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Tibetan Signs and Symbols
Here are some brief descriptions of some of the Buddhist symbols found on this website.
Om The mystical syllable Om or A-u-m is venerated by both Buddhists and Brahmans. The history of the syllable is described in the Hindu religious texts of the Vedas and Upanishads.
It is regarded as the syllable of the supreme Reality and is sometimes called the mother of mantras. It is often found at the
beginning of prayers, mantras, and scriptures as a word of invocation and adoration. In Hinduism its three Sanskrit phonemes (transliterated a, u, and m) symbolize the triad of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer, or the three levels of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. At the same time they are also connected with the triatna (the three jewels) of the Buddha, the dharma (the doctrine) and the sangha (the order), so that the whole Buddhist philosophy is concealed behind this simple sign. In Buddhism it is often understood as symbolizing the true empty character of reality.
The seed syllable of the Kalachakra Heruka, the powerful mantra for peace and reducing suffering by calming negativity and conflict.
The Kalachakra symbol means 'The one with ten powers'. It consists of seven individual syllables intertwined and crowned by symbols of the moon , the sun, and the flame, making a total of ten very powerful elements within the image.
The Ten Powers are described as ten existences - body, awareness, space, wind, fire, water, earth, stable, moving, and the gods unseen and uncreated.
This ‘sign of the ten mighty ones’ has occupied a central place in Tantric Buddhism for many centuries, and has become a symbol of good fortune and protection for the wearer.
The Eight Auspicious Symbols
Shown here in the form of a long banner. These are believed to represent the gifts given by celestial beings to Sakyamuni on his attainment of Enlightenment of Buddhahood. These symbols are usually displayed during the performance of certain ceremonies, such as the consecration of a house and an elaborate fire sacrifice ceremony.
From top to bottom:
1. White Umbrella - protects from all evil
2. Golden Fish - happiness, beings saved from the sea of suffering
3. Vase - containing the nectar of immortality
4. Lotus - purity and spiritual unfolding
5. Conch Shell - proclaims the teachings of the enlightened ones
6. Knot of Eternity - the meditative Mind
7. Victory Standard - proclaims the victory of Buddhism
8. Dharma Wheel - symbol of spiritual law. The wheel of the law turns twelve times or three revolutions for each of the four noble truths. It is represented with eight spokes indicating the eight-fold path of salvation
When two thunderbolts are crossed it is called a double vajra. This is the emblem of Amoghasiddhi. In Buddhist Tantra this is a powerful symbol of absolute stability connecting with the earth element. The word generally designates void which cannot be cut or destroyed but destroys all evils. This image is often found on temple shrine hangings.
Om Mani Padme Hum
Om Mani Padme Hum (Hail the jewel in the lotus) is a six syllable invocation of Avlokitreswara, one who is invoked as the saviour and protector from danger. One who recites this mantra will be saved and protected from danger. This mantra is widely found in Mahayana Buddhism. It can be found inscribed on rocks, prayer wheels, Chaitya walls, loose stones heaped as Mani (jewels) on roads, paths and approaches to villages. One can find it inscribed on the outside of prayer wheels and hundreds of times on the scrolls within them. As this Mantra is a protector, it is also to be found on pendants and rings.