the logging days reach old age, retirement centres like STEF are being set up to care for them. Another focus at STEF is developing the skills of kwan-chaangs. More children now go to school and fewer train to be kwan-chaangs. This is worrying, as elephant workers without expertise are likely to resort to instinctive, reactive methods, risking human safety and elephant welfare. STEF aims to teach children about modern, ethical methods of elephant care and the best environments for elephants. They also aim to show how to use breeding to ensure elephant conservation. The Next Steps For Domesticated Elephants
Many believe that domesticated elephants should be removed from the Beast of Burden Act and placed under the Wildlife Reservation and Protection Act (WRPA). Alternatively, the Royal Forestry Department could be placed as competent officials in the Beast of Burden Act, so they can better manage the conditions for domesticated elephants. Another solution could be to make a special law for elephants. Although endangered and under CITES Appendix I, most of the Thai population of elephants are working animals. Having spent thousands of years dependent on humans, they cannot be considered ‘wild’. It would also be hard to apply the WRPA restrictions on breeding, selling and moving to domesticated elephants. It would only increase financial difficulties for their owners, worsening conditions for the elephants. WRPA also lacks definition of harmful acts towards domesticated animals. But domesticated elephants need standard care regulations and neither the Beast of Burden act, nor WRPA, is readily adaptable to their unique case. A special law regarding working hours, feeding, housing and care for domesticated elephants would be beneficial.
For Elephant Parks and Kwan-chaangs
The Tourism Authority of Thailand could financially endorse elephant parks that are assessed to have high welfare standards. This would encourage other parks to raise their standards. Schools should incorporate elephant care training. Children are often leaving their families’ tradition of keeping elephants, aiming for jobs with more pay. Teaching them the importance of kwan-chaangs in Thailand and modern methods of ethical care is vital. Improving the working conditions, salary and status of kwan-chaangs would encourage more to train. Upholding the 1-1 partnership with elephants increases safety and welfare for both. Elephants should be effectively banned from the cities and more suitable careers provided for kwan-chaangs.
For Veterinary Medicine
Elephant owners should be educated to increase their trust in modern veterinary medicine and replace more traditional methods. But there is a need for more veterinarians specialised in elephant medicine and surgery. Programmes for elephant-specific training could be set up for veterinarians working in the Livestock Department and the Royal Forestry Department. Standard methods and equipment cannot be used on such big animals and many Thai veterinarians lack the expertise to treat elephant-specific problems. The salary of government veterinarians should also be increased; there is a current shortage of them because private practices offer far higher salaries.
For the Ivory Trade
Many people want to ban trade of domesticated elephant products. This should, in theory, abolish the ivory market. However, it is a difficult decision. The demand for ivory is likely to remain and ivory legally and humanely taken from domesticated elephants may satisfy most of this requirement, preventing poaching of wild elephants. The market might be better monitored and regulated if its trade stays legal for now. Security and law enforcement should focus their efforts on the illegal ivory market, particularly the online market, which is harder to regulate.
For Wild Elephants
Gradual rehabilitation for 3 rd or 4 th generation of domesticated elephants into a semi-wild habitat may be considered, where there is a small population of wild elephants. This could replenish variation in the genetic pool and reduce the risk of wild elephants dying out.
Conclusion Over 70% of the natural forest in Thailand has been destroyed in the last 100 years. This, combined with the reliance of most remaining elephants on human care, means that they cannot safely be released into ‘the wild’. In any case, Thailand is not Africa and additional, suitable, available land in National Parks no longer exists.
- Increased awareness about elephant welfare means the role of elephants in Thailand is ever-changing.
- It is up to us to work with Thai people, to make this a positive change for elephants, while preserving their place in Thai culture.
- It is clear that Thai people love and worship elephants.
- Often, poor treatment stems from a lack of education, or a lack of funding to provide appropriate care.
