The eight auspicious symbols. Photo credit: tibetanbuddhismread
Also called the Tashitakgyad, these are a suite or group of eight symbols or attributes endemic to a number of dharmic philosophies including Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. They represent the enlightened mindstream and are also used as teaching tools, appearing together or singly in manuscripts and artwork and as a decorative motif on relics, statuary, buildings and jewellery. The symbols vary with the country of use (one early Indian grouping included for example a throne ,swastika and handprint) and the exact nature of the philosophy being taught. The grouping has also evolved with time.
In Buddhism, the symbols often represent the gifts given by celestial beings to Shakyamuni Buddha on his attainment of enlightenment. They are:
White Parasol - protects beings from evil desires, harmful forces and illness. Traditionally a symbol of royalty, the dome of the parasol represents wisdom, while the hanging silk represents different paths to compassion.
Two Fishes - represent all beings rescued from the ocean of earthly existence. They also symbolise happiness, as the they have complete freedom of movement in the water.
Treasure Vase - also known as the vase of inexhaustible treasure, it represents the treasury of all spiritual wealth. It is depicted as an ornate golden container with lotus sections and a single wish-granting gem or a group of three gems that seal it’s opening, symbolising the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma and Sanga.
Lotus - symbolising purity of the body and mind , floating above the muddy waters ofattachment and desire, as well as the progress of the soul in the attainment of enlightenment. The lotus is an important Buddhist symbol of purity as it holds a cleansing function in nature, filtering the water surrounding it but itself remaining untouched and unchanged. Many buddhas, bodhisattvas, gods and goddesses are depicted seated or standing on lotus thrones, symbolising their divine origin, perfection and purity.
Conch Shell - proclaims the glory of turning to the correct (physically, the right) spiritual path. The right-opening whiteconch, as an instrument of sound, representsdharma , awakening disciples from the deep slumber of ignorance and encouraging them to improve their welfare and the welfare of others. The conch shell is usually depicted vertically, often with a silk ribbon wrapped around it, but may also appear horizontally as a receptacle for aromatic liquids. When held in the hand, usually the left (considered the hand of wisdom), the conch shell proclaims Buddhadarma (the law of Buddha) as the aspect of speech. In Hinduism, the conch is an attribute ofVishnu, of whom Gautama Buddha is considered to be an avatar.
Endless Knot - in its most basic manifestation the endless knot represents the cycle of rebirth that all living beings must forever repeat. On another level it represents the Buddha’s endless capacity for wisdom and compassion. As a symbol of Buddha’s teaching, it symbolises the continuity of the twelve links of dependent origination, which underlies the reality of cyclic existence.
Victory Banner - a military symbol of success in warfare, the victory banner represents the victory of Buddhism over the four māras (hindrances) in the path of enlightenment - pride, desire, disturbing emotions and fear of death. Within the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism there are eleven different forms of the victory banner, representing eleven specific methods for overcoming defilement.
Wheel - also known as the dharmachakra or Wheel of Law, it represents transformation and the teachings of Gautama Buddha. The wheel’s swift motion represents the rapid spiritual transformation revealed in the Buddha’s teachings. While the wheel is used by Tibetan Buddhists, Nepalese Buddhists tend to use the fly-whisk instead, symbolising tantric manifestations.
References and Further Reading:
Ashtamangala. Wikipendia. Accessed 30th May 2017
The Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism.
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