Buddhist flags | Origin and Significance
Buddhist festivals highlight the colors of the Buddhist flag (or Tibetan flag ) as well as statues of Buddha and other symbolic objects . However, the significance of the flag goes far beyond the vivid colors displayed on it.
History of the Buddhist flag
Indeed, the colors represent the aura which emanated from the head of the Buddha after he reached enlightenment. Like the Buddhist mudras, the colors of the flag have come to reflect the virtues of Buddhism .
Sri Lanka Buddhist Flag
The Buddhist flag, first hoisted in 1885 in Sri Lanka , is a symbol of faith and peace used around the world to represent the Buddhist faith. There appears to have been a controversy over who designed the Buddhist flag.
Today, Buddhist flags fly around temples and monuments around the world. And banners and flags have always flown above important Buddhist monuments .
The first texts describe pilgrims donating colored banners on stūpas and in monasteries. Yet the six-striped flag that we see today is a modern evolution.
Here is an excerpt from Khenpo Gyaltsen's book, A Lamp That Lights the Way of Liberation: An Explanation of Essential Topics for Dharma Students. Khenpo explains how modern Buddhists chose the colors of this flag .
In general, flags are used to show the excellent qualities of a group and to express their individuality . But more specifically, the use of a flag is to express its identity, and to indicate victory and success . It is for this purpose that the Buddhist flag was created.
In 1884, the Buddhist flag was created in Sri Lanka by the American military officer, Mr. Henry Steele Olcott, on the occasion of Lord Śākyamuni's birthday. Some credit Henry Steele Olcott, a retired US Army colonel who visited Sri Lanka in May 1880.
Olcott embraced Buddhism and joined the Buddhist revival movement and pioneered Buddhist education. He is behind the creation of nearly 400 Buddhist schools and colleges in Sri Lanka . Ananda, Nalanda, Mahinda, and Dharmaraja are all monuments that testify to his pioneering efforts.
In 1884, Buddhists succeeded in getting British rulers to declare Vesak Poya day as a public holiday from May 1885. At this time the Buddhists created the "Colombo Committee", of which Olcott was indeed a member, but which also included more than ten other prominent members of the Sri Lankan secularism and sangha .
The Buddhist flag, thus conceived, was hoisted for the first time on May 28, 1885, day of the full moon of Vesak , by the venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera at Deepaduththaramaya in Kotahena.
At a suggestion from Olcott , the flag has been changed to have the normal size for national flags. The Buddhist flag thus modified was hoisted on the day of the full moon of Vesak in 1886. It remains unchanged to this day and is used by all traditions and schools of Buddhism around the world.
Professor GP Malalasekera helped make it the flag of the Buddhist world. He proposed, at the meeting of the World Federation of Buddhists held in Kandy on May 25, 1950, to accept it as the official Buddhist flag.
It was accepted as an international Buddhist flag by the World Buddhist Congress of 1952
Buddhist flags: The colors
The five colors of the Buddhist flag are displayed vertically from left to right. In addition, the sixth and final rectangular strip is a mixture of the five colors and is arranged perpendicular to the other strips. However, the sixth band is not mandatory and is not always included.
Meaning of the Colored Bands of the Buddhist Flag
The meaning of the six colored stripes of the flag in the following order are
Band Blue : The blue band represents the blue light rays which radiated from the hair of the Buddha. These have imbued the entire cosmos with love, compassion, peace and happiness. Blue: which signifies the concept of loving kindness and peace in Buddhism
Band Golden : The golden band represents the golden rays of light that radiated from the skin of the Buddha. This represented the middle way, free from the extremes of permanence and nihilism. Yellow: means the middle way, that is to say the total absence of form and emptiness
Band Red : The red band represents the red light rays which radiated from the flesh of the Buddha. This shows excellent achievement of the practice and virtuous merit.Red: signifies achievement, wisdom, virtue, fortune and dignity.
Band White : The white band represents the white light rays that radiated from the bones and teeth of the Buddha. It shows true unblemished and unblemished realization, as well as the truth that the Buddha's teachings on the nature of liberation are ever present, whether in an excellent or empty kalpa (meaning that the Buddhas are teaching or no Buddha is not present) .White: means purity, emancipation, that the Dharma will always exist, regardless of time or space.
Band Orange : The orange band represents the orange rays of light that radiated from the palms, heels and lips of the Buddha. It shows the power of wisdom and the majestic brilliance of the rich essential meaning of Dharma.Orange: means purity, emancipation, that Dharma will always exist regardless of time or space. : The essence of Buddhism which is full of wisdom, strength and dignity.
Band of Combined Colors: The last band of combined colors represents the universal truth of the Buddha's teachings. The horizontal bands represent the peoples of the world in harmony, peace and happiness. And the vertical stripes show the continued tranquility of the Buddhist community. The combination of these five colors symbolizes that it is the One and Only Truth.
Meaning of the colors of the Buddhist flag
The six colors of the original design: blue (nila) , yellow (pita) , red (lohita) , white (odata) , scarlet (manjestha) , and the mixture of these six colors (prabaswara) of the flag represented the colors of the zen aura which emanated from the body of the Buddha when he attained Awakening under the Bodhi tree.
The original color , the Scarlet, was later changed to Orange.
The colors symbolize the perfection of Buddhahood and Dharma.
The blue light which radiated from the hair of the Buddha symbolizes the spirit of Universal Compassion for all beings.
The yellow light which radiated from the epidermis of the Buddha symbolizes the middle way which avoids all extremes and brings balance and liberation
The white light which radiates from the bones and teeth of the Buddha symbolizes the purity of the Buddha's teaching and the liberation it brings.
The orange light which radiates from the palms, heels and lips of the Buddha symbolizes the unwavering Wisdom of the teaching of the Buddha.
The combined color , on the fly, symbolizes the universality of the Truth of the Teaching of the Buddha.
Therefore, the global flag represents the fact that regardless of race, nationality, division or color, all sentient beings possess the potential of Buddhahood.
Unfortunately, in modern times the swastika has become controversial due to its use by the Nazis during the 20th century. Nonetheless, it is an auspicious symbol that dates back over 11,000 years.
The Buddhist processions
Buddhist processions sometimes represent images of the swastika.
Buddhist flags: A universal message
The Buddhist flag in its entirety signifies the indivisibility of all sentient beings, regardless of their situation, race, nationality, class, color, etc. For all sentient beings carry within them the germ of omniscience and each one has the capacity and the potential for one attained enlightenment through meditation.
Nationality of the Buddhist flag
Although the flag is non-sectarian, it is commonly flown alongside national and state flags. This may indicate that Buddhism is the national religion or that there is a large Buddhist population.
In Malaysia, Islam is the national religion. However, there is a large population of Buddhist monks in some areas like Penang. It is therefore common to see Buddhist colors displayed in combination with other flags.
Conclusion - Reflection Exercise
When you see visual symbols such as banners or statues, do you find that they support your practice? In our daily life, we often come across unpleasant or violent images. Do you use visual aids to remind yourself of core values, universal truths, or core goodness?
Which images are useful to you? If you don't currently surround yourself with visual cues, try incorporating something small to start. Then observe your own mind for a while. Does the visual cue remind you of core values? Are you inspired or stimulated by what you see?
Finally, how can you add such helpful reminders into your daily routine?