The Lion and the Bull: Inquiry on Two Animal Symbols in Early Buddhism


  • Federico Divino University of Bergamo, Italy & University of Antwerp, Belgium


Animal Symbolism, Buddhism, Lion, Bull, Urbanization in Buddhism, Early Buddhism


The symbolism of two animals, namely the bull and the lion, within Buddhist tradition can be traced back to an ancient heritage that originates from the Mesopotamian civilization. This heritage finds expression in Vedic wisdom, against which Buddhism establishes a dialectical framework of symbolic reversals and transformations. While traditionally associated with royalty, power, and the sun, the lion is reimagined within Buddhism as the protector of a pacifist doctrine, despite its historical association with the warlike dominance exerted by humans over nature. Conversely, the bull, symbolizing fertility of the earth and representing earthly passions, assumes a significant role within Buddhism as the patron of rigor and ascetic practices. It serves as the true progenitor of yoga, embodying a novel concept through its subjugation to the earth by means of a yoke. This subordination enables the bull to harness its power towards the production of sustenance, thus forging a transformative path.


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How to Cite

Divino, F. (2023). The Lion and the Bull: Inquiry on Two Animal Symbols in Early Buddhism. Journal of International Buddhist Studies, 14(2), 20–43. Retrieved from