The tree, the wheel, the lotus
Author: AK Coomaraswamy
The tree of life and awakening to liberating knowledge; the lotus flower as the royal throne of the Buddha; the wheel, an ancient solar symbol; the Vajra, thunderbolt-diamond, luminous core of the heart that possesses true knowledge, undisturbed by the changing dance of phenomena. These are the fundamental symbols of Buddhism that Coomaraswamy examines in these pages, in strict adherence to the texts and the rich iconographic repertoire, with the usual immense erudition and a broad metaphysical breath. The book highlights some essential aspects of Buddhist symbology, the most important of which is the impossibility of dividing the aesthetic experience from the religious experience. The images, Coomaraswamy recalls, taken alone and in isolation have no value. Rather, they are a support for contemplation and spiritual realization. It is a question, within the Buddhist tradition, of interiorly realizing what the symbol contains and indicates. In this sense, the image has a fundamental value, as a way to go.