Published: 04 Oct 2017

Gold in Buddhism

Golden Stupa

One look at Buddhist iconography is enough to establish the fact that gold- both as a colour and a metal- is very significant in Buddhism.

Gold- what does it mean to Buddhists?

Gold, in Buddhism, symbolises sun or fire. Hence, mixing gold with other elements is considered inauspicious as it dilutes the natural brilliance of the gold. Therefore, the gold used in the Buddhist fine art is always pure.

Gold and Buddhist statues

The gold colour has always been an integral part of Buddhist mysticism so much so that most statues made in Tibetan regions are gilded with pure gold. There are some statues, such as the five tonne Golden Buddha of Wat Traimit temple in Thailand, that are completely made of gold.

Gold and Astamangla

The collection of eight auspicious objects – Astamangala – is one of the oldest and best-known symbols of Tibetan Buddhist culture. Presented on kata- an auspicious and blessed fabric, the symbols are used in traditional ceremonies and special occasions. Three of these eight symbols are associated with gold.

  • The gold Fish Pair:

    Two fish, generally carp, are depicted parallel and facing each other vertically or intersecting slightly. The pair represented the two main sacred rivers of India – the Ganges and the Yamuna. The fish pair connote the overcoming of all obstacles and being in a state of fearlessness with complete liberation.

  • The gold Lotus Flower:

    The lotus flower indicates primeval purity of body, speech, and mind afloat the murky water of desire. The image of the lotus is an analogy of rising above suffering to attain enlightenment, beauty and clarity.

  • The gold Dharma Chakra (or wheel):

    The dharma chakra is often used to show Buddha and is a universal symbol for Buddhism. The eight spokes of the wheel represent Buddha’s Eightfold Path to Enlightenment – a middle way between excessive worldliness and asceticism (avoiding any indulgences).

Gold and music

The Tibetan Singing Bowl is made of an alloy of seven metals, each of which symbolically corresponds to a planet. Gold is one of the seven metals and it symbolises the Sun. The sound of the bell varies depending on the proportion of the components of the alloy, the shape and thickness of the metal. It is used in rituals and its vibrations facilitate concentration during meditation.

Gold colour- what it means to Buddhists?

The colour of gold is important in the Buddhist mysticism. Laughing Buddha statues- symbolising happiness and good health- are usually painted gold. Popular Japanese Buddhist artwork depicts Buddha on his deathbed in a grove of tall, slender sal trees with gold or yellow leaves. Buddhist thangka – Tibetan paintings on cotton or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity or scene – are characterised with bold gold lines over a black background.

Given its association with Sun, gold in Buddhism stands for knowledge, enlightenment, purity, happiness, and freedom. Just another way that the world’s favourite precious metal has an impact on our lives.

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