The Buddhist Flag: Its History and Symbolic Meaning

The Buddhist Flag holds great significance in the Buddhist community. It is not just a piece of cloth; it represents the fundamental beliefs and values of Buddhism. The flag has a rich history that dates back to over a century ago and has various symbolic meanings attached to its vibrant colors. In this article, we will delve deeper into the fascinating history and symbolism of the Buddhist Flag. We will also explore its significance in Buddhism and how it is used today. So, buckle up and join us on this journey of discovery and appreciation for this iconic emblem of Buddhism.

History and Significance of the Buddhist Flag

History And Significance Of The Buddhist Flag
The Buddhist Flag is a symbol deeply entrenched in the religion’s history and is a popular representation of Buddhist communities worldwide. The flag was created by J.R. De Silva and Colonel Henry S. Olcott in 1885, during Sri Lanka’s striving for independence from colonial powers. The flag’s five colors each has its own meaning and significance in Buddhism. Blue symbolizes universal compassion, while yellow represents the Buddha’s middle path. Red represents the blessings of practice and merit, whilst white reflects the purity of the Buddha’s teachings. Finally, orange represents the Buddha’s teachings on wisdom and illumination. These five colors come together in perfect harmony and offer devotees an understanding of the Five Buddha families and the Buddhist path. Nowadays, the Buddhist Flag is an emblem of peace, love, and universal brotherhood, demonstrating the deep-rooted values of Buddhism.

Birth of the Flag

The birth of the Buddhist flag dates back to the late 19th century when the first Buddhist revival movement started in Sri Lanka. Colonel Henry Steele Olcott, an American journalist, and lawyer who had converted to Buddhism, played an essential role in the creation of the flag. The Buddhist flag was first hoisted on Vesak Day, which is a special day for Buddhists as it marks the birth, enlightenment, and passing of the Buddha.

The flag design was a collaboration between Colonel Olcott and two Sri Lankan scholars, Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thero and Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero. The Buddhist flag consists of six vertical stripes, with three different colors: blue, yellow, and red, separated by thinner stripes of white. The shape and size of the flag are not fixed, and it can vary in different countries.

The flag’s design is simple, yet it holds deep symbolic significance. The three primary colors of blue, yellow, and red represent the Triple Gem, which is the foundation of Buddhism. The shades of these colors vary across different versions of the flag. In Sri Lanka, the blue color signifies compassion, the yellow represents the Buddha’s teachings, and the red represents the blessings of the Buddha’s followers. On the other hand, in Japan, the red color represents happiness, while in Thailand, it represents the Buddha’s love and kindness.

The white stripes on the flag represent the Middle Path, which is the central teaching of Buddhism. The two white stripes between the blue and yellow stripes signify the Buddha’s purity and knowledge, while the two white stripes between the yellow and red stripes represent the Sangha or the Buddhist community. The sixth vertical stripe, which is orange in color and located at the center of the flag, symbolizes the Buddha’s teachings and wisdom.

The Buddhist flag’s birth was a significant milestone in the history of Buddhism, specially Sri Lanka and its design and symbolism remains significant even to this day. If you are interested in learning more about other symbols in Buddhism, click on the link to read about ‘The Eternal Knot in Buddhism and its Meanings’.

Five Colours

The Five Colors of the Buddhist Flag hold significant importance in the Buddhist tradition, both individually and collectively. Each color represents a particular aspect of Buddhism, which has its own meaning. Let’s take a look at what each color symbolizes:

Color Meaning
Blue Implies peace and Universal Compassion. It signifies sky and associated with the Buddha Akshobhya, who is known to transform anger into wisdom.
Yellow Yellow represents the Middle Path, also known as the path to enlightenment. It is inspired by the Buddha’s robe, and it signifies humility.
Red Symbolizes blessings, achievement, and wisdom. It exemplifies the heart of the Buddha’s teaching, which is enlightenment.
White Signifies purity, enlightenment, and the highest state of consciousness. It exemplifies the Buddha’s teaching on attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Orange Represents the Buddha’s teaching on wisdom. It is the color of the robe that Buddhist monks wear and signifies humility and simplicity.

Every color of the Buddhist Flag is associated with different aspects of the Buddhist teachings and represents the different paths to enlightenment. Understanding the symbolism of these colors brings us closer to an understanding of Buddhism. The Buddhist Flag, with its five colors, reiterates the essence of Buddhism, guiding us towards the path of peace, wisdom, and enlightenment.

