Buddhism is an Indian religion based on the message that Buddha, promoted and taught. Buddha was born as Siddhārtha Gautama, but the information on his life is inconsistent as some facts are assumptions. Buddha was born into a royal family, and when he turned 29, he began a search for human happiness and fulfillment. After studying, he found the middle path as the key to enlightenment. He spent the rest of his life teaching that material possessions were not the path to happiness. Rather, morality, content, and wisdom were more important in trying to live a happy life.
While Buddhism was born in the 6th century BCE in the eastern region of India, this religion has spread and is practiced widely on the Asian continent and the rest of the world with over 500 million followers.
It is important, however, to note that Buddhism is not just a religion. Some people see it as a belief system; a guide on how to live properly.
- 1 Key Themes of the Buddhist Doctrine
- 2 Buddhist Symbols and their Meaning
- 3 Buddhist Symbol for Peace
- 4 Buddhist Symbol for Love
- 5 Buddhist Symbol for Strength
- 6 Buddhist Symbol for enlightenment
- 7 Buddhist Symbol for Protection
Key Themes of the Buddhist Doctrine
Buddhism is one of the oldest religions in the world and understandably, has evolved. Each of the evolved sects of Buddhism has adopted something that was not in the original Buddhist message. These include deities or astrology.
The one thing that has not changed is the key themes of the Buddhist doctrine. These themes were the prominent parts of Buddha’s message that Buddhists continue to promote and observe.
- 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 likened to suffering 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 eventually be lost and cause pain.
- Materialism causes suffering: This is based on the message that humans may suffer because of the selfish needs or thirsts for things they can not or may never be able to acquire. This leaves the individual in a perpetual state of sadness and without fulfillment.
- The third noble truth: Suffering stops when you eliminate desire: 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 Buddhist 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 reoccurring message in all Buddhist messages is that there is no sin, only ignorance ‘avidyā.’ Hence, the Buddhist message is a path to enlightenment.
Buddhist Symbols and their Meaning
The representation of Buddha in the early practice of Buddhism did not include the now popular Buddha statue. Rather, there were symbols used to represent him and his teachings. These symbols have increased in number, but there are some prominent symbols such as the lion, Buddha’s footprint, the Bodhi tree and the eight auspicious symbols.
The image of Buddha is now the most recognized Buddhist symbol, but the other symbols are still important, recognized and used until today. The lotus flour symbols are used in Chinese monasteries to adorn the Buddha statues. Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka and Thailand still use the older Buddhist symbols as well.
Below are some important symbols in Buddhism and their meanings:
1. The Parasol
A parasol is an umbrella which represents protection from the sun, strength, difficulties, and illness in Buddhism. It also represents royalty and dignity. Other things this Buddhist symbol represents are the Eightfold path, wisdom and even compassion. The meaning of this symbol varies by the shape of the parasol.
2. Two Golden Fish
The Two Golden Fish symbol 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 symbol also represents unity in marriage because fishes swim in pairs.
3. Conch Shell (Sankha)
Conch Shells were used as battle horns in many countries before they became Buddhist symbols. These conch shells represent the wide reach of Buddhist teachings. The conch shell symbol also means the enlightenment of people and elimination of ignorance from people who hear the Buddhist message.
4. Dharma Wheel
The dharma wheel symbol has eight spokes which represent the Eightfold path, one of the key concepts of Buddhism. This wheel represents the elimination of the repeated cycle of birth and death and lack of satisfaction (samsara). It can be stopped through the acceptance and practice of the Buddhist doctrine.
5. Treasure Vase
This symbol represents the unending blessing that comes with enlightenment. The Buddhist message is likened to a vase filled with treasures that can never be exhausted. This vase represents health, wealth and spiritual growth as the benefits of accepting the Buddhist 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; 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 in Buddhism.
- White lotus flower: Spiritual purity
- Red: Love and compassion
- Blue: Wisdom and intelligence
- Pink: Traditional Buddhism
- Gold: Total enlightenment
7. Victory Banner
The victory banner symbol represents the victory of the Buddhist message over obstacles, material desires, and fears. Essentially, this is a symbol of the Buddhist doctrine as a path to overcoming selfish desires and emotions to reach spiritual enlightenment.
8. Eternal or Endless Knot
The eternal knot symbol represents the interconnectedness of everything in life. The eternal knot also symbolizes the unending and supreme wisdom of Buddha.
9. The Lion
While the lion is not one of the eight auspicious Buddhist symbols, it is quite popular.
The lion symbol represents the power of the Buddhist message. This symbol also means royalty.
10. The Begging Bowl
This symbol represents a life of simplicity and content that Buddhist monks decide to live. This decision is based on the teachings of Buddha against selfish desires and forming attachments with material things.
11. 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 of Buddha.
12. The Bodhi tree
Allegedly, Buddha received enlightenment while under a Bodhi tree. For this reason, a Bodhi tree symbol is used to portray liberation.
Let’s see the main meanings below.
Buddhist Symbol for Peace
This is the Symbol for inner peace.
Buddhist Symbol for Love
The eternal or endless knot and the red lotus flower.
Buddhist Symbol for Strength
The parasol or umbrella
Buddhist Symbol for enlightenment
The treasure vase.
Buddhist Symbol for Protection
The parasol or umbrella.
There are many buddhist jewelry jewels related to these symbols.