Buddhist Symbols And Their Meanings ( If You Want To Tattoo Them)

Buddhist Symbols And Their Meanings ( If You Want To Tattoo Them)

- in Tattoo History, Tattoo Meanings
Buddhist Symbols

Buddhism is a religion with a variety of Buddhist symbols and designs with different spiritual and philosophical meanings and histories. Today we are just going to scratch the surface and talk about some of them.Buddhist Symbols

         Bodhi Tree

Some people see this  Buddhist symbol as the ‘World Tree’, The roots of this Tree lie deep in the earth and whose branches support the heavens. A ‘tree of life’. The Tree under which Buddha attained his enlightenment was an Asiatic fig or ficus religiosa. Of all the tattoo symbols that one could adopt, there are few more immediately suggestible of a spiritual practice than the Bodhi tree.

It’s symbolizing ‘enlightenment’, but also the Bodhi tree is synonymous with the very place of Buddha’s awakening, Bodhgaya, India. It also represents our human evolution towards liberation from endless reincarnations in which suffering is inescapable. Buddha’s Tree is sacred because of its age ( very, very old ). At the site of Buddha’s enlightenment, a descendant of the original Tree is said to be growing today. And at some Buddhist centers around the world, offshoots of the famous Bodhi tree can be found as one of the most common Buddhist symbols.

In the third century BC, India’s King Ashoka strengthen the Bodhi tree’s reputation, only by converting to Buddhism and practicing his meditations under the original tree0- The Bodhi tree. His Queen, failing to appreciate the subtler points of his time-consuming conversion, had the Tree chopped down, in an attempt to regain the attention of her beloved.  His daughter became a Buddhist nun and transplanted a cutting to a garden in a monastery in Sri Lanka, where it stands today as the oldest continually documented tree in the world.


Take up a Buddhist mala, and you’ll notice how good it feels in your hands. The same is true with all of the prayer beads of any religious tradition. First is the soothing feel of the beads themselves, and it only increases as they become smoother or darken with use. Then there is what these Buddhist symbols symbolize—the tangible link to an age-old tradition. Run a string of prayer beads in your hands, and you can feel like you are touching an ancient practice. Yours are only the most recent set of fingers to caress such beads, and others will take them up later after you are gone.

Malas, of course, have other purposes. Let’s say a teacher gives you one and blesses it, and it makes you feel like you’re carrying your teacher with you. A mala has an extra bead called the ‘Guru Bead’ that is separate from the counting beads. It represents your teacher.

Some people think they can provide some form of spiritual protection. One thing is, if you’re wearing this thing, it’s a little easier to be mindful. It’s like having a constant reminder that we should be virtuous and mindful. There’s a tendency to be very spiritual in the temple or on the meditation cushion, but it does not mean that it will be the same in everyday life.

            Om symbol

The earlier forms of Buddhism (and Buddhist symbols) didn’t have much to do with the Om symbol, but we can say that this did change over time.

This is especially true with Tibetan Buddhism, which was greatly influenced by Hinduism. The Om symbol is usually placed at the beginning and(or) at the end of Buddhist mantras and texts. One of the most commonly known mantras is Om mani Padme Hum, the mantra of compassion. People look at this mantra as the -totality of sound, existence, and consciousness.

During the 14th century, the Dalai Lama described Om as consisting of 3 separate letters, these being A, U, and M. There are various symbolizations associated with these three letters including the “pure exalted body, speech, and mind of the enlightened Buddha.


Many philosophies have definitive architectural structures that are associated with them. For the Greeks, it was column-lined temples. For Catholics, it’s the basilica or cathedral. For Buddhists, no architectural form is more important than the stupa. At its most basic, a stupa is a ceremonial burial mound used for the veneration of Buddhist saints and relics, as well as the Buddha himself. However, Buddhism is a profoundly symbolic cosmology, so it would be foolish to assume that the oldest Buddhist architectural tradition is not filled with symbolism. It’s more than just a structure; it’s a lesson in Buddhism.


In tantric Buddhism, the vajra and ghanta (a bell often used in rituals) are used in ceremonies by lamas, and it represents the nature of reality and endless creativity. In the center of the ornamental vajra,  is a sphere that represents sunyata (the emptiness of actual existence). Emerging from this sphere are two lotuses- symbolizing the physical world and the other, which represents the enlightened state of reality.

            Om Mane Padme Hum

Buddhist mantras have specific meanings, just like Buddhist mudras do. Each word in the mantra has its meaning. Specifically, the meanings are:

-Om: sacred syllable. You can find lots of Indian religions.

-Mani: means “bead” or “jewel.”

Padme: means “lotus flower.” Flower? Yup. But not just any old flower. The lotus flower is the sacred flower of Buddha and one of the most recognized Buddhist symbols.

-Hum: represents enlightenment.

Put all that together, and you get the meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum.

So what does it mean in English? Om Mani Padme Hum in English means various things depending on which school of Buddhism is coming from. But we can say that it generally means, “The jewel is in the lotus.” And this means-If you want to make it become a Buddha, follow the wise path of Dharma with love and compassion.

           The Dharma Wheel

The Dharmachakra comes from the Dharma, which is the path to attaining enlightenment and reaching Nirvana (the highest state of being a person can achieve). It also means the Wheel of Law.  In its entirety, the Dharma Wheel symbolizes Buddha’s teachings. When one practices Dharma, one is practicing the teachings of Buddha and protecting oneself from suffering and eliminating ignorance, thereby improving one’s quality of life. These teachings were described as a wheel because they move and travel throughout the land, and then people can practice control over their minds. Altogether, the three aspects of the Dharma Wheel symbolize concentration, ethics, and wisdom – which are all essential in the teachings of Buddha.


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