How We Can Help
A big way to help our elephants is by donating- 100% of the money we receive goes towards the elephants. Visit STEF’s website to donate to this cause https://southernthailandelephants.org/please-donate/ You could also help STEF by fundraising for us, or promoting us! Visit https://southernthailandelephants.org/how-you-can-help/ Many ecotourism centres benefit from volunteer work. This allows businesses with limited funding to provide the best animal care they can, while educating volunteers from around the world. Email [email protected] to find out more.
References Vincent Nijman (compiler) (2014). An Assessment of the live elephant trade in Thailand. TRAFFIC International http://www.trafficj.org/publication/14_An_Assessment_of_the_Live_ElephantTrade_Thailand.pdf (accessed 06/03/2019) Krishnasamy, K., Milliken, T.
- And Savini, C. (2016).
- In Transition: Bangkok’s Ivory Market – An 18-month survey of Bangkok’s ivory market.
- TRAFFIC, Southeast Asia Regional Office https://www.traffic.org/site/assets/files/3683/traffic-report-bangkok-ivory.pdf (accessed 06/03/2019) Pratch Rujivanarom. (2017).
- As wild elephant numbers increase, authorities warn of conflicts with farmers.
THE NATION http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30308950 (accessed 06/03/2019) Chularat Saengpassa. (2018). Seeking peace with the pachyderms. The Nation Weekend http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30350497 (accessed 06/03/2019) About the Author Holly Collicott completed her degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Birmingham in 2017, majoring in Biology and Psychology. She has always had a deep interest in animal behaviour, especially in group-living species, and how complex behaviours develop in these animals with cognitive abilities.
- As a student, Holly worked as a volunteer at a monkey sanctuary in UK and found it very rewarding designing environmental enrichment for the animals, although her sadness at the primate pet trade made her resolve to ensure animals are properly cared for in accordance with their needs.
- She has also worked for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds at the Loch Lomond Reserve in Scotland surveying bird-life and plant-life and monitoring activity.
Holly is 23 and says she wants to apply her degree to the real world. She shares our determination that the Asian elephant must be protected and their habitat conserved. Holly recognises the importance of education and making the public feel connected with animals, and really enjoys explaining science to non-scientists.
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What does the elephant with its trunk up mean?
Meaning and Significance of Elephant with Trunk Up – An upward-pointing elephant trunk is said to bring authority, good fortune, money, and goodwill. The elephant spreads its trunk in greeting and gladness. To get blessings and compassion, place an elephant with its trunk pointing upward.
The upward-pointing trunks of elephant statues are regarded to be particularly lucky and bring wealth to the home. Elephants with their trunks up and standing on their rear legs represent power and defense. The elephant’s trunk pointing upward in a statue also represents fortune and achievement. Feng Shui experts also compare the elephant trunk to a vacuum cleaner that eliminates negative energy.
Instead, pick a statue of an elephant holding a crystal ball or similar object.
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What does an elephant tattoo mean in Buddhism?
The Allure of Elephants – Are you considering a small symbolic tattoo perfect for the inner wrist ? Or perhaps a large design that will fill an area such as your back or legs with grace? An elephant makes a fine choice for many reasons. Not only does an elephant represent memory, empathy and compassion, there is a strong connection of the species to Buddhism, as it is said that the Buddha selected the rare white elephant for one of his incarnations.
- The white elephant symbolizes both wisdom and fertility, making it a beautiful choice for a maternal tattoo.
- If you are curious and want to try the white tattoo trend, why not opt for a white elephant? Granted white tattoos may fade over time, so this may be a wise choice if you don’t want visible commitment.
For lovers seeking a couple tattoo design who would rather forgo name or wedding ring designs in fear of bad luck or jinxing their union, the stately elephant symbolizes both fidelity and loyalty- two key elements in any successful union. In addition, elephants have long been representative of the Republican political party.
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What do elephant statues represent?
Elephants are worshiped in the Indian and other eastern cultures as they symbolise positivity, prosperity, and happiness. They are also revered for their strength and intelligence. Therefore, placing an elephant statue in the house and office is very auspicious as per Vastu Shastra.
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