Buddhist symbols and their Meanings

Buddhism is an Indian religion based on the message of buddha’s teaching and symbols promoted and taught. He was born as Siddhartha Gautama Buddha in ancient India. But the information on his life is inconsistent as some facts are only assumptions.

Something we have is the buddhist symbols, images and pictures of sacred and protection religious symbols of buddhism which are in all around the world, in buddhist art, buddhist temples and other architecture.

 

The buddhist symbols

 

The Buddhist Symbols and their Meaning

The representation of Buddha in the early practice did not include the now popular Buddha statue. Rather, there were symbols used to represent him and his buddha teaching.

These signs have increased in number. But there are some prominent signs such as the lion, its footprint, the Bodhi tree and the eight auspicious symbols.

His image is now the most recognized symbol. But the other are still important today. The lotus flower is in the Chinese monasteries to adorn the Buddha statues.  The temples in Sri Lanka and Thailand still use the older Buddhism symbols as well.

Let’s see the main symbolism and meanings of signs below.

 

The Eight Auspicious Symbols or ashtamangala

These eight buddhist symbols origin is what the gods offered to buddha after he reached enlightenment.

They can be found on Buddhist temples and buildings as well as on Buddhist people’s clothing. The symbols have been used for centuries and have been popular in Asia, especially in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

They were first introduced by the Indian monk Buddhaghosa who lived between 400-600 CE. The symbols were created with the intention of emphasizing Buddhism’s beliefs in rebirth and karma.

For each sign there is an image, a meaning and symbolism related:

  1. Eternal knot: harmony and love
  2. Conch shell: means buddha thoughts
  3. The parasol: means crown and protection
  4. The lotus flower: purity and enlightenment
  5. Two golden fish: means happiness and freedom
  6. Treasure vase: treasure and wealth
  7. Dharma Wheel: means knowledge
  8. Victory banner: a victory in battle

 

Let’s see the icons pictures and images of the most popular buddhist symbols:

 

1. Parasol

parasol

A parasol is an umbrella which represents protection symbol from the sun, strength, difficulties, and illness. Umbrella-shaped objects are used to protect against external natural phenomena.

It also represents royalty and dignity. Other things it represents are the Eightfold path, wisdom and even compassion. The meaning of this sign varies by the shape of the parasol.

Similarly, Buddhist teachings can be a protection against outside forces that lead to suffering. For this reason, this symbol can be understood to represent the Buddha’s refuge.

 

2. Two Golden Fish

two golden fish

 

The two goldfish symbol has many different and related meanings. This image represents good fortune, joy, freedom, fertility, and abundance. This is because of the freedom of fish in water and the reproduction rate of fishes.  This sign also represents unity in marriage because fishes swim in pairs.

A first historical interpretation says that the two fish originally represented the Ganges and Yamuna rivers.

Another interpretation says that they represent freedom. It relates the fish symbol to the courage necessary to face the suffering of life, just as fish face the uncertainty of the ocean. According to this interpretation, the fish are a reminder that we can be free. The two goldfish are also a symbol of fortune and fertility, in relation to the ability of the fish to multiply abundantly.

 

3. Conch Shell (Sankha)

Conch Shells also known as right handed white conch were battle horns in many countries. These conch shells represent the wide reach and sound of Buddha’s teachings. It is a representation of the joy and awakening that disciples feel when they come into contact with Buddhism.

This type of conch is considered a rarity of nature and, for this reason, it is a metaphor for the teachings of the Buddha, understood as a gift to his disciples.

The conch shell also means the enlightenment of people. Also, the elimination of ignorance from people who hear the message.  

The conch shell is represented mostly with the spiral directed from left to right.

 

4. Dharma Wheel

The dharma wheel has eight spokes which represent the Eightfold path, one of the key concepts of Buddhism. It is also known as dharmachakra and is probably the oldest symbol of buddhism.

There are many different interpretations of its meaning.

In one this wheel represents the elimination of the repeated cycle of birth and death and lack of satisfaction (samsara). Existence that consists of birth, life, death and incarnation.  You can stop it through the acceptance and practice of the Buddha doctrine. 

It is believed that it was initially a symbol of the monarchy. It was during the time of Emperor Aśoka that it began to be used as a symbol of Buddhism.

