Lumbini, Nepal: Christian Symbolism in Buddhist Temples

A Brief Lesson in Cross-Cultural Esoteric Symbolism

To research the second part of my book, Journey’s To Ancient World’s, I travelled to Lumbini in Nepal. Lumbini is a quaint little village, 22km from the Gorakpur/Saunali border with India, and is said to be the birthplace of the Siddhartha Gautama, more commonly known as, “Buddha.”

There are many Buddhist temples here and already I am finding the same esoteric symbolism in the temple architecture that is featured in Christian Churches in the West. Check this out:

In the statue of Buddha below, you will note he has one forefinger pointing upwards towards the sky, and the other downwards to the ground.

 

Buddha statue - As above so below

This pose is best phrased as “As above, so below,” in alchemical records and is a feature in statues from the West. The statue of George Washington depicting Zeus is a prime reference. It is also a position favoured in statues of Roman Emperors and Catholic Saints.

 

Roman Emperor, As above so below

St Paul, As Above

From the statue of St Paul in the San Giovanni in Laterno, Rome

One Buddhist Temple I visited in Lumbini looked and felt like a modern Christian Church, built by a community with little funding. Other than the Buddha memorabilia at the altar, it could just have easily been a local community hall run by the local church. On each of the four walls was the Dharma Wheel, a typical Buddhist symbol, but next to it was this:

Seed of life, Lumbini

The seed of life is very common in Catholic Churches. This one is in a Buddhist temple, Lumbini

This symbol is the seed of life and will be familiar to anyone living in a country that has Christian Churches. It is often used for windows in churches like this beautiful stained-glass piece of a Catholic Church in Argentina.

Seed of life stained glass window

The pattern is formed by interlocking four symbols as you can see from the image below taken in the Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. It is actually the beginnings of a larger piece of sacred geometry art – the flower of life, which is the start of consciousness.

 

Seed of life in ceramics, Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

A ceramic seed of life, Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Anyone that has read my first book, “What Modern Man Can Learn From Ancient Civilisations” will be aware that the ancient cultures of South and Mesoamerica seemed to have an obsession with spirals. They are not alone. Spirals feature predominantly in religious architecture as well.

In the picture below, you can see the spiral design plastered onto the steps of a Buddhist Church in Lumbini…

The spiral is a symbol of creation and found throughout nature

…and in the image below, is a variation of the spiral symbol plastered on the facade of a Catholic Church in Naples, Italy.

 

Spiral pattern on fresco of Catholic Church, Italy

Spiral symbols are a representation of the Fibonacci spiral that is found throughout nature. Fibonacci discovered this pattern is the early 13th Century, but our ancestors have been using this symbol for thousands of years.

The same spiral pattern is present in the thalamus, the central compartment of the human brain which also holds the pineal gland or, if you like, the third eye chakra, the TV of the mind that is the on-switch for creating your future through visualisation.

Indeed, the spiral pattern is one of the oldest symbols we know of. The image below was etched into ancient Greek pottery found in Ischia off the coast of Italy and is dated to be some four to seven thousand years old, perhaps even older.

So how did the ancients know of these spirals? Coincidence or design?

The Spirla is prevalent in ancient symbolism

The spiral symbol was used in pottery before the time of Christ

That is a question we cannot categorically answer, but spirals show up far too often in ancient artwork to be mere coincidence. Perhaps it’s just an obvious design…

… but if that were the case, why did artists, renowned for their originality, still use a symbol that originated in antiquity to decorate temples and churches throughout the Middle Ages..? Furthermore, artists always use symbolism to give their art esoteric meaning. My feeling is the spiral has a significant meaning…creation!

The image below is an eight-pointed star and is set in the pavement outside the Myanmar Golden Temple. It essentially means, God-Consciousness, or in other words, mastery of your emotions, and a profound understanding of energy and vibration.

8-pointed star

The 8-pointed star is found in almost every church

The eight-pointed star is famously represented in Buddhism as the ‘Wheel of Dharma‘ with each of its eight spokes representing the Noble Eightfold Path. You will also find variations of the  8-pointed star in Christian churches such as this one from the Duomo in Naples, Italy.

A stylised 8-pointed star

Once you start looking for symbols and noticing the different artistic representation for each one, recognising they are the same throughout different cultures becomes much easier.

What you have to appreciate however, is that organized cults (yes I have spelled that right…) that guard the secrets of the symbols only offer a fraction of the meaning.

But once you collect all the meanings from each religion, you create the bigger picture. Interpreting symbolism is like a jigsaw puzzle. You can check out some of my interpretations of symbolism on this site.

Let me know how you get on!

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