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What Does a Dharma Wheel (Dharmachakra) Mean?
It is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism. It is
commonly seen on T-shirts, Indian flag, and tattoos. It is used to
symbolize Buddhism just like how a Star of David symbolizes
Judaism. So what does Dharmachakra mean? And what is its
significance in Hinduism and Buddhism?
TAGGED UNDER: Religious Symbols Buddhism

Did You Know?

Buddhist flag in Thailand features a yellow flag with a red
Known as Dharmachakra in Sanskrit, it is one of the oldest and
important symbols in Buddhism. Dharmachakra represents
teachings of the Buddha. It depicts Dharma which according to
Buddhism is the pathway to reach Nirvana (peaceful state of mind).
It signifies teachings from not just Buddhism, but also Hinduism and
Jainism. Dharma Wheel (Dharmachakra) means Wheel of law.
Dharmachakra has varying number of spokes, most commonly
eight. Dharma wheel can be seen in any color, but it is mostly in
gold. Center of the wheel has three shapes swirling together,
usually they look like a Yin-Yang symbol, but it can be a wheel or
another circle.
Dharma Wheel: Meaning

There isn't a single meaning associated with Dharmachakra, it

can be interpreted in many ways. The Dharma wheel is made up of
three different parts namely: The Hub, The Spokes, and The Rim.

Buddha's teachings are known as Dharma. The circle shape of

the wheel symbolizes flawlessness of the Dharma, which is
Buddha's teaching.

The rim of the wheel stands for the ability to meditate and
concentrate, which further helps to hold all the teachings together.
The smaller circle, which is the Hub symbolizes discipline. The
three colorful swirls on the Hub stands for Buddha (yellow), Dharma
(blue), and, Sangha (red) which are also called The Three

Last but not the least, the spokes represent different things
based on their numbers.
If a wheel has four spokes it stands for The Four Noble Truths
which are The truth of suffering (Dukkha), The truth of the cause of
suffering (samudaya), The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha),
and, The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga)
When the wheel is said to have eight spokes it signifies the
Eightfold Path. This wheel commonly represents Buddhism.
Eightfold Path includes Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech,
Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and
Right Concentration.
Ten spokes wheel represents ten directions, while twelve wheel
spokes signifies Twelve Links Of Dependent Origination. If the
wheel possess twenty-four spokes they signify not only the Twelve
Links Of Dependent Origination but also the reverse of these links
and freedom from Samsara. Twenty-four spoked Dharma wheel is
also known as Ashoka Chakra.
Dharmachakra basically implies the teachings of Buddha. It
simply explains the process of birth and rebirth. For all the problems
an individual has to go through, Buddha provides a solution through
meditation to end all the suffering.
Dharma Wheel: Significance in Buddhism
Buddha gave his first sermon in Sarnath, which is a deer park in
Uttar Pradesh, India. His first sermon was delivered after his
enlightenment. The park where he gave his first sermon was a
humble abode of many deer, and they gathered around Buddha to
hear his teachings. That is the reason you will find deer sitting on
either side of the Dharmachakra. Buddha taught us that we need to
protect and save not just humans but also animals.
Buddha taught The Four Noble Truths and each truth
encompasses three characteristics which is known as 'Turnings of
the Wheel.'

The Wheel represents the process of rebirth of a human being. In

Mahayana Buddhism, it is noted that Buddha turned the Dharma
wheel thrice.

His first sermon was the first turning the wheel where he talked
about The Four Noble Truths. Second turning was when he
introduced the ideology of emptiness and compassion. The third
turn was on the unveiling of the philosophy of Buddha-nature.
Dharma Wheel: Significance in Hinduism
Dharma in Hinduism depicts order, it refers to the religious
routine followed by a devotee. In sacred texts, it means the law
which is followed by all the individuals.

The word Dharma is derived from the sanskrit root "dhr" which
means what is established or firm, inshort it stands for law.
The wheel in Dharmachakra also symbolizes protection, creation,
and, sovereignty.

The Chakra or wheel is strongly associated to Lord Vishnu who

is known to be the Vedic god of preservation.
Dharma Wheel: Significance in Jainism
Buddhism and Jainism originated in the same surroundings,
therefore they have many mutual symbols. Jainism strongly follows
the principle of non-violence which ultimately leads towards the end
goal which is death of this birth.

In this culture, Dharma constitutes the wisdom of the "Jinas" and

the wheel implies constant motion.
Ashoka Chakra

Ashoka the emperor who ruled India and other regions was an
ardent follower of Buddhism. He encouraged Buddha's teachings
among his people.

During his rule, he encouraged many stone pillars, many of it are

still standing. The pillars bear certain decrees that inspired people to
follow Buddhism and the act of nonviolence.

At the top of each pillar there is at least one lion depicting

Ashoka's rule. Pillars are also adorned with 24 spokes
In the year 1947, Government of India adopted the chakra in the
national flag. The chakra has 24 spokes and is navy blue in color on
a white background.
Although the Dharma Chakra is thousand years old, it still retains its
powers leading us to the path of enlightenment. It guides us to lead
a simple form of life inspired by Buddha's teachings.

