10 SPIRITUAL SYMBOLS YOU MUST KNOW

DHARMA WHEEL

The Dharma Wheel, sometimes known as the wheel of law, is the Buddhist symbol for the teachings of the path to enlightenment since the time of early Buddhism.

A dharma wheel has three basic parts: the hub, the rim, and the spokes. Over the centuries, various teachers and traditions have proposed diverse meanings for these parts. Here are some common understandings of the wheel’s symbolism:

  • The circle, the round shape of the wheel, represents the perfection of the dharma, the Buddha’s teaching.
  • The rim of the wheel represents meditative concentration and mindfulness, which hold practice together.
  • The hub represents moral discipline. The three swirls often seen on the hub are sometimes said to represent the Three Treasures or Three Jewels: Buddha, dharma, sangha. They may also represent joy.

The spokes signify different concepts, depending on their number.

Based on the number of spokes, several ideas are represented.

  • With eight spokes, a wheel might symbolize the Eightfold Path. The most frequent kind of Buddhist wheel has eight spokes.
  • If a wheel contains 10 spokes, each pointing in a different direction, it’s symbolizing the whole world.
  • A wheel with 24 spokes symbolizes the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, its reversal, and one’s eventual escape from samsara. The Ashoka Chakra is a dharma wheel with 24 spokes.
  • In ancient Buddhist cosmology, a wheel with 31 spokes represented the 31 spheres of reality.
  • Wheels with four spokes are very unusual, and when they do appear, they often represent one of two things: the Four Noble Truths or the four dhyanas.

THE LOTUS FLOWER

The Lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration, and rebirth.

The lotus has a unique daily life cycle of life, death, and rebirth. This has led to the phrase, “lotus flower of life”. That is why its meaning is often “rebirth”, and why the flower is frequently tied to spirituality.

Lotus flowers are one of the most prominent tokens in Eastern cultures. In Hinduism and Buddhism, they’re considered the most sacred flower. Hieroglyphics from Ancient Egypt show this delicate flower alongside priests and pharaohs. Statues of Buddhist monks often include a lotus flower. Vietnamese and Indian people often associate the flower with gods and goddesses.

THE ANKH

The Ankh is one of the most recognizable symbols from ancient Egypt, known as “the key of life” or the “cross of life”, and dating from the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 – 2613 BCE). 

The Ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that was commonly used in writing and in art to represent the word for “life” and, by extension, as a symbol of life itself.

It is an Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for “life” or “breath of life” (`nh = ankh) and, as the Egyptians believed that one’s earthly journey was only part of eternal life, the ankh symbolizes both mortal existence and the afterlife. It is one of the most ancient symbols of ancient Egypt, often seen with the djed, and was a symbol, carried by a multitude of the Egyptian gods in tomb paintings and inscriptions and worn by Egyptians as an amulet.

Yin Yang

The meaning of yin and yang is that the universe is governed by a cosmic duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles or cosmic energies that can be observed in nature.

The philosophy is at least 3,500 years old, discussed in the ninth-century BCE text known as I Ching or Book of Changes, and influences the philosophies of Taoism and Confucianism.

Generally speaking, yin is characterized as inward energy that is feminine, still, dark, and negative. On the other hand, yang is characterized as outward energy, masculine, hot, bright, and positive. The two halves are thus intertwining across a spiral-like curve that splits the whole into semicircles, and the small dots represent the idea that both sides carry the seed of the other. 

The yin-yang symbol is related to the ancient method used to track the movements of the sun, moon, and stars around the year. 

THE EYE OF HORUS

Horus was the ancient Egyptian sky god who was usually depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner or peregrine falcon. His right eye was associated with the sun god, Ra. … Hence, the eye of Horus was often used to symbolize sacrifice, healing, restoration, and protection.

Many people confuse the eye of Horus with that of Ra.

When we speak of the eye of Horus (or Udjat eye), it is always a left eye (if you look at Horus from the front, it will be the eye on your right).

On the contrary, if we speak of the eye of Ra, it will always be a right eye (so, if you look at Ra from the front, it will be the eye that is on your left).

THE CADUCEUS

The caduceus (☤) is the traditional symbol of Hermes and features two snakes winding around an often-winged staff. It is often mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine instead of the Rod of Asclepius, especially in the United States.

The caduceus through its symbolization of the god Hermes (Mercury to the Romans) also symbolized the element mercury, the astrological symbol, and the planet. The modern symbol used for mercery came from the caduceus.

