Seated Buddha with Swastika, Panjiayuan Market

I’ve thought a lot about this image since I took it six years ago at the Panjiayuan Market.

I knew before coming to China that the Nazi party had adapted/adopted the Swastika for their needs, but had never before seen one out of that context. This was my first exposure. (My second came in Taiwan when I saw some temples emblazoned  with it.)

In editing the photo today, I though about whether I should leave it in color, or really crop-in tightly on the statue of the Buddha. I decided to go with black and white, and stay with pretty much how I shot it, since I thought the context was important… just a piece amongst other pieces at the market for sale.

After a lot of searching, I found this page on the difference between the various swastikas:

The swastika sign (卐) – a symbol of Buddhism or Nazism?

I found this quote on the page referenced above:

Mind is the forerunner of (all evil) states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with wicked mind, because of that suffering follows one, even as the wheel follows the hoofs of the draught-ox.

Mind is the forerunner of (all good) states. Mind is chief, mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with pure mind, because of that, happiness follows one, even as one’s shadow that never leaves.

The Twin Verses, Dhammapada

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6 comments

  1. my friend has a lot of buddhist calendars and artwork and some of them have the swastika symbol — plus there’s this chant radio that is always on that has the symbol on it as well.

    at first it really freaked me out but i have come to understand that the symbol pre-dates WWII and is part of many of the buddhist images. it’s unfortunate that it means what it means today….

    the Buddhist symbol is a different direction and isn’t tilted, so there is that i guess….

    1. I think the link I included above does a good job of explaining the differences. I was really surprised by a lot of it… even basic stuff like the name Swastika wasn’t German but based on Sanskrit, and that the Germans called it something else entirely.

      The information seems readily available, I’m somewhat sadden that more of an effort hasn’t been made to differentiate these symbols and their connotations.

      1. it makes sense that the Nazis would take a symbol of wholeness and flip it in the way they did for their delusional sense of life…they used myths, symbols, etc. in such distorted ways and justified their actions in equally distorted ways. it is important to realize the original meaning of the symbol, a life giving one.

  2. what a wonderful post…so different than the duck boats that you posted yesterday. great to have such different experiences. i like the photo in black and white and the information on the swastika. i learned that the word means “to be good”. also, the discussion about mind (today i was listening to something distinguishing the brain from the mind. the image of the swastika as symbol of the buddha’s heart is very beautiful. thank you for such a fine photo and interesting references.

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