The Symbolism of the Buddhist Flag

The Buddhist Flag consists of five unique colors, each representing a different aspect of Buddhism. The blue color symbolizes universal compassion, while the yellow color represents the Middle Path or the way of understanding. Additionally, the red color signifies the blessings of practice, and the white color represents purity and liberation. Finally, the orange color symbolizes the wisdom of the Buddha’s teachings. The Dharmacakra, or the Wheel of Dharma, is also an essential part of the Buddhist flag’s symbolism. The wheel represents the Eightfold Path, which leads to liberation from suffering. It also represents the Buddha’s teachings, which he set in motion. Understanding the meaning behind the Buddhist flag’s symbolism can provide Buddhists with a powerful sense of connection and motivation in their practice.


Blue is an important color in Buddhism and has a deep meaning in the symbolism of the Buddhist flag. It represents the element of Akasha, or space, which is closely associated with the quality of boundlessness and freedom from limitation. In Buddhism, space is considered to be the container that holds all things and is the medium through which we experience the world.

In addition to its association with space, blue also symbolizes purity and healing. It is believed to have a calming effect on the mind and body, making it an important color in meditation and mindfulness practices. Blue is also associated with the Medicine Buddha, who is revered for his ability to heal both physical and mental ailments.

In the context of the Buddhist flag, blue is the color of the border and symbolizes universal compassion. It serves as a reminder that all sentient beings are interconnected and that we should strive to treat all living things with kindness and compassion.

To further understand the importance of blue in Buddhist symbolism, here is a table summarizing its significance:

| Significance | Explanation |
| — | — |
| Akasha | Associated with the element of space and freedom from limitation |
| Purity | Symbolizes purity and healing powers |
| Medicine Buddha | Associated with the Medicine Buddha, who has the ability to heal both physical and mental ailments |
| Border color | Represents universal compassion and interconnectedness of all living beings |

Understanding the symbolic meaning of blue is essential in understanding the Buddhist flag as a whole and the values it represents.


Yellow is the second color from the top of the Buddhist flag. It symbolizes the Middle Way, which is the path between extremes. It signifies the importance of finding balance and moderation in all aspects of life, a central teaching of Buddhism.

In Buddhist art, yellow is often used to depict the skin of deities, representing their luminous and radiant qualities. Yellow is also commonly associated with the Buddha’s monastic robe, which he and his followers wore as a symbol of their renunciation of material possessions.

Yellow is associated with the Ratna, or jewel, which represents the Buddha’s teachings. The Ratna is often depicted as a yellow gem and symbolizes the preciousness and value of the Dharma.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the color yellow is associated with the Ratna family of deities. This family is known for their ability to transform negative emotions and obscurations into positive qualities, such as wisdom and compassion.

Yellow is a critical color in Buddhist symbolism and represents important teachings and qualities. If you’re interested in learning more about Buddhist symbolism, check out our article on the eternal knot in Buddhism meanings.


Red is a significant color in the Buddhist flag, representing the gentle and compassionate heart of Buddha. It symbolizes the essential element of fire and the blessings of practice. Red also indicates love, purity, and protection that the Buddha’s teachings provide.

In Buddhist art, red color is used to depict the meditative and spiritual practices of a being. It signifies the deep profound state of concentration that a practitioner can achieve through meditation. The red color’s intensity can vary from a soft pink hue that represents a loving heart to the fiery-red that symbolizes the energy required for dissolution into emptiness.

The red color is also used to portray the enlightened energy of the Amitabha Buddha, whose pure land is called the Western Paradise in Mahayana Buddhism. The Western Paradise is the land of ultimate bliss and liberation, where the suffering of birth and death does not exist.

Red in the Buddhist flag symbolizes love, fire, purity, protection, and enlightenment. Its usage in Buddhist art represents spiritual practices, deep concentration and Amitabha Buddha’s enlightened energy.

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White is another significant color that can be found on the Buddhist flag. It symbolizes the “pure and perfect teachings of the Buddha,” according to Buddhist tradition. The color also represents the concept of purity, which is essential in many Buddhist practices.

White can be associated with the “Dharma,” which is commonly interpreted as the teachings of the Buddha. The Dharma is believed to be the path that leads to enlightenment and the end of suffering. In this sense, the white color on the Buddhist flag signifies the importance of the teachings of the Buddha in one’s spiritual journey.

Another way that white is interpreted is through the Eightfold Path. This path includes eight distinct elements that a Buddhist must follow in order to achieve enlightenment. The elements were taught by the Buddha as a means of eliminating ignorance and cultivating wisdom. The white color on the flag may represent the final step of the Eightfold Path, which is known as “Right Concentration.” This step involves meditation and achieving a state of deep concentration, which is essential to spiritual awakening.

