Author Topic: Buddhist Symbols  (Read 28750 times)

Jessie Fong

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Buddhist Symbols
« on: July 01, 2012, 07:49:36 AM »

It is said that : The five colours of the flag represent the colours of the aura that emanated from the body of the Buddha when he attained Enlightenment.

Do you know which are the colors that represent the following:

Loving kindness, peace and universal compassion
The Middle Path - avoiding extremes, emptiness
Blessings of practice - achievement, wisdom, virtue, fortune and dignity
Purity of Dharma - it leads to liberation, outside of time or space
The Buddha's Teaching - wisdom


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2012, 09:48:23 AM »
The Buddhist flag was designed to symbolise and represent Buddhism. The flag implicate that there is no discrimination and everyone has the potential Buddha nature and to become a Buddha.

Blue (Nila): Loving kindness, peace and universal compassion
Yellow (Pita): The Middle Path – avoiding extremes, emptiness
Red (Lohita): The blessings of practice – achievement, wisdom, virtue, fortune and dignity
White (Odata): The purity of Dharma – leading to liberation, outside of time or space
Orange (Manjesta): The Buddha's teachings – wisdom

There is actually a sixth color which is made up of a combination of the 5 colors which is referred as essence of light which is the color that radiated from Shakyamuni immediately after He attained Enlightenment in India.

Although it might look the same but there are some slight difference if one look at it properly.

The nonsectarian Buddhist flag is flown over the temples of many different schools. However, some choose to change the colors of the flag to emphasize their own teachings.

In Japan, there is a traditional Buddhist flag which has different colors but is sometimes merged with the design of the international flag to represent international cooperation. The five colors of the Japanese Buddhist flag represent the Five Wisdom Buddhas, or alternately the colors of the Buddha's hair.

The Jodo Shinshu sect in Japan replaces the orange stripe with pink.

In Tibet, the colours of the stripes represent the different colours of Buddhist robes united in one banner. Tibetan monastic robes are maroon, so the orange stripes in the original design are often replaced with maroon. Tibetan Buddhists in Nepal replace the orange stripes with plum stripes.
Soka Gakkai uses a tricolor of blue, yellow, and red.

Theravada Buddhists in Burma replace orange with pink, the color of the robe of the country's nuns.

Theravada Buddhists in Thailand opt the usage of a yellow flag with a red Dharmacakra; it is sometimes paired with the international Buddhist flag.


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2012, 10:29:49 AM »
Beside the symbolism of the colours of the flag, here is some information for the history of the Buddhist Flag:

The flag was originally designed in 1885 by the Colombo Committee, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The committee consisted of Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera (chairman), Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, Don Carolis Hewavitharana, Andiris Perera Dharmagunawardhana, William de Abrew, Charles A. de Silva, Peter de Abrew, H. William Fernando, N. S. Fernando and Carolis Pujitha Gunawardena (secretary).

This flag was published in the Sarasavi Sandaresa newspaper of 17 April 1885 and was first hoisted in public on Vesak day, 28 April 1885 at the Dipaduttamarama, Kotahena, by Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera. This was the first Vesak public holiday under British rule.

Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, an American journalist, founder and first president of the Theosophical Society, felt that its long streaming shape made it inconvenient for general use. He therefore suggested modifying it so that it was the size and shape of national flags. Modifications were made accordingly, which were adopted. The modified flag was published in the Sarasavi Sandaresa of 8 April 1886 and first hoisted on Vesak day 1886.

In 1889 the modified flag was introduced to Japan by Anagarika Dharmapala and Olcott—who presented it to the Emperor—and subsequently to Burma.

At the inaugural conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists on 25 May 1950, its founder President Professor G P Malasekera proposed that this flag be adopted as the flag of Buddhists throughout the world; this motion was unanimously passed.