Ashmeet Bagga Last Updated: June 17, 2016 Reprint Permission

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The Three Jewels Buddhism

The Buddha
The Dharma (teachings)
The Sangha (community)


Three Vehicles
The Four Noble Truths
Death & Rebirth PAGE CONTENTS
The Mind
Brief History of Symbolism in Buddhism
Four Immeasurables
Symbols for the Buddha
Compassion & Bodhicitta
The Three Jewels or Triple Gem
Wisdom of Emptiness
Spiritual Teacher
Going for Refuge
FAQ- sheet
The Seven Jewels of Royal Power
The Eight Auspicious Symbols
Practice & Meditation The Buddhist Flag
The Swastika
Everyday Behaviour Mountains
What is Meditation
How to Meditate
58 Meditations
Tantric Preliminaries
Many Buddhist symbols need to be considered within the culture of the people
Problematic Emotions the early symbols relate to ancient India and can be found in Hinduism as well
somewhat different meaning.
Introduction The historical Buddha lived around the sixth century BCE, but no Buddhist art
Anger third century BCE. In the scriptures, it is mentioned that the Buddha did occasi
Attachment of Life' to illustrate the teachings. The first archaeological evidence, mainly of
from the time of the Emperor Asoka (273 - 232 BCE), who converted to Budd
in India and beyond .
Lack of Self-Confidence
Depression In the second century BCE, people started to excavate Buddhist monasteries in
Fear artwork to withstand the ages. Probably the earliest typical Buddhist monumen
Other Delusions specially decorated. The first actual Buddha images appeared around the first c
Summary artwork was largely symbolic in nature.

With the appearance of Buddhist Tantra around the 6th century, a wealth of ne
Symbolism appeared, as imagination and visualization form a major technique in meditatio
a pantheon of deities and protectors appeared, together with a vast collection o
In General Buddhism and bell, mandalas etc.; see the page on Tantric Symbols. This tradition was m
In Tantra 'Tibetan Buddhism', and partially in the Japanese Shingon tradition.
5 Dhyani Buddhas
In Tibetan Buddhism
In the Kalachakra Tantra
Stories, Quotes & Fun It is said that the Buddha was reluctant to accept
images of himself, as he did not like to be
Stories from the Heart venerated as a person. To symbolise the Buddha in
Buddhist Stories the very early art, one used mainly the Eight
Buddhist Quotes Spoked Wheel and theBodhi Tree, but also
Quotes of Wisdom the Buddha's Footprints, an Empty Throne,
Poetry aBegging Bowl and a Lion are used to represent
Funny Pages...
The Eight-Spoked Dharma Wheel or
My Main Teachers 'Dharmachakra' (Sanskrit) symbolises the Buddha's
turning the Wheel of Truth or Law (dharma = truth/law, chakra = wheel).
The Dalai Lama
Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche The wheel (on the left and right) refers to the story that shortly after the
Buddha achieved enlightenment, Brahma came down from heaven and
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
requested the Buddha to teach by offering him a Dharmachakra. The
Buddha is known as the Wheel-Turner: he who sets a new cycle of
Resources teachings in motion and in consequence changes the course of destiny.

Teachings&Articles The Dharmachakra has eight spokes, symbolising the Eight-fold Noble
Sutras & Practices Path. The 3 swirling segments in centre represent the Buddha, Dharma (the tea
Vows & Prayers... community).
The wheel can also be divided into three parts, each representing an aspect of B
Teksty w jezyku polskim
(discipline), the spokes (wisdom), and the rim (concentration).
History of Buddhism...
Recommended Books The Bodhi Tree refers to the tree under which the Buddha
Controversy achieved enlightenment (See image on the right.).
A to Z Glossary Tree worship was already part of the existing culture in
India, so the development of the bodhi tree and leaf as a
Number Glossary
devotional symbol was a natural one.
Contact & about me
From a beautiful online book from theStupa Page:
Tibetan Buddhism
"After wandering the countryside for about six years the
Buddhism in Tibet Buddha finally came to rest in a forest beside the
Naranjara River, not far from modern day Bodhgaya.
Tibetan Calendar
Sitting under a Bodhi tree, ardently practicing meditation,
Tibetan Astrology he finally realised his true nature. The next seven days
Tibetan Symbolism were spent under the tree experiencing the bliss of freedom and contemplating
understanding. The story then goes on to relate four other periods of seven
A Taste of Zen days, each spent under a different tree - the Banyan, the Mucalinda and the
Rajayatana tree and then once more back to the Banyan. Each of these 'tree
scenes' has its own well known story which space here does not allow. The
Buddhism in Japan
tree of enlightenment is called, in Latin, ficus religiosa, or sacred tree. It is
Zen FAQ-sheet also known as the pipal tree. For Buddhists it is generally called the Bodhi,
Zen Poems and Haiku or Bo tree. Bodhi is the Pali and Sanskrit word for enlightenment. There is a
Zen Stories descendant of the original tree still growing at Bodhgaya and Bodhi trees are
Zen Computer Fun commonly found in Buddhist centres all over the world."

The Throne is both a reference to Siddharta Gautama's royal ancestry and to

Navigation the idea of spiritual kingship - enlightenment as ruler of the spiritual world. Th
show the Dharmachakra and the Bodhitree on top of the throne. Sometimes the
Web Links with other symbols such as lions and deer, both associa
Search this Site
Home The Lion is one of Buddhism's most potent symbols. T
with regality, strength and power. It is therefore an app
who tradition has it was a royal prince. The Buddha's t

Roar'. The wheel symbolizes Buddhist law and also Asoka's legitimacy as an e

Especially in Tibetan Buddhist art, lions are often depicted on the throne the B
Lions (mythical creatures), and they actually represent the eight main Bodhisat

From the Tibetan Aid Project Page:

"Footprints of the Buddha traditionally symbolize th
Enlightened One. This image was reproduced from a
imprint at Bodh Gaya, India, site of the Buddha's enl

The story goes that prior to his death the Buddha left
near Kusinara, a reminder of his presence on earth.

