Archive for the 'Buddhism Symbols' Category

Footprints of the Buddha

Long before the image of Buddha first appeared, the footprints of the Buddha were venerated by the followers of Buddha. It remains an object of veneration in all Buddhist countries today. The footprints generally show all the toes to be of equal length and bear the distinguishing marks of a Dhamma wheel or cakra at the centre of the sole. Both of these are among the 32 distinctive signs of the Buddha.
The story goes that prior to his death the Buddha left an imprint of his foot on a stone near Kusinara, a reminder of his presence on earth.

Limestone panel of the Buddhapada, Amaravati Stupa, India, 1st cent. BC. (British Museum).

Large Buddha footprint from 1st-cent Gandhara, with wheel and triratna symbols. Now in Tokyo.

Large Buddha footprint from 1st-cent Gandhara, with wheel and Tisarana (Triratna) symbols. Now in Tokyo.

Large footprint of the Buddha in Wat Bowon temple, Thailand.

Large footprint of the Buddha in Wat Bowon temple, Thailand.

Lions of Sarnath

The image shows one of the many pillars of Asoka: the Lions of Sarnath. Sarnath is where the Buddha first preached, and these lions placed back to back, facing the four cardinal points (North-South-East-West), echo his teachings to the four quarters of the world, sometimes called ‘the Lion’s Roar’. The wheel or dhammacakra symbolizes Buddhist law and also Asoka’s legitimacy as an enlightened ruler.

Buddhist Flag

The Buddhist flag is a modern creation jointly designed by Mr J.R. de Silva and Colonel Henry S. Olcott to mark the revival of Buddhism in Ceylon in 1880. It was accepted as the International Buddhist Flag by the 1952 World Buddhist Congress.

Colonel Olcott designed a flag from the six colours of the aura that he believed shone around the head of the Buddha after His Enlightenment.

The colonel’s flag later came to symbolize the unity of Buddhists. Thereafter, it has been used worldwide and has been used in nearly 60 countries during Buddhist festive seasons, particularly during the Vesak celebrations.

Colonel Olcott was one of the greatest American Buddhists who dedicated his later life entirely to the people of Asia. He is known as the father of the Buddhist education movement since he initiated the establishment of close to 400 Buddhist schools and colleges in Sri Lanka.

International Buddhist Flag


The six colours represent the colors of the aura that emanated from the body of the Buddha when He attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree.


The spirit of Universal Compassion for all beings, the concept of loving kindness and peace in Buddhism.


The Middle Way which avoids all extremes and brings balance and liberation.

The Blessings that the practice of the Buddha’s Teaching brings.
The Purity of the Buddha’s Teaching and the Liberation it brings.

The unshakable Wisdom of the Buddha’s Teaching.

          Regardless of race, nationality, division or colour, all sentient beings possess the potential of Buddhahood. 


The Stupa

The Stupa (Pali: Thupa) is a mound-like structure or monuments built over Buddhist relics, typically the remains of a Buddha, His disciples and other Saints. The Stupa is a symbol of enlightened mind, (the awakened mind, universal divinity) and the path to its realisation, sometimes referred to as “Spiritual Monument”.

A very good explanation of how the Stupa came into being can be read here …


The Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, north-eastern India is the oldest Stupa in existence.

When the Buddha attained Maha Parinibbana and ended his earthly life, and his mortal remains were cremated, his ashes – thus it has been said – were divided into eight parts and were protected by the royalties and communities, and Stupas were built over them. The eight claimants are:

  1. Mallas of Kushinara
  2. Ajatasatru, King of Magadha
  3. Licchavis of Vaisali
  4. Sakyas of Kapilavastu
  5. Bulis of Allakapa
  6. Koliyas of Ramagrama
  7. Mallas of Pava
  8. A resident of Vethadipa

During the time when King Asoka was propagating the Dhamma throughout India and its neighbouring countries, he asked his teacher Ven. Moggaliputta Tissa, “How great is the content of the Dhamma taught by the Buddha?” The Venerable replied, ” There are 84,000 sections of the Dhamma.” Then Asoka said, “Each one of them will I honour with a Stupa.” Thus he proceeded to build 84,000 Stupas in selected towns of his empire. He decided to open up the original eight Stupas and re-enshrine each minute relics in the 84,000 Stupas.

Legend has it that he was able to open up seven of the original eight Stupa and take out the relics but failed to retrieve the relics from the Ramagrama Stupa as it was being zealously guarded by a Naga King, it being the first of all Stupas. The Naga King said to Asoka, “This is the Stupa to which I bring my offerings, may the King allow it to stand?” King Asoka consented and returned to his Kingdom.

History has it that there was one other Stupa from the original eight that was not opened by King Asoka. This was the Stupa built by the Sakyas at Kapilavastu over their share of the relics of Buddha. These relics have since been discovered from Priprahwa, the site of ancient Kapilavastu, in district Basti, Uttar Pradesh.

The Stupas in Borobodur Temple in Java, Indonesia. The work is regarded as a Buddhist marvel.

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