Out of the broad sweep of the spiritual landscape of Hinduism emerged Buddhism, an entirely new creed, not concerned with the question of the existence of God, but with salvation from the misery of human earthly experience.
It blazed a completely new path, with a new goal attainable by new but practical means. Although completely at variance with its matrix of evolution — Hinduism — it was only natural that it borrowed sacred symbols, ritual artefacts and religious signs. Other paraphernalia of worship, along with the Hindu Gods & deities and their attributes, were assimilated mainly because they had already become institutionalized, were traditional and deeply rooted in the cultural psyche of the land.
Everything, except for the philosophy, but not the metaphysical basis, was taken up and assimilated into the new religious ideology. This remained unaltered for a long time, retaining the original names, purpose and significance. Small changes occurred but with only slight variations in significance and meaning. In the course of time new paraphernalia began to appear; they were different, but they remained in concept analogous to the central original religious cultural paraphernalia of Hinduism.
Buddha Mudras give meanings to the five fingers as well. Each finger, starting from the thumb, represents elements that surround us: sky, wind, fire, water, and earth. Humans can appeal to the deities by using any combination of finger poses.
The esoteric symbols for Buddhism therefore remain shrouded with the essence of the ancient prehistoric creed: the aura, which evokes the mystical aspects bestowed on them from the very beginning of their evolution.
Without a background in Hinduism they spring up as not merely exoteric but esoteric, they are numerous and pervasive: they are almost everywhere, in temples, houses, shops, the streets, the forests, hills, rocks and river banks. Most of them are covered with a patina of age, coming as they do from the primal mists of time, and are therefore mostly unintelligible.
The purpose of this page is to explain the significance and Buddhism symbol meanings in a nutshell, to try to make them comprehensible. To make it easier to understand the evolution of a new creed — a new human experience. Like a bud evolving and blossoming into a flower, which began to waft its scent around the world about two thousand years ago.
MYSTICAL SYMBOLS FOR BUDDHISM
Like the Vajrayana Vehicle the mystical symbols have been adopted from Hinduism, almost practically unaltered, except for a slight variation to suit the new creed.
mandala represents the ‘Palace of Purity,’ where all obstacles and impurities are removed.
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Yantra is an instrument in which the psychophysical energies of a worshipper is regulated and protected, this regulation is protection.
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Kalachakra in Buddhism this is known as the Wheel of Time, usually illustrated in a thangka or sacred Tibetan painting, which is regarded as activating the internal as well as the external forces, like a yantra.
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Buddhist Symbol "OM"
‘Man’ meaning the mind and ‘tra’ means guidance or protection.
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The Chakras are contact points for the psychic and the physical body and are considered to be the centers of energy.
Read more on Religious Symbol Kundalini
The asanas are physical exercises of stretching and limbering to make the body flexible, supple and youthful.
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symbol of spiritualism. It is an obeisance, but at the same time is used as a greeting. On meeting a friend one says, “Namaskar” or “Namaste.” In Tibetan they say “Tashi Delek” which means “I wish you well.”
SACRED ELEMENTS OF NATURE (Buddhism Symbol of Religion)
Elements of nature sacred to Hindus were also adopted and assimilated in Buddhism with some slight changes in their significance as symbols, attributes, or as ritual objects of worship.
There were of course quite a few entirely new forms of symbols, which nevertheless had their origin in concept and purpose or meaning in Hinduism.
CHAITYA (Buddhist Sanctuary)
A chaitya is also commonly known as "Stupa or Chorten", a religious structure which is one of the most important symbols of Buddhism.
Whether it is in the shape of a new or full moon, it symbolizes the complementariness of opposites; also altruistic aspirations to attain Buddhahood for the sake of others; and represents the desire to acquire a method or a spiritual path and follow it. In Buddhism it is often depicted above the images of deities.
thangka painting. It is an attribute of Akashgarbha.
The symbol of six-pointed star in Buddhism represents the union of the female and male principles. It is also used in preparing an Buddhist astrological chart.
swastika is usually located in the sole of the foot representing the esoteric doctrine of the Buddha.
