Tibetan Religious Symbols

Dharma Wheel in Jokhang Temple
Dharma Wheel in Jokhang Temple
Cylinders, Victory Standard
Cylinders, Victory Standard
It is common to see various religious symbols when traveling in Tibetan monasteries, villages. They are used as sacred adornments.

The Eight Auspicious Signs, or eight motifs, generally symbolize how to progress along the Buddhist path.

White Umbrella: an emblem of loyalty and faith and Dharma protection from all evil.

Golden Fish: an emblem of happiness, soul emancipation, and salvation from the sea of suffering

Vase: stores the nectar of immortality and symbolizes hidden treasure

Lotus: an emblem of purity and spiritual enfoldment

Conch Shell: proclaims the teachings of the enlightened ones and symbolizes the spoken word.

Knot of Eternity: an emblem of the unity of all things and the illusory character of time.

Victory Standard: the cylinder symbolizes the victory of Buddhism over ignorance and death.

Dharma Wheel: symbolizes the unity of all things, spiritual law and Sakyamuni himself. The wheel is usually flanked by two deer, the first to listen to Sakyamuni's teachings. The male deer symbolizes the realization of great bliss while the female deer symbolizes the realization of emptiness.

Other common symbols:

Swastika: commonly seen on home walls or on monastery floors. Meaning good fortune, it is an emblem of infinity, universe and sometimes sun and moon. Buddhists draw it clockwise while bon followers draw it anticlockwise.

Kalacakra Seal: an adorning motif in murals or on monastery walls. It symbolizes the highest initiations into occult knowledge which can only be possessed by a few high lamas.
Kalacakra Seal
Kalacakra Seal
Wheel of Life
Wheel of Life
Wheel of Life: in murals or on monastery walls. The demon of impermanence holds a wheel, segmented into six sections, which mean all realms of existence respectively. These are: Heaven, demigods, humankind, hell, hungry ghosts and animals. The hub in the center is an emblem of ignorance, hatred and greed, the three poisons.

Sun and Moon: usually seen on village houses and top of stupas. The adorning motif symbolizes the source of light and union of opposites.

- Last updated on Apr. 08, 2021 -
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