The Snow Lion is a celestial animal of Tibet. It symbolizes fearlessness, unconditional cheerfulness, East and the Earth element. It is one of the Four Dignities. It ranges over the mountains and is commonly pictured as being white with a turquoise mane.
From 1909 until 1959, a single snow lion or a pair of them was used as the National Emblem of Tibet.
In Tibetan folk lore, the milk of the Snow Lioness (Tibetan : Gangs Sengemo) contains special nutrients to heal the body and restore it to harmony. Some holy medicinal remedies are believed to contain the essence of the Snow Lioness’ milk. Her milk is also used to symbolise the Dharma and its purity.
The Lion is a sacred and regal symbol in many ancient cultures from Egypt to the Greek and Roman Empires and further east to Persia and, ultimately, to India in the 2nd century. In Buddhism, the Snow Lion is the protector of Buddha and, in paintings and sculpture, is usually seen as holding up the Buddha’s throne (one on the left side and one on the right side of the throne).
The body of the Snow Lion is white, while its flowing mane, tail and curls on legs is either blue or green. While most Snow Lions are gender neutral in Budhist art, there are some that are represented as obviously male and some as obviously female. When represented as a symmetrical pair, the male is on the left and the female on the right. Sculptural Snow Lions are often in REPOUSSE metal that has been gilt and painted.
The ROAR of the Snow Lion embodies the sound of “emptiness” (Sanskrit : SUNYATA), courage and truth and because of this is often a synonym for the BUDDHADHARMA, the Buddha’s teachings, as it implies freedom from Karma and the challenging call to “awakening”. The “roar” was considered to be so powerful that just a single “roar” could cause 7 dragons to fall from the sky.
The Lhasa Apso is called the Tibet Lion Dog, after its resemblance to the Snow Lion, however, it is unknown whether the dog was bred to resemble the Snow Lion or if the artistic design was influenced by the features of the dog.
The Snow Lion is a TULKU or personification of the primordial playfulness of “ananda” (joy, bliss) comparable to the Western “unicorn” (although without a horn). Though, paradoxically, the Snow Lion does not fly but their feet never touch the ground, their existence is a playful continuum of leaping from mountain peak to mountain peak. The energetic potency (wisdom or Shakti) of the Snow Lion is expressed in the attribute of the GANKYIL or ANANDA-WHEEL. The Snow Lion keep in the eternal play. The GANKYIL is the principal POLYVALENT SYMBOL and TEACHING TOOL of all the doctrinal trinaties of Dzogchen and is the energetic signature of the Trikaya. The GANKYIL is the inner wheel of the DHARMACHAKRA of the ASHTAMANGALA path of VAJRAYANA BUDDHISM.