Yesterday marked the 125th anniversary of the creation of the Buddhist International Flag, which was designed by the Colombo Committee in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Members of the committee, including the Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera and Don Carolis Hewavitharana, both pioneers of the Buddhist revival movement in Sri Lanka, wanted to choose a design that represented the unity and underlying faith of the international Buddhist communiy.

 

They chose to design the flag around the six colors that are said to have emanated from the Buddha’s body after he achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree: blue, signifying lovingkindness and peace; yellow, representing the Middle Path; red, for the blessings of practice; white, for the purity of the Dharma; and orange, for the essence of Buddha’s teachings or wisdom. Originally the flag was long and thin, reminiscent of a ship’s flag. Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, the co-founder of the Theosophical Society and a pioneer of Buddhism in the West, suggested that the committee adjust the design to reflect the standard size and shape of national flags and the suggestion was quickly heeded. The modified flag was first hoisted on Vesak day in 1886 and adopted in 1950 by the World Fellowship of Buddhists. To learn more about the flag, click here. The bottom stamp image, which includes the flag and an image of Olcott, can be found here along with other Buddhist flag stamps.

Temple
Dharma to your inbox

Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters