In the earliest centuries of Tibetan, statues of the Buddha were not used. Instead, Tibetan art consisted of images symbolizing the Buddha and his teachings, such as the lotus, the Wheel of the Law, the Bodhi tree and the Buddha's footprints. Eventually, the Buddha image became one of the most popular representations in Buddhism, but these early symbols remain important and are frequently used to this day. They are especially important in Theravada Tibetan countries like Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Given the association of Tibetan with the meditating monk, one might well assume that Buddhism emphasizes practices over beliefs. It is true that right practices are important in Tibetan, but the faith really centers on correct understanding of human nature and ultimate reality. The Buddha, after all, was called the "Enlightened One." After he became enlightened, he taught that the way to eliminate suffering begins with understanding the true nature of the world. However, the Buddha considered knowledge important only insofar as it remains practical. He rejected speculation about such matters as God, the nature of the universe, and the afterlife, urging his followers to focus instead on the Four Noble Truths by which they can free themselves from suffering.
Tibetan symbolism was enriched by the cultures it came into contact with. This is especially true of Buddhism in Tibet, which has developed a rich symbolic tradition. The Eight Auspicious Symbols are printed on Tibetan prayer flags, incorporated into mandalas and thangkas, and used in other forms of ritual art. Another important symbol is the Wheel of Life, a symbolic representation of the universe as understood by Tibetan Tibetans.
Tibetan Artwork is an extension of mastery of metal. Large and round, made of beads and gold and silver, their jewelry repertoire ranges from necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and rings. In these items they carry portable holy vestments. Amulets are a common Tibetan accessory to ward off evil and to bring forth the good spirit. Pendants are also deity-inspired and adorned with turquoise, corals and pearls. Other important types of symbolism in Tibetan include colors, especially the five colors of white, yellow, red, blue and green, and symbolic hand gestures called mudras. The articles in this section explore these Tibetan symbols, providing information on their history, meaning and use in Tibetan today.