The Symbolism of the Elephant Through Religion
Following a religion gives human beings a sense of security, satisfaction of belonging to a group, and most importantly, a set of guidelines that govern one’s moral and ethic values. All who follow a religion, regardless of the beliefs, have a common goal of finding a faith to feel comfortable with. Hinduism, one of the oldest religions in the world, and Jainism are two of the widely practiced religions in India, with a similar virtuous concept of Ahimsa, the ideal philosophy of nonviolence. Despite the many similarities, there are some differences in conception and moral practices between the religions.
The ancient parable The Blind Men and the Elephant, a fable originating in India, has broadly diffused within religions, each retelling the tale to portray their values. The story universally emphasises the importance of religious tolerance and advantages of living in harmony, while illustrating the idealistic nature of truth through the symbolism of the elephant. 1
The original tale presents six blind men, who encounter an elephant for the first time. The men attempt to learn what the animal is by touching different parts of his body, however finding themselves in complete disagreement when the man who touched his side claims the elephant is a wall, the one who touched the tusk says it is a spear, the man who touched the trunk described it as a snake, the man who touched the knee was mistook the leg for a tree, the man who touched the ear identified it as a fan, and the man who touched the tail insisted the elephant to be a rope. 2 Both religions recognize the body parts as separate perspectives of truth, as the elephant is the embodiment of reality being contrasting components that work together. This elephant depicts the complexity and immensity of the world, revealing the universal truth that no one can see the full potential the world has to offer. A single perspective cannot...
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