Other possible belief about its meaning is that it represents the path of learning Buddhism until reaching enlightenment or nirvana. The eight spokes of the wheel can represent the Noble Eightfold Path, which is the path that leads to the end of suffering and leads to nirvana. The outer circle has also been interpreted to represent the perfection of Buddhist teachings. According to this interpretation, the center of the wheel represents the discipline necessary to meditate while the spokes would be the link between the two elements.

According to Buddhist teachings, the wheel of dharma was set in motion the moment Buddha delivered his first sermon. Although it is generally used to represent Buddhism, it is also used on occasions to represent the Buddha himself.

 

5. Treasure Vase

The treasure vase represents the unending blessing that comes with enlightenment. The Buddhism message is likened to a vase filled with treasures. It contains all the positive properties related to the teachings of Buddha and nirvana It can never be exhausted. It is a storage symbol of buddhist beliefs.

This vase represents health, wealth, happiness and spiritual growth as the benefits of accepting the message.

 

6. The Lotus

The lotus flower is a beautiful flower that grows in the mud. The manner in which this flower grows represents the human nature and its meaning within buddhist beliefs is related to the mind and humanity potential. It is a metaphone of the mind power.

The roots of the flower dig into the mud but give rise to a beautiful flower above the murky waters. Similarly, the human mind can rise above suffering to achieve enlightenment. For this reason, the lotus flower represents the human potential to transform suffering into liberation.

It represents rising from adversity to a state of enlightenment. It also means faith.  The lotus plants grow in different colors, each of these colors has a different meaning.

  • White lotus flower: Spiritual purity
  • Red: Love and compassion
  • Blue: Wisdom and intelligence
  • Pink: Buddhist Traditions
  • Gold: Total enlightenment

 

7. Victory Banner

The victory banner represents the victory of the message over obstacles, material desires, and fears. It is a banner that symbolizes the enlightenment of the Buddha. Victory refers to Buddha’s victory over Mara, who was the entity that tried to stand in Buddha’s path to enlightenment.

Essentially, this is a sign of the doctrine. A path to overcoming selfish desires and emotions to reach spiritual enlightenment.

8. Eternal or Endless Knot

The eternal knot represents the interconnectedness of everything in life. The eternal knot also symbolizes the unending and supreme wisdom of Buddha.

There are many meanings and interpretations for the endless knot.

  1. It can be interpreted as representing the interconnection between all aspects of existence, including the spiritual path and the passage of time as well as the relationship between wisdom and compassion.
  2. It is the symbol of the infinite knot as a representation of the path to enlightenment. The path is infinite because wisdom can also be infinitely cultivated and there are always truths to discover.
  3. It is the wisdom of Buddha, without beginning or end.

 

Other inspiring Buddhist signs

 

The Lion

While the lion is not one of the eight auspicious symbols, it is quite popular. The lion represents the power of the Buddha message. This also means royalty. It means the power of Buddha and the power of wisdom.

It was first used by Buddhist monks in China. In the 6th century, when a monk named Huiming created it, he did not have any knowledge on how to create this symbol. He just saw a lion’s head in his dream and made it into the shape that we see today.

 

The Begging Bowl

It represents a life of simplicity and content that monks decide to live. This decision is based on the teachings of Buddha against selfish desires and forming attachments with material things.

 

 

An empty throne

Buddha was a prince, and this is a symbol of his origin. However, the emptiness of the throne also symbolizes the mysticism.

The empty throne Buddhist symbol is a representation of the Buddhist concept of Nibbana. It is a representation of the Buddha’s death, which marks the end of his life and his enlightenment.

The figure can be seen as an image of emptiness, representing the state that Buddha attained after his death. The figure also shows that this state is not achieved through any particular effort or achievement but rather through surrendering to it.

The Bodhi tree

The Bodhi tree is a Buddhist teaching story about the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha. The story is an allegory of a seeker’s life, which begins with ignorance and ends in wisdom.

It is the most important symbol in Buddhism and it has many different meanings. It can represent enlightenment, spiritual development, or physical health. However, it can also be used to refer to the teachings of Buddha or the Buddhist community as a whole.

