Buddhism started as early as 4th or 6th BCE, when Siddharta Gautama
started spreading his teachings of suffering, nirvana and rebirth in
India. Siddharta himself was averse to accept images of himself, and
used many different symbols to illustrate his teachings. There are
eight different auspicious symbols of Buddhism, and many say that these
represent the gifts that God made to Budhha when he achieved
It is not known
what the role of the image was in Early Buddhism,
although many surviving images can be found, because their symbolic or
representative nature was not clearly explained in early texts. Among
the earliest and most common symbols of Buddhism are the stupa, Dharma
wheel, and the lotus flower. The dharma wheel, traditionally
represented with eight spokes, can have a variety of meanings. It
initially only meant royalty (concept of the "Monarch of the Wheel, or
Chakravatin), but started to be used in a Buddhist context on the
Pillars of Ashoka during the 3rd century BC. The Dharma wheel is
generally seen as referring to the historical process of teaching the
buddhadharma; the eight spokes refer to the Noble Eightfold Path. The
lotus, as well, can have several meanings, often referring to the
inherently pure potential of the mind.
early symbols include the trisula, a symbol use since around the 2nd
century BC that combine the lotus, the vajra diamond rod and a
symbolization of the three jewels (The Buddha, the dharma, the sangha).
The swastika was traditionally used in India by Buddhists and Hindus as
a good luck sign. In East Asia, the swastika is often used as a general
symbol of Buddhism. Swastikas used in this context can either be left
Buddhism did not portray the Buddha himself and may have been aniconic.
The first hint of a human representation in Buddhist symbolism appear
with the Buddha footprint.
The parasol or umbrella
umbrella can protect
people from the different elements, like the
sun or the rain. In this context, a parasol or umbrella can mean
protection from suffering and harmful forces. It can also mean the
enjoyment of the cool shade it provides.
The two golden fish
older times, the two
fish were drawn to symbolize the Ganges and the
Yamuna rivers. It has, through interpretation, come to mean luck and
fortune. It also means the courage and fearlessness to face the ocean
of sufferings and to be able to swim freely like fish through water.
The Conch shell
large shell has been
used in many countries as a traditional
battle horn. In Buddhism, the white Conch shell that spirals to the
right can mean the deep and joyful sound of the Dharma teachings. It is
representative of the awakening disciples receive when they hear these
teachings. The Conch shell can also mean the rousing of people from
The lotus flower
lotus has been used in
many teachings of Buddhism to impart the
true nature of all mankind. The roots of the lotus plant are stuck deep
in the mud, but it still grows above murky water and blossoms into a
beautiful, sweet-smelling flower. The lotus can be analogous to how we
rise up from our sufferings to reach enlightenment, beauty and clarity.
Different-colored lotus plants mean different things in Buddhism. White
means spiritual and mental purity, pink means the traditional Buddha,
purple is for mysticism, red means love and compassion, while blue
The Banner of Victory
symbol represents how
Buddha won over the demon Mara. This demon,
in Buddhism, is synonymous to passion, lust and pride. The Banner of
Victory is used to remind people that one must win over their own
pride, lust and passions to be able to reach enlightenment.
vase can be filled with
many different things. The vase, in Buddhism,
can mean the showering of health, wealth, prosperity and all the good
things that come with enlightenment.
The Dharma wheel
wheel is also called
the dharma chakra or the dhamma chakka and is
often used to represent Buddha himself. It has also universally become
the symbol for Buddhism. The dharma wheel has eight spokes, which
represent Buddha’s Eightfold Path.
The eternal knot
intertwining of lines
in the eternal knot is said to symbolize how
everything is connected. It can also represent how religion and secular
affairs, as well as compassion and wisdom are united and connected to
Bodhi Tree, also known as Bo
(from the Sinhalese Bo), was a large and very old Sacred Fig tree
located in Bodh Gaya (about 100 km from Patna in the Indian state of
Bihar), under which Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher and
founder of Buddhism later known as Gautama Buddha, is said to have
achieved enlightenment, or Bodhi. In religious iconography, the Bodhi
tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually
prominently displayed. It takes 100 to 3,000 years for a bodhi tree to
term "Bodhi Tree" is also widely applied to currently existing trees,
particularly the Sacred Fig growing at the Mahabodhi Temple, which is a
direct descendant of the original specimen. This tree is a frequent
destination for pilgrims, being the most important of the four main
Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Other holy Bodhi trees which have a great
significance in the history of Buddhism are the Anandabodhi tree in
Sravasti and the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Both are
believed to have been propagated from the original Bodhi tree.
footprint of the Buddha is an
imprint of Gautama Buddha's one or both feet. There are two forms:
natural, as found in stone or rock, and those made artificially. Many
of the "natural" ones, of course, are acknowledged not to be actual
footprints of the Buddha, but replicas or representations of them,
which can be considered cetiya (Buddhist relics) and also an early
aniconic and symbolic representation of the Buddha. The footprints of
the Buddha abound throughout Asia, dating from various periods. They
often bear distinguishing marks, such as a Dharmachakra at the centre
of the sole, or the 32, 108 or 132 auspicious signs of the Buddha,
engraved or painted on the sole.