White on the Buddhist flag represents the pure and perfect teachings of the Buddha, purity, the importance of the teachings of Buddha in one’s spiritual journey, and the final step (Right Concentration) of the Eightfold Path towards enlightenment.


The color orange in the Buddhist flag represents the Saffron robe worn by many Buddhist monastics. This specific shade of orange is also referred to as “ochre” and holds a significant place in Buddhist culture. The Saffron robe represents simplicity, humility, and detachment from material possessions.

The color orange also symbolizes the teachings of the Buddha, which encourage a balanced life and the pursuit of inner peace. The Buddhist teachings focus on the importance of staying mindful, compassionate, and maintaining a peaceful state of mind regardless of the external circumstances.

Additionally, orange is also strongly associated with the element of fire in Buddhism, which represents purification and transformation. Fire is believed to be a symbol of knowledge as it illuminates the path to wisdom and enlightenment.

In many Buddhist traditions, the color orange is also associated with the Chakra system, particularly the second Chakra that is located in the lower abdomen which represents creativity and sensuality. The color orange is believed to help balance this Chakra and awaken one’s creative potential.

To summarize, the color orange holds a significant place in Buddhist culture and is deeply associated with the monastic way of life, the teachings of the Buddha, fire, and the Chakra system. Its presence in the Buddhist flag serves as a reminder of these principles and encourages Buddhists all over the world to stay mindful, compassionate and pursue inner peace.

The Dharmacakra

The Dharmacakra, also known as the Wheel of Dharma, is a significant symbol in Buddhism and is prominently featured on the Buddhist flag. The term “Dharmacakra” is derived from the Sanskrit language, where “Dharma” means law or truth and “Chakra” means wheel or circle.

The Dharmacakra is a symbol of the Buddha’s teachings and represents the Eightfold Path that leads to enlightenment. The Eightfold Path consists of eight practices: Right Understanding, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. These practices are essential to achieving liberation from suffering and ultimately reaching Nirvana.

The Dharmacakra on the Buddhist flag has eight spokes, which represent the Eightfold Path. The spokes of the wheel also symbolize the Buddha’s teachings, which are said to be limitless and reach far and wide, just like the spokes of a wheel.

In addition to the Eightfold Path, the Dharmacakra also represents the cycle of birth, suffering, and rebirth, which is known as Samsara. The Buddha teachings encourage one to break free from Samsara and attain enlightenment by following the Eightfold Path.

The usage of the Dharmacakra is not limited to the Buddhist flag, as it is also featured in many Buddhist temples and artwork. In temples, the Dharmacakra is often found on the walls or ceiling and is used as a representation of the Buddha’s teachings. In artwork, the Dharmacakra is used as an iconic symbol of Buddhism and is often depicted alongside other Buddhist symbols such as the Lotus flower.

The Dharmacakra is a powerful and meaningful symbol in Buddhism, representing the Buddha’s teachings and the Eightfold Path. Its usage on the Buddhist flag highlights the importance of following the Eightfold Path and is a tangible representation of Buddhist teachings for practitioners around the world.

The Usage of the Buddhist Flag

The Buddhist flag has become a symbol of pride for Buddhists all over the world. Its usage can be seen in various forms, serving different purposes.

Religious events
The Buddhist flag is frequently seen during religious events such as Wesak, the day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. Monks and devotees adorn the flag in their homes, temples, and streets to show their respect and devotion towards the religion.

Protests and rallies
The Buddhist flag has also been used as a symbol of protest and unity. In 1963, President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam banned the Buddhist flag and arrested several Buddhist monks and nuns. The Buddhist community responded by using the flag as a symbol of resistance to the regime, and protests against the government gained momentum. Similarly, the flag has also been used in pro-democratic protests in Myanmar and other countries.

Decorative purposes
The Buddhist flag is also used as a decorative item in homes, offices, and even at public places. The flag looks visually appealing because of its vibrant colors and beautifully designed dharma wheel, making it suitable for various decorative purposes.

Marketing and branding
Businesses selling Buddhist-themed products, books, and merchandise also use the Buddhist flag in their marketing and branding strategies. The flag has become synonymous with the Buddhist religion and is used as a quick visual reference for Buddhist-associated products.

As a symbol of peace and compassion
The Buddhist flag is also seen as a symbol of peace and compassion. Buddhist communities have used it to organize peace marches, promote interfaith harmony, and highlight humanitarian causes.

The Buddhist flag has found diverse usage among the global Buddhist community and beyond. It is a powerful representation of Buddhist teachings, values, and culture. Its usage in different arenas of life reflects the growing embrace of Buddhist ideals in the modern world.


