Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Buddhist Flag(s)

The Buddhist flag is a modern creation. It was designed in 1889 by the Sri Lankan J.R. de Silva and the American Colonel Henry S. Olcott to mark the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It was accepted as the "International Buddhist Flag" by the 1952 World Buddhist Congress.

The flag later came to symbolize the unity of all Buddhists. Thereafter, it has been used worldwide in nearly 60 countries during Buddhist festive events, particularly during Vesak celebrations commemorating the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and nirvana. Col. Olcott was one of the greatest American Buddhists who dedicated his later life entirely to the people of Asia.

He is known as the father of the Buddhist education movement since he initiated the establishment of close to 400 Buddhist schools and colleges in Sri Lanka.

Col. Olcott designed a flag from the six colors of the Buddha's aura, which is commonly believed to have shone around the head of the Buddha after his great enlightenment (maha bodhi). The vertical stripes of the flag are of five colors with the following symbolism:

  • Blue: universal compassion
  • Yellow: the Middle Path
  • Red: blessings
  • White: purity and liberation
  • Orange: wisdom
  • Combination: truth

The colors represent these bio-luminescent radiances for the following reasons:

BLUE light radiated from the Buddha's hair symbolizes the spirit of universal compassion for all beings.
YELLOW (or golden) light radiated from the Buddha's skin and symbolizes the Middle Way which avoids extremes and brings balance and liberation
RED light radiated from the Buddha's flesh and symbolizes the blessings that the practice of the Buddha's teaching (Dharma) brings.
WHITE light radiated from the Buddha's bones and teeth and symbolizes the purity of the Dharma and the liberation it brings.
ORANGE light radiated from the Buddha's palms, heels, and lips symbolizes the unshakable wisdom of the Dharma.
COMBINED the colors symbolize the universality of the Dharma's truth.

  • The sentiment of other "Buddhist flags" is less universal. Read more


No comments: