Symbols of Buddhism

Symbols of Buddhism
The symbols of Buddhism are more popular among the Buddhist monks of Tibet, compared to other countries where this religion is practiced.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama was the founder of the religion known as Buddhism in 528 BC. He was known as "Buddha" which means the "Enlightened One". Gautama went in search of the causes of suffering and to find peace. He left his palace at the age of 29 to seek the eternal truth. At the age of 35, he was enlightened after 6 years of severe meditation under a bodhi (pipal) tree.

During the early years, Buddhism did not favor the usage of statues of Buddha. Instead importance was given to the symbols such as lotus, the wheel of the law, the bodhi tree, and the footprints of Lord Buddha. Though in later years, the images of Buddha became popular, and the symbols remained important. They are held in high esteem in countries such as Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism

There are historical evidences to support the fact that Lord Buddha used various images and symbols to illustrate his teachings. One such symbol is the "Wheel of Life". Many symbols relating to the teachings of Buddha were engraved during the reign of Emperor Ashoka. Ashoka propagated this religion in India and abroad. These symbols were enriched by the various traditions and cultures of the countries where it was propagated. This tradition commenced in Tibet.

Eight Auspicious Symbols, also known as Astamangala in Sanskrit, were worshiped in Tibet. These are found on religious flags, objects, and paintings. The eight symbols are
  • Chattra or the Parasol, which symbolizes spiritual power.
  • Kalasha or Treasure Vase, which depicts spiritual and material abundance.
  • Padma or Lotus, which denotes pure mental and physical spirituality.
  • Shrivasta or Endless Knot, which symbolizes the eternal wisdom of Buddha.
  • Suvarnamatsya or Golden Fish, which denotes salvation, good fortune, and wealth.
  • Sankha or Conch Shell is one of the most famous symbols and is depicted in many teachings of Buddha.
  • Dhvaia or Victory Banner shows the success of the teachings of Buddha. It also denotes wisdom over ignorance.
  • Dharmachakra or Wheel symbolizes the teachings of Buddha.
Other Popular Symbols

Pipal, Bo, or the Bodhi tree symbolizes the tree under which the Buddha was enlightened. This tree is the holy tree of Buddhism and is worshiped by Buddhist monks.

The Throne symbolizes the royal ancestry of Siddhartha Gautama. It is also used to denote the spiritual kingship of Buddha. In many of the ancient carvings, you can see the Dharmachakra, as well as the throne. Many a time, the base of the throne is decorated with symbols such as lions.

A Lion is associated with royalty, power, and strength. This denotes that Buddha was traditionally a royal prince. The teachings of Buddha are sometimes referred to as a "Lion's Roar", which indicates the power and strength of his teachings.

A Deer is symbolized in many of the Buddhist texts. It denotes the Deer Park, Sarnath, where Buddha rendered his first sermon and teachings.

Other Buddhism symbols include the footprints of Buddha and the begging-bowl. There are many folklore and religious rituals associated with various symbols and they appear in the art of every Buddhist culture.
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