These footprints often show Dharma-wheels on them

a Buddha. Other auspicious marks, like swastikas and lotuses etc. can sometim
of these special marks.

The Begging-bowl refers to the the s

reached enlightenment, a young wom
bowl of milk-rice. At that moment, h
eating extremely little. But he realise
need to have more strength for the fi
further fasting would only reduce his
enlightenment, he is said to have thro
bowl to signify his renunciation of al
middle way between extreme austeri
is an important principle of Buddhism
The bowl also points to the monk's w
Photo by Beverly Brott monastery into the village each morn
it by lay people.

What seems a much later development is the depiction of the Buddha's eyes (
frequently seen in Nepal. They look in all four directions, representing the omn

At you can find a very interesting history of the developme


The core of Buddhism is made up of the three pillars of the Buddha, t
Sangha (monks and nuns). Simply explained, one could say that witho
there would have been no Buddhist Dharma, nor Sangha. Without his teachings, the
of a difference, and also the spiritual community would not have existed. Without th
have have been transmitted through the ages. The Buddha would have been 'just' a
would have been 'just' books.
Obviously, the Triple Gem is usually represented as three jewels...


Deer are a direct reference to the Buddha's first teaching in the Deer Park, Sarn
Parivartan. The suggestion is that so wondrous was the Buddha's appearance a
the animals came to listen. In the Tibetan tradition, a monastery which holds th
collections of texts would have this symbol of deer on both sides of the Dharm

Stupas generally represent the enlightened mind of the Buddh
early days of Buddhism. One of the symbolic meanings is tha
the square base represents earth, the round dome is for water,
is air and the volume of the stupa is space. Stupas are often u

On the subject of stupas, I can recommend a visit to the Stupa Page, which not
but even a free downloadable book on stupas. Stupas come in many shapes and
Making offerings is a very common practice in the East. Every offering has a s
offering light is to dispel the darkness of one's ignorance, or offering incense to
Offering is considered a good training against greed and attachment.

In Tibet, many or all of the offerings are often replaced by little bowls filled w
offering of water for drinking and foot-washing, flowers, incense, light, perfum
ancient tradition of how a very important guest should be received.

The Eight Offerings:

Offering water to cleanse the mouth or face: It signifies auspiciousness or al

which bring positive effects. So, make an offering of water which is clean, fres
comfortable to the throat and stomach - these qualities are the qualities of ausp
Offering water to wash the feet: This is clear water mixed with incense or san
offering to all enlightened beings' feet. The symbolic meaning is
purification. By cleansing the feet of the enlightened beings, we
cleanse all our own negative karma and obscurations. By
making offerings to clean the enlightened beings feet, we are
really cleaning the "feet" of our own mind.
Offering flowers signifies the practice of generosity and opens
the heart.
Offering incense symbolises moral ethics or discipline.
Offering light signifies the stability and clarity of patience, the
beauty which dispels all ignorance.
According to Ven. Norlha Rinpoche: "It is also excellent to offer the butterlam
of offering this light symbolizes burning away our mental afflictions of desire,
and so forth. The other part of the symbolism is that it is a way to burn away o

"Offering butter lamps is the most powerful offering because their light symbo
dispels darkness, offering light from a butter lamp represents removing the dar
attain Buddhas luminous clear wisdom. The lamp offering is a sense offering
Buddhas eyes are wisdom eyes, they do not have the extremes of clarity or no
however, are obscured by the darkness of the two defilements gross afflictive
habitual defilements. While the Buddha does not have desire for offerings, we
our own accumulation of merit & wisdom. Through the power of this accumul
of our ignorance eyes in order to gain Buddhas supreme luminous wisdom eye
are the realization of Clear Light wisdom phenomena in this life; the clarificati
dispersal of confusion and realization of Clear Light in the bardo; and the incre
until one has reached enlightenment.
Traditionally, butter lamps are also offered as a dedication to the dead in order
by wisdom light. We can pray as well that this light guide all beings of the six
obscurations so that they may awaken to their true wisdom nature.
With genuine faith & devotion, visualize that with your offerings, countless of
immeasurable light to all enlightened beings. You may recite the Butter Lamp
Collection of Offering Prayers.
Lama Tharchin Rinpoche

Offering of perfume or the fragrance from saffron or sandalwood. It signifies

Through that one quality, one develops all the qualities of enlightenment.
Offering of food which has a lot of different tastes signifies samadhi, which is
Offering of musical instruments. There are different types of instruments -- c
of these are offered. Their nature is wisdom, which makes an offering to the ea
Bodhisattvas and all the enlightened beings. Sound represents wisdom because
mind which penetrates phenomena. Compassion is achieved through great wis
phenomena is realised through great wisdom. of course all phenomena have th
and conditions, but sound is especially easy to understand.

