The 8 spokes of the Dharma Wheel represent the 8 paths of Enlightenment which can help you achieve Nirvana. It is one of the oldest Buddhist symbols that details wisdom in the Buddhist tradition.
Each spoke of this Dharma Wheel represents exclusive teaching as follows: right livelihood, right speech, right intention, right action, right efforts, right mindfulness, right consciousness, and right view. Also known as the ‘Wheel of Law’, it’s existence dates back to 2500 B.C. which is older than Buddhism itself.
Om Mani Padme Hum is a mantra of benevolence and is often recited to inspire compassion. The syllable “Om” represents the body, spirit, and speech of Buddha; “Mani” is for the path of teaching; “Padme” for the wisdom of the path, and “Hum” indicates the union of wisdom and the path to it. Though commonly associated with Tibetan Buddhism, meditators across various practices find this mantra inspiring. Compassion, after all, isn’t exclusive to any one belief system.
A ritual tool used for spiritual worship, the Vajra scepter is a combination of two powerful symbols: the diamond and the lightning bolt. The diamond, a substance which cuts but cannot be cut, represents resolute spirit. The lightning bolt, with its overwhelming force, represents great power. Together they represent compassion, the most powerful force of all and the ultimate path to enlightenment.
The Vajra sometimes appears as a Double Vajra, also known as Visvavajra. Depicted as an X or shown in vertical form (like a plus sign), it represents the indestructible foundation of the universe. The Double Vajra also stands for protection, harmony, and all-knowingness.
Jizo is a Bodhisattva in Japanese Mahayana Buddhism, originally known in Sanskrit as Ksitigarbha. He is worshipped primarily in East Asia, where statues of his likeness can be spotted on roadsides. He is often depicted as a shaven-headed monk with child-like features and a large cloak.
Revered for his self-sacrifice, Jizo is said to have delayed nirvana in order to help others. He is a guardian of travelers and firefighters. He keeps watch over the souls of children, especially those who pass away before their parents.
Visitors to Buddhist stupas in Nepal cannot help but notice the huge pair of eyes painted around the main towers. These are the “Eyes of the Buddha” that stare out in all four directions, a dramatic symbol of the Buddha’s all knowing, all seeing gaze.
Between the Wisdom Eyes, as they are also known, is a curving symbol that resembles a question mark. This is Nepali for the number 1. It symbolizes the oneness of the universe and denotes the one path towards enlightenment – this being the teachings of the Buddha. The mark is also the Buddha’s ‘third eye’, a symbol of his wisdom and infinite perception.
Derived from Zen Buddhism, the Zen Circle is also known as Ensō, the Circle of Enlightenment, and the Infinity Circle. The Zen Circle is often drawn with a fluid elegance, inspiring a sense of peace and wholeness.
Though circles are simple shapes, the Zen Circle conveys some of Zen Buddhism’s more evasive concepts: enlightenment, emptiness, and the beauty of imperfection. Part of the symbol’s appeal lies in its creation: the Zen Circle is executed in a single, effortless brushstroke, often in a moment when the mind is totally free from inhibition. In this way, it represents one of Zen’s most powerful lessons: don’t try so hard, just be.
As a young man seeking spiritual wisdom, Buddha resolved to meditate under a Bodhi tree and stay there as long as necessary. He would move only when he found the answers he sought. It was there, after 49 days of meditation, that he achieved enlightenment.
Alluding to this powerful moment, the Bodhi tree and the Bodhi leaf are symbols of awakening and spiritual enlightenment. They also point to the importance of perseverance. In spirituality, and in life, it is rare for the answers to just come to us: it is only through humble dedication, and profound patience, that we arrive at a place of peace.
The oldest symbol known to be used in spiritual practices. It reflects the universal pattern of growth and evolution and represents the goddess, the womb, fertility and life force energy. Reflected in the natural world, the Spiral is found in human physiology, plants, minerals, animals, energy patterns, weather, growth and death. It is a sacred symbol that reminds us of our evolving journey in life. When used as a personal talisman, the Spiral helps consciousness to accept the turnings and changes of life as it evolves.
The Infinite Knot, also known as the Endless Knot, is a line with no beginning or end that radiates both calm and movement. It represents the idea that everything in this world is interconnected. It is also symbolic of the Buddha’s infinite compassion.
Dharma is continuous and inexorable, while time is but an illusion. The Knot of Infinity symbolizes that truth. The Knot also represents the idea that material life and religious thought are intertwined: the search for enlightenment does not mean giving up on worldly responsibilities.
The name Ouroboros is Greek in origin. Oura means tail while Boros is translated as eating. Taken together, it means ‘tail devourer’ or ‘one who eats the tail’. As a symbol, it depicts a serpent consuming its own tail.
The Ouroboros is one of the world’s most ancient mystical symbols, having appeared in Egypt as early as 1600 BC. It was adopted by the Phoenicians and later the Greeks, who gave it its name. Over the centuries it has been subject to several interpretations by different cultures. One is that it represents the Universe’s eternally cyclic nature, which creates life out of destruction. In alchemy, it symbolizes the continuous renewal of birth and death that alchemists struggle to break free from. Gnosticism and Hermeticism also hail the Ouroboros as representative of cyclical natural life and the unity of opposites. Gnostics, in particular, regard it as a sign of the transcendence of duality and a connection to Abraxas, the solar god.