25) Universal Symbols

The whole world scriptures are filled with many a symbol. There is not even one field of wisdom that does not use a symbol. A symbol is always interwoven in the form of a parable or allegory. Only when one knows the in-depth usage of symbols, can they actually explore those wisdom branches in a proper way. Say for example, one finds the symbol of ‘snake’ or ‘Circle’ in the Veda, Purana, Egyptian book of Dead, Bible, etc. Unless one knows the symbol of snake/circle, they will misunderstand the import. So, in this article, let us explore some of the symbols used in ancient scriptures. My goal is to provide hints on how to decode some of the universal symbols.


What we perceive from the world is information of knowledge. When the knowledge is processed and is made part of us, it becomes wisdom. When we want to share this wisdom, we often face difficulty in conveying “effectively“. This is because, we often tend to share the wisdom using “words of general language” or “gestures of hands” and they are often tend to be less effective. Our modern languages are very linear in their expression. If we have a thought, we tend to put in words and for one thought, we use many a paragraph. But, it would be very beneficial to discover a mechanism that can convey much more using very less of our energy. 

The ancients found such a neat and effective mechanism to convey the wisdom. That mechanism involves using a substitute that can help the perceiver perceive what we want to convey, without any loss of information. This substitute is called a SYMBOL. The losses are minimum when the symbols are “Universal” in their application. Here, Universal implies, no matter the time and space, a human when provided with this symbol, should be able to decode the inner essence by the very aspects of that symbol. For example, a human of 1000 years ago or of modern age will know that the symbol of egg-hen is intimately connected with the concept of ‘cycles’ or ‘that which has no start or end’. So, instead of writing volumes and volumes on this concept, if one substitutes with this symbol, then the meaning and all associated concepts are understood. That is why it is Universal. But if I were to use a symbol like “Saree – a dress of India”, it is not universal. One can not understand beyond the region in which this entity is used.

So, the ancient scriptures are all filled with “Universal Symbols” and hence the wisdom collections (which are brought down to books over the time) belong to “Humanity” rather than particular region. And when one can unlock these wisdom branches with the keys of symbols, then one can see the ONE TRUTH permeating all the scriptures.


  • Preamble: The whole universe and our own selves arise from the vastness as an individual entity. Just like from a vast cloud, many rain drops arise, we too arise from the depths of the Universal background. Take a black board for example: As long as you do not mark a point, the whole board is potential to have many points on it. But the moment you mark a point with a chalk, that forms the “Birth” of the point – The individual SELF and also the Universal EGG.
  • Geometrical Point: Point is one of the foremost of the symbols that forms a fundamental unit in Geometry. Geometry is nothing but your way to analyze the perceivable world. A point as such is incomprehensible, but all the geometrical figures are made of points! Can you imagine a point? If you can, then that means you can “measure” it (at least in the thoughts). But a point is always “Smaller than the smallest”. But, to proceed further, one must start at a point. So, a point often represents the “START”, “Un-perceivable aspects” and the “building bricks” of this creation.
  • Individual Point: A point also represents your inner self. Can you locate your inner self? When you locate, you will be said to be “Liberated”. That self is in its symbolism a POINT. Every thing originates from your “SELF” – the “I AM” in you. So, a point always forms a “CENTER” of observation. And this is called BINDU or PRAṆAVAṂ or OM in Vedas and Tantras. Everything culminates in the point aswell – When you sleep or leave the physical abode, what happens? The totality – PŪRṆAM becomes a zero – PŪRṆAM (this is what is poclaimed by the famous vedic mantra “Pūrṇamadah Pūrṇamidam Pūrṇaṃ….”). So, a point is a ZERO as well as TOTALITY! Though zero gives us a sense of non-existing, yet zero exists and a point exists. Just that “we” do not exist to perceive it when we are it, and hence the paradox.
  • Circle: A point always means, a set of circles are potentially ready to manifest around it. So, a point forms a center of each of such a circle. Similarly, the awakening of a point of EGG of the self implies that the whole creation forms a circle around the center of the SELF. Thus, we will have a relation to our horizon (circle of observation) and our inner self. This is called “Pi” by the ancient spiritual mathematicians –  the relation that relates a center (self), radius (means of linking to the surroundings) and the circumference of a circle (the surroundings).
  • Example of SUN: That is why, in astrology the symbol of a SUN is given by “☉” – union of a point and a circle. Knowing that the inner- SUN is verily our ATMA, the symbolism can be greatly appreciated! Thus, when ever a seer wants to convey the information of either our inner-self relating to the external world or the SUN relating to our lives, etc., they will just use this symbol and all these associated meanings are to be linked. 

