Symbols of Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan and Buddhist Symbols

The following are just a small collection of symbols related to Tibet and the Himalayan Buddhism, but the explanations do not want to be called complete, since only serve to give some information to interested parties without going into too much of the argument is in the range of initiation.

The eight auspicious symbols, also called "Eight Precious Symbols" (Sanskrit aşţamangala, Tibet. Bkra-shis-rtags brgyad), constitute one of the oldest and best known groups of symbols (including objects, animals and plants) of Tibetan culture, already present from the canonical texts of Indian Buddhism written in Pali and Sanskrit. Always been used in traditional ceremonies and on special occasions, have assumed increasing importance over the centuries. The eight auspicious symbols are often depicted on kata (a scarf Tibetan auspicious and blessing), banners, tapestries, thangkas, flags and engraved on bracelets, necklaces etc.. They can also decorate the walls and beams, the sides of the thrones and many other articles used in religious or secular, are also plotted on the ground with white powder when it is expected to pass some important personalities religious or civil.


 Shell good hope

1 Shell (in Sancritus Sankha, in Tibetan dung gyas'khyl) is represented in white, dextrorotatory and with the terminal part to the tip. Used since ancient times, in pre Buddhist, as a symbol of female deities, such as container and as a musical instrument.

In Tibetan Buddhism is also used as a water pot with saffron and, primarily, as a musical instrument used to call the monks to meetings and to make offerings of sounds during puje.

Represents the glory of the teaching of Dharma, as the sound of the shell, spreading in all directions. Also appears in "8 SUBSTANCE OF GOOD HOPE."


Sun good hope

2 Parasol (Sanskrit chattra, gdugs in Tibetan) is the symbol of royal dignity and represents the spiritual power. Derived Indian art, is represented in different forms and variations. Single or triple, yellow silk, white or colored, is represented open and wide enough to accommodate four or five people. Eight strips of silk of one color or multicolored, decorated with fringe, hanging down from the top edge. The symbolic significance of the sun comes from its function of protection from inclement weather or excessive sun, a possibility which has always been identified as a sign of wealth. That has become a symbol of power and kingship. The parasol symbolizes compassion and protection of all sentient beings from suffering, disease, ignorance and mental poisons.

 Flag of victory good hope

Flag of victory good hope

3 Banner of Victory (dhvaja in Sanskrit, in Tibetan-rgyal mtshan) refers to different objects of Tibetan culture. It 's made of wood and fabric, rarely metal.

Classically it is a narrow cylinder of tissue with three or more strips of silk adorned with ribbons of five colors (white, red, green, blue, yellow). Serves as decoration and usually is found in temples and monasteries, suspended from the ceiling, as ornaments of the roofs of buildings or private, or religious ends of long poles of prayer. It represents the victory of the Buddhist teachings, knowledge over ignorance and fear, the Dharma of all obstacles and achieve the ultimate happiness.

Fish chloro good hope


4 Goldfish (suvarnamatsya in Sanskrit, Tibetan gser-nya) is a religious symbol used since ancient times. Originally in India represented the holy rivers of Ganga and Yamuna with the fish. The two fish are parallel and face each other vertically or intersect slightly. In Tibet, the two golden fishes are represented only in conjunction with eight other symbols.

Represent the overcoming of all obstacles and the attainment of liberation, freedom in having acquired the knowledge of the ultimate nature, as well as the fish swim free in the water, and the preciousness of samsaric beings, which should be freed from ignorance.

Vase of wealth

Vase of wealth

5 Vase of wealth.

Tibetan images in the jar (kalasa in Sanskrit, Tibetan chen-po'i gter-bum-pa) is a round container with a short neck and narrow and then widens to form a rim. The mouth of the jar is closed with a great jewel. The use of vessels of this type dates back to early Buddhism and other religions and symbolizes the idea of achievement and satisfaction of material desires. In Tibetan Buddhism using vessels of different shape depending on the ritual practices, in particular for that tantric. The vase symbolizes wealth of spiritual fulfillment, the perfection of the dharma, longevity and prosperity.

lotus buddhism


6 Lotus

The lotus (padme insanscrito, but in Tibetan-pad) does not grow in Tibet, for this is drawn so much more simple and stylized representations with respect to Indian art, or Japanese. The fact that it is occurring in Tibet indicate that its use is strictly symbolic and iconographic indicating purity and beauty in that, although rooted in the mud of ponds, produces white flowers above the water. It represents spiritual purity, and that is why often the images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and seed syllables are represented on a pillow shaped like a lotus flower. The symmetry of the petals of the lotus flower, represents the order of the cosmos and this is used as a template for the creation of a mandala. The image of the lotus is used in the practice of self-healing Ngal-know to identify and redress the 5 I 7 Chakra.

Colours can have different:

  • White (Skr. pundarika; tib. pad-but dka-bit): represents spiritual perfection and total mental purity. Associated with White Tara.
  • Red (Sanskrit kamala, tib: ch-ma-pa skyes): symbolizes the original nature and purity of heart, compassion, love and other qualities of the "heart" is the symbol of Dhyanibuddha Amitabha and implementation of existing Avalokitesvara (Chenrezig), the bodhisattva of compassion.
  • Blue (utpala Sanskrit and Tibetan) symbolizes the victory of spirit over the senses, the wisdom of knowledge, the 6 virtues.

node symbol buddhism


7 Node Infinity (in Sancritus Srivatsa, in Tibetan dpal be'u) is a closed node consists of intertwined lines at right angles. And 'one of the favorite and most used symbols Tibetan iconography. There are no clear indications as to its origin: it is often compared to the symbol nandyavarta, a variant of the swastika that has many similarities with this node. In Tibetan Buddhism is a classic symbol of the way in which all phenomena are interdependent with each other and depend on the causes and conditions (tendrel) that are represented by the geometric lines that intersect each other. Having neither beginning nor end it also symbolizes the infinite knowledge and wisdom and eternity of his teachings. Because of its importance and graphic simplicity, this symbol is also used alone.

Dharma wheel symbol buddhism

Dharma wheel

8 Dharma wheel (in Sancritus cakra, in Tibetan 'khor-lo) is composed of a central hub, of 8 or more spokes and a rim outside. The image of the wheel is a universal symbol and is present in all cultures. Already in pre Buddhist was widespread in the double sense of the weapon or the Sun rotates in Buddhist culture, is closely associated with the concept of the Wheel of Dharma by the Buddha set in motion at the first public exposition of his teaching at Sarnath near Benares (now Varanasi) in the deer park. For this reason often the Wheel of Dharma is represented between two gazelles.

The meanings of the Wheel of Dharma can be manifold.

According to the three trainings of Buddhist practice, the hub is training in moral discipline which stabilizes the mind; rays represent the understanding of the emptiness of all phenomena that eliminates the root of our ignorance, and the outer rim, finally, identifies the concentration that allows you to keep a steady practice of Buddhist doctrine.

It also represents the eightfold noble path that leads to liberation, Dharma and Shakyamuni Buddha himself. More generally, among the eight auspicious symbols, the Wheel of Dharma symbolizes the Buddhist teaching in its entirety and reminds us that the Dharma embraces all things, has neither beginning nor end, is moving and still.

It is the symbol of Dhyanibuddha Vairochana and is also represented on the soles of the Buddha.

PETS: Some animals are negative symbols, and are derived from a karma which was prevalent in some type of mental defect, others symbolize positive qualities, and still others are ambivalent.

ANTELOPE: represents the peaceful yoga and the quiescence

BUFFALO : Yama's mount.

DOG: arrogance.

HORSE - (see 8 jewelry or emblems gifts), beast of many gods.

DEER (DEER OR) - his skin on the left shoulder of a deity is the great compassion toward all sentient beings.

SWAN - associated with Tara as Saraswati

CROW - insolence.

ELEPHANT (WHITE) - A symbol of Tibet, is the strength of mind, serves as a symbol of calm and tranquility, patience, strength possessed by those who are journeying toward enlightenment. Specifically, it includes the unfettered powers of Buddha.

The elephant is also part of the group of "four brothers in harmony) The elephant skin that hangs from the shoulders of a deity symbolizing the overcoming of ignorance. Mount of certain deities.

ROOSTER - animal that symbolizes the attachment, the desire

GAZZELLE - usually represented in pairs, symbolizing the first lesson given by the Buddha in the deer park at Sarnath. The relaxed attitude of deer conveys the meditative qualities of Buddhism.

HARE - is part of the "4 BROTHERS IN HARMONY" (see).

WOLF - beast of some deity.

PIG - the symbol of ignorance (see "3 POISONS"), vehicle Marici.

MARMOT - rebirth as a groundhog comes from practicing "yoga of the mind" only to the desire for greater concentration and without any intention of meditation (as it has a bodhisattva).