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2012, 11:18:25 AM »
The internationally recognised Buddhist flag comprises 6 colours:

1. Five individual colours (blue, yellow, red, white and orange) in long vertical stripes in the main body.
2. The sixth colour, a compound or mixture of the five, is not visible to the human eye. For design purposes, it is separated into the same five constituent colours in the same order and placed in short horizontal stripes "stacked" on the fly or right edge of the flag.

Explanation and symbolism:

The vertical stripes represent eternal world peace while the horizontal ones stand for all the races in the world living in harmony. The colours collectively symbolise the perfection of Buddhahood and the Dharma. The overall flag conveys the message that regardless of race, religion, nationality, caste or creed, gender and other divisive factors, all sentient beings possess the potential for Buddhahood.

The six colours together make up the rays of the aura (rasmi mala) that emanated from the Buddha's body when He attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. The individual lights radiated as follows and symbolise:

1. Blue (nila) from the Buddha's hair, universal compassion for all beings (metta)
2. Yellow (pita) from His epidermis, the Middle Path (Majjhima Patipada) which avoids all extremes and brings balance and liberation.
3. Red (lohita) from His flesh, the blessings that follow the practice of the Buddha Dharma.
4. White (odata) from His bones and teeth, the purity of the Dharma and the liberation it brings.
5. Orange (manjesta) the Buddha's teachings (wisdom)


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2012, 12:16:30 PM »
There are many meanings and symbolics of buddhist flags. I saw many of prayer flags hung on the trees and other places inside Swayambhunath stupa and Boudhanath stupa in nepal. It looks very beautiful. Apart from the temple, monastery, big stupa it also can be hung in our place as well. 

How, when and where it should be hung

For protection
Tibetan prayer flags were originally used as talismans to protect Tibetans during times of war. Originally the Bon people used prayer flags for protection, and put symbols such as the snow lion, the dragon, or a tiger on each flag. Tibetan prayer flags were eventually adopted into Tibetan Buddhism with prayers or messages of hope and peace written on each flag.

The symbolic of the five elements, five meditation Buddhas and five wisdoms.
The colors of Tibetan prayer flags are significant because they symbolize each of the five elements. Blue stands for the ether, or wind element. The white flag symbolizes air, and the red flag stands for fire. The green and yellow flags symbolize water and earth, respectively. The five colors of Tibetan prayer flags represent the five directions, (North, south, east west, and center). The five prayer flags also represent the five meditation Buddhas, and the five wisdoms. The five wisdoms are compassion, harmony, wisdom of sight, kindness, and perfect wisdom.
Symbols on prayer flags include prayers for wealth, wisdom, and health, or the eight auspicious signs. Many prayer flags also depict mantras, such as the Tibetan Buddhist mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum.

Where and when it can be placed
Prayer flags can be placed inside of a room in your house, and traditionally they were placed outside of houses as well. Around the frame of a doorway is a lovely place to display your prayer flags. The most auspicious time to hang prayer flags is during the Chinese New Year season. Prayer flags are also hung during times of great happiness, such as a birth, or times of great sadness.

Prayer flags should always be placed in a high part of your house, such as near the ceiling or between flag poles outside. Prayer flags should be hung in the right order, starting with blue from left to right. The actual hanging of your prayer flags should be a momentous occasion, and you can invite family and friends over and hang the prayer flags together. Tibetan Prayer flags above all symbolize peace and harmony with our friends and family, and with the greater universe.


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2012, 04:18:28 PM »
Further information on prayer flags are gathered here to share...

The prayers flags are not only just colored but they even have mantras, prayers, and powerful symbols displayed on them especially the Tibetan prayer flags. These produce a spiritual vibration that is activated and carried by the wind across the countryside.  All beings that are touched by the wind are blessed.  The silent prayers are blessings spoken on the breath of nature. Just as a drop of water can permeate the ocean, prayers dissolved in the wind extend to fill all of space.