Thus we see a point and circle are not merely a pair of figures for fun, but form a pair of compact symbols that can unveil the truths hidden

2) SWAN:

A swan is a bird that has a very majestic look. It is white, has long neck and a beautiful walking style. It is often associated in our scriptures with many deities and aspects. Let us look at few of them:

  • As OM: Swan is known by the name “Hamsa” in Sanskrit. By some grammar rules of reversing: Haṃsaḥ = Ham + Saḥ = Saḥ + Haṃ = So + HAṂ = ‘Sohaṃ’. This sohaṃ is known as “meditation of breath”. So, a Swan is often associated with breath. Breathing in is represented (can also be heard at the tip of nose) by the sound “SO” and breathing out is represented (can be heard in the throat) by the sound “HAṂ”. When the consonants “S” and “HA” are removed (because vowels alone constitute the inner essence and the consonants constitute just the externalization of these inner properties – for more details look at Lalita Sahasranama (Introduction)) what remains is “OM”. Thus, we see that our breath is nothing but manifestation of OM or PraṆava. And this is verily represented by SWAN – HAMSA.
  • As Buddhi: A swan is often associated with the allegory that it can separate milk from water. In this allegory, milk is white and hence “pure wisdom” while the water dilutes it and hence is “pure ignorance”. So, the symbol of using swan always suggests the ability and priority of humans to use their “power of discrimination” which is called as buddhi. Unless one uses this ability, they will be forever entangled in the chain actions of Karma. Thus, a swan is the very symbol that gives us freedom from the bondage of karma.
  • As Bridge: The vehicle of goddess Saraswati is Swan. Saraswati means a continuous flow (of wisdom). Previously we stated that swan implies the breath. Here, we go one step further. An inhalation is symbolic to Goddess saraswati dissolving into his Father- Brahma, while an exhalation is symbolic to HER being uttered from Brahma. Thus, SHE – the goddess of wisdom of this Universe, comes into the creation and goes back on the vehicle of this SWAN. Thus, a swan represents our ability to bring HER into our planes of consciousness (through prescribed processes – Saraswati Vidya, etc.)! 

Thus we see a Swan, not as mere bird of beauty, but as the very breath and the mantra of veda – the OM!

3) An EGG:

  • Creative EGG: The globe of Universe is called as “Brahmāṃḍa” in Sanskrit. It means “an Egg of Creation”. An individual self is known as “Piṃḍāṃḍa”, meaning “an egg of an individual”. Why egg though? Because of its nearly spherical shape (in relation to Universe) and also the nature of egg giving rise to a chick. The Universal egg always gives rise to many entities inside it – Galaxies, stars, Suns, Planets, etc. An individual egg gives rise to many of our characteristics – our likes, dislikes, thoughts, senses, etc. For all these reasons, they are associated with “EGG”.
  • Cyclic EGG: An egg also represents a perpetual state – that which has no start and an end. So also this creation or our Ātman – It has neither beginning nor an End. Also, from the egg of a hen, a hen alone comes and from a human, human alone comes. Similarly, from the egg of the GOD, GOD alone should come. That is why we say all the creation is verily HE – “Viśvāṃ Vishṇu” and so each individual and all the matter that surrounds us is permeated by the LORD.
  • Evolutionary EGG: The shell of an EGG is very necessary for the development of a chick. If the shell were not there, the chick would not grow. But if the shell were not broken by it, the chick would die. So, for its proper evolution and growth the shell is very necessary and at right time, it has to be broken by its own effort, to evolve into a hen. Similarly, this eggshell represents an individual EGO-shell. It is very necessary for an individual to grow in his personality (up to some life times) and later, that shell has to be broken to evolve as the lord himself – i.e. self realization. Unless the ego-shell is broken, one can not “evolve”.

Thus we see how an EGG is associated to Evolution of the Universe and the beings therein.

4) East and West: 

From the point of observation on Earth, the rising point of SUN on the Horizon forms the symbol of the East and the setting point forms the symbol of the West. But they depend on SUN and hence one needs to know symbolism of SUN to understand the symbolism here.

  • Consciousness: As pointed earlier, SUN is related to individual consciousness. It symbolizes the personal point – as our own self, in us. East is associated with the rise of the SUN. That means, a sunrise implies the rise or awakening of individual consciousness. Similarly, the west is associated with a sunset. So, it implies a dissolution of individual consciousness. Everyday sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Similarly, we too everyday wake after a sleep and sleep after a wake. This can be extended to reincarnation- we dissolve in the background in the state of after-death and we keep re-incarnating into physical world and become “alive”. This extends to many yugas and kalpas. Thus, cycles in cycles keep repeating and this is symbolized by “East and West”.
  • An Allegory:  Through East, we beget “consciousness” and thus the “LIGHT”. That is why, east (Vinata) is symbolized as the wife of sage “Kashyapa – the observer in us” who begets the son -SUPARNA – Eagle god who brings the nectar of IMMORTALITY (wisdom). Through west, we dissolve into dark states or states of “non-existence”. That is why the west (Kadruva) is symbolized to be the other wife of same observer – Kahsyapa, as begetting the many sons – Snakes. Snake bite makes us loose our consciousness. Thus, snakes here represent the agents that dissolve our individual consciousness. When these allegories are associated with Sunrise and Sunset, will give us more clarity on the use of East and West as symbols.
  • Front and Back: When we face East, the west is hidden in the back and when we face the back, the east is hidden behind us. Thus, the two states of East and West are but cyclically opposite. In similar way, when we are asleep (or in after death state) the state of physical life is absent and is behind us. That means, we can not perceive it. When we are awake and active (or in a LIFE state) we can not understand what a sleep or death means. This apparent separation is represented by East and West and only when we become verily the SUN, we will be able to solve this mystery. This is because, for SUN itself, there are no East and West or Rise and Set. It is only a product of Earth rotating. Similarly, for our true self, there are no births and deaths, but being brought into creation , we are constrained by them!

