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Buddhism is a tradition rich in symbolism and every symbol has a meaning. Such tradition has been expressed countless times over the centuries, throughout Asia, in the continuing evolution of the presentation of Buddhist images in sculpture, painting and ritual objects.

There are six principle iconographic themes in Buddhism, particularly in esoteric Buddhism. The principle thematic elements are asanas, aureoles, mandalas, mudras, thrones, and implements and accessories of the deities. Creating human images of the Buddha himself was considered sacrilegious.

A mandala, of course, is a specifically detailed diagram representing a deity and his forces, or groups of divinities, depicting the invisible universe of the forces that govern the cosmos. The postures that a Buddhist deity assumes in a sculpture or painting are known as asanas. They can be widely varied and divide in to two main groupings: static postures and dynamic postures. Thrones and pedestals on which the deities are placed often condition the asana assumed by them. These regularly include lotus thrones, stands or chairs, demons and lower deities, and support animals, such as lions, elephants, peacocks, etc. Aureoles are the haloes or auras that indicate the divinity or saintliness of a personage and are placed behind the statue or image. There are numerous variations and elaborations among them.


 Dharma Wheel

Buddhism Dharma Wheel






Finally, implements and accessories of the deities accompany many mudra, symbolizing material and spiritual virtues and powers of the deity represented. Chief among these are lotuses of various colors, thunderbolt scepters or vajras, of differing numbers of points, bells, wheels, weapons, pots, and maces. 

Many of the same symbols are also represented in Hindu iconology because Buddhism was a direct offshoot of Hinduism and has so many of the same ideologies:

Bodhi Leaf BODHI LEAVES: The Buddha attained enlightenment while sitting under a banyan tree, also known as the bo, pipal, or peepul tree (Latin name: ficus religiosa). That tree was then called a “bodhi tree” (“bodhi” means “awake”), in honor of the Buddha’s liberation, and the leaves of that tree are called “bodhi leaves.”
BUDDHA: The image of the Buddha, usually teaching or meditating, is a common subject of Buddhist paintings and sculptures.
Buddha Eye (Wisdom Eye) BUDDHA EYE (WISDOM EYE): Buddhists believe that the All-Seeing Eyes of the Buddha see everything and know everything, but they do not speak.
Buddha Feet BUDDHA FEET: The Buddha specifically requested that likenesses of him not be created. For a number of centuries after his death, this wish was respected, and so other symbols were used to represent him.
Ch'an CH'AN: This is the Chinese character for “ch’an,” which is the Chinese translation of the word “dhyana,” which is Sanskrit for meditative absorption or "zen".
  CHATTRA: Parasol: it is a protection against all evil.
  DEER: Symbolizes the first sermon of the Buddha which was held in the deer park of Benares.
Dharmachakra - Wheel of Life DHARMACHAKRA WHEEL: The Dharma Wheel is the symbol of Buddhist life, the endless circle of birth and rebirth, and also represent the Buddhist teaching or Dharma. The Buddha's first sermon is called "Turning the Wheel of the Dharma." The wheel often has eight spokes, which stand for the noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism.
  DHVAJA: Banner: it represents the victory of the Buddha's teachings.
Endless Knot ENDLESS KNOT: The best-known of the “Eight Auspicious Symbols” in Tibetan Buddhism (the others being the Parasol, Golden Fishes, Treasure Vase, Lotus, Right-turning Conch Shell, Victory Sign and Wheel). The entwined lines of the Endless Knot can be said to exemplify the ways in which all of reality is intertwined and interdependent. 
Lotus Flower LOTUS (PADMA): The lotus flower was frequently used by the Buddha as an example in his teaching to represent our true nature, which symbolically grows out of the mud of the world and toward the light and purity of enlightenment.
Kuan Yin KUAN YIN: "She who hears the cries of the world,” is a bodhisattva who is much beloved throughout Asia as well as among Western Buddhists, especially women.
Mandala MANDALA: A specifically detailed diagram representing a deity and his forces, or groups of divinities, depicting the invisible universe of the forces that govern the cosmos.
  NAGA: Snake king: it is a vestige of pre-Buddhist fertility rituals and protector of the Buddha and the Dharma.
  STUPA: This symbolic grave monument marks the location where relics or ashes of a holy monk are kept. It also symbolizes the universe.
  TRIRANTANA: Three jewels: they are the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha.
Zen ZEN: This is the Japanese script for the word “zen,” which is the Japanese translation of the Chinese term, “ch’an.”

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Buddhist Proverb


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