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Tibetan Buddhist flags in other countries

Last modified: 2014-05-29 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: buddhism | tibet | nepal | bhutan | india |
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Buddhist flags in Nepal

Flag seen on monasteries of Tibetan schools:

[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
imageby Tomislav Todorović, 16 February 2014

This flag can be see hanging out across Nepal in the monasteries of Tibetan schools. This flag would seem from the filename to be a type of Buddhist flag used in Nepal *and* India. Here the saffron is replaced with a plum color.
Eugene Ipavec, 27 June 2005


Karmapa's Dream Flag

[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
image by Ivan Sarajcic, 7 November 2005

This is the dream flag created by the late XVIth Karmapa, a major Tibetan master of the Karma-Kagyupa school. He explains how he created it and his meaning here: http://www.dharma-haven.org/dream-flag.htm
He explained thus:
At the level of relative truth, the blue is the sky (heaven), symbolizing spiritual insight and vision, and the yellow is the earth, the actual world of our everyday experience. The symmetry of the wave pattern shows how we come to understand their interdependence when we practice the dharma.  As a reminder of absolute truth, the blue symbolizes the wisdom, or emptiness aspect of awakened being, while the yellow stands for the compassion aspect. The wavy intermingling of the two colors represents their inseparability. The interdependence shown in the flag can also be seen as the wisdom of Mahamudra, the ultimate realization of ones true nature.
Eugene Ipavec, 30 June 2005


Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism

[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
imageby Tomislav Todorović, 16 February 2014

[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
image by Tomislav Todorović, 16 February 2014

The tricolor white-blue-red with the yellow disk may be the flag of the Sakya school of the Tibetan Buddhism. We can see the tricolor with (or not) the yellow circle on these websites :
http://www.sakyadokhocholing.org/
http://paldensakya.org.in/sakya.html
http://www.sakyatemple.org/
I didn't find any explanation of the flag.
Corentin Chamboredon, 20 May 2007

This flag is indeed used by the Sakya school, but in more than one variant. The disc may also be red and visibly smaller, as shown in this photo from the Tharlam Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal:
The monastery was built in 1981 as the refounding of the same-named 15th-century Tibetan monastery which was destroyed in 1959: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tharlam_Monastery
Shade of red, as well as that of blue, may vary, as shown in another photo from the same site.
However, the variant which seems to be used the most has a large orange disc, in the same shade as used on the basic variant of Buddhist flag, which is also much used by Tibetan Buddhists in Nepal, in the Tharlam Monastery at least, being shown in many photos from the site and enabling the color comparison:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/6936771206/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/4747563069/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/2085391393/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/8363601838/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/5830007412/
There is also a variant with small orange disc, as shown in other photos from the same site:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/4578700749/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/4410635842/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/2071822927/

Flag with large orange disc:
[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
image by Tomislav Todorović, 16 February 2014

Flag with small orange disc:
[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
image by Tomislav Todorović, 16 February 2014

Finally, there is also a variant with large red disc, as shown in this photo from the same site, which also the flags with large yellow, orange or red discs used together:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane/8228294235/
Note the use of Buddhist flag with orange bottom stripe, which contains all three colors used for the discs, thus enabling the color comparison.

Flag with large red disc:
[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
image by Tomislav Todorović, 16 February 2014

In all the above cases, shades of red and blue seem to vary a lot. This, just like the varying colors and sizes of the disc, seems to have no significance.
Tomislav Todorović, 16 February 2014

Most of these flags were probably hand-made, and without any standard regulation about the size and colors, so I think too it is not really important.
I have to say, though, that Sakya school has two sub-schools, namely Ngor and Tsar (sometimes written Tshar). Maybe, but I doubt it, those flags represent those different sub-schools.
Corentin Chamboredon, 16 February 2014

Since all the cited sources are from the same monastery, we'd need more sources to prove this, from at least one monastery which belongs to the other sub-school - or even better, from several monasteries, some belonging to one sub-school and some to the other.
Tomislav Todorović, 17 February 2014


Tagong monastery

[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
imageby Tomislav Todorović, 16 February 2014

Here is still another version of the Sakyapa flag. It has a big orange circle, with the "Sa" Tibetan letter (ས) in white inside. The place seems to be the Tagong monastery, in Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Sichuan province, China. The photos were taken in 2009.
Sources: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamsphotos/3800470092/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamsphotos/3800473912/
Corentin Chamboredon, 05 March 2014

