Throughout the ages, mankind has used various different symbols to represent their faith and religious beliefs. And when it comes to symbolism, we can say that Buddhism is surely one of the major religions that made use of it significantly. In this post, we will be examining Buddhist symbols and their meanings extensively to help you have a better understanding of them within the context of the faith.
The most prominent symbol in Buddhism, is the Great Buddha, of course, which contains some minor symbols in itself, such as the three curved lines around his neck. This feature is thought to represent his deep, booming voice.
That being said, there is more to Buddhist symbolism than the Great Buddha. Wthout further ado, here are the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, which originated in India and were used to represent coronations.
The Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism – Ashtamangala
The group of eight symbols is known in Sanskrit as ‘Ashtamangala’. Ashta means eight, and mangala means promising. Each symbol in the group of eight is associated with the Buddha in his physical form. This group of symbols is among the most popular of a number of intricate symbols. When these symbols became a part of Buddhism, they were meant to be symbolic of the offerings made to Buddha by the other gods after he was enlightened.
Most schools of Buddhism visually use the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, particularly in Tibet. There are also a number of Chinese monasteries displaying the symbols on lotus pedestals, which are placed directly in front of Buddha statues. They can be used for both decoration and as a focusing point while meditating. Let’s take a look at these eight symbols, and their meanings.
The meaning behind the Parasol is twofold: it provides protection from the sun while also being a symbol of royalty. It is also believed to protect people from illnesses.
The parasol is a highly ornate symbol, with a dome that represents wisdom. The dome is surrounded by a skirt that represents compassion. In some instances, the dome can be seen as an octagonal, to show what is referred to as the Eightfold Path. It can also be seen as a square that signifies the four directional quarters.
Two Golden Fish
Once a symbol of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, the Two Golden Fish symbol became the symbol of good fortune for Buddhists, as well as Jainists and Hindus.
As a Buddhist symbol, the Two Golden Fish also tells practitioners that all humans who follow the dharma should not be afraid of drowning in the “ocean of suffering”, and that they can be reborn into the host of their choice.
The Conch Shell
The Conch Shell has been used as a symbol for thousands of years, long before it became a Buddhist symbol. It was used as a battle horn in Asia. For the ancient Hindus, the white conch shell was a representation of the Brahmin caste.
As a Buddhist symbol, the Conch Shell is also white, and it has a rightward coil. This is a representation of the sound of the Dharma’s far reach, which is meant to make us see our ignorance and do something about it.
The lotus flower is beautiful, but its beauty hides a dark underside, with roots that grow deep into the mud beneath the water. But, from this mud comes a stem that produces the beautiful flower at the top.
The Lotus Flower is a symbol of our own true nature, from our darkest places to the ultimate goal of enlightenment. Not only is the Lotus Flower a very significant Buddhist symbol in itself, the various colors also have their own significance. For instance, a white lotus is a symbol of mental and spiritual purity. Other colors and their meanings include:
- Red – This represents the heart, love, and compassion.
- Pink – This represents the historical Buddha.
- Purple – This represents mysticism.
- Blue – This represents wisdom, as well as control of the senses
If you would like to know more about the lotus flower and the symbolism behind, click below to read the following post:
The Banner of Victory
The Banner of Victory is a symbol of the victory of Buddha over the demon Mara and what it represents (pride, lust, passion, and fear of death), as well as wisdom’s victory over ignorance. Legend has it that this victory banner was raised over Mount Meru by Buddha himself, to symbolize his triumph.
The teachings of Buddha are never-ending and bountiful, which is represented in the Vase filled with treasures that are sacred and precious.
It is believed that, no matter how many treasures are removed, the Vase always remains full. The Vase is also a symbol of a long life, as well as prosperity, again, because no matter how much is taken from it, it will never be empty.
The Dharma Wheel
The Dharma Wheel, also known as the Dharma-chakra and as the Dhamma chakka, is probably one of the most iconic Buddhist symbols.
To understand the Dharma Wheel, one must understand that there are eight spokes, each representing the Eightfold Path. When Buddha offered his first sermon following his enlightenment, the Dharma Wheel was turned. Twice more, when the Great Buddha was teaching about emptiness and Buddha-nature, the wheel was turned.
The Eternal Knot
The Eternal Knot is made with a single line or thread, which is entwined into a closed pattern. This pattern represents the dependency of origination and the coming together of all phenomena.
It can also be used as a symbol of the marriage of secular life and religious doctrine, as well as the marriage of wisdom and compassion. When one is enlightened, it can represent the marriage of charity and emptiness.
One More Buddhist Symbol: The Lion
In addition to The Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, there is another symbol that we felt we should mention. The Lion, which is one of the most important Buddhist symbols, represents the Buddha’s royal past.
It also represents the power of the Buddha’s teachings, as they are considered as powerful as a lion’s roar.
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