Buddhist Color Symbolism: Black and White

One of the main colors that hold an importance within the Buddhist religion is black. In regards to this religion, it is usually associated with darkness and hate. Representing the element of air, as well as the ears of the body, this color is said to transform anger into “mirror-like wisdom.” This article will briefly touch upon the colors of black and white and what they mean within the Buddhist culture.


In Buddhism, black is used for a symbol of darkness. The places associated with this color are quite dark, allowing no light to reflect. With every color, there is a sound that is connected to these shades. This sound is pitched so high that no physical being can catch it with their ears. During the second part of the 17th century, there were a variety of paintings that emerged showing the technique referred to as the “black paintings.” This impressive example of art used the color black to produce artworks carrying high mystical value. Various forms could be seen within the translucent darkness. The Tibetans mastered this form of painting, where lines could be seen against a black background. Sometimes the color of the lines is gold, while other colors can also be used. Another popular shade is orange, which often is used to depict flaming halos. Various settings, shapes and subjects can be found throughout these paintings.


The color black, when used in paintings, is used to identify with the hate and ignorance that an individual may feel, but it also is used to awaken qualities within one, in regards to truth and clarity. Black is also the color associated with hate. It can be transformed into wisdom, as well as compassion, where the darkness of the color signifies an absolute experience. In regards to rituals, as well as art, it is used to symbolize the triumph over evil. The desirable result is the transition that can be seen from evil to good.


As for white, it is seen as a color that is not really a color, but the absence of such. This color emerges when the entire spectrum of light is revealed or when the colors of red, yellow and blue are mixed. With the color white, nothing can be hidden or kept a secret. Everything can be seen through the color white. This is why within this religion, the goddess, Saraswati, who is associated with knowledge and learning, is shown to be white. It is thought that knowledge should not be kept away from others and should be available for all to benefit from.


The color white can be seen as something rather cold, such as a snowstorm, but also has the potential to appear hot, as seen with the color of burning metal. Often seen as a color connected to life and peace, it can also be seen as something that threatens the survival of life, as well as gives reminders of death and the end of all things. The color white shows through in a wide-range of Buddhist scenes, including the birth of Buddha. It is said that the mother of Buddha dreamed of a white elephant that flew through the air. Later on, this became a symbol connected with intelligence, as well as strength.