The Eight Lucky Articles or Eight Bringers of Good Fortune to support the
enlightenment. Each of these also represents an aspect of the 8-fold Noble Path

The Mirror represents the Dharmakaya or Truth Body of the Buddha, having
clear of pollution) and wisdom (a mirror reflects all phenomena without distinc
Curd - just as this highly valued, pure white food is the result of a long proces
revealed with practice over time as the defilements are dissolved. Represents R
harmed in its production).
Durva Grass is very resilient and is a symbol of long life. This is considered b
to practice and attain enlightenment. Represents Right Effort.
The Wood Apple or Bilva Fruit is offered to remind the practitioner of the em
all phenomena in terms of dependent origination. Why the Bilva fruit was chos
Represents Right Action - which bears the right fruit.
The Right-coiled Conch-shell represents the wish that the Buddhist teachings
the sounds emitted when the shell is used as a horn. Represents Right Speech.
Vermilion/Cinnabar are each red powders consisting of mercuric sulphide. In
symbolism, red represents control. Thus, this offering is concerned with having
which are to be put to the effort of gaining enlightenment. Represents Right Co
White Mustard Seeds This relates to the Buddha's response to a woman who
of her child. He instructed her to collect a mustard seed (as common as salt or
home that never had a bereavement. As she returned empty-handed, the Buddh
alone in her sorrow and that death is an inescapable part of life. Represent Righ
are also used in many rituals to expel demons. They therefore symbolise also w
Precious Medicine - ghi-wang, literally meaning "cow essence", is a soothing
obtained from gallstones in cattle or elephants. The substance's ability to deal w
to include suffering as part of the practice of Dharma. It represents Right Mind
to the disease of ignorance and the suffering that it causes.

The Five Qualities of Enjoyment are also used as offerings, as when they com
they give rise to the negative consequences of attachment and craving:

The Mirror is a symbol for visual form.

The Lute symbolises sound.
The Incense Burner represents smell.
The Fruit refers to for taste.
The Silk relates to touch.
In offering these qualities, one meditates on their nature and the intention of ab


The Seven Jewels of Royal Power are the accessories of the universal monarc
represent different abilities or aids that a king must possess in order to stay in p
offered to the Buddha. These seven objects collectively symbolize secular pow
resources and power.

In the Buddhist interpretation a comparison is drawn between the outward rule

spiritual power of a practitioner. To the spiritual practitioner the Seven Jewels
inexhaustible spiritual resources and invincible power over all inner and outer
These seven jewels can also be found in the long mandala offering ritual.

The Precious Queen - who represents the feminine pole, where the chakravart
working to abandon negative mental states regard her as mother or sister. Her b
representative of the radiating, piercing joy of the Buddha's enlightenment.
The Precious General symbolises the wrathful power to overcome enemies.
The Precious Horse is able to travel among the clouds and mirror the Buddha'
above", the cares of worldly existence.
The Precious Jewel which is sometimes depicted on the back of the precious h
wealth and unfolding (power and possibility). The jewel is said to aid the Chak
Buddhist King) in his ability to see all things like a crystal ball. In the same wa
things; recognising the manifold connections between all events, the relentless
nature of compounded existence. The Jewel can also symbolise a Wish-granti
fulfills all wishes.
The Precious Minister or Householder represent two different aspects of the
of the chakravartin which are closely related. The minister aids the chakravarti
carrying out his commands expeditiously, while the householder provides the v
basic support. The wisdom of the Buddha, like the minister, is always present t
who has realised it, allowing him to cut through the bonds of ignorance. While
householder represents the support of the lay community, without which the
monastic community could not continue.
The Precious Elephant is a symbol of the strength of the mind in Buddhism.
Exhibiting noble gentleness, the precious elephant serves as a symbol of the ca
majesty possessed by one who is on the path. Specifically, it embodies the
boundless powers of the Buddha which are miraculous aspiration, effort, inten
and analysis. The image at the right says it all: a stupa - symbolic of the mind o
The Precious Wheel, sometimes depicted on the back of the precious elephant
or the Wheel of Truth above.

This set of symbols is very popular
Sanskrit as 'Ashtamangala', ashta

The Umbrella or parasol (chhatra)

royalty, for one had to be rich enough to possess such an item, and further, to h
the "royal ease" and power experienced in the Buddhist life of detachment. It a
activities to keep beings from harm (sun) like illness, harmful forces, obstacles
the results under its cool shade.
The Golden Fish (matsya) were origi
Ganges and Yamuna, but came to rep
Hindus, Jain and Buddhists. Within B
living beings who practice the dharma
ocean of suffering, and can freely mig
in the water.

The Treasure Vase (bumpa) is a sign

available in the Buddhist teachings, bu
wealth, prosperity and all the benefits
practice which involves burying or sto
locations to generate wealth, eg. for m

The Lotus (padma) is a very importan

Buddhism. In brief, it refers to the com
and mind, and the blossoming of who
lotus refers to many aspects of the pat
(samsara), up through muddy water it
(purification), and finally produces a b
The white blossom represents purity, the stem stands for the practice of Buddh
above the (mud of) worldly existence, and gives rise to purity of mind.
An open blossom signifies full enlightenment; a closed blossom signifies the p

From the website Exotic India Art:

"The lotus does not grow in Tibet and so Tibetan art has only stylized versions
Buddhism's best recognized motifs since every important deity is associated in
being seated upon it or holding one in their hands.
The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and t
above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the pr
primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the br
Though there are other water plants that bloom above the water, it is only the l
of its stem, regularly rises eight to twelve inches above the surface.
Thus says the Lalitavistara, 'the spirit of the best of men is spotless, like the lot
not adhere to it.' According to another scholar, 'in esoteric Buddhism, the heart
lotus: when the virtues of the Buddha develop therein, the lotus blossoms; that

Significantly, the color of the lotus too has an important bearing on the symbol

1). White Lotus (Skt. pundarika; Tib. pad ma dkar po): This represents the sta
mental purity (bodhi). It is associated with the White Tara and proclaims her p
reinforced by the color of her body.
2). Red Lotus (Skt. kamala; Tib: pad ma chu skyes): This signifies the origina
(hrdya). It is the lotus of love, compassion, passion and all other qualities of th
Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
3). Blue Lotus (Skt. utpala; Tib. ut pa la): This is a symbol of the victory of th
signifies the wisdom of knowledge. Not surprisingly, it is the preferred flower
4). Pink Lotus (Skt. padma; Tib. pad ma dmar po): This the supreme lotus, ge
deity. Thus naturally it is associated with the Great Buddha himself."

