Symbols of the World’s Great Living Religions
The six large panels of glass which separate the foyer of our church building from the Great Hall in which we hold services each contain a symbol. Reading from left to right as you face them upon entering the foyer from the street, they represent Hinduism, Confucianism and Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
Symbols of World’s Religions
The symbol used for Hinduism is the Sanskrit OM representing Hinduism’s divine principle. “The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when they lead the life of continence, I will tell you briefly: it is OM. This syllable OM is indeed Brahman. This syllable is the Highest. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires. This is the best support; this is the highest support.”
Confucianism and Taoism
The symbol used for the two great Chinese philosophies is the familiar Yang and Yin which symbolizes the two basic forces in the universe as well as all pairs of opposites which are complementary. The dot in each section symbolizes the presence in each of something of its opposite.
The Wheel of Doctrine or Wheel of the Law is the symbol of Buddhism. The eight spokes in the wheel represent the Eightfold Path: Right knowledge, Right intention, Right speech, Right conduct, Right meaning of livelihood, Right effort, Right mindedness, Right concentration. The practice of these virtues is for the Buddhist the path to a life of good works and inner peace of mind.
The ban on the representation of living things in Islamic symbolism has reduced its visual art almost to architecture and Arabesque designs. The crescent and star are used in our set of symbols to represent the religion developed by Mohammed.
The seven-branch candlestick is also used to represent Judaism, but we have chosen the six-pointed Star of David as a symbol both of Judaism and also its ancient dream of a Jewish State.
The symbol for Christianity is most often not recognized because so many people think of the cross as the appropriate symbol. We chose instead the ship, and for several reasons. The cross antedates the Christian religion by many centuries and was originally phallic in meaning. As adopted by Christians it more properly symbolizes Jesus’ death and sacrifice. It is interesting to note that until the eleventh century any representation of Jesus on the cross pictured him fully clothed, generally robed and crowned as High Priest and King. The ship is an ancient symbol for the Church.
The above information comes from an undated pamphlet published by the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady shortly after 1961, the year the church building was built on Wendell Avenue.