Empty Throne lies in the concept of 'empty', an
important element of mysticism. This was also symbolizing the royalty
of Siddharta Gautama.
Bowl The begging bowl is the simplest but
one of the most important objects in the daily lives of Buddhist monks.
This has been the primary symbol of the chosen life of the Buddhist
|The Lion -
is one of
buddhism`s most important symbols. The lion is the symbol of royalty
that symbolized what the Buddha was a part of before attaining
enlightenment. It is also the power of the Buddha's teaching and is
quiet often compared with the roar of a lion.
Eight Auspicious Symbols - or
(Ashtamangala) are a sacred suite of Eight Auspicious Signs endemic to
a number of Dharmic Traditions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and
Sikhism. The symbols or 'symbolic attributes' are yidam and teaching
tools. Not only do these attributes, these energetic signatures, point
to qualities of enlightened mindstream, but they are the investiture
that ornaments these enlightened 'qualities'. Many cultural
enumerations and variations of the Ashtamangala are extant.
of eight auspicious
symbols were originally used in India at ceremonies such as an
investiture or coronation of a king. An early grouping of symbols
included: throne, swastika, handprint, hooked knot, vase of jewels,
water libation flask, pair of fishes, lidded bowl. In Buddhism, these
eight symbols of good fortune represent the offerings made by the gods
to Shakyamuni Buddha immediately after he gained enlightenment.
Umbrella or parasol (chhatra) embodies notions of wealth or royalty,
for one had to be rich enough to possess such an item, and further, to
have someone carry it. It points to the "royal ease" and power
experienced in the Buddhist life of detachment.
two fishes originally represented the two main sacred rivers of India -
the Ganges and Yamuna. These rivers are associated with the lunar and
solar channels which originate in the nostrils and carry the
alternating rhythms of breath or prana. They have religious
significance in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions but also in
Christianity (the sign of the fish, the feeding of the five thousand).
In Buddhism, the fish symbolize happiness as they have complete freedom
of movement in the water. They represent fertility and abundance. Often
drawn in the form of carp which are regarded in the Orient as sacred on
account of their elegant beauty, size and life-span.
or Urn of Wisdom represents health, longevity, wealth,
prosperity, wisdom and the phenomenon of space.
lotus flower, representing
of body, speech, and mind, floating above
the muddy waters of
attachment and desire; represents the full blossoming of wholesome
deeds in blissful liberation.
- The right-turning white
shell, representing the beautiful, deep, melodious, interpenetrating
and pervasive sound of the Buddhadharma which awakens disciples from
the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own
welfare and the welfare of others.
Knot - The 'endless knot'
'eternal knot' it represents the inter-twining of wisdom and
compassion; represents the mutual dependence of religious doctrine and
Banner - Dhvaja banner was
a military standard of ancient Indian warfare. Makara Dhvaja has become
latter an emblem of the Vedic god of love and desire - Kamadeva. Within
the Tibetan tradition a list of eleven different forms of the victory
banner is given to represent eleven specific methods for overcoming
defilements. Many variations of the dhvaja's design can be seen on the
roofs of Tibetan monasteries to symbolyze the Buddha's victory over
The Wheel of Law, sometimes representing Sakyamuni Buddha and the
Dharma teaching; also representing the mandala and chakra. This symbol
is commonly used by Tibetan Buddhists where it sometimes also includes
an inner wheel of the Gankyil (Tibetan).
In the Buddhist tradition, the swastika symbolizes the feet or
footprints of the Buddha and is often used to mark the beginning of
texts. Modern Tibetan Buddhism uses it as a clothing decoration. With
the spread of Buddhism, it has passed into the iconography of China and
Japan where it has been used to denote plurality, abundance, prosperity
and long life.
the Buddhist faith, the Four Heavenly Kings are four guardian gods,
each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world.
Also called Wisdom Eyes, this pair of eyes can usually be found depicted on all four sides of the Buddhist shrines known as Stupas. The symbol denotes the all-seeing and omniscient eyes of Buddha and is representative of the Lord’s presence all around. The curly line below the eyes in the middle (where the nose is on a face) is the Sanskrit numeral one that symbolizes the unity of everything and also signifies that the only way to attain enlightenment is through Buddha’s teachings. The dot between the eyes is indicative of the third eye, which represents spiritual awakening.