The prayer flag tradition has a long continuous history dating back to ancient Tibet, China, Persia and India. The tradition has now reached the West and is rapidly gaining popularity. The whole idea of the prayer flag with texts and symbols, are based on the most profound concepts of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.

The Tibetan word for prayer flag is Dar Cho. “Dar” means to increase life, fortune, health and wealth.  “Cho” means all sentient beings. Prayer flags are simple devices that, coupled with the natural energy of the wind, quietly harmonize the environment, impartially increasing happiness and good fortune among all living beings.

Most of the traditional prayer flags today are made in Nepal and India by Tibetan refugees or by Nepali Buddhists from the Tibetan border regions.

Prayer flags are dated back thousands of years to the Bon tradition of pre-Buddhist Tibet.  Shamanistic Bonpo priests used primary colored plain cloth flags in healing ceremonies. Each color corresponded to a different primary element - earth, water, fire, air and space – the fundamental building blocks of both our physical bodies and of our environment.  According to Eastern medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the 5 elements.  Properly, arranged coloured flags around a sick patient harmonised the elements in his body helping to produce a state of physical and mental health.  Colored flags were also used to help appease the local gods and spirits of the mountains, valleys, lakes and streams. These elemental beings, when provoked were thought to cause natural disasters and disease.  Balancing the outer elements and propitiating the elemental spirits with rituals and offerings was the Bonpo way of pacifying nature and invoking the blessings of the gods.

When raising prayer flags proper motivation is important. If they are put up with an attitude “I will benefit from doing this” – that is an ego-centered motivation and the benefits will be small and narrow. If the attitude is “May all beings everywhere receive benefits and find happiness” .... the virtue generated by such motivation greatly increases the power of the prayers.

Tibetan tradition considers prayer flags to be holy.  Because they contain sacred texts and symbols they should be treated respectfully. They should not be placed on the ground or put in the trash. When disposing of old prayer flags the traditional way is to burn them so that the smoke may carry their blessings to the heavens.


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2012, 04:44:54 PM »
We can buy prayer flag from buddhist store in your country. Nepal where the place that i see the prayer flag hung for offering everywhere and also in a pack for sell everywhere. If you wan na try to make it, you can follow the details below.

How prayer flags are made

Initially prayer flags would have been made of cotton, dyed with natural inks, and hand painted. However, the introduction and use of wooden printing blocks from China in the 15th Century made the process of producing them easier, and also allowed for designs to be passed down to subsequent generations within families.

Nowadays flags are often found to be made using modern inks, materials and printing methods (although the designs are still relatively unchanged).


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2012, 06:13:08 PM »
The Buddhist flag has five colors in stripes-blue(universal compassion).yellow(the middle) path,red (blessings)  white (purity and liberation).and orange (wisdom).The  flag is today used by the Buddhist of around sixty countries,especially during the celebration of Wesak Festival.The prayer flag colors represent the aura of the Buddha whe he attained Enlightenment under the bodhi tree.The horizontal stripes represent the races of the world living in harmony and vertical stripes represent eternal world peace.Each color is a separate strip of fabric sewn together to form this amazing flag.


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2012, 08:55:25 AM »
The Buddhist Prayer Flag in Tibetan is called "Lung Tak" or the Wing Horse.  They are usually hung high up in the mountains containing the prayers and aspirations.  As its vibes travels with the wind; it travels throughout the world, it touches and benefits insects, animals, humans and all living beings. It is such a powerful and swift method to bring harmony and peace to all living beings and the environment.  It is a clever and wonderful invention of "Lung Tak".


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2012, 10:10:38 AM »
It is the tradition of Tibetan Buddhists for centuries to hang prayer flags outside their homes and places of spiritual practice. Prayer flags are inscribed with auspicious symbols, invocations, prayers, and mantras and are said to bring happiness, long life and prosperity. It is common to write a person's name or the birth or wedding date of a person on one of the prayer flags to personalize it. As the wind carries the prayers off the cloth and into the heavens, the blessings are released to assist those who hang the flags and to benefit all beings.

