The swastika is, to this day, taboo for many in the West, because it is associated with Nazism and invokes the memory of the Holocaust. While Hitler was in power, any investigation into its authentic meaning and history was forbidden, and those who dared to reveal them were persecuted and imprisoned.
Overshadowed by its use in that period, it has been imbued with negative sentiment, to the point that Germany still forbids and sanctions any public use of the Nazi-modified design. Also the decorative use of the symbol that was often seen before Nazism—for example, in the logo of a polo team—has disappeared completely.
In fact the symbol was not called swastika in the beginning. The Chinese name is “wan zi fu” literally meaning ten thousand characters. It was meant to bring good fortune and date as far back as Neolithic scripts.
However, Hilter’s use of the emblem is hardly a grain of sand in the immense history of the symbol. For millions of people, mainly in the East, the swastika or wan zi fu, is associated with beliefs and concepts that have nothing to do with Nazism.
As we know today, the swastika is one of the oldest signs in humanity. The etymology of this name is ‘Suasti’, which comes from the Sanskrit language (formerly spoken in India) and means “welfare,” “Cross of the cosmos,” “solar circle,” “lauburues,” and many others are the names inherited by this symbol of prehistoric cultures and religions.
In the East, it became popular in the time of Shakyamuni 2,500 years ago and continues to today. But the origins of this symbol are so varied and distant, that some consider it a link between almost all developed cultures.
The Indians of North America have been using this sign for 5,000 years. The Hopi Indians even constructed two roads in the form of swastika across North America. The Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecs, and Toltecs, as well as the Incas, revered it as a sacred symbol. In Peru it was found drawn on the pottery at the base of the main pyramid. For Indians, in general, it represented the constant movement of life cycles.
It has been found in Europe, at least since the time of the Greek empire. It was found as adornment on several famous paintings in the Vatican and in many other abodes on the continent. The Greeks and Romans are said to have carried it to Africa.
In the Middle East, it is even found in synagogues. And even the tomb of Jesus was decorated with several swastikas.
In modern times, before Hitler’s hoarding, it was seen on greeting cards, lucky coins, institutions, and company logos, to name but a few. So far, only Australia shows no trace of the swastika, but for almost every population in the world, this sign is not at all strange.
China and the Buddha School
In China, the swastika has been associated with the Buddha School (including the Buddhist religion). Unlike the Nazi design, in which it is rotated 45 degrees, it is used in a horizontal position. In Chinese, it is called “wan” (pinyin: wan4); and as a written character is used, which means “10,000” or “everything,” “eternity.” It represents the movement of galaxies, the universe and the creation of life.
In the Buddha School, it signifies the level of a “Fo” (Buddha or enlightened being). The Fo have different levels according to their wisdom. A Fo can only know the truth about the levels below him, and he never knows what is above the level that he is at.
According to the Buddha School, the sign is only seen in the great Fo from certain levels. The number of signs increase with the Fo’s level of wisdom. You often see one or two sculpted on the chest or sometimes on the face of the statues of Fo.
A common experience
According to Carl Sagan—the famous American astronomer—the frequent use of the symbol by peoples of distinct cultures and without any link to each other could derive from a “common experience.” And given the distances and the lack of connection, this experience could only arise from heaven. His theory suggests that the common experience refers to a rotational motion of a comet leaving this form in its wake.
The first part of Sagan’s hypothesis, in fact, resembles the saying of ancient Chinese sages. But the common experience to which the Chinese referred differed from Sagan’s hypothesis. The Chinese spoke of a common origin of human beings when civilization began: the universe. They believed that lives on Earth came from heaven, from somewhere in the cosmos.
Humans then share a certain knowledge or “memories” that are locked up when they are born on Earth.
Perhaps that is why, from the religious spheres of different cultures, this symbol was introduced to all corners of the Earth, originally representing congruent meanings around the movement of galaxies and the universe, as well as the creation and the cycle of life.