Swastika: Buddhist Cross or Nazi Cross? The truth
Find out how the Nazis transformed the swastika, a symbol of the Buddha, into an emblem of hatred.
Images from Charlottesville, Virginia of white supremacists marching under Nazi banners reminded us, as if we needed it, that the swastika remains a potent symbol of racist hatred.
In Germany, where neo-Nazis are also marching, it is illegal to display the swastika, and citizens are initiating private or neighborhood efforts to remove it graffiti and other street arts.
But attempts to eradicate the swastika can sometimes fail, as happened recently in Quebec. Corey Fleischer , known to Instagram's erasure community, was arrested by police when he attempted to erase swastikas engraved on anchors recovered and displayed to the public in the small community of Pointes-des-Cascades on the Saint- Laurent.
The plaques suggested that the anchors came from the Third Reich, but a correspondent of Radio-Canada reported that they were manufactured by the English company WL Byers before the Nazis came to power. The company used the swastika as a symbol of good luck, a common practice at the beginning of the 20th century.
Fleischer remained indifferent to this historical explanation. As he told CityNews: "The swastika is no longer a sign of peace. It is a sign attached to a regime that has literally almost wiped out an entire culture." p >
We encounter this obsession with swastikas time and time again. In university courses on German cultural history, students are both repelled and fascinated by the horror it symbolizes . When you ask if the swastika should be banned in North America as it is in Germany, some say yes, while others point to its innocent use in other cultures.
The debate is similar to the dispute between Pointes-des-Cascades and Corey Fleischer. Should the 25 years that it was a symbol of Nazi racism outweigh its millennial use as a talisman of good fortune?
An ancient and diverse history
The swastika has not always been a heinous symbol of hatred . Far from there. The word Svastika is of Sanskrit origin and means "conducive to well-being".
As a symbol, the power of the swastika lies in its simplicity and balance.
Graphic designer Steven Heller notes that "the geometric purity of the swastika allows readability at n ' no matter what size or distance, and when on its axis the swirling square gives the illusion of movement ".
Its shape, according to Heller, is" sublime ", so it is no wonder that it found its place in so many cultures.
In Buddhism, the swastika is believed to represent the footprints of the Buddha. It assumes a liturgical function in the Jainism , and in Hinduism, the clockwise symbol (the swastika as we know it, with arms pointing right) and the symbol facing left, called Sauvastika, combine to represent opposites such as light and darkness.
In Mesopotamia, it was used on coins , and the Navajo nation l 'woven into blankets. It has been found on ancient pottery in Africa and Asia It was sometimes used as a single item, but was often repeated as a series of interlocking swastikas to form a border on a garment or in architecture, as was common in Roman times.
It first appeared in the Germanic and Viking cultures , and you can find it in medieval churches and religious clothing across Europe.
< br> In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the swastika became a well-established symbol of luck in Western culture, similar to a four-leaf clover or a horseshoe.
Companies used it as a logo; it adorned birth announcements and greeting cards. American Boy Scouts could get a swastika badge, and the Girls' Club published a magazine called The Swastika. Finland, Latvia, and the United States have all used it as a military badge.
In Canada, a mining community in northern Ontario was called Swastika, just as a town might be called New Hope or Bounty. Windsor, Nova Scotia and Fernie, British Columbia both had hockey teams called the Swastikas.
In 1931, Newfoundland issued a $ 1 stamp commemorating important moments in transatlantic aviation; every corner had a swastika.
At the end of the 19th century, the newly formed German Empire entered an era of unbridled nationalism. Some nationalists sought to prove German racial superiority, endorsing the idea now discredited that an ancient Aryan race - the first Indo-Europeans - were their ancestors. Evidence was needed to link the Germans to the Aryans.
The Nazis appropriated the symbol
The swastika provided the necessary link
In the early 1870s, when the German businessman and archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann thought he had discovered the city Ancient Greece of Troy, more than 1,800 cases of swastikas were discovered. Since the swastika was also present in the archaeological remains of the Germanic tribes, the nationalists were quick to conclude that the Germans and the Greeks were both descendants of the Aryans.
And if you believe that the Germans are a distinct "race" superior to the other ethnic groups around them, it becomes easier to claim that you have to keep this "race" pure. In this context, anti-Semitism followed.
The Thule Society, an anti-Semitic organization that promotes the superiority of the German Volk (folk in English), was founded at the end of the First World War. Its logo was a stylized swastika. The company sponsored the nascent Nazi Party, and in an effort to raise its profile to the public, the party created a banner that incorporated the swastika as we know it today.
Hitler was convinced that a powerful symbol would rally the masses to his xenophobic cause. With a black swastika (called Hakenkreuz in German, or hooked cross) rotated 45 degrees on a white circle on a red background, the Nazi banner modernizes the old symbol while evoking the colors of the recently defeated German Empire.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler took sole credit for the design and tried to give it meaning : "In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalist idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man."Tortured symbolism aside, the swastika banner did what it was meant to do: it gave the Nazi movement a visual identity
When the Nazis took power in 1933 they sought to unite the country behind their racist Aryan ideology, and the use of their symbol infiltrated all aspects of German life.
It can still be seen sometimes, including in the mosaic ceiling tiles at Hitler's Haus der Kunst in Munich. The banner became the country's official flag in 1935, and while it wasn't everywhere as Hollywood might have you believe, it was very present.
Steven Heller captions his book, The Swastika, with a simple but relevant question: Symbol beyond redemption? In cultures where it has been used for centuries in religious practices or in the decorative arts, this question is unnecessary. The symbol does not have a negative connotation.
But objects like the swastika have no inherent meaning; the symbolism is constructed by the people who use them. In our western society, the swastika is tainted. The violent crimes against humanity of the Nazi movement gave the Hakenkreuz a meaning that can neither be concealed nor erased.
In places like Pointes-des-Cascades, where there are pre-Nazi swastikas, extra care should be taken to contextualize their presence. But in all other cases the symbol should really be avoided.
Racist and hateful intentions are clear. It was not an innocent symbol for the Nazis, nor for today's neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
The swastika in Buddhism
Buddhists used the swastika to mark the beginning of Buddhist texts because they consider it a symbol of universal harmony, prosperity, plurality, good luck, abundance, Dharma, fertility, long life and eternity - just that!
In different parts of the world, Buddhists give a different meaning to the swastika. For example, in Tibet, the swastika was a graphic representation of eternity. There are 65 promising symbols on the footprint of the Buddha and the swastika is considered the first. You can also find the swastika symbol printed on the body, palms, chest or feet of Buddha statues .
It is used to mark the beginning of sacred texts or as a clothing decoration. Buddhists in India regard the swastika as "The Seal on the Heart of Buddha".
Since ancient times, the swastika is considered noble, which is well known in most cultures throughout history.