PEACOCK - is a symbol of positive transformation in any negative situation, it is said can not ingest poisons suffer. Traditionally associated with Amitabha.

FISH - is the symbol of all living beings who are immersed in the "sea" of samsara

SNAKE - a symbol of hatred and aversion, but also the understanding of existence fivefold (5 buddha, 5 skandhas, 5 elements, 5 colors, etc.).

APE - a symbol of greed and untrained mind, the rebirth comes from practicing "physical yoga" just for welfare and health benefits. In a positive sense symbolizes perseverance in the state of arhat.

TURTLE - is a symbol of constant bliss

TIGER - a tiger-skin apron around his waist symbolizes the removal of the erroneous belief in a personal ego and eternal. Mount of certain deities.

Some animals are endowed with supernatural powers: they are called "divine animals" or "mythical beasts", because their birth is miraculous like that of a demigod.

Some of them are:

a) favored by the gods: the swans, peacocks, bees and male deer that live in the celestial gardens.

b) of the horses, like the garuda

c) semi-divine beings, genies or spirits that reside in the mountains or trees on the lower slopes of Meru or below ground. They are very powerful when compared to men, often monstrous and deformed, and can bestow good or bad depending on their character. This includes, eg., The yakscia, the gandharvas.

garuda tibetan buddhism symbol

Garuda Tibetan symbol

The GARUDA are a divine race of bird-men, enemies of the Nagas (snakes) which they hunt. They often have a beak, wings and claws of an eagle with a human body.

MANGUSTA (mung Nakula), similar to a skunk-is a symbol of material wealth and spiritual, traditional enemy of Nagas and snakes (both treasure guardians). The mongoose is often depicted as spitting jewels and pearls, and belongs to the god of wealth Kubera. The symbol has probably originated in Central Asia in the habit of using the skin of mongoose as a pouch for coins.

Naga tibetan symbol

The NAGA (Sanskrit for "snake") semidivine are creatures that live in hell, but they had a positive attitude towards the Buddha, as the naga-cobra with 7 heads protected from the rain while meditating Sakyamuni.

The cymbals

The cymbals are two small plates made of a particular alloy of metals selected to obtain a pure sound, penetrating and long, when they are struck against each other. The surface can be decorated with various symbols.


TIBETAN BELL is a bowl obtained from the merger of seven metals, each of which corresponds symbolically to a planet-Sun Gold, Silver Moon, Mercury-Mercury-Venus copper, iron-Mars, Jupiter-tin, lead-Saturn. The sound of the bell varies depending on the proportion of the components of the alloy, the shape and thickness of the metal. It is used in rituals and it is believed that vibration is useful to encourage the concentration during meditation.

GANTHA symbol tibetan buddhism

GANTHA: is the bell that the monks held in her left hand in his right hand while holding the vajra or dorje (see): the bell represents wisdom, that is, the female principle, while the vajra represents the compassion of the Buddha or method, ie the male principle. Tantra believes that it is necessary that these two principles are well balanced to achieve true spiritual growth. The bell is also the physical part of the Buddha, while the vajra represents the mind. The handle of gantha is formed by half of a vajra and the surface is variously decorated.

damaru Tambourine of the Tibetan tradition

Tambourine of the Tibetan tradition, currently consists of two half spheres of wood put together, covered in fabric or leather, and each provided with a small ball on top of a string: the rotation of the wrist that holds the handle sends them a moving sound .

VAJRA (Tibetan Dorje)

VAJRA (Tibetan Dorje) is a Sanskrit word meaning both thunderbolt and diamond that symbolizes the essence and purity of the teachings. Almost a scepter, vajra is often drawn in the hands of the Buddha and is a liturgical instrument, used in conjunction with the bell gantha. The "spokes" of the vajra may be, 4, 6 or 8 with different symbols. Represents the method and the masculine energy and is the symbol of the family of Dhyanibuddha Akshobhya. The DOUBLE Vaira or Visva Vajra (Tibetan dorje natso) is a double dorje symbol of family and Dhyanibuddha Amoghasiddhi emblem of the spiritual power of Buddha and the ability to perform perfectly every action.

The 7 JEWELS, Tibet. that nor-bu-bdun.

