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 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 with one finger pointing above, and one below

St Paul points above
From the statue of St Paul in the San Giovanni in Laterno, Rome
St Paul indicating below in Rome
St Paul indicating below in 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. On each of the four walls was the Dharma Wheel, a typical Buddhist symbol, but next to it was this:

Window with symbol of consciousness
The four leaf clover shape is very common in Catholic Churches

This symbol will be familiar to anyone living in a country that suffers Christianity for its primary religion. The X cross is obviously recognisable, but also look at the outer working of the bubble-patterned shape, akin to a four-leafed clover. It is often used for windows in churches like this stained-glass piece of a Catholic Church in Argentina.

Catholic Church window in Argentina
Catholic Church window in Argentina

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.

Interlocking circles that form the beginnings of the flower of life

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…

Spiral symbol
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 design on a Catholic Chruch in Napoli

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?

ancient pottery with the spiral symbol
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.

The 8-pointed star is found in every church
The 8-pointed star is found in every church

This image is so familiar to me by now – and I have at least a dozen examples of 8-pointed stars in various designs – that I have stopped photographing it in European Churches and unbelievably cannot find exact replica – although I am certain I have seen the same design scores of times. When I get back to Europe, I will find one and update this article.

In the meantime, perhaps you can find a mirror image in your local church. Let’s call it your homework! For now this alternative example of an 8-pointed star from the Duomo in Naples will have to suffice.

A representation of the 8-pointed star
A representation of the 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 more easier.

What you have to appreciate however, is that organsied 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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