Teoh Eng Soon, in his book The Lotus in the Buddhist Art of India, traces the f
Buddhist art to the columns built by Asoka in the 3rd Century BCE. However,
early Buddhist texts.

The lotus (padme) is an important symbol in Tibetan Buddhism and is commo

becoming a buddha. In Tibetan Buddhist iconography, buddhas are often seate
transcendent state. A lotus is born in the muck and mud at the bottom of a swa
surface of the water and opens its petals, a beautiful flower appears, unstained
Similarly, the compassion and wisdom of buddhas arise from the muck of the o
characterized by fighting, hatred, distrust, anxiety, and other negative emotions
people to become self-centered and lead to suffering and harmful actions. But
destructive emotions, it is also the place in which we can become buddhas, per
from the sleep of ignorance and who perceive reality as it is, with absolute clar
for suffering living beings.

Just as the lotus arises from the bottom of a swamp, so buddhas were former h
thoughts and actions in which all ordinary beings engage: the strife, wars, petty
all humans, animals, and other creatures are subject. Through their meditative
transcended such things, and like lotuses have risen above their murky origins
by the mud and mire below.

The symbolism may be extended still further, because buddhas do not simply e
others with pity or detached amusement; rather, like the lotus, which has roots
of the swamp, buddhas continue to act in the world for the benefit of others, co
forms in order to help them, to make them aware if the reality of their situation
awakening of buddhahood, which can free them from all suffering.
From Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism by John Pow

The Conch (shankha), which is also used as a horn,

and melodious sound of the teachings, which is suita
them from the slumber of ignorance to accomplish a

The Auspicious or Endless Knot (shrivatsa) is a geo

the nature of reality where everything is interrelated
karma and its effect. Having no beginning or end, it
of the Buddha, and the union of compassion and wis
illusory character of time, and long life as it is endle

The Victory Banner (dhvaja) symbolises the victory

death, ignorance, disharmony and all the negativities
The roofs of Tibetan monasteries are often decorated with victory banners of d

The Dharma-Wheel (Dharmachakra); it is said that after Siddharta Gautama a

came to him, offered a Dharma-Wheel and requested the Buddha to teach. It re
(see above).

You can find a good article on the eight auspicious symbols at exoticindiaart.c

A much more recent symbol is the Buddhist flag. It w
Henry Steele Olcott an American journalist. It was fi
and is a symbol of faith and peace, and is now used t
the Buddhism.
The five colours of the flag represent the colours of t
body of the Buddha when he attained Enlightenment.

Loving kindness, peace and universal compassion

The Middle Path - avoiding extremes, emptiness

Blessings of practice - achievement, wisdom, virtue, fortun

Purity of Dharma - it leads to liberation, outside of time or

The Buddha's Teaching - wisdom

The Swastika is a well-know good-luck symbol from India. Unfortunately, it is
Nazis chose it as their main symbol. In Sanskrit, swastika means "conducive to
tradition, the swastika symbolizes the feet or footprints of the Buddha and is of
texts. Modern Tibetan Buddhism uses it as a clothing decoration. With the spre
the iconography of China and Japan where it has been used to denote plurality,

(In India, Hindus use the swastika to mark the opening pages of account books
the right-hand swastika is a solar symbol and the left-hand version represents K
is the emblem of their seventh Tirthankara. Other uses of the symbol: in ancien
symbol on coinage, In Scandinavia it was the symbol for the god Thor's hamm
called the gammadion cross because it was made of four gammas. It is also fou


"There are two key mountains in Buddhist symbolism. The first is Vulture Pea
Buddha is said to have delivered a number of sermons. Vulture Peak has partic
Buddhism as one of its key texts, the Lotus Sutra, is said to have developed ou
Vulture Peak [also the very important Heart Sutra was taught here]. The secon
and is known as Mount Meru, the mythological center of the Buddhist univer
below the earth and the heavens above."

In China, there are the so-called four sacred mountains (not to be confused w
mountains). They are:

Pu Tuo Shan, Buddhist mountain of the east, Zhejiang province, 284 meters.
Wu Tai Shan, Buddhist mountain of the north, Shanxi province, 3061 meters
Emei Shan, Buddhist mountain of the west, Sichuan province, 3099 meters. S
Jiu Hua Shan, Buddhist mountain of the south, Anhui province, 1341 meters.

See also this page from Sacred Sites.

In Tibet, the 6,600 meter high Mount Kailash is often identified as the mounta
Meru (the axis of the universe) with its pyramid shape. See the page on Tibetan


This information comes from Ratna Henry Chia's World of Buddhism.

The Four Guardian Kings are the protectors of the four cardinal directions and
entrance to monasteries and temples. They each have two hands and are dresse
of a warrior king. They may be depicted either sitting or standing.
Dhritarashtra, the King of the East Virudhaka, t
white in color and plays a lute. blue in color and ca

Virupaksha, the King of the West, Vaishravana,

red in color and holds a small stupa in his right hand yellow in color and c
and a serpent in his left. his right hand and a m


This page was translated in Italian , and is available at

Web teachings on Making Light Offerings by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. A good c
found at Buddha Mind
A huge collection of links on Buddhist Symbols
Tibetan Clipart in Vector Graphics to illustrate anything: support this project to
An interesting collection of symbols and their explanation can be found on the
Also have a look at Ratna Henry Chia's page.
A great collection of information on Buddhist ceremonies in the Thai tradition
Altar offerings in the Tibetan tradition.
Making waterbowl offerings by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Making prostrations
Offerings katas (silk scarves) in the Tibetan tradition.
The images of the 8 auspicious symbols are courtesy of Osel Shen Phen Ling.
The symbolism of Experience by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Making incense offering

If you are looking for Chinese symbolism, check out

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Last updated: May 11, 2015

Dawah for Budhist brothers and sisters

May the peace and blessings of God be on all readers.

In this article, we will examine some important aspects related to Budhism and will request our Budhist brothers and siste
these few points.

Gautama Buddha: Does he have any similarity with other Messengers of Truth?

Gautama Buddha was the founder of Buddhism.

His original name was Siddharth (meaning one who has accomplished) and was also called Sakyamuni, i.e. the sage of the
was born in the year 563 B.C. in the village of Lumbini near Kapila Vastu, within the present borders of Nepal.

According to some historians, an astrologer foretold his father, the king, that young Gautama would give up the throne an
renounce the world the day he would see four things:

(i) an old man,

(ii) a sick man,
(iii) a diseased man and
(iv) a dead man.

Hence, the king confined Gautama in a special palace which was provided with all worldly pleasures. He was married at th

At the age of 29 after the birth of his first son, Gautama on the same day saw an old man, a sick man, a diseased man and
impact of the dark side of life made him renounce the world that same night and he left his wife and son and became a pe
He studied and practiced Hindu discipline initially, and later, Jainism. Hinduism is believed to be existing as long as 2000 B
in this part of the world.
For several years he observed rigorous fasting along with extreme self-mortification. On realizing that tormenting his bod
closer to true wisdom, he resumed eating normally and abandoned asceticism.

At the age of 35, one evening as he sat beneath a giant fig tree (Bodh tree), he felt that he had found the solution to his p
he had attained enlightenment. Thus, he came to be known as Gautama, The Buddha, or 'The Enlightened One'.

Later, he spent 45 years in preaching the truth that he felt he had discovered. He travelled from city to city bare-footed, c
nothing more on his self than his saffron robe, walking stick and begging bowl. He died at the age of 80 in the year 483 BC

Interestingly, there are many similarities between this and the life of many prophets including Muhammad (PBUH). We kn
(Abraham) also looked for various religions before he realized that it is ONE God which is the only Master and all the rest
Prophet Muhammad PBUH also used live on little quantities of food before becoming the messenger and use to ponder a
and days in a cave until one day an angel Gabriel came to him and conveyed message of God. Upon receiving that, he wen
delivering this message to humanity. It therefore reflects the lifestyle of messengers of God e.g. calling people to the trut
worldly pleasures for their noble cause. It is also to be noted that the original garment of the very early Buddhists was tha
that Muslims wear during pilgrimage - 2 simple white pieces of cloth. Considering these aspects, it can be hypothesized th
possibly be a messenger as well. But we cannot say anything about this with absolute surety as such a claim would need m
stronger evidences.

We will ponder more on this while discussing various passages from Buddhist scriptures, later on in this book.

Buddhism is divided into two sects viz. Hinayana and Mahayana.

Historical criticism has proved that the original teachings of Buddha can never be known. It seems that Gautama Buddha
memorized by his disciples. After Buddhas death a council was held at Rajagaha so that the words of Buddha could be re
upon. There were differences of opinion and conflicting memories in the council. Opinion of Kayshapa and Ananda who w
disciples of Buddha were given preference. A hundred years later, a second council at Vesali was held. Only after 400 yea
Buddha were his teachings and doctrines written down. Little attention was paid regarding its authenticity, genuineness a

Buddhist Scriptures can be divided into Pali and Sanskrit Literature:

A. Pali Literature :
The Pali literature was monopolized by the Hinayana sect of Buddhism.

Tri Pitaka
The most important of all Buddhist scriptures is the TRI-PITAKA which is in Pali text. It is supposed to be the earliest recor
literature which was written in the 1st Century B.C.
The TRI-PITAKA or Three Baskets of law is composed of 3 books:

1. Vinaya Pitaka: Rules of Conduct

his is a boTok of discipline and mainly deals with rules of the order.

2. Sutta Pitaka: Discourses

It is a collection of sermons and discourses of Gautama Buddha and the incidents in his life. It is the most important Pitak
divisions known as Nikayas.Dhammapada is the most famous Pali literature and contains aphorisms and short statement

3. Abhidhamma: Analysis of Doctrine

This third basket contains meta physical doctrines and is known as Buddhist meta physicals. It is an analytical and logical e
two pitakas. It contains analysis and exposition of Buddhist doctrine.

B. Sanskrit Literature:
Sanskrit literature was preferred by the Mahayana. Sanskrit literature has not been reduced to a collection or in Cannon l
Thus much of the original Sanskrit literature has been lost. Some were translated into other languages like Chinese and ar
translated into Sanskrit.

1. Maha vastu: Sublime Story

Mahavastu is the most famous work in Sanskrit which has been restored from its Chinese translation. It consists of volum
legendary stories.

2. Lalitavistara
Lalitavistara is one of the holiest of the Sanskrit literature. It belongs to the first century C.E., 500 years after the death of
the miracles which the superstition loving people have attributed to Buddha.


A. Noble Truths:
The principal teachings of Gautama Buddha can be summarized in what the Buddhists call the Four Noble Truths:

First There is suffering and misery in life .

Second The cause of this suffering and misery is desire.
Third Suffering and misery can be removed by removing desire.
Fourth Desire can be removed by following the Eight Fold Path.

B. The Noble Eight Fold Path:

(i) Right Views

(ii) Right Thoughts
(iii) Right Speech
(iv) Right Actions
(v) Right Livelihood
(vi) Right Efforts
(vii) Right Mindfulness
(viii) Right Meditation

C. Nirvana:
Nirvana' literally means "blowing out" or "extinction". According to Buddhism, this is the ultimate goal of life and can be d
words. It is a cessation of all sorrows, which can be achieved by removing desire by following the Eight Fold Path.


As mentioned earlier, the main teachings of Buddhism are summarised in the Four Noble Truths:

(i) There is suffering and misery in life.

(ii) The cause of suffering and misery is desire.
(iii) Suffering and misery can be removed by removing desire.
(iv) Desire can be removed by following the Eight Fold Path.

This Philosophy of Buddhism is self-contradictory or self-defeating because the third truth says suffering and misery can
removing desire and the fourth truth says that 'desire can be removed by following the Eight Fold Path'.

Now, for any person to follow Buddhism he should first have the desire to follow the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold
great Noble Truth says that desire should be removed. Once you remove desire, how can we follow the Fourth Noble trut
Fold Path unless we have a desire to follow the Eight Fold Path. In short desire can only be removed by having a desire to
Path. If you do not follow the Eight Fold Path, desire cannot be removed. It is self contradicting as well as self-defeating to
only be removed by continuously having a desire.

Buddha was silent about the existence or non-existence of God. It may be that since India was drowned in idol worship an
that a sudden step to monotheism would have been drastic and hence Buddha may have chosen to remain silent on the i
not deny the existence of God. Buddha was once asked by a disciple whether God exists? He refused to reply. When press
you are suffering from a stomach ache would you concentrate on relieving the pain or studying the prescription of the ph
business or yours to find out whether there is God our business is to remove the sufferings of the world".

Buddhism provided Dhamma or the impersonal law in place of God. However this could not satisfy the craving of human
religion of self-help had to be converted into a religion of promise and hope. The Hinayana sect could not hold out any pr
help to the people. The Mahayana sect taught that Buddhas watchful and compassionate eyes are on all miserable being
out of Buddha. Many scholars consider the evolution of God within Buddhism as an effect of Hinduism.

Many Buddhists adopted the local god and thus the religion of No-God was transformed into the religion of Many-Gods
strong and weak and male and female. The Man-God appears on earth in human form and incarnates from time to time
the caste-system prevalent in the Hindu society.


1. Buddha prophesised the advent of a Maitreya:

A) Almost all Buddhist books contain this prophecy. It is in Chakkavatti Sinhnad Suttanta D. III, 76:

"There will arise in the world a Buddha named Maitreya (the benevolent one) a holy one, a supreme one, an enlightened
wisdom in conduct, auspicious, knowing the universe:

"What he has realized by his own supernatural knowledge he will publish to this universe. He will preach his religion, glor
glorious at its climax, glorious at the goal, in the spirit and the letter. He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfect and th
as I now preach my religion and a like life do proclaim. He will keep up the society of monks numbering many thousands,
up a society of monks numbering many hundreds".

B) According to Sacred Books of the East volume 35 pg. 225:

"It is said that I am not an only Buddha upon whom the leadership and order is dependent. After me another Buddha ma
such virtues will come. I am now the leader of hundreds, he will be the leader of thousands."

C) According to the Gospel of Buddha by Carus pg. 217 and 218 (From Ceylon sources):

"Ananda said to the Blessed One, Who shall teach us when thou art gone?'

And the Blessed one replied, 'I am not the first Buddha who came upon the earth nor shall I be the last. In due time anoth
in the world, a holy one, a supremely enlightened one, endowed with wisdom in conduct, auspicious, knowing the univer
leader of men, a master of angels and mortals. He will reveal to you the same eternal truths, which I have taught you. He
religion, glorious in its origin, glorious at the climax and glorious at the goal. He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfec
now proclaim. His disciples will number many thousands while mine number many hundreds.'

Ananda said, 'How shall we know him?'

The Blessed one replied, 'He will be known as Maitreya'."

(i) The Sanskrit word Maitreya or its equivalent in Pali Metteyya means loving, compassionate, merciful and benevolen
kindness and friendliness, sympathy, etc. One Arabic word which is equivalent to all these words is Rahmat. In Surah Al-

"We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures."

[Al-Quran 21:107]
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was called the merciful, which is Maitri.

(ii) The words Mercy and Merciful are mentioned in the Holy Quran no less than 409 times.

(iii) Every chapter of the Glorious Quran, except Chapter 9, i.e. Surah Taubah begins with the beautiful formula, 'Bismillah
Rahim', which means 'In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful'.

(iv) The Word Muhammad is also spelt as Mahamet or Mahomet and in various other ways in different languages. The
Maha in Pali and Sanskrit mean Great and Illustrious and Metta means mercy. Therefore Mahomet means Great Mer

2. Buddhas doctrine was Esoteric and Exoteric:

According to Sacred Books of the East, volume 11, pg. 36 Maha-Parinibbana Sutta chapter 2 verse 32:

"I have preached the truth without making any distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrine, for in respect of truths
the Tathagata has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher, who keeps something back".

Muhammad (pbuh) on the commandment of Almighty God delivered the message and doctrine without making any distin
esoteric and exoteric. The Qur'an was recited in public in the days of the Prophet and is being done so till date. The Proph
forbidden the Muslims from hiding the doctrine

3. Devoted Servitors of the Buddhas:

According to Sacred Books of the East volume 11 pg. 97 Maha-Parinibbana Sutta Chapter 5 verse 36:

"Then the Blessed one addressed the brethren, and said, Whosoever, brethren have been Arahat-Buddhas through the lo
they were servitors just as devoted to those Blessed ones as Ananda has been to me. And whosoever brethren shall be th
the future, there shall be servitors as devoted to those Blessed ones as Ananda has been to me."

The Servitor of Buddha was Ananda. Muhammad (pbuh) also had a servitor by the name Anas (r.a.) who was the son of M
presented to the Prophet by his parents. Anas (r.a...) relates: "My mother said to him, 'Oh Messenger of God, here is your
Further Anas relates, "I served him from the time I was 8 years old and the Prophet called me his son and his little belove
by the Prophet in peace and in war, in safety as well as in danger till the end of his life.

i) Anas (r.a.), even though he was only 11 years old stayed beside the Prophet during the battle of Uhud where the Proph

ii) Even during the battle of Honain when the Prophet was surrounded by the enemies who were archers, Anas (r.a...) wh
old stood by the Prophet.

Anas (R) can surely be compared with Ananda who stood by Gautam Buddha when the mad elephant approached him.

4. Six Criteria for Identifying Buddha:

According to the Gospel of Buddha by Carus pg. 214:

"The Blessed one said, There are two occasions on which a Tathagatas appearance becomes clear and exceedingly brigh
Ananda, in which a Tathagata attains to the supreme and perfect insight, and in the night in which he passes finally away
which leaves nothing whatever of his earthly existence to remain. "

According to Gautam Buddha, following are the six criteria for identifying a Buddha.

i) A Buddha attains supreme and perfect insight at night-time.

ii) On the occasion of his complete enlightenment he looks exceedingly bright
iii) A Buddha dies a natural death.
iv) He dies at night-time.
v) He looks exceedingly bright before his death.
vi) After his death a Buddha ceases to exist on earth.

i)Muhammad (pbuh) attained supreme insight and Prophethood at night-time.

According to Surah Dukhan:
"By the books that makes thing clear We sent it down during a blessed night."
[Al-Qur'an 44:2-3]

According to Surah Al-Qadar:

"We have indeed revealed this (message) in the night of power."
[Al-Qur'an 97:1]

ii) Muhammad (pbuh) instantly felt his understanding illumined with celestial light.

iii) Muhammad (pbuh) died a natural death.

iv) According to Ayesha (r.a.), Muhammad (pbuh) expired at night-time. When he was dying there was no oil in the lamp a
(r.a.) had to borrow oil for the lamp.

v) According to Anas (r.a.), Muhammad (pbuh) looked exceedingly bright in the night of his death.

vi) After the burial of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) he was never seen again in his bodily form on this earth.

5. Buddhas are only Preachers:

According to Dhammapada, Sacred Books of East volume 10 pg., 67:

"The Jathagatas (Buddhas) are only Preachers."

The Quran says in Surah Ghashiya:
"Therefore do thou give admonition, for thou art one to admonish. Thou art not one to manage (men's) affairs."
[Al-Qur'an 88:21-22]

6. Identification of Maitreya by Buddha:

According to Dhammapada, Mattaya Sutta, 151:

"The promised one will be:

i) Compassionate for the whole creation

ii) A messenger of peace, a peace-maker
iii) The most successful in the world.

The Maitreya as a Preacher of morals will be:

i) Truthful
ii) Self-respecting
iii) Gentle and noble
iv) Not proud
v) As a king to creatures
vi) An example to others in deeds and in words".

Siddharta, according to some scholar, was born in approximately the same time frame as Kong Fu Tse, the founder of Kon
him separated about 500 years form the prophet Isa A.S. (Jesus), if these reports are true. Isa A.S. himself was separated b
Prophet Muhamad S.A.W.
It is mentioned that Siddharta, once prophesied that another, might be the last and greatest, Buddha would be born 1000
now leave it for readers to ponder further on this, find out who this final Budha could logically be and then submit to him

May Allah SWT guide us all and keep us steadfast on the right path.

Note 1:
Note, that ALL Messengers of Allah i.e. those to whom were revealed texts, were men. However, Ibn Hazm [Volume V, pp
Milal wa-al-Ahwa'i wa-al-Nihal] wrote a text arguing that a Prophet CAN be a woman. The difference between a Prophet a
that a Prophet has guidance from God e.g. Mary, the Mother of Jesus who we are told was informed that she would have
man touching her. However as Mary, mother of Jesus, did NOT receive a revelation, she would not be classified as a Mess
knows best.