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The Snow lion, (Seng ge), appears on the Tibetan national flag as symbols of Tibet The two lions (in white, with green manes and tails) symbolise the twin system of the temporal and spiritual rule or, in other words, harmony between religious and earthly government. The brave posture of the two snow lions represents the total victory of any action held by the government of the union of spiritual and material powers. The bravery of the lions is suggested by the five prominent lines of their head. – powerful and brave. it is said to be the endorsement of the law. In Buddhism, it is the protector of the temple and other holy palaces, as well as the protector of Buddha Wen Shu, the left side servant of Sakyamuni.

(click to learn the meanings of the other Flag of Tibet Symbols)


For more Lion facts, links, sounds and sights........keep scrolling


His Highness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Terrier 'Senge'

Buddha Shakyamuni is referred to as Lion of the Shakya (his clan) and is therefore depicted seated on the lion throne.  Long before that time (6th-century BCE) the lion had assumed its association with royalty in general, and especially the role of vehicle [Skt. vahana] "familiar" or animal associated with divinity.

From early on, whenever Buddha is shown seated, there are eight lions -- one at each corner of the base or dais -- supporting his lotus throne.



< One of the Ashokan edict pillars.


The lion was once the leader of the procession of constellations, and therefore is considered the King of Beasts. 

Because of the wobbling path of the earth as it moves against the backdrop of the heavens, (recorded as Hamlet's Mill, or in Indian mythology as the Churning of the Sea  of Milk -- the Milky Way)  the first or Spring astrological sign changes every 26 thousand years.  This causes the day of equinox (the couple of days in the year when daylight and night hours are equal) to shift over time, and results in a precession of the equinoxes  Precess means to get closer, to come nearer.

The precession has affected astrology, which would cause any skeptic to further question the validity of contemporary natal-chart interpretation.

Researchers find that around 10, 500 BCE, the pyramids at Gizeh perfectly mirrored the placement of the three belt stars in the constellation Orion.  At that time (early Old Kingdom of Egypt) Leo, the pattern of stars seen as the form of a Lion, was the spring sign.  For people in the northern hemisphere, when the Lion constellation appeared in the night sky, it heralded the cycle of growth.

Some scholars believe that the monumental Egyptian Sphinx once stood at the very edge of the Nile Delta facing the appropriate constellation as it rose.  When there was a correspondence of position, the flooding of the Nile was anticipated.  Today, the sphinx bears a much-too small human head (in proportion to its crouching body) but that may not always have been the case.

Perhaps not all pre-historic peoples viewed that formation of stars as a lion, but when they did, for a long time that animal was associated with the initial steps in fertility of the land.  In Egypt, it was also associated with Osiris, the  deity who was both the culture hero who introduced agriculture, and the one associated with the resurrection of the dead.  


The 4th avatar or form of Lord Vishnu is as Narasimha, the Hindu deity who is part lion, part man. Emerging from a golden pillar, in the form of a giant, Narasimha vanquished the ashuras and subdued their king.

The lion is called simham in Sanskrit.  Today, it is pronounced singh in northern India.  Many Sikhs took this as their surname sometime in the late 17th-century when the synthesis of Hinduism and Islam which is Sikhism emerged as a separate religion entirely.

Vehicle of Goddesses

Qadesh or Qetesh, the Egyptian goddess of love and beauty was generally depicted nude and standing or riding upon a lion holding flowers, or sometimes, a mirror, or snakes. She is one of the rare deities to be depicted full-face (rather than in profile.)  Beloved of Ptah, she is consort of Min and mother of Reshep. That she is a form of the Syrian love/fertility goddess seems obvious for in Semitic languages, her name means "Consecrated."

Anyone observant of the behaviour of lions in the prides, will recognize that the maned, male lion is not the leader as far as hunting goes; the lionesses certainly out-perform him.  And it is the lioness -- in fact, a pair of them -- that are associated with the Great Goddess of very ancient times known in classical times as Kybele (Cybele, pron. Koubili.)  In fact, In a Chariot Drawn by Lions is the title of an important book by A. Long on the subject of goddesses. 

Popular fiction writer, Anne Rice wrote one of her earlier (1993) vampire novels, Queen of the Damned, inspired by this figure. 

Not surprisingly, the lion is one of Durga, the Indian great protector goddess's vahanas (along with the tiger, and the black goat.)

A mythological, turquoise or lapis lazuli blue-maned, white lion known as a snow lion, has become the national symbol of Tibet.  And Achi Chokey Dolma is the protector who rides this lion.  In that way, she is the counterpart of India's goddess, Durga.

It is thought that the ancestors of the Sakyas came from central Asia where, as the Persians have described, the lion still roamed the land.  It may have been their totemic animal.  In any event, it is the animal most often associated with the Buddha in all cultures.  And he himself is often referred to as Lion of the Shakyas.  

