The Basic Mandala and Animal Symbolism
Mandala designs are found not only in Buddhism and Hinduism, but also in Native American totems, Celtic designs and hinted at in early Christian art such as the stained glass found in ancient cathedrals. Even the most basic mandala is complex in nature with layer upon layer of detailed design elements.
Often, the traditional mandala is constructed of colored sand and destroyed upon completion, representing the temporality of all things physical and used to bless a place or people. However, there is no single “right” way to create a mandala, as each is meant to be personal and without limitations, excluding the imagination of the person involved in the creation. When an animal is depicted as part of a mandala, it is always indicative of certain qualities or strengths, religious or spiritual beliefs, or as a spirit animal. So, just what does the elephant tapestry hanging in the living room mean?
The elephant is a sign of strength and unyielding resoluteness in most forms, while the white elephant is considered particularly special in some cultures due to its rarity and purity. In Buddhism, the gray elephant is a symbol of the untrained mind which is more prone to wander or deviate from the path of enlightenment. With practice and patience, it is believed that the ability to control one’s thoughts through mindfulness and meditation to achieve true enlightenment is possible, and this state is represented by the white elephant as a transformation of sorts. Other common depictions of the elephant in mandala designs represent: