Tibetan Buddhist Symbols


The eight Auspicious Symbols of Mahayana Buddhism are often pictured together. Their harmony illustrates how the many aspects of life come together on the Buddhist path.

 lotus line drawing Lotus represents purity of body, speech and mind. The opening of the flower signifies the “blossoming” of enlightenment.
knot Endless Knot (mandala) represents eternity and unity. Different aspects of wisdom depend upon and lead to each other: fulfillment and emptiness, straight lines and turnings, wisdom and compassion.
fish Pair of Golden Fish represents moving through life without fear. As a fish swimming through water has no thought of drowning, so we may swim through life, allowing the waters of the Ocean of Suffering to roll off our backs.
banner Victory Banner represents spiritual victory — both one’s personal victory over obstacles, and also the victory of Buddhist doctrine.
wheel Wheel of Dharma has eight spokes, corresponding to the Noble Eightfold Path, also called the Middle Path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. Working toward these things promotes wisdom, ethical conduct, and spiritual development.
 treasure Treasure Vase represents abundance. This symbol is somewhat puzzling, since represents the attainment of material wealth, while at the same time promising liberation from the world.
 umbrella Parasol represents protection from temporary suffering; though all beings suffer, the person approaching enlightenment ceases to be bothered by temporary setbacks.
 conch Conch Shell represents the voice of the Buddha, which we may hear within our own minds. The conch signals teachings that wake us from the figurative “slumber” of deception.


Many other symbols are part of the Buddhist tradition as well:


Chorten (or stupa in Hindi): Like a Tibetan version of the Stations of the Cross, each of the eight types of chorten stands for one of the stages in the Buddha’s life: birth, enlightenment, many doors, descent from the god realm, great miracles, reconciliation, complete victory, and nirvana. stupa
Dorje (or Vajra in Hindi): This may be variously described as a lightening bolt, a scepter, or a diamond rod. Whichever interpretation is followed, the dorje represents the invincible truth of Buddhist teachings. The diamond is is the hardest of natural materials, able to cut through anything else. In the same way, the wisdom of the Buddha is pure and strong enough to cut through every deception. The dorje embodies the male, or skill, aspect of wisdom. dorje hand
Double Dorje: Two crossed dorjes represent the foundation of the world, signifying physical reality as we experience it in day-to-day life. This may be used as an emblem of protection.  double dorje
Tibetan Bell: The feminine aspect of enlightenment, encompassing wisdom and emptiness. The sound of the bell drives away demons, including spiritual demons such as fear and illusion.  bell
Kartika: This curved knife cuts the ties that bind us to conventional beliefs, leaving us free to pursue truth and attain true wisdom.  kartika
Phurpa: A ritual dagger that fights back against negativity and harmful forces that would hold us back. These harmful forces may be parts of ourselves; the phurpa, therefore, also signifies self control. phurpa
Flame Sword: Transcendent wisdom, which cuts through illusion, duality and attachment. This sword is the weapon of Manjusri, one of the most ancient Bodhisattvas, who embodies wisdom achieving victory over ignorance. sword
Tingsha: These cymbals are small but thick, producing a clear, piercing tone, which clears the mind for meditation. They can also clear the atmosphere of a place, removing negative energy. Tingshas are used in prayer, meditation and ritual, particularly the ritual of appeasing the “hungry ghosts.” tingsha
Buddha Eyes: The all-seeing eyes of the Buddha observe everything, but never speak.  buddha eyes


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