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What Humans Can Learn From the Spiritual Life of Elephants

what elephants can teach humans

Throughout history elephants have been revered. They are most intelligent creatures, and honoured by many cultures for their strength, intelligence and nobility. As well as being the largest land animals, they are also have some of the longest lives in the animal kingdom, with life spans of 60+ years. They are fiercely loyal to their families and tribes, and in Buddhist tradition, the elephant symbolizes wisdom, patience, and longevity.  Buddha picked the form of a white elephant as one of his many incarnations, thus the rare appearance of a white elephant is still heralded as a manifestation of the gods. The Hindu god Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, has the head of an elephant.

Researchers in Thailand are now proving that, because elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror (joining only humans, apes and dolphins as animals that possess this kind of self-awareness)  they also have the capacity to see the world from someone else’s point of view. Pyscologists call this “theory of mind.” And they believe it’s the basic ingredient of religious behavior, because in order to imagine the mind of god, you must have a theory of mind.

This fascinating video explains how elephants demonstrate that they have the mental tool that underpins spirituality in humans:



In both scientific and ancient spiritual terms, elephants serve to teach us that gentleness, commitment, and communication in relationships is both powerful and necessary to honor our relationships and to demonstrate trust and love, whether it be friends, family or partner. Deeply committed to all creatures with whom they have relationships, elephants are tough when protecting others and gentle when nurturing them. The matriarch (the oldest, most experienced female leader of a herd) leads in a way that is both gentle and inclusive. Elephants are able to communicate with each other telepathically. This can teach us not only greater self-awareness, but how to truly see…and hear others.