The concept of a sacred tree, also known as the Tree of Life, can be found in creation myths from all over the world. The Tree of Life has been spotted in art, architecture, and iconography from different cultures.
The Tree of Life is a symbol of unity, representing the idea that all life on earth is connected: though we may branch out in various directions, each of us is part of something bigger. It honors the diversity of creation while celebrating our shared origins. It is no wonder the Tree of Life is regarded as a timeless, legendary icon.
The figure of Weeping Buddha shows Buddha hunched over, covering his face with his hands. His image is based on the legend of a soldier who inadvertently vanquishes his only son in battle. Realizing what he had done, the soldier – who is none other than Weeping Buddha – began crying in shame.
Weeping Buddha is said to be weeping for all the suffering in the world. It is also said that if we touch his back, he will take away our grief and troubles. In return, he bestows peace and provides the strength we need to live a good life.
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.
The Tree of Life is another popular universal symbol it represents numerous systems across varying cultures and religions. Like all the other symbols in this list it is not identified by a single culture and it has been used around the world for centuries.
So what does the Tree of Life represent? A connection to everything including the things we cannot see or the void beyond. It reminds you that you are not alone in the Universe but rather part of a vast interconnected network.
The Tree of Life provides a hierarchical structure for all of the forces in the Universe. It can also be used as a road map of one’s soul. The 10 spheres are called the “Sephiroth” translating to eminiation. These are connected by different paths. The first Sephira on the Tree of Life is at the top. It represents cosmic consciousness. The Sephira at the base represents the material world. The rest of these Sephiroth represent different qualities of the Soul. These can be divided into three pillars; the Pillar of Severity, The pillar of Mildness and the Pillar of Mercy.
Mudras are sacred hand gestures and expressions of inner wisdom. Each mudra represents a different action or form of energy. In meditation, mudras help maintain focus, allowing the meditator to channel a specific energy for their practice.
Mudras are also a common feature of Eastern art, as various figures and deities are often shown gesturing with a specific mudra. In fact, mudras are some of the most distinguishing characteristics, helping the viewer better understand the meaning behind a specific statue or image.
Thumb and forefinger touch to create a circle
A gesture of instruction, wisdom, and intellect, this mudra represents transmission of knowledge. The mudra’s circle also represents the perfection of dharma.
Right palm faces outward, fingers are straight
A gesture of protection, reassurance, and comfort, this mudra means “no fear.”
The fingers of the right hand touch the ground
A gesture of determination and steadfastness, this mudra represents the strength necessary to overcome temptation.
Spotted in paintings and statues, skulls feature prominently in Eastern iconography. In both Buddhism and Hinduism wrathful deities are often depicted wearing necklaces of human skulls known as munda malas. In Tibetan Buddhism, certain tantric rituals require the use of vessels made from human skulls. These are known as Kapalas and were traditionally used to make offerings to the gods.
In Tibetan Buddhism, skulls represent bliss, the limits of human knowledge, and the Buddhist concept of emptiness, or the idea that nothing has an inherent essence. Denoting death, skulls are also a reminder of impermanence and life’s malleable nature. Because nothing is fixed and all is fleeting, one sees a skull and is reminded to embrace empathy: live today, for tomorrow is not guaranteed.
The three circles that make up the Piscis Eye Trinity are also part of the Vesica Pisces symbol. It can be understood as representative of the different moon cycles: waxing, full, and waning. Sacred in various Neopagan and Goddess traditions, the Piscis Eye Trinity is an powerful, ancient symbol that depicts the sacred trinity and the all-seeing eye.
Yin and yang represents masculine and feminine, light and dark, and the law of polarity. It’s been around since before the third century B.C. in China, and the idea of opposing forces has echoed in many cultures and schools of thought since. Ultimately, yin and yang demonstrate balance and the inherent harmony of nature.
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.