9 Spiritual Traditions

Nine major contemporary value systems have been selected for this platform according to the following criteria: number of adherents, universality of the message and cultural relevance.


“There is no longer a Hindu, a Muslim or a Christian. All are human beings.” Shri Goparaju Ramachandra Rao, aka Gora (1902-1975)

© Humanist PictogrammeHumanist traditions reflect a positive attitude towards Life, based on human experience, respect and hope. They promote the building of a more humane society through an ethic inspired by inherent and universal values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry, as well as the quest for freedom gained through human capabilities. Humanists believe that only through experience and rational thinking can one find a pathway to knowledge and also a moral code by which to live.

The pictogram represents a joyous human being embracing the world in an attitude of self-respect and respect for others. The fuchsia colour arbitrarily symbolizes human emotion.


“The measure of love is to love without measure.” Saint Augustine (354-430)

© Christian pictogrammeLove represents a fundamental value for Christian churches. Each one in its own way teaches that Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, came to bring divine love to the world. His life, death and resurrection are not only a demonstration of God’s love for the world but offer the possibility of eternal life to all. Love for God, one’s self and one’s neighbour, as illustrated by the Bible, is at the heart of Christian practice.

The cross is a Christian symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Saviour of the World. Purple is a liturgical colour used for some holy days and the robes of clergy.


“[…] One who increases Torah, increases life; one who increases study, increases wisdom; one who increases counsel, increases understanding; one who increases charity, increases peace.” Talmud, Avot 2:7

© Jewish pictogrammeThe different Jewish communities are more united by what they do than by what they think. Whether a birthday, a wedding or a simple family meal, Jewish ritual consecrates the occasion, enhances the shared pleasure and hallows life. Moreover, the basic principles of the Torah guide Jews in their daily lives, sustaining their practice and nurturing their celebrations. Reading the scriptures enhances learning, leads to understanding and reminds the reader of the infinite source of wisdom that is Adonai.

The menorah is represented by a candleholder with seven branches that symbolizes the burning bush as seen by Moses on Mount Sinai. Jewish communities often use the colour blue; as a symbol of purity it is particularly appropriate for prayer shawls.


“The well-being of humankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892)

© Bahai Faith pictogrammeThe unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united. Bahá’í teachings promote the unity of God, religion and humankind, a universal language, as well as the equality of men and women, world peace and the harmony of science and religion.

The nine-branch star is a symbol of perfection and completion for Bahá’ís. The turquoise colour is arbitrarily chosen; it may be associated with personal and universal peace.


“Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt, it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find satisfaction.” Qur’an, 13:28

© Islam pictogrammeSurrender, from the Arabic root ~ إسلام ~ (islam) refers to the wholeness, mercy and fulfilment that Muslims believe is found only in unreserved allegiance to the will of Allah. Such total commitment in which nothing is withheld from the Divine is rewarded with salvation, pardon and freedom from enslavement to human passions. Through recitation of the Qur’an and daily prayer – one of the five pillars of Islam – believers show their gratitude and trust in the All-Powerful One.

The crescent (a reminder of the lunar calendar) and the star (a Qur’anic reference to Allah) are pre-Islamic symbols now used to identify Muslim religion and culture. Green is the traditional colour of Islam; it represents nature and paradise.


“We must treat the earth with care. It is not an inheritance from our ancestors but a loan from our children.” Proverb attributed to the Dogon (Africa), to Amerindian Tribes and others

© Local Religions pictogrammeSome 5,000 years ago all spiritual traditions were primal (original) or local religions practiced by distinct ethnic groups. Many of these ancient traditions have been kept alive over thousands of years. By and large, they are centred on an elaborate world of spirits that influence both humankind and nature. The care of nature is a central recurrent theme in primal religions. In recent times, there has been a renewal in urban (rather than rural) contexts of these old traditions, often by people who do not belong to the same ethnic group, clan or social class.

This arbitrary symbol represents the different local religions throughout the world. It is known as namkha among Tibetans, nierika to the Huichol of Mexico and the Eye of the Spirits to the ancient Pueblo peoples (New Mexico). This green-apple colour evokes the renewal of nature in springtime.


“Oh Divine Mother, your energy pervades the universe. You embody the powers of the presiding deities. All of the deities and sages worship you. Bestow upon us all that is auspicious. We bow to you in devotion.” Prayer from the Puranas

© Hindu pictogrammeThe Santana-dharma (universal law), is a very ancient and essentially oral tradition in which sound or breath is the primary means of spiritual expression. Hindus cultivate many forms of devotion, such as the arts, nutrition, yoga and daily rituals performed before an altar. They believe in the revealed knowledge transmitted by the Veda. These different practices show how closely culture and spirituality are inseparably entwined. The Hindu tradition is not only a religion but also a way of life.

The sacred syllable ~ ॐ ~ (ohm) represents the primordial sound from which all of creation and the essence of all life evolved. The colour saffron represents sacrifice and salvation.


“There are four enlightened thoughts: loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity of the soul” Buddha (560-483 BCE)

© Buddhist pictogrammeThe different Buddhist groups find their inspiration in the teachings of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) a physical being (rather than as a deity), whose birth, life and death were concerned with the human condition. In his search for the cause and remedy of suffering, he attained enlightenment – a state of sublime wisdom and detachment. He dedicated the rest of his life to the practice of compassion and to teaching others how to reach this state of wakefulness.

The eight-spoke wheel is a symbol of the Eightfold Noble Path, a way of life that leads to enlightenment and deliverance. According to the Buddha, the colours of spirituality are found in the sunset, symbolised by the various hues of orange in the robes of many nuns and monks.


“The mystic and the physicist arrive at the same conclusion; one starting from the inner realm, the other from the outer world. The harmony between their views confirms ancient wisdom…” Fritjof Capra (1939- ), The Tao of Physics

© Tao pictogramme“The Tao (Way) that can be spoken is not the real Tao…” Thus begins the Tao Te King (Book of the Way and its Power), a founding text attributed to Lao Tzu. Spiritual serenity and union with nature lie at the heart of the Tao. Taoist practice (whether it be Tai-qi, Qi-gong, Feng-shui, meditation, acupuncture, fortune-telling or the reading and chanting of scriptures), has one goal: balance and harmony with self, others, the earth and the cosmos.

The yin-yang symbol (taijitu), a fundamental principal of the Tao, represents two primary opposing but complementary forces of the universe. In China, the colour red is traditionally considered a sign of good fortune and protection against malefic spirits.

* These pictograms were created specifically to promote the work of the Project and thus belong to it (© Anamcara Project & Association Ashoka). They are arbitrary images that represent the spiritual traditions but have no other official function. Furthermore, they are unrelated to banners, flags or logos that may be used by any other organism, institution or country.