The Buddhist Flag – I –

In his ‘Old Diary Leaves’as shown  in Internet* – Henry Steel Olcott  apparently wrote:

It was at this time that our Colombo colleagues had the happy thought of devising a flag which could be adopted by all Buddhist nations as the universal symbol of their faith, thus serving the same purpose as that of the cross does for all Christians.

It was a splendid idea, and I saw in a moment its far-reaching potentialities as an agent in that scheme of Buddhistic unity which I have clung to from the beginning of my connection with Buddhism.

With the many points of dissemblance between Northern and Southern Buddhism, the work of unification was a formidable one; yet still, in view of the other fundamental features of agreement, the task was not hopeless.

My Buddhist Catechism was already circulated in Japan in two translations, and now this flag came as a powerful reinforcement.

Our Colombo brothers had hit upon the quite original and unique idea of blending in the flag the six colors alleged to have been exhibited in the aura of the Buddha, viz., sapphire-blue, golden-yellow, crimson, white, scarlet, and a hue composed of the others blended.  In Pali the names of the colors are Nila, Pita, Lohita, Avadata, Mangasta, and Prabhasvara.

The adoption of this model avoided all possible causes of dispute among Buddhists, as all, without distinction, accept the same tradition as to the Buddha’s personal appearance and that of his aura; moreover, the flag would have no political meaning whatever, but be strictly religious.

As the Colombo Committee had sketched the flag, it was of the inconvenient shape of a ship’s long, streaming pennant, which would be quite unsuitable for carrying in processions or fixing in rooms. ‘

My suggestion that it should be made of the usual shape and size of national flags was adopted, and when we had had a sample made, it was unanimously approved of.

Accepted by the chief priests as orthodox, it at once found favor, and, on the Buddha’s Birthday of that year, was hoisted on almost every temple and decent dwelling-house in the Island.

From Ceylon it has since found its way throughout the Buddhist world.

I was much interested to learn, some years later, from the Tibetan Ambassador to the Viceroy, whom I met at Darjeeling, that the colors were the same as those in the flag of the Dalai Lama.

The importance of the service thus rendered to the Buddhist nations may perhaps be measured with that of giving, say, to the Christians the Cross symbol or to the Moslems the Crescent.

The Buddhist flag, moreover, is one of the prettiest in the world, the stripes being placed vertically in the order above written, and the sequence of the hues making true chromatic harmonies.

In pursuance of the policy of unity, I held a Convention in Colombo on 14th February (1885) to agree upon a line of action as regards the tour I had come to make in the interests of education and religion. Sumangala, Megittuwatte, and personal representatives of Wimelasara and Ambagahawatte were present, and we were able to come to a perfectly unanimous conclusion.


The remodelled Committee, formed on 18th April, 1885, had the High Priest Sumangala as Honorary President and the most influential laics as active members.

I was elected an Honorary Member, and have had frequent occasion to assist with counsel and otherwise my co-religionists.

…. the Defence Committee was permanently organised; and, last but not least, the Buddhist Flag was devised, improved, and adopted.

OLD DIARY LEAVES, Third Series, events that took place from 1883 till 1887,  by Henry Steel Olcott.”


(*) – The Theosophical Society is an expert in the forgery of books, and written texts.  This is not an irresponsible accusation, thrown at random, but the statement of a fact, with many documented proofs, published in many different languages.