They might be beautiful or scary:
The symbols of Buddhism
Many scholars have studied the symbols of Buddhism and here, I
intend on tapping on their knowledge to explain some concepts and their
importance in the philosophy and theology of Buddhism symbol.
What is a Buddhist symbol? It’s simply an image, an object or a
concrete representation of an idea, a concept or other abstractions.
Symbols are often cultural or regional. For example, in North America, a red octagon
is the symbol for STOP. It is not so everywhere. In Japan, for example,
the symbol for it is a red triangle pointing upward. A North-American
not paying attention could think that this symbol means “yield” as it
is similar to the symbol for such a message in North America.The point
I want to make here is that some symbols in Buddhism might seem very
odd for Christians but they have to be taken in their context.
A fundamentalist Christian friend of mine was convinced that
Buddhists were the Devil worshipers after visiting a Buddhist Mongolian
temple. Inside she was confronted with images representing hell and
demons. She swore never to enter a Buddhist temple again.
A common misconception is also the use of the famous swastika in Japan. You’ll have to read about it to know why.
Some Buddhist deities (like Fudo Myo-o) look like demons but they are
actually symbols representing a destroyer of one’s own
greed-anger-and-ignorance so that one can serve the cause of all living
Let’s start with basic symbols. There is the Wheel of the Dharma, one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols. The Buddha itself has many shapes and positions. They all mean something specific.
Mandalas are a tool used by
esoteric (or tantric) Buddhist to meditate. There are also different
tools and many art form that add content to our vast field of symbols.
Many symbols are not connected to Buddhism but some are also used across a number of cultures around the world.
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