4
  1. Do the suttas make any mention of a halo around the Buddha's head, or was it a later addition through the cultural influence of other religions? I recall mentions of a golden aura around the Buddha visible from a distance that attracted his first followers to him.

  2. Since the halo is a symbol common to most world religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism), is this a generally encountered spiritual attainment like the six higher knowledges? Are there records of any arhats getting a halo?

Some background that I was able to dig up:

Tibetan Buddhism uses haloes and aureoles of many types, drawing from both Indian and Chinese traditions, extensively in statues and Thangka paintings of Buddhist saints such as Milarepa and Padmasambhava and deities. Different coloured haloes have specific meanings: orange for monks, green for the Buddha and other more elevated beings
[...]
Theravada Buddhism and Jainism did not use the halo for many centuries, but later adopted it, though less thoroughly than other religious groups.
source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_(religious_iconography)

1

Halos seem to be an artistic symbol to depict light. There are not really halos on people except in paintings unless of course you can see auras. I do not see auras. Here is an explanation of the symbology of light and halos. http://www.buddhamind.info/riteside/reverse/bbpage26.htm

the actual depiction of the Buddha happened long after cessation and nirvana. Here is more on that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_characteristics_of_the_Buddha

To me a question that still tantalizes me, how can I experience the consciousness that Buddha experienced? I don't care about halos, or titles or attainments, I will forego all of those. Just give me that mind that was in Buddha. That is all I really want in this world or another. Just let me see with the illumined mind, the mind that has experienced cessation, the bodhisattva mind that will not cease suffering until all sentient beings experience release. That is enough for me.

Thank you for your question. Whether answer helped I am uncertain. But I know what is dearest in the center of my being.

  • I agree wholeheartedly with you, the pure mind that can do no wrong is the real treasure. It occurred to me that if Christian mystics and the Buddha alike can sport a halo it's likely an artistic ideal like his Greek makeover in the Gandharan era, but then I remembered that there are certain yogic techniques that are said to generate a white or golden glow around a person that is visible even on camera. It's pretty common in Thailand to see ridiculously Photoshopped auras around monks featured on billboards, so there's that too. – Buddho Jul 16 '15 at 3:38
  • To grasp appearances is to bind one to an identity constructed from aspects of this world of appearances. To loose the grasp is to move ever closer to an identity based on Buddha consciousness. Thank you for your comment. – soulsings Jul 17 '15 at 21:37
1

Interesting question. From my knowledge and research it seems that this is more of a history of art question than something specifically related to scriptural reference or spiritual attainment. No reference is made to Jesus having a halo in the Bible but the earliest depictions of him in art have the halo. So tracing this back we find some of the earliest depictions of the halo in the classical world.

Homer describes a more-than-natural light around the heads of heroes in battle, Depictions of Perseus in the act of slaying Medusa, with lines radiating from his head, appear on a white-ground toiletry box in the Louvre and on a slightly later red-figured vase in the style of Polygnotos, ca. 450-30 BC, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. - Wikipedia

... and this may go back further to ancient Egypt and the Sumerian cultures who worshiped Sun gods who had depictions of Sun disks around their heads. This in turn influenced early mystery schools in Greek and Roman culture such as Mithraism, where Mithras is often depicted with a halo.

In addition to classical sources, the sun disk found in Egyptian crowns may have been an early manifestation of a halo-like form. - History of the Halo in Art

So how does this relate to its depiction in Buddhism? You make reference to Buddha's Greek makeover and it seems some scholars assume this is the period when Hellenistic culture, spread through Alexander the Great's conquests, influenced, among other things, art in the East. This relates somewhat to this question.

There exists an aesthetic tradition of depicting the Buddha with a halo. One of the most compelling facts about the Buddhist tradition is its involvement in the Hellenistic world. Being born out of the Hindu religion in India, much like the Christian religion being born out of Judaism; the aesthetic tradition of the Buddhist religion is rich with symbolic language indicating that the Buddha is a spiritual heavenly being. This was not always the case. We can think of the Buddhist aesthetic tradition, similarly to its teachings, as being a very complex evolution of Hellenistic principles and cultural awareness. - Religion, Art and Myth-Making: The Halo as an Aesthetic Expression of Ultimate Reality

Circumstantial evidence seems to point to Western influence in the halo depictions in Mahayana Buddhist art.

Around the first century CE, the regions of present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North India came under control of the Kushans…Exact dates are uncertain, but they ruled from the first to the third century CE. The beginning of the long reign of their most illustrious king, Kanishka, is variously dated from 78 to 143 CE. Kanishka‘s patronage supported the building of many stupas and Buddhist monasteries…Buddhism during this period underwent a profound evolution that resulted in the form known as Mahayana, or Great Vehicle. This vital new movement, which was to sweep most of northern India and eastern Asia, probably inspired the first depictions of the Buddha himself in art (Stokstad 322, 323). - Art History a View of the World (Marilyn Stokstad)

1
  1. It happened on the fourth week after Enlightenment.

In the fourth week, he created a beautiful jewelled chamber and sitting inside it meditated on what was later known as the "Detailed Teaching" (Abhidhamma). His mind and body were so purified that six coloured rays came out of his body — blue, yellow, red, white, orange and a mixture of these five. Today these six colours make up the Buddhist flag. Each colour represented one noble quality of the Buddha: yellow for holiness, white for purity, blue for confidence, red for wisdom and orange for desirelessness. The mixed colour represented all these noble qualities.

  1. When the Buddha was preaching the Abhidhamma in the Tusita heaven, light rays emanated from him as he started preaching the Pattana ("The Book of Relations").
  2. Dhammapada Verse 68: The Story of Sumana, the Florist

A florist, named Sumana, had to supply King Bimbisara of Rajagaha with jasmine flowers every morning. One day, as he was going to the king's palace he saw the Buddha , with a halo of light-rays radiating from him, coming into town for alms-food accompanied by many Bhikkhus. Seeing the Buddha in his resplendent glory, the florist Sumana felt a strong desire to offer his flowers to the Buddha .

  1. Also, whenever the Buddha smiled, a white ray of light would emanate from his teeth. This is caused by a special citta called the "Hasitoppada citta" which only Arahants have.
  2. The story of Mattakundali

On that morning, the Buddha arising early from his Maha Karuna Samapatti Nana saw Mattakundali lying on the verandah. So when entering Savatthi for alms-food with his disciples, the Buddha stood near the door of the Brahmin Adinnapubbaka. The Buddha sent forth a ray of light to the interior of the house. The youth saw the Buddha; and as he was very weak he could only profess his faith in mentally. But that was enough. When he passed away with his heart in devotion to the Buddha, he was reborn in the Tavatimsa celestial world.

  1. I've also heard about the story of venerable Moggallana getting lost in space, trying to look for the end of the universe. Then the Buddha said to have sent a beam of light to guide him back to earth. I couldn't find an online resource for the story.

This doesn't mean that the lord Buddha always appeared with a halo. It would seem that he appeared that way whenever it would cause Sadda in a person and bring them towards the Dhamma.

  • 1
    Thank you - that is a very nice and comprehensive answer. – Buddho Jul 16 '15 at 19:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.