Bodhi trees are often planted as living memorials for people who have died. They are often found near temples and monasteries where they serve as reminders that all beings should strive for enlightenment.

Allegedly, Buddha received enlightenment while under a Bodhi tree. For this reason, a Bodhi tree symbol portray liberation.

 

Buddhism Hand Symbol

The Yoga hand is like the palm of a hand. It protects against evil eye. The Buddhist Hand Symbol is a gesture that is used in Buddhism. It is called “the mudra of giving” and it is done when someone wants to give something to another person.

The hand gesture can be used to show respect, gratitude, or friendship. It can also be used as a greeting when someone enters a room or when someone leaves the room.

The elephant

The elephant is an ancient indian symbol that has been used by Buddhists since at least the 4th century BC. It is a symbol of strength, power, and wisdom.

The Buddhist philosophy of the elephant includes a number of meanings. One meaning is that of the elephant being a symbol for meditation and contemplation. The Buddha’s teachings were all about understanding oneself and finding inner peace through mindfulness and meditation.

The second meaning is that of the elephant representing patience and perseverance in life’s struggles. This can be seen with the story of how an Indian king who was trying to tame an elephant finally gave up on it after years of failed attempts because he realized his own limitations as a human being.

The horse

The Buddhist horse symbol is a religious icon that represents the Buddha. It is used as a type of logo for Buddhism and has been in use for over 2,000 years.

It is one of the most popular symbols and has been used in many different forms of art, especially in the form of paintings, sculptures and tattoos.

Buddha eyes

Buddha eyes are a symbol of peace, wisdom, and enlightenment that represent buddha omnipresence. It They are considered one of the most common Buddhist symbols because they represent the mind’s ability to see clearly and remain calm in any situation. Another name is wisdom eyes.

As Buddhism is a religion of compassion, the Buddhist temple is often built in the form of Stupas. These structures typically have Buddha’s eyes on all 4 sides to represent the Lord’s omnipresent presence.

The dot between the eyes represents the spiritual awakening third eye.

Frequently Asked questions

Which is the Buddhism Symbol for inner Peace

This is the Symbol for inner peace.

Which is the Buddhism Symbol for Love

The eternal or endless knot and the red lotus flower.

 

What is the Buddhist Symbol for Strength

The parasol or umbrella for strength.

parasol

 

What is the Buddhism Symbol for enlightenment

The treasure vase sign for enlightenment.

 

What is the Buddhist Symbol for Protection

The parasol or umbrella sign. A protection symbol.

umbrella

 

The Key Themes of Buddhism symbolism

 

It is one of the oldest religions in the world and it has evolved. Each of the evolved sects has adopted something that was not in the original message. These include deities or astrology. It is based on wisdom and compassion.
 
The one thing that has not changed is the key themes of buddhism symbolism. These themes were the main parts of the Buddha’s message. They still continue to promote and observe them.

 

The first noble truth:

This states that life in its entirety is suffering. Human beings tend to experience suffering from loss, illness, poverty, emotional unwellness and even joy. Joy is linked to suffering. It is because whatever caused the feeling of joy can be responsible for unhappiness as well.

The cause of joy 

Human beings, emotion or material things will be lost and cause pain.

Materialism causes suffering:

This is based on the selfish message. Humans may suffer because of the selfish needs or thirsts for things they can not or may never be able to get. This leaves the individual in a perpetual state of sadness and without fulfillment.

The third noble truth:

Suffering stops when you drop desire. This is because suffering is caused by thirst or need for things we do not have. The solution is to detach yourself from the material needs and desires.
This also means that placing value on material items will result in pain when the items are gone. Non-attachment is a main concept.

The Eightfold Path:

This is a teaching that explains that by living a morally right and enlightened life, suffering can come to an end.
There are eight factors in this path which are guides on the way individuals should behave. think and live their lives to enjoy liberation.
The absence of sin but the presence of ignorance. This reccurring message in all Buddhist messages is that there is no sin. Only ignorance ‘avidyā.’ Hence, the message is a path to enlightenment.

 

There are also many tibetan buddhist symbols in art. Tibetan symbols are often used in tibetan art, tibetan buddhism architecture and buddhists jewelry jewels related to these signs.