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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 →
  • conch shell

    In Buddhism, the conch shell (Sanskrit shankha; Tibetan dung dkar) has survived as the original horn trumpet since time immemorial. Ancient Indian epics describe how each hero of mythical warfare carried a mighty white conch shell, which often bore a personal name... full article →
  • dharma wheel

    In Buddhism, the wheel (Skt. chakra; Tib. 'khor lo) is one of the most important Buddhist symbols, as it represents the teachings of the Buddha... 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 →
  • endless knot

    In Buddhism, the endless knot (Skt. shrivatsa; Tib. dpal be'u) is a closed, graphic ornament composed of right-angled, intertwined lines. It overlaps without a beginning or an end, symbolising the Buddha's endless wisdom and compassion... full article →
  • golden fishes

    In Buddhism, he Golden Fishes symbol (Skt. suvarnamatsya; Tib. gser nya) consists of two fishes, which usually appear standing vertically with heads turned inwards towards each other... 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 →
  • parasol

    Above the mountain is the dome of the sky. This is symbolized by the umbrella, whose important function is to cast a shadow, the shadow of protection... full article →
  • Tibetan Wheel of Life

    The Tibetan Wheel of Life symbolizes the Buddhist perspective on life and contains within it numerous symbols of Buddhist themes and teachings... 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 →
  • vase

    The vase (Skt. nidhana kumbha; Tib. gter gyi bum pa) is a fat-bellied vessel with a short, slim neck. On top, at the opening, there is a large jewel indicating that it is a treasure vase... full article →
  • victory banner

    The victory banner was adopted by early Buddhism as an emblem of the Buddha's enlightenment, heralding the triumph of knowledge over ignorance... full article →

Article Info

Title Buddhist Symbols
URL www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/symbols
Short URLrlft.co/810
Published
UpdatedNovember 20, 2016
MLA Citation“Buddhist Symbols.” ReligionFacts.com. 20 Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed 8 Dec. 2016. <www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/symbols>

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