There is also the fact of the golden hue of a lion's coat that reminds us of the traditional description of Shakyamuni's complexion.

The Lion's Roar

To Hear a recording of a lion roaring click the arrow

"The Lion's Roar" is a metaphor for the Awakening Doctrine of the Buddha.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche introduced the tantric system to Western students in The Lion's Roar

Karmapa: The Lion Begins to Roar, is a video by Ward Holmes (85 min.) on the first teachings of 17th Karmapa, Urgyen Trinlay Dorje.

Fa-hsien, the Chinese pilgrim who toured India in 400 CE, tells us that at Sarnath where King Ashoka had erected one of his edict pillars, there was living a group of monks.  When a member of an opposing sect questioned their right to live there, the lion emblematic of Buddhism that sits atop the post gave a loud roar which frightened him away. 

"What do you do when the stone lion roars?" is a Zen Buddhist koan.

Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi (Mohammed b. Md. b. Hussain al-Balkhi, 1207-1273) founder of Tassawuf (Sufi) Islamic sect, also made reference to the roar (Feeling the Shoulder of the Lion. Putney, VT: Threshold Press, 1991):  Once a farmer went out on a moonless night to check on an ailing mule.  He could not know that there, in the dark shed where there was no ray of light, a lion had lain down in place of the mule. The farmer unwittingly puts out his hand and, there in the utter darkness, he touches the shoulder of the lion. 

His heart is stirred and he reassuringly pats that shoulder. If he could see what he was doing, he would surely have heart failure. Rumi uses this situation as a metaphor for that mysterious occasional contact that produces a  roaring in us.  As Zen teacher Susan Murphy says, "... to hear it is to be devoured by it, torn free from all habitual familiarity into a familiarity far more profound and terrifying."


In Chinese architecture two lions, often referred to as "lion dogs" or Fo-, ie. Buddha-dogs are placed outside grand residences and institutions as protectors/guardians.  Also known as Shi-shi, one is a male playing with a ball of ribbon, and the other is a female with her cub.  Their mouths are shaped to form, respectively, the mantric sounds AH and HUM.  The golden-red breed of dog known as the Pekinese (named after the capital city of Peking, now Beijing) was developed to resembled those protector lions.  Longhaired cats are sometimes shorn to resemble these guardians. 

pair of 17th-century famille verte guardians bearing incense sticks.

24" entry Fo with pearls in their mouths.

A popular variant of Fo dogs -- those associated with longevity:

a series of antique carpets with lion-dog motifs


Lion-face Dakini

Sakhmet (or Sekhmet) was the lion-headed form of the Egyptian goddess Hathor in her manifestation as destroyer.  In this case, the lioness aspect is considered a solar symbol.  She illuminates the darkest corners, burning out the opposition.

Simhamukha (Tib.: Senge-dongma) tangka at Baikal (Russian) site.  She is bright blue with a white/pink face and green hair.  In this form which derives from the Chakrasamvara cycle, she is not regarded as the embodiment of Guru Padmasambhava.  A practice in which she resembles Vajravarahi was founded by a woman, Jetsun[ma] Lochen.

Simhamukha as queenly form of Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche; with companions dancing on the 6-pointed star of 2 interlocking triangles evocative also, of Vajravarahi.

Line drawing


Lion of Judah

Each of the 12 Tribes of Israel (descendants of the sons of the Hebrew patriarch Jacob) had an emblem.  That of the tribe of Judah was a lion.  Judah was a group whose southern territory included the capital city, Jerusalem where the kings ruled.  The Romans called the united Israel-Judah territory Judea after it, and the Jews received their name from that. 

Ras Tafari took the name Hailie Selassie on becoming first emperor of Ethiopia (1929.)  To emphasize his link with the tradition that the Queen of Sheba (a land thought to be Ethiopian, was a consort of Solomon, King of Israel, he adopted the Lion as his emblem and Lion of Judah as one of his titles.  (Others think Sheba was in Yemen.) The primarily Jamaican, Rastafarian movement takes its name from his, and identifying with the African Biblical tradition, uses that Lion as its symbol.

According to a 19th-century scholar, that Lion is the same as the one on the standard (flag) of the United Kingdom (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.) 

Other Associations

Compassion and Karma

Androcles and the LionFolktale collected by Jacobs. (Androcles means Pride of Man.)


(Daniel 6: 1-28) The protection of God is manifest as the mouths of the ravening beasts are kept closed when Daniel is thrust into the Lions' Den by Darius, King of the Persians. (17th century Peter Paul Rubens' painting.)


The tarot card (Marseilles deck) called La Force meaning, Strength.  It is number 11 of the 22 Major Arcana, an encouraging indication that comes after the midpoint of the symbolic evolution that is the original deck. (The cards begin with the Fool, number 0.)  It is often seen as the triumph of discipline over desire that culminates in the end to rebirth which is what is emphasized by the eternity symbol in the hat. 

