Deer are a direct reference to the Buddha’s first teaching in the Deer Park, Sarnath. The “deer” is a symbol of many things, the personification of virtues and a character of legends and myths. The suggestion is that so wondrous was the Buddha’s appearance and peaceful his presence that even the animals came to listen. When exiled into the forest, one of the great
and holy Pandavas, Yudhishthira, is approached by the
deer in a dream: “[W]e are the deer of this forest.
Majesty, now only very few of us remain, like seeds, like
broken words; if you do not leave us we shall all perish
for your food” (Mahabharata142). In the morning he
tells his brothers, “We must move on and let the forest
animals recover” (Mahabharata 142).
The dharma wheel, traditionally represented with eight spokes, has a variety of meanings. It initially only meant royalty, it began to be used in a Buddhist context on the Pillars of Ashoka during the 3rd century BC. The Dharma wheel is generally seen as referring to the historical process of teaching the Buddha Dharma, the eight spokes referring to the Noble Eight-fold Path. The lotus also has several meanings, often referring to the quality of compassion and subsequently to the related notion of the inherently pure potential of the mind.