They are a group of objects, derived from the art of China, which are tender, often represented at the foot of a deity, along with "offerings of the 5 senses," or as decorative objects for use by both religious and secular. They are: the horn of the rhinoceros, elephant tusks, eight coral branches and, less frequently depicted, the earrings of the King (round), the earrings of the queen (squares), jewelry (or units) cross and the triple gem. (The heavy earrings symbolize the understanding of the teachings of the Buddha and their weight causes the lengthening of the earlobes, which in turn means detachment from worldly things).

 kapala Tibetan symbols

The kapala a skullcap is used as a cup to offer libations to Tantric deities, mounted on a pedestal and with a lid. There are also kapala achieved using metals. If a deity is depicted as he keep it up or drink it means accepting the gift offerings. It symbolizes the death of the ego. Can also be depicted in a schematic form or hump on the open surface that represent the content.

 Tibetan mala symbology

The mala is a Buddhist "Rosary" with 108 grains. There are also 21 or 27 beads on the wrist. The largest grain is used to indicate the beginning / end of the count mantra recited. They can be of various materials: wood, seeds, bones, stones etc..

The ax tibetan

The ax, kartŗ in Sanskrit, symbolizes the victory and the transformation of matter into positive energy of the won, because it was used to chop the corpses in graves outside of Tibet. The handle is formed by half dorje.

-or mill-wheel-of-prayer

The hands is constituted by a cylinder made of copper, brass or other metals, sometimes plated silver supported by a handle of wood or bamboo. Inside the cylinder is placed a long strip of paper rolled up on itself, carrying a sentence of a mantra repeated over and over again, even outside is carved or painted a mantra. Can be fixed, to turn as a wheel, or of smaller size, to hold in hand and for the handle to swing, always in a clockwise direction. With the rotation, the beneficial effects of the mantra, expand, like circles in the water, in space, pervading all beings, in every direction.


OFFERS OF THE 5 SENSES (the five qualities of pleasure), pancakāmangunā Sanskrit, Tibetan 'dod-yon sna-Inga, are also used as an offering, delivering the quality of the five senses, he meditates on their nature and intention to leave desire. Each of them is also connected to one of Dhyanibuddha. The mirror is a symbol forms the subject of VISTA (in some traditions it is also pure thoughts). The lute (or the shell or cymbals) symbolizes the EAR. The incense burners is the SMELL. The fruits are for TASTE. The silk cloth refers to TOUCH. Often placed at the foot of the images of deities, along with other offers and "7 JEWELS".


The foreign offers, traditionally placed on the altars, are called "seven offers" placed in eight bowls (because the first two with water are considered as one) that, as mentioned in Sanskrit, contain:

1. argham drinking water, a symbol of good causes that produce positive results, or the purification of the passions of thirst

2. padyam water for washing, a symbol of purification

3. puphe flowers, a symbol of generosity and happiness in the realization of emptiness

4. duphe incense, a symbol of ethics and the realization of the emptiness of all phenomena

5. Aloke light (candle), symbol of clarity of patience, the "burn" the mental afflictions and the realization of Clear Light

6. ghende perfume, symbol of the enthusiastic effort and the realization of emptiness-compassion

7. neuiteh food (rice or swarm), symbol of samadhi, the realization of the vitality of wisdom

8. Shabda music (represented by a shell), symbol of wisdom and the realization of the quality of speech.

You can bid only with water, usually using seven bowls that represent four deities (Shakyamuni Buddha, Chenrezig, Manjushri, Tara) and three dharma (morality, concentration and understanding of the essence of all phenomena).


The footprints symbolize the presence of the Buddha. It is said that before parinirvana Buddha Sakyamuni, left, as a reminder of his presence on earth, the imprint of his foot on a stone near Kusinara. On the sole of the foot of a Buddha is the wheel of Dharma, one of the 32 major signs of an Enlightened Being.



Phur-ba (in Sanskrit, meaning peg or bolt) or vajra-nail, is a dagger with triangular blade, used in special sacred rituals. Its symbolism is very powerful to "defeat", even the most terrible symbol demons and a direct means to break the bonds and impediments (negative emotions) that are encountered on the path to inner freedom. Made of metal (usually of five metals) has the blade topped by the legendary makara. The handle is formed by three angry faces of Dharmapala and ends with half dorje or other symbols.


Originally the stupa was a mound above the ashes of eminent personalities, then became a symbol of Buddhist doctrine. He worships? turning around the stupa clockwise. The Tibetan stupa, or chorten has various shapes and symbols with specific

stupa tibet.

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