In conclusion, the Buddhist flag is a powerful symbol that represents the fundamental principles of Buddhism. It was created as a unifying symbol that could be used to represent the Buddhist faith, and has since become an important symbol of Buddhism worldwide.

The five colors of the flag, blue, yellow, red, white, and orange represent the Five Pure Lights that emanate from the Buddha’s body, which in turn represent the Five Wisdoms. The Dharmacakra at the center of the flag represents the Buddha’s teachings, which offer a path to liberation from suffering.

The Buddhist Flag is not only a symbol of Buddhism but also a symbol of peace, harmony, and unity. It has been adopted by numerous Buddhist organizations around the world, and is often used in Buddhist festivals, ceremonies, and rituals.

Moreover, the Buddhist Flag should be seen as a reminder to practice the Buddha’s teachings of love, compassion, and wisdom. It reminds us that the path to enlightenment is not an easy one but is worth pursuing.

In today’s world, where conflicts and divisions are prevalent, the Buddhist Flag can serve as an important symbol of hope and unity. It reminds us that all beings, regardless of their race, gender, or religion, are fundamentally interconnected and that peace and harmony can be achieved by recognizing and honoring our shared humanity.

Overall, the Buddhist Flag is an important symbol of Buddhism and a representation of the Buddha’s teachings. It inspires us to cultivate love, compassion, and wisdom in our lives and to work towards a world that is free from suffering and full of peace and harmony.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of the Buddhist flag?

The Buddhist flag was first designed in 1885 by a group of Sri Lankan Buddhists led by Henry Steel Olcott. It was to be used as a symbol of the global Buddhist community and was officially adopted in 1952 by the World Fellowship of Buddhists.

What is the significance of the five colours on the Buddhist flag?

The five colours on the Buddhist flag are representative of different aspects of Buddhist philosophy. Blue represents loving kindness, peace and universal compassion; yellow represents the Middle Path, which avoids extremes and encourages balance; red represents the blessings of practice, achievement, wisdom and virtue; white represents purity and liberation; and orange represents the Buddha’s teachings.

What does the blue colour represent on the Buddhist flag?

The blue colour on the Buddhist flag represents loving kindness, peace and universal compassion. It is associated with the Buddha’s qualities of wisdom and openness, which are essential in cultivating a peaceful mind and compassionate heart.

What does the yellow colour represent on the Buddhist flag?

The yellow colour on the Buddhist flag represents the Middle Path, which avoids extremes and encourages balance. It symbolizes the Buddha’s teaching of the Four Noble Truths, which assert that suffering exists, it arises from craving and attachment, it can be overcome, and that the Eightfold Path is the way to end suffering and achieve liberation.

What does the red colour represent on the Buddhist flag?

The red colour on the Buddhist flag represents the blessings of practice, achievement, wisdom and virtue. It symbolizes the Buddha’s teachings on morality, concentration and wisdom, which are necessary for spiritual progress and ultimate enlightenment.

What does the white colour represent on the Buddhist flag?

The white colour on the Buddhist flag represents purity and liberation. It symbolizes the Buddha’s liberation from samsara, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, as well as the pure and luminous nature of the mind and spirit.

What does the orange colour represent on the Buddhist flag?

The orange colour on the Buddhist flag represents the Buddha’s teachings. It symbolizes the Buddha’s wisdom and commitment to truth, as well as the ethical and moral values espoused in his teachings.

What is the Dharmacakra?

The Dharmacakra, also known as the Wheel of Dharma, is an ancient Buddhist symbol that represents the Buddha’s teachings, the Eightfold Path, and the Four Noble Truths. It is typically depicted as a wheel with eight spokes, each representing a different aspect of the Eightfold Path.

What is the usage of the Buddhist Flag?

The Buddhist flag is used as a symbol of the global Buddhist community, as well as a symbol of peace and compassion. It is flown at Buddhist temples and events around the world, and is also used as a symbol of unity and solidarity among Buddhists of all traditions.

Where can I find the Buddhist flag?

The Buddhist flag can be purchased at many Buddhist temples and online retailers. It is also possible to make your own flag using these specifications: the flag should be made up of five horizontal stripes, with the colours blue, yellow, red, white, and orange, from top to bottom. The ratio of the flag’s width to length should be 2:3.

Can non-Buddhists use the Buddhist flag?

Yes, the Buddhist flag is often used as a symbol of peace and compassion by non-Buddhists as well. Its universal qualities and message make it an appealing symbol of unity and harmony.


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