The 5 colors of prayer flags represent the 5 basic elements:

Balancing these elements externally brings harmony to the environment. Balancing the elements internally brings health to the body and the mind and generate a natural positive energy.

There are two main styles of flags: horizontal (Lung Dar) or vertical (Dar Cho or Dar Chen). Buddhists added their own texts and images to increase the power of the flags. Images on the prayer flags may be that of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Taras (Compassion), Rinpoches, animals, lotus, teachers, or the eight auspicious symbols generating compassion, health, wish fulfillment, and for overcoming diseases, natural disasters and other obstacles. It protects from harm and bring harmony to everything and every being touched by the wind. 

Tenzin K

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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2012, 11:28:16 AM »
On Importance of Flags in Buddhism

"FLAG is a recurring item of Buddhist cult, dangling from the ceiling or temples' columns inside, or from a pole outside. Flags represent Buddha's virtues and mark out for him, in the same manner the military flags signalize the army's chief; flags also stand guard at Buddha's pictures. Buddhist scriptures list five types of flags: lion's, Makara monster's, dragon's, Garuda bird's, bull's. Flag is a traditional offering to Buddha by the devouts, together with flowers and incense. At the same time flag represents the virtues of Buddha and the virtues the devout wants to obtain, therefore flag has a very important ritual meaning: it can prolong devout's life in order to let him/her increases his/her merits. This is the case of Indian Emperor Asoka (272-231 B.C.) who lived 12 years more after a serious illness so he could build new other reliquaries (stupa). A flag dangling into a temple at the moment of a devout's death, adds merits to him/her and even makes him/her be born again in on of Buddha's paradises. In fact flags are ornaments of famous Buddha Amithaba's paradise. In Tantric Buddhism adepts' head is touched by a flag, as it was an unction."

from "Enciclopedia delle Religioni", Garzanti, Milano 1989 (Italian translation of "Knaurs grosser Religion Führer", München 1986)
Giuseppe Bottasini 3 December 1994


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2012, 03:04:50 AM »
This is how Tibetans hang "Lung Tak" in the Himalayan Alps.  See "Lung Tak" flapping away in the wind carrying positive vibes blessing all living beings, harmonizing and bringing peace to every corner of the earth wherever the wind blows.  See the beautiful view and get the feeling of peace and serenity of this picture.  May peace prevails. :)

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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2012, 05:58:14 PM »
Early Buddhist symbols

Footprint of the Buddha. 1st century, Gandhara, with depictions of the 3 Jewels (triratna) and the Dharmacakra. It is not known what the role of the image was in Early Buddhism, although many surviving images can be found, because their symbolic or representative nature was not clearly explained in early texts. Among the earliest and most common symbols of Buddhism are the stupa, Dharma wheel, and the lotus flower. The dharma wheel, traditionally represented with eight spokes, can have a variety of meanings. It initially only meant royalty (concept of the "Monarch of the Wheel, or Chakravatin), but started to be used in a Buddhist context on the Pillars of Ashoka during the 3rd century BC. The Dharma wheel is generally seen as referring to the historical process of teaching the Buddhadharma; the eight spokes refer to the Noble Eightfold Path. The lotus, as well, can have several meanings, often referring to the inherently pure potential of the mind.

Other early symbols include the trident (trisula), a symbol use since around the 2nd century BC that combine the lotus, the vajra diamond rod and a symbolization of the three jewels (The Buddha, the dharma, the sangha). The swastika was traditionally used in India by Buddhists and Hindus as a good luck sign. In East Asia, the swastika is often used as a general symbol of Buddhism. Swastikas used in this context can either be left or right-facing.Early Buddhism did not portray the Buddha himself and may have been aniconic. The first hint of a human representation in Buddhist symbolism appear with the Buddha footprint.


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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2012, 03:27:47 PM »


It is believed that each of these symbols have powers to bring blessings for which people include these in paintings, textiles, homes, and wherever else possible. The 8 auspicious symbols are lotus flower, endless knot,  golden fish pair,  victory banner,  wheel of dharma,  treasure vase,  parasol and conch shell.  These seem to originate from the very body of the Buddha as quoted in an ancient textbook, the ‘Aryamangalakutanama-mahayana sutra’ or the ‘Heap of Good Fortune Verse’. These symbols have spread with Buddhism to many cultures' arts, including Indian, Tibetan, Nepalese, and Chinese art.

These symbols and  what they represents are as follows:

Lotus flower -  Representing purity and enlightenment. Just like the lotus flower that starts its growth in murky mud and blooms above the water into a majestic fragrant flower, the soul of humans moves from materialism to spiritualism to become one with the Universe.

Endless knot  - Representing eternal harmony. The pattern symbolizes the Buddha’s infinite wisdom and compassion.

Golden Fish pair - Representing conjugal happiness and freedom and they also symbolize fertility and unity.

Victory Banner - Representing a victorious battle. The Buddha indicated His victory over ignorance, which is the main obstacle in the path of spiritual realization.

Wheel of Dharma  - Representing knowledge.  Each part of the wheel has a deeper and spiritual meaning:
•    the hub means mental discipline
•   the 8 spokes mean the Noble Eightfold Path, the path to wisdom
•   the rim symbolizes the concentration needed to keep them all together

Treasure Vase  - Representing inexhaustible treasure and wealth and symbolizes the never-ending spiritual abundance of Buddha Himself. This is like a divine treasure that never ends or diminishes no matter how is given away.

Parasol -  Representing the crown and protection from the elements. It is a symbol of wisdom and the hanging skirt, which is the meaning of compassion.

Conch shell - Representing the thoughts of the Buddha and symbolizes the wide-spread of   Buddha’s teachings.

Positive Change

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Re: Buddhist Symbols
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2012, 04:51:51 PM »
Dharma Wheel (Dharmacharka)

The wheel symbolise the Wheel of Buddhist Law, the endless cycle of birth and rebirth. The early Dharma Wheels followed the India tradition having many spokes as shown by this Dvaravati style from the 7th - 9th century.

Modern versions of Dharma Wheels often have four spokes, symbolizing the Four Jinas or the four 'moments' in the life of the Buddha; or with eight spokes, or octagonal, symbolizing the Noble Eightfold Path. The spokes sometimes extend beyond the circle, in points.

These wheels, represented in Indian art even before the period of King Asoka (272-232 B.C.E.), were generally placed on four lions, back to back, and facing the four cardinal points.

Prayer Wheels

This is an exclusively Tibetan Buddhist praying instrument which always bears the mystical word 'OM MANI PADME HUM' [Om the Jewel in the Lotus Hum] numbering six syllables in the mantra of Avalokitesvara. The syllables are carved outside the wheel as well as kept inside the wheel printed in the paper in numerous numbers. It is generally made of a cylindrical body of repoussé metal, penetrated along its axis by a wooden or metal handle. The cylinder can turn around the handle, with a slight rotation of the wrist, thanks to a cord or ballasted chain, which keeps it in movement. Inside this cylinder, written on paper or skin, are esoteric texts, usually invocations (dharani or mantra), the most common being that of Avalokitesvara.

These prayer wheels may be small and carried by pilgrims, or larger and fixed to the gates of monasteries or around stupas and chortens. Each turn of the cylinder generates as much merit as the reading of the sutra or the formula enclosed therein. All these objects are also called chhos-hkor in Tibetan, 'Wheel of the Law'. Some are very large and, enclosed in small structures, turn under the action of a 'mill' driven by water.

Pic 1: Dharma Wheel

Pic 2: Asokan Capital

Pic 3: Prayer Wheel