Originally in ancient times it was used as a war weapon. Both among the Hindus and the Buddhists, it is a sacrificial offering, or makes up the main element in a sacrificial ritual.
CHAKRA (Wheel of the Law)
Tibetan Buddhism stand for the Eightfold Paths of salvation.
This dharmachakra stands also for the Wheel of the Law, but it signifies completion and salvation attained through the Buddha’s teachings. It therefore represents the teachings of the Buddha. It is transmitted from the Buddha to his disciples, and from teachers to bhikus or monks, who are instructed on how to prepare to receive the Dharma. The Dharma is not just given to anyone who is ignorant and not ready to receive it. The giving and the acceptance is the wheeling motion of the Dharma —The Law.
Hindu deities like Krishna. In Buddhism it's a symbol of being immune from all kinds of poisons, and from worldly temptations.
The lotus, which grows in muddy swamps, symbolizes the purity of the Bodhisattva, who rises above the bonds of cyclic existence, uncontaminated by the confusion of the world. It represents discriminating wisdom and penetrating insight into emptiness or the void. It is the pedestal of the Lord Buddha. It is where the scriptures of the Perfect Wisdom — the Dharma — symbolically rest, along with the flaming sword of total awareness that severs the root of ignorance.
Manjushree and the Green Tara, the consort of the Dhyani Buddha. It is an ornament of Avalokiteswar and Padmapani, the ‘all- observing lord with the lotus in his.
This is the half-open lotus flower, which stands for the Night Lotus. Its color is blue and symbolizes the self created — Swayambhu — and the female principle in the Vajrayana tradition.
Tibetan Buddhism the pink lotus flower is a solar symbol.
In TIbetan Buddhism Nagas are the guardian of the Buddhist Dharma and protector of the Buddha.
deity Kubera, the god of wealth. Among the Buddhists it has the same significance, except that the name of the Nakula is Jambala.
The antelope symbolizes kindness and consideration for others; it also represents enlightened motives and the cultivation of a kind and compassionate attitude towards others.
SACRED WEAPONS (Buddhism religious signs)
The divine weapons in the Hindu pantheon were also taken up and adopted by Buddhism.
Structurally and in form they remained unchanged, except for their purpose or significance as symbols, attributes or ritual artefacts in worship, to suit the new creed.
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This is a battle-axe, a heavy weapon for cutting or chopping. As a ritual object it stands for the power to sever all worldly ties or attachments. This is a knife, a sharp blade with a vajra as handle. As a ritual artefact it symbolizes disintegration of all matter, also the severance of all worldly bonds, and their transformation into positive forces. In Tibetan this is a ritual instrument for cutting up corpses, in what is known as ‘sky burial’ to feed the vultures in the mountains.
symbol of Shiva. Among Buddhists it is known as the Tri Ratna, the threefold jewel: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha: the Lord Buddha, the Dharma or The Law, and the Community of monks.
Ghanta is a symbol for ‘path and purpose’ represents wisdom or impermanence.
Vajra meaning thunderbolt represents lightning it is Buddhist symbol of the imperturbable male principle, which stands for the method or path.
VISVAVAJRA (Wheel of the Good Law)
This is a ritual ‘flaming sword’ which symbolizes the destroyer of all ignorance, and is regarded as representing enlightenment. It is also called Prajna Khaga or the sword of wisdom, and has luminous rays issuing out of it, which destroy ignorance. It is a special symbol of Manjushree.
The shara, or arrow, is the symbol of alertness and consciousness. Like the sword and spear, it symbolizes the ultimate Boddhicitta, which severs the roots of cyclic existence. The chapa, or bow, in combination with the arrow, symbolizes purpose, method or path and wisdom; also firm and accurate determination.
Khatvanga is regarded to possess magical powers,so it is the symbol of supernatural power - siddhi.
Buddhist ritual object it symbolizes the hook which can lift anyone from doubts or Doctrine of the Buddha.
BUDDHIST RITUAL ARTEFACTS
Hindu ritual artefacts adopted by Buddhism remained unchanged even in their original purpose and significance, with the symbols, however, ascribed now to the Buddha or emerging Boddhisattvas as attributes.
