The call of symbols

It is an instant and effective way of showing our happiness and admiration. What is the secret behind it? The beautiful flowers are representative of our feelings and act as symbols of our deeper emotions.

Symbols are visual words and can be as powerful as spoken ones. In fact, we are surrounded by them all the time and come across them in everyday life. A smile, for instance, is a universal symbol of welcome, the simplest way perhaps of generating cheer and happiness.

All through the day, we encounter signs that say much more than meets the eye. The school emblem, for instance, is designed to set one’s sights hi -gh, so that young minds str ive towards noble goals in life. It is seen that almost all of us are influenced by it, carry its ima ge with us into life and continue to be inspired by it. Symbols exist in the adult world too.

Corporate houses around the world sport slogans with matching logos to encapsulate their aims. Election symbols are carefully chosen to catch the attention and imagination of the common man. They aim to reflect the ideology and the goals the party holds.

However, since symbols have no declared import, they are open to different and even opposing interpretations. As we know, the twentieth century was dominated by the Swastika, making it one of the most feared symbols of the modern era. It represented Hitler and Nazi Germany which unleashed the horror of twelve years of destruction, persecution and mass murder.

In his book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler wrote, ‘In the Swastika, we see the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man.’ Ironically, the swastika was not Hitler’s invention. Its origin goes back thousands of years with the emblem used widely in ancient India.

In Sanskrit the word, ‘Swasti’ means ‘Be well’ with ‘su’ standing for ‘good’ and ‘asti’ for ‘be’. It is from this that the word swastika comes. The swastika was also used in many other cultures to indicate ideas such as life, strength and good luck.

We see therefore that symbols bear the meaning that we assign them. They can be used as aids to progress or a means to destruction. They help us to come closer to our thoughts and feelings, to get in touch with our inmost selves. Symbols function as metaphors to our inner life.

Little wonder then that they have a special role to play in the realm of spiritual practice. The stone figure in the altar is not the concrete statue that we see, but the Supreme Presence invisible to the eye. The chamber in which it is placed is really the heart within us. The lamps we light are a reminder to dispel darkness of all kinds. These as well as other such symbols provide footholds in our journey to a Higher Consciousness. They are outward forms that guide into reality.

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