There are also a number of plain tricolor flags (no disc) on the same photos.
Tomislav Todorović, 06 March 2014

Indeed, but as I had already reported such flags, I didn't think it was necessary to report them too. There were apparently only one flag with the Sa letter at this event, all the other being discless.
Corentin Chamboredon, 06 March 2014


Ngorchen Kungpa Zangpo monastery

[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
imageby Tomislav Todorović, 16 February 2014

My wording was misleading: apart the main branch of the Sakya school, there are two sub-schools.
Sources: http://www.thlib.org/places/monasteries/list/sakya/ and http://www.himalayanart.org/pages/sakyamonasteries/index.html
The Ngorchen Kungpa Zangpo monastery (Ngor school) has a flag with a small yellow circle.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamyang190/6781211777/lightbox/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamyang190/6302665488/
Corentin Chamboredon, 18 February 2014

Sa-Ngor Chotshog Center

[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
image by Tomislav Todorović, 18 February 2014

The Sa-Ngor Chotshog Center has apparently a flag with no circle at all. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_CFTkyF5GhPs/TMPeCLVO4qI/AAAAAAAAAQM/DRPIDJ97O7Q/s1600/File0363.JPG
http://sikkimandbeyond.blogspot.fr/2010/10/sa-ngor-chotshog-centre-sikkim-india.html
Corentin Chamboredon, 18 February 2014

Sakya monastery of Seattle

[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
image by Corentin Chamboredon and Tomislav Todorović, 18 February 2014

The Sakya monastery of Seattle use a different flag in at least one instance: it has a red field with a yellow dharmachakra (wheel of dharma / law). I have no idea of its meaning. http://www.flickr.com/photos/20108103@N00/2035000500/in/photostream/
It also uses the Sakya flag with a big orange circle. http://www.flickriver.com/photos/wonderlane/sets/72157628580458427/
Corentin Chamboredon, 18 February 2014

Sakya Tsechen Association

The Sakya Tsechen Association uses a logo made of the Sakya flag with big yellow circle and the word Tsechen (Wylie : "brtse tshen") in red Tibetan script. http://www.tsechen.org/
http://static.wixstatic.com/media/171b1f_fce36d3285d642b3aa12ac59406c9b54.png
Corentin Chamboredon, 18 February 2014


Shechen monastery's centennial flag

[Buddhist flag on monasteries of Tibetan schools in Nepal]
image by Corentin Chamboredon, 20 April 2014

Here is a flag used by a monastery of the Nyingmapa school. It was apparently used for the centennial of the birth of late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991) by Shechen Monastery, Nepal, in February, 2010. This monastery received the name of one of the main monastery of the Nyingmapa school which had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution before Dilgo Khyentse rebuilt it in 1985.
The flag has a light blue field. In the center, there is a white circle with a white rabbit watching at the fly side. Beneath the circle, there are six black or dark blue lines, of increasing width as they get closer of the lower side. Concerning the rabbit, another name wore by Dilgo Khyentse was Rabsel Dawa ("Brilliant Moon"). As in China and Japan, Tibetans see a rabbit in the moon.
Sources:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/62830439@N06/5794521143
https://www.flickr.com/photos/marc-p-1970/6593198397/sizes/o/in/photostream/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurekschreiner/5158921992/sizes/l/in/photostream/
http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Dilgo_Khyentse_Rinpoche
I think, but I'm not sure, that this monastery also used a yellow flag with the red silhouette of the emblem which appears on Nyingmapa school flag.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/marc-p-1970/6583049035/sizes/o/in/photostream/
Corentin Chamboredon, 20 April 2014


Tibetan Buddhist Flag (in India)

[Tibetan Buddhist flag]
image by Tomislav Todorović, 14 November 2010

Tibetan Buddhist flag in Dharamsala, India
A flag hoisted over a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Dharamsala, India, was photographed on 2008-02-19 and posted at Flickr (link broken): www.flickr.com/photos/mattlinden/4100349775/.
The colors were blue, white, green, yellow and red; in the "combination color" field, this order was changed, with yellow  and red swapping places. As in the case of Japanese Buddhist flags, the colors certainly represent five Dhyani Buddhas, whose worshipping is the most pronounced in Tibetan Buddhism.
Tomislav Todorović, 14 November 2010


