By Johnathon Lee
Like most religions, Buddhism has a lot of symbols.
The most common one is, well, the Buddha. He’s usually seated and forming his hands into a mudra. Oh, should I go into all the mudras now? I mean, they are symbols.
No, I’m going to go into artistic symbols. I’m not saying that mudras aren’t artistic, but, ya know, it’s cool. Anyway, the Buddha is either healthy and smiling, or emaciated and… smiling. There are countless paintings and statues of the Buddha. You can even find resin statues for less than five bucks. (Click here for more! Just kidding.)
There’s also Hotei, the Laughing Buddha. Legend has it that he’s based on a Chan monk and that he’s Maitreya, the next Buddha. His belly represents generosity, and yes, rubbing it is supposed to bring good luck.
He usually has a bag of stuff and things as well. He was said to give gifts to people, especially youngins. In one story, he was passing through a village, and then he looked up at the sky and laughed. His laugh cheered up everyone in the village.
In another tale, someone asked him, “What is Chan practice?” Hotei set down his bag. “Okay, what is Chan awakening?” He picked up his bag and walked away.
The Dharma Wheel represents the Noble Eightfold Path, which one follows, “Eight days a week.” Buddha compared suffering to a cartwheel. The Path is a wheel that works. I never thought I’d write a sentence like that.
The lotus is one of my favorite symbols.
It represents “spiritual” practice and realization. We’re like a lotus. We have our roots in the stream and dirt. We’re thrown into the world. We struggle to the point of exhaustion. Hope and effort help us grow. Growing through the water, the flow of impermanence, we pierce the reflective surface. Then we’re in the open air of radiant enlightenment. See? It’s a cool symbol.
Hitler stole Buddha’s swastika. That’s right. Well, it wasn’t Buddha’s. The swastika is an ancient Eurasian symbol that means, “Conducive to wellbeing.” The first drawing of one is 12,000 years old.
It eventually got tied to antisemitism, and then Hitler used to to represent his race of mythical superhumans. Now in theaters, Swastika Men, featuring characters like SSyclops, Blitzverine and Professor H.
Open hands, candles, and lanterns are other symbols. Open hands represent both giving to others and receiving the Dharma. Candles can either represent enlightenment or delusion. Nibbana is often compared to blowing out a candle. The lantern represents enlightenment and the teachings.
These are just a few of the most common symbols, there are countless more. Alright, is that it? Well, I reckon I’ll be going now… see ya.
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