Singh: The tenth guru of the Sikhs instituted a “Community of the Pure” into which members are initiated with water stirred by a sword. They adopt the name of Singh and the five K's: (1) Kesh, uncut hair (2) Kangh, a comb (3) Kach, underdrawers  (4)  Kara, the steel bangle of restraint (5) Kirpan, the symbolic sword.

see de Santillana, Giorgio. Hamlet's Mill. 1977.

Full list of Tibetan Flag Symbols

... It is said that the main features of the Tibetan flag were designed in the latter half of the 7th century A.D. by King Srongtsan Gampo, ... The lion emblem first displayed as a war-banner became in time the national flag. The final consolidation of Tibetan independence brought about the addition of the rising sun and the twelve stripes of red and blue, which were introduced by the thirteenth Dalai Lama in 1912...
  • The white triangle at the bottom is a snowy mountain and represents the geographical location of Tibet in the heart of the Asiatic continent.
  • The two lions (in white, with green manes and tails) symbolise the twin system of the temporal and spiritual rule or, in other words, harmony between religious and earthly government.
  • The multicolored round gem (or Wishing Gem) in the lion's paw represents the rule of law based on the endless principle of Cause and Effect 'underlying the Ten Golden Precepts and the Sixteen Humane Principles of Buddhism, which are the source of infinite benefit and peace.'
  • Over the Wishing Gem stand the Three Flaming Jewels symbolising Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, 'endowed with Twenty-Four Transcendental Attributes.' The Three Flaming Jewels are sometimes identified with the body, speech, and mind, ...
  • The golden rising sun symbolizes freedom, happiness, and prosperity.
  • Beginning at the lower hoist and continuing clockwise, there are twelve stripes in red and blue. They stand for the twelve descendants of the six aboriginal tribes of Tibet. The two colors symbolize two guardian deities known as Mar Nag Nyi, who are the special protectors of the flag. Red is for the male deity Chhyo-kong, blue for the female, Sung-ma.
  • "The yellow border is not a mere ornamentation. It indicates the spread of the golden ideals of Buddhism. But, as I was told, the fact that it only covers three sides of the flag is due to a practical observation: the fly of the flag is left free because, when waving, the cloth gets rid of dust or snow.

by Dave Martucci 01 August 1996

From another site, the details are slightly different:

The Tibetan flag was designed by the 13th Dalai-Lama in the beginning of the 20th century. It is based on the traditional flags of the Tibetan regiments. From that time, it has been the official flag of Tibet.

Here is the meaning of the symbols:

  • The proud white mountain, naturally beautiful, in the center of the flag, symbolizes the Land of the great Tibetan Nation. This Land is famous for being surrounded with snowy mountains.
  • The six celeste rays of red light represent the six original Nations of Tibet : Se, Mar, Dong, Tang, Drou, Re.
  • The alternance of red colour for the six nations and blue colour of the sky represents the legitimate ethical behaviour necessary to preserve the government of the union of spiritual and material powers. This union is protected by the two Tibetan tutelary divinities. The first divinity is red, the second is black.
  • The light rays emanating from the sun rising above the peak of the snowy mountain express the spread of freedom, spiritual and material happiness, and prosperity over the whole Tibetan Nation.
  • The brave posture of the two snow lions represents the total victory of any action held by the government of the union of spiritual and material powers. The bravery of the lions is suggested by the five prominent lines of their head.
  • The Three Jewels of Buddhism, with different colours and flashing with beauty and light, evoke the reverence of the Tibetan Nation for the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, which are the three sources of the Refuge.
  • The Jewel of the Whirl of the Joy, with two colours, symbolizes the respect for the principles of the noble tradition. This tradition was stated in the law of the ten virtuous precepts suited to spiritual life and of the sixteen ethical rules suited to non-religious life.
  • The yellow fringe means the development and increase of the Buddha's teachings. They are compared to refined pure gold, in all directions of space and time.

Source : CSPT (Comité de Soutien au Peuple Tibetain) Bulletin Nr. 11, February 96.
Ivan Sache, 08 October 1996

The Tibetan Flag IS illegal in the T.A.R. As is possession of a photograph of the Dalai Lama, for which the punishment is imprisonment. The PRC only refer to the former province of U'Tsang as the Tibet Autonomous Region (T.A.R.) The term "Tibet" itself refers to the three original provinces of U'Tsang, Kham and Amdo (sometimes called Greater Tibet). When the Chinese refer to Tibet, they usually mean the T.A.R., which includes only U'Tsang. Amdo and Kham were renamed by the Chinese as the province of Qinghai, and as parts of Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces, respectively.
Neil Carman, 29 October 1997


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Many Thanks To Khandro For Much of the Buddhist Information In This Site