Buddhist Symbols

Since the making of human images of the Buddha was considered sacrilegious for a long time, Buddhist visual art has produced an elaborate vocabulary of symbolic and iconic forms of expressions. A great variety of Buddhist symbols is found in temples and in Buddhist visual art and literature. The following eight figures are among the more common ones. The lotus, the wheel, and the stupa can be seen in almost every Buddhist temple. One may understand these symbols as visual mantras. Contemplating these figures is an exercise in meditation to establish inner contact with the aspect that is represented.


The three jewels – the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha.

Lotus flower

Padma – Symbol of Purity, can be of any colour except blue.


A parasol – protection against all evil; high rank.


Banner – the victory of the Buddha’s teachings.


The wheel of the law. The eight spokes represent the eightfold path.


The stupa is a symbolic grave monument where relics or the ashes of a holy monk are kept. It also symbolises the universe.


The deer -usually in pairs- symbolises the first sermon of the Buddha which was held in the deer park of Benares.


The snake king. Vestige of pre-Buddhist fertility rituals and protector of the Buddha and the Dhamma.