In the Indian religions Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, nirvāna (from the Sanskrit निर्वाण, Pali: Nibbāna — Chinese: 涅槃; Pinyin: niè pán), literally “extinction” and/or “extinguishing”, is the culmination of the yogi’s pursuit of liberation. Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, described the Dharma as a raft which, after floating across a river, will enable the passenger to reach nirvana. Hinduism and Jainism also use the word nirvana to describe the state of moksha, and it is spoken of in several Hindu tantric texts as well as the Bhagavad Gita.
Rebirth can refer to a number of different concepts within spirituality, depending on the school of thought. Hinduism and Buddhism, which both share roots with yogic philosophy, teach about rebirth.
In Hinduism, rebirth, or reincarnation, is a central tenet of the religious teachings. It refers to the idea that the spirit can begin a new life after the death of its physical body, in another body. This may be a human or an animal body.
In Buddhism, rebirth is the idea that when a being dies, this event is the catalyst for the creation of a new aggregation of consciousness. The new being is neither identical nor completely dissimilar to the previous life, but rather they form a continuous stream of consciousness.
Sarana-gamana means “going for refuge” and refers to the commitment to the path of enlightenment in Indian religions and yoga, but is most often associated with Buddhism. The term derives from Sanskrit and the related language of Pali. Sarana translates as “residence” or “shelter,” while gamana translates as “going” or “moving.”
Specifically, sarana-gamana is the recognition of the “Three Refuges” or “Three Jewels” as a way to eliminate suffering and bring happiness and spiritual prosperity.
The cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound.
The Sri Yantra is the most revered of all yantras, or mystical diagrams. It consists of nine interlocking triangles surrounded by two circles of lotus petals. In the middle is a dot, or bindu, which symbolizes the place from which all creation emerges. Its four upright triangles represent male energy, or Shiva, while the five downward facing triangles represent female energy, Shakti. Together, they represent all of the cosmos and the union of its forces.
The Sri Yantra is said to contain the path to enlightenment. Its geometry is so profound, that meditating on its patterns is said to inspire divine wisdom and a sense of oneness. For this reason, the Sri Yantra is considered a powerful tool for spiritual growth.
Greatly revered across different Buddhist traditions, Kuan Yin is an example of the “sacred feminine”. Also known as Kwan Yin and Guan Yin, Kuan Yin first appeared in Chinese scriptures around 400 CE. She is believed to be the female manifestation of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Depicted as an ethereally lovely Goddess, Kuan Yin is a symbol of unconditional love, kindness, and mercy. She shields and cares for the sick, the unwanted, the unlucky, and the poor. As one who protects women and children, she is also linked to fertility. Followers turn to her in times of need, fear, or misfortune. With just a glance at her graceful countenance, you too may find her to be a source of calm and comfort.
Tathata is a word in Sanskrit and Pali that is mainly used in Mahayana Buddhism to refer to the true nature of reality. It also has a significance in Chan Buddhism. Tathata is often translated as “suchness” or “thusness,” and it is widely accepted that the true nature of reality is inexpressible in language because it is beyond both description and conceptualization. It can be used at the end of a discussion of a particular teaching to indicate that the teaching is ineffable.
Tathata only ever refers to what is right now, as it means the “suchness” of the moment.
In Tibetan Buddhism, these symbols are said to be the luckiest and most sacred of all. Frequently seen in combination with one another, each represents a different component of Buddhist philosophy.
The Parasol: Representing protection and shelter, the Parasol shows how Buddha’s teachings will shield us from the “heat” of forces like greed and lust.
The Golden Fish: A symbol of joy and liberation, the Fish represent freedom from samsara, or the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
The Conch Shell: Used to call individuals to prayer, the Conch’s resounding trumpet represents the influence of dharma and its ability to awaken us from ignorance.
The Lotus: A symbol of enlightenment, the Lotus mirrors human suffering. Growing through muck in order to blossom, the Lotus shows that we too may blossom through Buddha’s wisdom.
The Urn: A symbol of abundance, the Urn is evocative of Buddha’s spiritual wealth, demonstrating that there is no end to his knowledge and wisdom.
The Infinite Knot: With no beginning or end, the Infinite Knot reflects Buddha’s infinite compassion as well as the interconnectedness of all living things.
The Banner: Also known as the Flag, the Banner represents victory over ignorance and the obstacles that block the path to enlightenment.
The Wheel: The Wheel of Law, or Dharmachakra, is a summation of Buddha’s teachings. The eight spokes are Buddha’s Eightfold Path, while the inner hub is the discipline required to follow it.
Teacher, philosopher, leader: Buddha was many things. But at his core, Buddha was a man who sought to understand suffering, and in the process, founded an entire spiritual movement. Born in 563 BCE in Nepal, Buddha was originally referred to as Siddhārtha and lived a rich, pleasant life as the prince of the Sakyas. After seeing suffering for the first time as a young man, he renounced his title and embraced asceticism. He eventually achieved enlightenment after meditating under a Bodhi tree. From there on, Buddha sought to teach others about the nature of suffering and the path to liberation. Characterized by unique features–long ears, spiraling curls–Buddha’s image and his story continue to inspire Buddhists and laymen alike.
There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide. About 84% of the world’s population is affiliated with Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or some form of folk religion.