There are quite a few Buddhist ritual items developed and introduced by Tibetan lamas, which are unique in their inspiration.
Dhar-Djuk means Tibetan prayer flag.
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Buddhist Monk's Robes symbolizes the Sangha.
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AKSHAMALA (Prayer Beads)
When a Prayer Beads or a Buddhist Mala is turned it means he is drawing the people out of cyclic existence and leading them to Nirvana.
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Mane Laro is a hand prayer wheel
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Buddhism it has changed greatly from the Hindu practice; food, mainly fruits, are offered for the Divine to bless. It also acknowledges divine munificence in the abundance of the offering. In Tibetan this is known as Tormo —food for the gods. Only after the prayers have been said does the food offering become prasad. Some of it is given to the people and animals, even ghosts or unseen spirits, but most of it goes to the lamas or monks.
Tibetan Damaru has a very strong cultural association in Buddhism and also in the religion of Hinduism.
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SANKHA (Ritual conch shell)
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The sound Kangling drives away evil spirits.
PARAPHERNALIA OF WORSHIP
Except for a few, most of the ritual paraphernalia used in Buddhism has been borrowed from Hinduism. In form and meaning they remain basically the same, except that they have been transformed in significance or purpose to ascribe them to Buddhist philosophy or principles, or the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas.
Vanaspati displays the illusion but hides the real.
Thangka paintings are not only used in decoration but also used for meditation & Puja
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Tibetan white sacred scarf, usually four yards long and one yard wide, a symbol of welcome or of offering. When offered but given back, it becomes a talisman, a token of protection. It is given to one going on a long journey for his safe return. It is usually draped around portraits of the Buddha or the Dalai Lama, and on prayer-flags.
Mukha is a ritual crown worn by a Monk from vajrayana discipline during a religious ritual.
This is a fly-whisk. Usually it is made from the end section of a yak’s tail. It is a sign of dignity.
The pustaka is a book, which contains the text on the ‘Perfect Insight’, the Prajnaparamita. It is the symbol of transcendental wisdom, of learning and the arts, and is supposed to have been entrusted to the Nagas to guard and protect mankind until they have acquired enough wisdom to be able to accept the Dharma. It is often depicted resting on a lotus.
Cintamani, the wish fulfilling jewel.
This represents the three jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. It also symbolizes the sanctuary where one can take refuge from the world. It also signifies the ‘Enlightened’ or the ‘Awakened’.
Kapala Pattra is a bowl offered as a sacrifice to propitiate protective deities.
vajra or trishul. It is an attribute of tantric deities like the dakinis and vajrayana saints, followers of the tantric — Yb Diamond Scepter discipline.
Sukunda means oil lamp.
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This is a water jug. As a ritual object it serves as a sacrificial jug. It usually has no handle but is rather richly decorated with precious stones and metal. Also known as kamandalu it is used in pouring water or nectar on the hands of a deity to whom sacrifice is offered. Nectar is the elixir of immortality and water is the source of life. Among the Hindus and Buddhists it is regarded as an important ritual artefact and is always placed on the altar.
ashtamangalas are attributes of Ashtamangaladevi, the goddess of Good Fortune. In Hinduism this is Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
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This is a brief explanation and meaning of the symbols of Buddhism. The evolution and development of Buddhism flowed from the vast spiritual landscape of India. Its form and concepts slowly evolved from the sacred symbols of Hinduism, nurtured in its growth, like a lotus in the matrix of India.
The Buddhist sacred symbols and attributes have not diverged completely, in connotation or meaning, from their counterparts in Hinduism. There is only a slight variation in purpose, but when perceived they reveal their origin in the great past of the Hindu creed.
Like the Hindu sacred symbols, the Buddhist symbols remain unique and fascinating in their exotic form and esoteric significance. They provide a deeper insight into the religious phenomena of the subcontinent, the Himalayas and Tibet, the mysterious land on the roof of the world.
Like any other spiritual symbols, they do not merely explain or resolve seemingly contradictory spiritual concepts, but instruct on the way of attaining enlightenment.