Thus we see how the cardinal directions, which are UNIVERSAL, have a bank of wisdom seeds inside them!

5) The LOTUS:

This is one of the widely used symbols in almost all the scriptures. If not lotus, they may use Lily, but overall the symbolism remains the same. 

  • Evolution: Any bloomed flower symbolizes evolution from the stage of bud to a flower. A lotus is interesting in this aspect. It evolves petal by petal. This is related to our own evolution in a step by step process, the opening of Chakras one by one and so on. Also, a lotus blooms when there is sunlight and when there is no SUN light, it closes its petals. This also symbolizes our wake and sleep states as well as our enlightenment in presence of LIGHT of a GURU (SUN) and our states of darkness when we are not under such a light!
  • Three aspects: A lotus has its roots in the ground, stem in the water and the flower is open to Sun in the Sky. Earth is related to the physical mundane or the state – Bhuḥ. Water is related to the mental states of mind or “Bhuvaḥ”. The SUN in the sky relates to the supreme blissful state – “Suvaḥ”. Thus the lotus symbolizes a unified existence of the three states – Bhuḥ Bhuvaḥ Suvaḥ. It suggests that we need to take our roots in the Earth – the physical world, and nurture under the guidance of waters of wisdom and always have the aim of our goal to become verily the SUN in the sky. 

Thus, a lotus is one of the fine symbols that teaches us how to live and learn and evolve in our lives (not sacrificing physical lives, but using all the three planes simultaneously!)


One can go one to many such symbols – Swastika, An Arrow, A Bow, A Tree, Serpents, Dogs, Bulls, Cows, etc. I just touched very briefly on few of them. The aim of the article was to direct your explorations in a particular fashion. If you add this kind of approach to the research of yours, you will have opened a new dimension in understanding the world scriptures. Thank You!



    1. The meaning will remain same. The fabric remains same. The clothing differs. That is why a GURU is always needed to understand the import properly. The reason for the import being constant over time is, the True Self doesn’t change and hence its symbolism. The Gita explained 5k years ago is as relavent to day as it was that day, because of the same story happening in and around us all the while!

      Sidenote: Mythologies are actually commentaries to ancient wisdom. Our Puranas are commentaries to Vedas. But this can be known only by a patient exploration under proper guidance. If not, we are left with “mythologies are incoherent fantacies.”


      1. I think this is a very subjective issue. Every society will have a different interpretation of it based on time and circumstances. The appeal may be universal and eternal but understanding and learnings may differ.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I do not think. If that were true, the stories and allegories involving the symbolism will differ. But, if you carefully explore the world scriptures (which I have for a very small amount, but I am convinced) you will see different garbs on same truth.

        Examples: the Bible’s creation (seven days and etc.), the war of demons and angels before the start of creation, the ark of Noah, pythagoras tetrad, Kabbalostic tree of life, the stories of a Dog with serpent in Greek mythologies, etc….. All of these differ in the way of the flavor. But the moment you read two of them, you can easily relate it to the third and fourth story of a different wisdom path. That’s the beauty of constant interpretation.

        The differences as you mentioned will occur only when the key is not understood properly. When it’s understood, the interpretation remains coherent in all wisdom paths.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “Man is made in the image of God” and “Yat Pinde Tat Brahmande” are the primary axioms. Because the Universe is imprinted in us and we in it, the study of either of them all over the world is “Impersonal” and hence the true interpretation remains constant.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. True! … 🙂 🙂
      Indeed the beauty lies in the sense that — “A change exists in the Constant and A constant exists in the Change”. This perplexes me many times with wonder! (Like the flower is a constant entity which has the changes called colors and stages of blooming. Similarly, the respiration is a series of changes caused by opposite breathing, which has the periodicity of breath as a constant in it!)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hello sir
    I recently joined ur blog… very informative … knowledge behind the universal symbol is wonderful… kindly keep posting such useful vedic wisdom articles..
    Eagerly waiting for – Science behind SWASTIK SYMBOL… plz share your knowledge
    Thanks and Regards

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Namaskaram
    I recently joined ur blog… very informative … knowledge behind the universal symbol is wonderful… kindly keep posting such useful vedic wisdom articles..
    Eagerly waiting for – Science behind SWASTIK SYMBOL… plz share your knowledge
    Thanks and Regards

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Namaskaram! Welcome to my blog and thanks for joining. I hope you are having a good read! Thnaks for your kind compliments. Swastik? Sure, I will try to prepare an article on that soon.

      In the mean time, you can review my recent book on esoteric rendering of Lalita Sahasranama

      Liked by 1 person

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