'Standard' Buddhist Flag
It has blue-yellow-red-white-orange vertical stripes, each 1/6 of the distance from the hoist. The sixth stripe (?) consists of 5 horizontal stripes of the same color starting from the top. The right hand vertical orange stripe merges with the bottom horizontal orange stripe. This is the flag depicted on the FLAG CHART published by Shipmate and authenticated by the Flag Research Center.William Grimes-Wyatt 22 January 1996
The Buddhist flag is a modern creation it was jointly designed by Mr J.R. de Silva and Colonel Henry S. Olcott to mark the revival of Buddhism in Ceylon in 1880. It was accepted as the International Buddhist Flag by the 1952 World Buddhist Congress.
Colonel Olcott designed a flag from the six colours of the aura that he believed shone around the head of the Buddha after His Enlightenment.
signifying the concept of loving kindness and
peace in Buddhism
signifying the Middle Path, that is, the
complete absence of form and emptiness
signifying achievement, wisdom, virtue, fortune
4. White: signifying purity, emancipation, that the Dharma will always exist
regardless of time or space.
The essence of Buddhism which is full of
wisdom, strength and dignity.
6. The combination of these five colors symbolizes that it is the one and only
The sixth colour is a conglomeration of the five, but for the design, it has been separated into its constituent colours.
The colonel's flag later came to symbolize the unity of Buddhists. Thereafter, it has been used worldwide and has been used in nearly 60 countries during Buddhist festive seasons, particularly during the Vesak celebrations.
Colonel Olcott was one of the greatest American Buddhists who dedicated his later life entirely to the people of Asia. He is known as the father of the Buddhist education movement since he initiated the establishment of close to 400 Buddhist schools and colleges in Sri Lanka.On Importance of Flags in Buddhism
"FLAG is a recurring item of buddhist cult, dangling from the ceiling or temples' columns inside, or from a pole outside. Flags represent Buddha's virtues and mark out for him, in the same manner the military flags signalize the army's chief; flags also stand guard at Buddha's pictures. Buddhist scriptures list five types of flags: lion's, Makara monster's, dragon's, Garuda bird's, bull's. Flag is a traditional offering to Buddha by the devouts, together with flowers and incense. At the same time flag represents the virtues of Buddha and the virtues the devout wants to obtain, therefore flag has a very important ritual meaning: it can prolong devout's life in order to let him/her increases his/her merits. This is the case of Indian Emperor Asoka (272-231 B.C.) who lived 12 years more after a serious illness so he could build new other reliquaries (stupa). A flag dangling into a temple at the moment of a devout's death, adds merits to him/her and even makes him/her be born again in on of Buddha's paradises. In fact flags are ornaments of famous Buddha Amithaba's paradise. In Tantric Buddhism adepts' head is touched by a flag, as it was an unction."
from "Enciclopedia delle Religioni", Garzanti, Milano 1989 (Italian translation of "Knaurs grosser Religion Führer", München 1986)
Giuseppe Bottasini 3 December 1994
Many people, including Buddhists, believe that their flag dates back to the time of Dutugamunu (second-century BC). In fact, the flag was invented in 1880 by an American journalist, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott. Olcott was a fascinating character. A former soldier and lawyer, he set up the Theosophical Society of New York. He arrived in Sri Lanka with the renowned spiritualist Madame Blavatsky on 17 February 1880 - a day which was subsequently celebrated as Olcott Day in independent Sri Lanka. He founded the Buddhist Theosophical Society, devised a Buddhist catechism, encouraged Buddhist versions of Christmas carols and cards, and inspired the founding of Buddhist schools and and the YMBA - the Young Mens Buddhist Association. There are six colours in the flag, but the human eye can see only five. They are described in the Scriptures as emanating from the aura around the Buddha's head. There are 5 vertical stripes of red, yellow, blue, white and orange. The sixth colour is a compound of the first 5, but for design purposes its five ingredients are all shown in small horizontal stripes on the fly.
Olcott felt that local Buddhists in Sri Lanka needed a symbol to rally around. His flag acheived that: it became the emblem of the international Buddhist movement and is flown today worldwide in Buddhist buildings and at Buddhist celebrations. When he died in 1907, Olcott's body was shrouded in both the Buddhist and American flags before his cremation.