A caduceus is a wand entwined by two snakes and topped by wings or a winged helmet. The caduceus is associated with Magic, spiritual enlightenment, wisdom, immortality, and healing. The T shape of the caduceus is derived from the tau cross, a T-shaped cross used in the ancient Egyptian and Mithraic mysteries initiations.

The association of the caduceus with gold and the powers of transmutation made it a symbol of the philosopher’s stone in alchemy. In alchemy, the entwined serpents take on the additional symbolism of masculine and feminine forces, which must be in balance for transmutation to occur.

THE HAMSA

The Hamsa Hand is an ancient Middle Eastern amulet symbolizing the Hand of God. In all faiths, it is a protective sign. It brings its owner happiness, luck, health, and good fortune. … The Hamsa hand meaning has a variety of interpretations, depending on the culture.

‘Hamsa’ is a Sanskrit word used in Hinduism as a meditation mantra. It stands for the question ‘Who am I?’. Continuous repetition of the word changes it into ‘Soham’, providing the answer: ‘I am That’. Hamsa also means ‘white swan’. The white swan represents purity, perfect union, and balance. The flight of the Hamsa symbolizes a flight away from the hectic routine of daily life and the chance to return to oneself.

THE PENTACLE

Most people mistake this symbol for something dark or evil, but it is quite the opposite actually. The Pentacle actually symbolizes the qualities of man.

A Pentagram is an ancient spiritual symbol shaped as a five-pointed star with one point aligned upwards. It is considered to be representative of the five elements from which man is made, namely fire, air, water, earth, and spirit. Often the terms Pentacle and Pentagram are used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference between the two.

Some people believe that a Pentagram is not circled, while a Pentacle has the star enclosed by a circle. Still, others say that a Pentagram is a diagram or drawing of the star and is referred to as a Pentacle only when it takes the form of a physical object.

The Pentacle/Pentagram has been one of the most persistent and powerful symbols in our history and was revered by nearly all ancient cultures, be it Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian, Chinese, Indian or Mayan. The mystic icon is considered to hold several layers of symbolism. It is viewed as a symbol of life, love, light, unity, wholeness, and a quest for divine knowledge. The Pentacle has always been associated with divine protective powers and was used for protection from evil forces, demons, etc.
In the present times, the Pentacle and the Pentagram are much-respected symbols used by the neo-Pagans and Wiccans.

THE TREE OF LIFE

The tree of life is a symbol of a fresh start in life, positive energy, good health, and a bright future. As a symbol of immortality. A tree grows old, yet it bears seeds that contain its very essence and in this way, the tree becomes immortal. As a symbol of growth and strength.

The Tree of Life is a popular and universal symbol that represents multiple different things across various cultures and religions. The symbol does not belong to one specific culture as it has been used all over the world for centuries.  

As a symbol, the Tree of Life goes all the way back to ancient times. The oldest known example was found in the Domuztepe excavations in Turkey, which date back to about 7000 BC. It is believed that the symbol spread from there in various ways.

 The Tree of Life commonly represents the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. It symbolizes togetherness and serves as a reminder that you are never alone or isolated, but rather that you are connected to the world. The roots of the Tree of Life dig deep and spread into the earth, thereby accepting nourishment from Mother Earth, and its branches reach up into the sky, accepting energy from the sun and moon.  

THE FLOWER OF LIFE

The Flower of Life is seen to contain all of the patterns of creation within it. Consisting of 7 or more overlapping symbols, the flower of life dates back to almost every ancient culture and is considered to be one of the sacred formations that creation arose.

This mystical symbol can be found in almost all major religions in the entire world. The Flower of Life is said to be over 6,000 years old and is composed of several concentric, equal, overlapping circles. It is said to contain vital information on the secrets of the universe and all living things. The earliest record of this symbol was said to be found on the alabaster steps that were once parts of the palace of King Ashurbanipal and have been dated to 645 BC.

Many spiritual and mystical geometric figures have been drawn from the pattern of the Flower of Life. The sacred Tree of Life in Kabbalah teachings, for instance, may be taken from the concentric patterns within the Flower of Life. Leonardo da Vinci, himself, was able to derive platonic solids and the golden ratio of phi from the Flower of Life

These are just a few of the many symbols we Humans use to govern our sense of reality. Regardless of the symbol, they are all archetypal in nature that taps into the collective unconsciousness of Humanity. In essence, giving us a taste of the unexplainable and provides aid in helping us answer that constant nagging question, who am I.

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