Siddham – An ancient Indian ritual script

Siddham script are characters from the ancient Indian Sanskrit.  You can say that it is the writing of Sanskrit and Sanskrit  represents the grammar and language.

Siddham in Buddhism

Siddham Hrih des Shingon ReikiAs the Buddhist teachings (Sanskrit: Dharma) in Sanskrit as holy texts (Sanskrit: Sûtras) was written using the Siddham script as an alphabet.  In addition, a sacred and symbolic meaning is attributed to the shape and the sound of Siddham.  In this case, one speaks of root-syllables (Sanskrit: Bîjas). Several Bîjas form a mantra as an effective saying for recitation in rituals. In Dhâranîs, which have a similar function like mantras, but at the same time have a meaning in content, the Siddham are used as an alphabet together with Bîjas. In the translation of the Sûtras into Chinese, the Siddham or Bîjas associated with the rituals have not been transcribed into Chinese characters kanji 漢字, because the Siddham must be preserved in their form and pronunciation so that they can have an effect in rituals and meditations .

Siddham and Reiki

Siddham Säule für Rituale der Heilung

Siddham Pillar Creative Commons Lizenzvertrag

In the healing art of traditional Usui Reiki, symbols are used for the extended use of Reiki. The symbol for mental healing goes back to the Siddham Hrih. In Shingon Reiki the Hrih crowns the logo and plays a central role in spiritual healing, purification, the path of enlightenment and the Buddhist escort for the dying.

Development of the Siddham History

There are several interpretations of the Siddham history. Siddham are the characters of Sanskrit in an ancient form, which has evolved from the Indian Brahmi scripts. Between the 3rd millennium BC and the eighth century several hundred Brahmi scripts are said to have been written. Because of their similarity, it is also assumed that the Siddham history may be traced back to the Aramaic writings..

From the Siddham developed into the Devanagiri font, with which Sanskrit is now written. In Japan a single Siddhaṃ is called a seed syllable shuji 種子 or Indian font bonji 梵字. The translation into the Japanese Sanskrit word Siddhaṃ is shittan 曇 曇.

The Siddham term came about by the fact that a fibel for learning this script was named Siddham, and then it became the name of Scripture in the course of time. Siddham means: May it be perfect, perfection, accomplishment.

Within the framework of the Sanskrit script, it is simply a symbol of the Sanskrit language, as is in the Western alphabet, with the individual characters of the alphabet being of no further importance. Thus, it becomes only important when several characters are aligned to form a word. This is probably the Siddham history of writing for a language.

Siddham Seed Syllables

The Siddham as seed syllables are originally the same Siddham characters, but each has a deeper meaning. In some scriptures of the world as in Siddhham or Chinese characters, these were originally not used to write as a language, but as sacred symbols in rituals. Consequently, the Siddham had only later developed into a script of the spoken language.

.The Siddham are called seed syllables because in them the germ or essence of a strength slumbers, which can be aroused by means of meditations and rituals. Originally they originate from the Vedas of the Brahman religion. Later they were taken over by Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism. In Hinduism they are now a days used especially in Bali and in a practice of yoga. In Esoteric Buddhism also called Tantric Buddhism, they are an essential part of meditation and rituals of healing and awakening the heart of enlightenment on the pathway to Buddhahood. They can be used for rituals for the living, deceased and other purposes.

Tantric Buddhism, Buddhism in Japan

Tantric Buddhism developed in the middle of the 7th century in India. Although it was already there before that, it was only written down starting in this time. From then on it was not long before it was handed over to China by some Indian monks from the Buddhist University in Nalanda. There the Indian sutras were translated into Chinese.

From there, from the 8th century onwards, Indian and Chinese monks traveled to Japan and Japanese monks came to China to learn from the monks living there. In this way, numerous documents, sculptures and rituals came to Japan. Since in China different tendencys were a foothold, Japanese could learn this unadulterated first-hand. This was intensively practiced until the year 894.

Japan is a country where cultural and spiritual goods have been introduced and integrated over the centuries. In addition, Japan is one of the few places in the world where spirituality up to today is being practiced in traditional and Japanised way, without these contents being replaced by new influences. In this respect, the magic of Siddham could survive over time.

In the teachings of Tantric Buddhism, the focus of the Siddham is on the applicatioṇ in rituals as magical seed syllables and spell syllables, which are used for the invocation of healing forms and the awakening of forces.


In the course of centuries Japanese Siddham history has led to an increased representation of Siddham in Japanese art, including painting, sculpture, architecture, rituals and even swords. This is probably the most frequently reccurring Siddhaṃ the Hriḥ of Amida 阿弥陀 on pagodas and steles, which was usually used for death rituals, because these artefacts, unlike paper and wood, could more easily survive the time.

Without considering this connection, it is widely assumed that the Siddham Hriḥ only has to do with death rituals. However, this is not the case when looking at and studying the teachings of Tantric Buddhism. There are rituals for both the living as well as the dead.

This is due to the fact that every spiritual being, such as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, is associated with a Siddham. However, it is possible that a Siddham is applied to several spiritual beings. Thus, the Buddha Amida is responsible for the hereafter, while other spiritual beings arise for the living and hereafter.

The exploration of Siddham

The Siddham is a little explored area. On the one hand, for example, they are often used in rituals and meditations in Tantric Buddhism in Japan, and on the other hand they are rarely seen because their application is classified as secret. If monks in Japan are asked about the Siddham and its application, one gets partly diffuse answers. Some monks pretend not to know anything about it, because they do not want to disclose their knowledge. Others know little because they are not yet so far trained and only a few are willing to talk constructively about it. It is noticeable in Japanese temples and bookshops that there are a lot of souvenirs and books to the Siddham. A few years ago there was even a Siddham boom in terms of fashion and design.

Siddham in Japanese art

As far as Japanese art is concerned, the Siddham have appeared in all genres of art since the 11th century. Nevertheless, this is a scarcely reserched area.

As far as their exploration is concerned, the trend has hitherto been based on the analysis of the stylistic and iconographic development of individual genres, but less on the function and application in rituals and meditations. For this reason, Mark Hosak sees that it is time to focus the research on the function of Siddham on art objects in rituals and meditation. Mark Hosak wrote his dissertation on the subject: The Siddham in Japanese art in rituals of healing.

With the spread of Buddhism, the Siddham came to Japan. So far, it was assumed that the Siddham were introduced to Japan at the beginning of the ninth century with the secret teachings of mikkyô 密教 of tantric Buddhism. In the discussion of the history of Siddham, Mark Hosak noted that the Siddham had already arrived much earlier in Japan. This raises the question of whether the Siddham is really a phenomenon of Tantric Buddhism, or about a cross-school phenomenon.

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