Buddhism is full of symbols that hold vital importance and deep meaning. These Buddhist symbols of strength represent different aspects of the Buddha and give insight into the core principles of Buddhism.
As Buddhism spread throughout the world, Buddhist teachings and knowledge were transmitted through the use of many signs and symbols. Each of these symbols is unique and offers messages of wisdom.
Listed below are the top 9 most important Buddhist Symbols of Strength:
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1. Om Symbol
The Om (also written as Aum) symbol is a sacred and mystical syllable. Originating from Hinduism, this syllable is common to Buddhism as well. The mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ is often recited by followers to inspire feelings of compassion. (2)
The three letters of the symbol “Om” refer to the body, spirit, and speech of the Buddha. ‘Mani’ refers to the pathway to Buddha’s teachings. ‘Padme’ refers to the wisdom of this path, and ‘Hum’ refers to the union of wisdom and the path leading to it. (3)
Meditators, especially in Tibetan Buddhism, find the chanting of this mantra especially inspiring.
2. The Bodhi Leaf and Tree
In Sanskrit, the word ‘Bodhi’ refers to the awakening. The Bodhi leaf and tree symbol denotes Buddha’s enlightenment. The Bodhi tree is significant for Buddhist followers and holds religious importance.
Many say that Buddha achieved the state of enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi tree. The heart-shaped leaf of this tree implies the awakening of potential that lies in each and every one of us.
This particular type of tree exists in real life and is situated in Bodh Gaya, 100 km from Patna, in the Bihar region. This is also an extremely popular pilgrimage site. (4)
3. The Lion
A significant Buddhist symbol, the lion implies Buddha’s royal past. The lion also metaphorically refers to Buddha’s teachings, which were considered as powerful as a lion’s roar.
It represents the strength and power of the Buddhist message as well. The lion is also significant Buddha’s royalty before he achieved enlightenment as many traditions claim he used to be a prince. The lion usually sits on a throne to depict this.
4. The Lotus Flower (Padma)
One of the most famous symbols of Buddhism, the Lotus Flower or Padma is recognized as a symbol of peace. It symbolizes inner peace, humanity, and life itself. The Lotus Flower also denotes enlightenment.
The lotus flower is also considered a symbol of strength due to its level of resilience. It has the tendency to push through and survive in dark muddy waters until it reaches the surface and blooms fully. This hints at the obstacles one has to persevere through to reach one’s goals or attain success. (5)
This flower is seen as sacred and full of meaning. Understanding the significance of the lotus implies surpassing the haze that veils inner thought and philosophical meaning within Buddhism. (6)
5. The Swastika
This Buddhist symbol of strength implies prosperity, well-being, abundance, and eternity. This ancient symbol symbolizes Buddha’s footprints. The swastika is used to precede the beginning of Buddhist text and is also used to label Buddhist temples on maps.
The Buddhist swastika is drawn clockwise and also implies Buddha’s mind. It is usually imprinted on Buddha’s image, particularly on the chest, palms, or feet. It also represents the balance of opposites and harmony within Buddhist belief. (7)
6. The Treasure Vase
The treasure vase represents unlimited blessings that come with attaining enlightenment. The Buddhist message is seen as being similar to a vase full of flowers.
The vase also represents the possession of wealth, good health as well as spiritual vitality and growth that one attains by accepting Buddha’s message. It is also symbolically associated with the storage of ideas and the satisfaction of material desire. (8)
The treasure vase is one of the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism that are sometimes drawn on the ground when welcoming religious dignitaries. These symbols are drawn out of sprinkled flour. (9)
7. The Eternal Knot
The Eternal or Endless Knot is a closed graphic image of right angles, intertwined lines. This significant Buddhist symbol of strength dramatically interplays opposing forces in a manifested dualistic world.
These forces are eventually unified, which leads to ultimate harmony in the universe. The symmetrical and regular depiction of the endless knot is a reflection of this. (10)
The endless knot also symbolizes compassion, wisdom, and love. It represents how religious doctrine and secular affairs of the world are dependent on each other. This perspective indicates that all is connected, without a beginning or end. The endless knot is also a reminder to respect all creation because all action is connected to the universe. (11)
8. The Dharma Wheel
The Dharma Wheel, or the Dharmachakra, is also known as the ‘Wheel of Truth’ or ‘The wheel of transformation.’ One of the most important Buddhist symbols of strength, this symbol represents Gautama Buddha himself along with his teachings. (12)
Similar symbols to the Dharmachakra are found in Hinduism and Jainism, so it’s likely this Buddhist symbol evolved from Hinduism. The traditional representation of the Dharma wheel is as a chariot wheel with often a differing number of spokes. It can be of any color but mostly is in gold.
There are usually three other shapes present at the center of the Dharma wheel. These are the yin-yang symbol, an empty circle, and a second wheel. (13)
9. The Parasol (Chatra)
The Parasol or Chatra is a vital Buddhist Symbol of Strength that is known to offer protection against difficulties, harm, obstacles, and illnesses. In many East Asian cultures, the parasol also represents the safety and refuge that Buddha’s teachings have provided.
It also signifies dignity, wisdom, and feelings of compassion. This parasol also hints at being the dome of a sky that is casting a shadow of protection. At times, the umbrella is shown as being carried above the image of a deity.
This shows the symbol below the umbrella is the center of the universe. Umbrellas are also indicative of the respect deities are entitled to. (14)
Symbolic representation of Buddha’s teachings is transmitted through these Buddhist symbols of strength. Which of these symbols were you already familiar with? Do let us know in the comments below!
- The Lotus Symbol: Its meaning in Buddhist Art and Philosophy. William E. Ward.The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Vol.11, No.2
- Kumar, Nitin. “The Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism – A Study in Spiritual Evolution.” Exotic India Art. .
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