India Embeds Emblem with Buddhist Meanings on Moon's Surface

The Buddhist Channel, 24 August 2023

New Delhi, India -- In a remarkable achievement, on August 23, 2023, the Chandrayaan-3 probe successfully became the first spacecraft to land near the lunar south pole, solidifying India's position as the fourth nation to achieve a lunar landing. The soft touchdown of Chandrayaan-3 marks a monumental milestone for the country, propelling it into the exclusive moon-landing club.

The significance of this extraordinary event was underscored by India's national emblem being imprinted on the lunar surface. The emblem of choice was the Lion Capital of an Ashokan pillar, reflecting the nation's commitment to ancient values of peace and tolerance. This emblem, adopted on January 26, 1950, along with the motto "Satyameva Jayate," derived from the Mundaka Upanishad, which translates to "truth always triumphs."

For Buddhists, this event carries profound implications as it signifies the imprinting of a human-made symbol representing Buddha's teachings onto an extraterrestrial domain for the very first time. But what exactly does this symbol represent?

Design & Significance

At first glance, the emblem features four majestic lions, each facing one of the cardinal directions. These lions symbolize power, courage, pride, and confidence. Rooted in Mauryan symbolism, the lions embody the "power of a universal emperor (chakravarti) who dedicated all his resources to the victory of dharma." By adopting this symbolism, modern India pledges to uphold equality and social justice across all aspects of life..

Sitting atop a cylindrical abacus, the emblem is adorned with intricate depictions of a horse, bull, lion, and elephant in high relief. While some art historians propose that these animals symbolize different stages of Buddha's life, others argue that they represent Ashoka's rule in the four quarters of the world. The open-mouthed lions facing various directions suggest the proclamation of Buddha's message to the world..

The Wheel with 24 Spokes: Ashok Chakra / Dharmachakra

The animals are interspersed with chakras featuring 24 spokes. This prominent Buddhist symbol, also found on the National Flag, signifies Buddha's concepts of the passage of time. Dharma (virtue), according to this belief, is eternal and constantly changing, characterized by unbroken continuity. The 24 spokes align with the 24 qualities of a Buddhist follower, as delineated by Buddha in his sermons..

These 24 qualities encompass attributes like love, courage, patience, peace, magnanimity, and more, reflecting the essence of Buddhist teachings..

The Lion Capital at Sarnath

The Lion Capital originally formed a part of the pillar commissioned by Ashoka, the great emperor of the Mauryan dynasty. Following the devastating Kalinga War, where over 100,000 lives were lost, Ashoka turned to Buddhism for solace. His pillar at Sarnath, where he is believed to have delivered his first sermon outlining the "Four Noble Truths," exemplifies the intertwining of Buddhism with the political landscape of the era..

Ashoka's administration championed social justice, compassion, non-violence, and tolerance. He codified laws based on Buddha's teachings, inscribing them on columns across his empire. These edicts focused on social and moral principles inherent to Buddhist beliefs rather than the religious aspects.

The Sarnath pillar, therefore, holds a profound historical significance, reflecting the fusion of Buddhism's essence with the governance and values of an empire.

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