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Buddhist Symbols

In the earliest centuries of Buddhism, statues of the Buddha were not used. Instead, Buddhist art consisted of images symbolizing the Buddha and his teachings, such as the lotus, the Wheel of the Law, the Bodhi tree and the Buddha's footprints.

Eventually, the Buddha image became one of the most popular representations in Buddhism, but these early symbols remain important and are frequently used to this day. They are especially important in Theravada Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka and Thailand.

As Buddhism spread, Buddhist symbolism was enriched by the cultures it came into contact with. This is especially true of Buddhism in Tibet, which has developed a rich symbolic tradition. The central symbols of Tibetan Buddhism are the Eight Auspicious Symbols, known in Sanskrit as Ashtamangala (ashta meaning eight and mangala meaning auspicious).

The Eight Auspicious Symbols are printed on Tibetan prayer flags, incorporated into mandalas and thangkas, and used in other forms of ritual art. Another important symbol is the Wheel of Life, a symbolic representation of the universe as understood by Tibetan Buddhists.

Other important types of symbolism in Buddhism include colors, especially the five colors of white, yellow, red, blue and green, and symbolic hand gestures called mudras. The articles in this section explore these Buddhist symbols, providing information on their history, meaning and use in Buddhism today.

  • Buddha eyes

    On virtually every stupa, which is a shrine of Buddhism, in Nepal, there are giant pairs of eyes staring out from the four sides of the main tower... full article →
  • buddhapada

    The footprints of the Buddha (Buddhapada) are one of the early representations of the Buddha in the anticonic (no statues) stage of Buddhist art... full article →
  • color symbolism

    ## Christianity In Christianity, color symbolism is primarily used in liturgical decorations (banners, vestments, etc.) and to a lesser degree in Christian art... full article →
  • dharma wheel

    The dharma wheel (dharmachakra) symbolizes the teachings of the Buddha, who was said to have "turned the wheel of the dharma." The wheel is commonly used as a symbol of Buddhism. full article →
  • Eight Auspicious Symbols

    The Eight Auspicious Symbols (Ashtamangala in Sanskrit) are a group of lucky symbols that appear on many Buddhist textiles, objects and paintings... full article →
  • golden fishes

    One of the Eight Auspicious Symbols, the golden fishes (suvarnamatsya) represents good fortune, fertility and salvation in Buddhism. full article →
  • mudras

    Mudras are Buddhist hand gestures. They function both as symbols in Buddhist art and as actual hand gestures used during Buddhist meditation or ritual... full article →
  • Om Mani Padme Hum

    Om mani padme hum is a Tibetan Buddhist mantra. The basic English translation is "Om Jewel in the Lotus Hum" or "Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus... full article →
  • treasure vase

    One of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, the treasure vase (kalasha) symbolizes spiritual and material wealth, abundance, and good fortune. full article →
  • triratna

    The triratna symbol represents the Triple Gem or Three Jewels of Buddhism, which are the three core values of:
      - Buddha - Dharma (the teachings) - Sangha (the monastic community)
    These are also known as the Three Refuges, which are recited as part of Buddhist ordination ceremonies: "I take refuge in the Buddha; I take refuge in the Dharma; I take refuge in the Sangha... full article →
  • victory banner

    One of the Eight Auspicious Symbols, the victory banner (dhvaja) represents the victory of the Buddha's teachings and of wisdom over ignorance. full article →
  • Wheel of Life

    The Wheel of Life (Sanskrit; Pāli: bhavacakka; Tibetan: srid pa'i 'khor lo) symbolizes the Buddhist perspective on life and contains within it numerous symbols of Buddhist themes and teachings... full article →
  • swastika

    The swastika (Sanskrit svastika) is a cross with four arms of equal length, with the ends of each arm bent at a right angle. Sometimes the crossing lines are horizontal and vertical and other times they are an angle, forming a central "X" shape... full article →

Article Info

Title Buddhist Symbols
Last UpdatedNovember 20, 2016
URL www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/symbols
Short URLrlft.co/810
MLA Citation “Buddhist Symbols.” ReligionFacts.com. 20 Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed 23 Feb. 2017. <www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/symbols>

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