religious symbols and what they mean

Jennifer Teuber
Religious Symbols and the meanings behind them
From Leslie Martinez, President of Baha’i Club @ USF, 20 years old, Senior majoring in English and American Literature

A simple nine-pointed star is generally used by Baha’is as a symbol of their Faith. The number nine has significance in the Baha’i Revelation. Nine years after the announcement of the Bab in Shiraz, Baha’u’llah received the intimation of His mission in the dungeon in Tehran. Nine, as the highest single-digit number, symbolizes completeness. Since the Baha’i Faith claims to be the fulfillment of the expectations of all prior religions, this symbol, as used, for example, in nine-sided Baha’i Houses of Worship, reflects that sense of fulfillment and completeness.

Particularly cherished by Baha’is are calligraphic forms of the word Baha (Arabic for “Glory”), known as the Greatest Name, a reference to Baha’u’llah. In this category is the above symbol which is engraved on personal rings and on buildings to establish their Baha’i identity. Another calligraphic form of the Greatest Name involves an invocation in Arabic “Ya Baha’u’l-Abha,” which says: “O Glory of the All Glorious.” It is displayed in Baha’i homes and places of Baha’i activity.

From Nicky Spivak, Executive Director, Hillel Jewish Student Center of Tampa

Chai is easy – it is the Hebrew word for “Life”

Star of David – (Hebrew: magen David)   This is a bit more complex – I found this article at:


From Josef Rios, President of Soka Gakkai at USF, 21 years old, junior @ USF, majoring in International Studies

The mala, literally garland, are prayer beads that we use when we pray or chant counting each bead as we do, and in most other Buddhist schools, when we meditate. There are several different types of mala, depending on the country and sect. The most common are strings of 108, or 109 counting the larger bead, symbolizing the 108 desires that tie us as sentient beings to the world of reincarnation. As I said there is a larger bead that essentially ties them all together, and usually has a tassel of sorts coming out of it. This is the Guru, or Buddha bead. Some schools will say a special prayer when this bead is reached.

The Tomoe however, is more of a Shinto concept, though it can be seen on both Shinto and Buddhist temples. It is similar to the yin and yang. This link has a good explanation of it.


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