Mahakala's flag

[Mahakala's flag]
image by Ivan Sache

Mahakala (a.k.a. the Great Black Lord) is an important boddhisattva in Tibetan Buddhism. A boddhisattva reached the state of Buddha, but willingly decided to birth again in the real life (Samsara) to help the other forms of life on their way to liberation from pain. Boddhisatvas are specific of the so-called Mahayana ('to help the others', Great Vehicle) Buddhism, as opposed to the original Theravada ('not to harm anyone', Small Vehicle).
Among the three forms of the Awaken Spirit, Mahakala/Avalokiteshvara represents the Boddhisatva of Compassion. To make the things even more difficult, each boddhisatva may appear under two expressions, one peaceful and one incensed. Mahakala is incensed. He rides a tiger or a snow lion and trample underfoot a human or animal representation of the ego. He stands for the force which destroys the illusion obstructing the access to awakening.
Mahakala is represented by a small statue in one of the temples of the monastery of Shey (Ladakh). Interestingly, the statue is 'charged' with several flags directly pinned into the deity's head. The flags are dark green pennants with a red border and a white eye in the middle - I guess to symbolize the awakening.
I saw several representations of Mahakala in Ladakhi and Zanskari monasteries - he is probably the deity easiest to identify and usually painted inside the temples over the entrance door, as a protecting deity. Anyway, he was decorated with flags only in Shey temple.
Ivan Sache, 31 August 2001


Drukpa tradition, Bhutan

[Drukpa tradition]
image by Corentin Chamboredon, 2 April 2007

This flag is used by Tibetan refugees living in Darjeeling. It is called the Drukpa flag. So far it is used only as a print image. Upper half: dark blue with yellow prayer wheel in upper right corner with three Tibetan characters in its center. Lower half: red with a Buddhist symbol of eternity in the lower left corner. Middle: a dragon, very similar to the Bhutanese dragon (also with apples in its claws).
Roman Kogovsek, 11 July 2005

This is the flag of the Drukpa tradition of the Kagyupa school, which is the main one in Bhutan and in several areas of Kham. The website of the lineage explains this:
    "The flag was designed by H.H. the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa. The color BLUE symbolizes Chakrasamvara, the principal male deity of the Drukpa lineage and a representation of Great Compassion. The color RED symbolizes Vajra Yogini, the principal female deity of the Drukpa lineage and a representation of Great Wisdom. The DHARMA WHEEL with Druk written in Tibetan represents the teaching of the Universal Truth being spread by the Drukpa or the Dragon lineage. The AUSPICIOUS KNOT represents the heart-essence of Bodhicitta. And the WHITE DRAGON represents the yogic lineage of the Drukpa."
Source: http://www.drukpa.com/drukpa_lineage/drukpa_lineage_main.htm
Corentin Chamboredon, 2 April 2007

A look: http://www.drukpa-germany.com/?page_id=256
Jens Pattke, 15 March 2014

See also:


Glorious Jewel Center

[Drigung-Kagyü]
image by Corentin Chamboredon, 20 April 2014

Here is a flag from the Drigung-Kagyü subschool of Tibetan buddhism. It is used by buddhist centers in Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Macau and Japan.
The flag has a blue field. Near the upper border, there is the Hung symbol of the school (a red sun inside a white moon, with a blue Hung syllable). Beneath it come two lines of text, each of them are the name of the center. The first one is white in traditional Chinese characters: 寶吉祥. The second is smaller, red and in Tibetan letters: རཏྣ་ཤྲྰི་ཆོས་ཚོགས (wylie: ratna chos tshogs ; ratna is the sanskrit word for jewel). Near the lower hoist, there is the logo of the center in white and red : the silhouette of three flaming jewels, surrounded by flames, and wrapped in silk.
I have to say that the first Chinese character is not the traditional but the simplified one, because for some reason it kept its basic look whichever font I used. The differences are minor, so I kept the simplified character instead.
Sources:
http://www.gloje.org/en/
http://www.gloje.org/en/wp-content/gallery/2008DKIWinterPuja/2008DKIWinter_39_2008_1114_144331.jpg
http://www.gloje.org/en/wp-content/gallery/20130224-25_long_life_puja_in_dehra_dun/Gloje_Photo_20130224_019.JPG
http://www.gloje.org/en/wp-content/gallery/20130224-25_long_life_puja_in_dehra_dun/Gloje_Photo_20130224_027.JPG
http://www.gloje.org/en/wp-content/gallery/20130224-25_long_life_puja_in_dehra_dun/Gloje_Photo_20130224_028.JPG
Corentin Chamboredon, 20 April 2014

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