We got an e-mail from Carl, living in Singapore, asking us about the meaning of the Swastika he saw on a Buddhist Statue;
“Please help me to understand what the swastika on Lord Buddha’s chest represents.”
Thanks for your inquiry about the “Buddhist Swastika.” This is a question that many people have asked us. And no, The Buddha was NOT a Nazi, in case you are wondering.
You may not know this, but the Swastika is a symbol that is AT LEAST 2,000 years old, and in both Buddhism and Hinduism, it means “may you prosper and have good fortune.”
In fact, in my home country of Thailand (which was heavily influenced by Buddhist and Hindu culture and borrows much formal language from Sanskrit and Pali), when we greet someone, we say “Sawasdee Kha.” In essence, we say “Swastika” to you when we want to say “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon.” In fact to NOT say “Swastika” would be considered very rude in Thailand!!!
I know that must sound strange to you, because the Swastika is so commonly associated with evil in the West. But for centuries it has been used as a “good luck symbol” throughout the world, and not just in Buddhist and Hindu countries; Many of the ancient civilizations in South America and Native American tribes used some form of the swastika, and strangely enough, they almost all used it as a benevolent symbol.
It is truly unfortunate that in the Twentieth Century it was corrupted by the Nazi party in Germany. However, you should think of it as the same way the Christian crucifix (or cross) was corrupted by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. And just as Christian churches should not be prevented from displaying the cross with pride due to the actions of certain hate groups, Buddhists and Hindus should be allowed to display the Swastika with pride as well. That is why you will find the Buddhist Swastika on statues and painted along the walls of Buddhist and Hindu temples.
Thanks again and I hope this helps. And, of course, “Sawasdee Kha!”