The Buddhist Eight Auspicious Symbols
The Eight Auspicious Symbols, or Ashtamangala are present in Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Sikhism. The specific symbols can vary between each faith. The Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism are the Conch Shell, the Lotus, the Wheel, the Parasol, the Endless Knot, the Pair of Golden Fishes, the Banner Proclaiming Victory, and the Treasure Vase. These symbols are another way of reminding Buddhist followers of the benefits of the Dharma. The road to enlightenment is a long one, but these symbolic cues can help keep Buddhists on the right path.
The conch shell represents the omnipresent, far-reaching and harmonious teachings of the Dharma. The shell has been utilized in many cultures as a power horn used in battle, and the Buddhists compare the shell to a bugle that fearlessly declares the truth of the Dharma. The conch shell can be readily seen in many depictions of the Buddha, usually on his neck, to illustrate his melodious speech.
The lotus flower represents the purification of the body, speech, and mind, or the attainment of enlightenment. Enlightenment basically involves rising above the egocentric preoccupation of desire. The roots of the lotus grow in the mud, the stem rises through the water, and the bloom ascends past all the murky liquid to bloom in the sunlight. The lotus in bloom is compared to one’s Buddha nature blooming in a state of blissful liberation. The mud, of course, is akin to the fog of Samsara. Lotuses of varying colors can hold different meanings. A white lotus represents mental purity and spiritual perfection. Red lotuses signify the original nature of being and purity of heart. Blue is the wisdom of knowledge and mastery over the senses. The pink lotus is associated with the Buddha himself, as it is the greatest lotus of all.
There are three parts to the symbol of the wheel. The first part is the hub, which represents the training in moral discipline. The hub is the center and support of all spiritual growth. The second is the spokes, which signify the proper application of the teachings. The spokes connect the hub to the third and final part, which is the rim. The rim signifies concentration. As a whole, the wheel represents utilizing the Dharma to experience virtue and eventual liberation from suffering.
The parasol represents the sky, in that it protects the world from the sun’s intense heat. The parasol is a protector – a provider of safe haven to all. The parasol inspires followers to protect others from illness, obstacles and other harmful influences. It also reminds one that they can always take refuge in the Dharma.
The endless knot is a symbol that contains many figurative interpretations. It represents the interconnection and union of opposing or unlike forces such as: wisdom and compassion, religious and secular affairs, or birth and death. The seemingly endless nature of this lattice type design also gives an impression of infinity, much like the Buddha’s divine eternal consciousness. The endless knot is a staple in Buddhist art, and appears frequently on ritualistic and meditative tools.
Pair of Golden Fishes
The golden fishes represent happiness, fertility, abundance and conjugal unity. The history of the two fish originates in India, where the fish embody the sun and moon, or yin and yang. The ocean also represents suffering. The fish are impervious to the influence of the water. They navigate through the sea with ease, never at risk of drowning.
Banner Proclaiming Victory
The victory banner represents utilizing the Dharma to perfect one’s body, speech and mind to become triumphant over troubles and unhappiness. It is said that Buddha himself planted a victory banner at the top of Mt. Meru once he attained enlightenment. Victory banners made of copper commonly adorn the four corners of sacred Buddhist buildings. It is placed in four places to represent how the Dharma radiates in all directions, and also symbolizes the Buddha’s victory over the four Maras of: emotional defilement, passion, fear of death and pride or lust.
The treasure vase, or urn, represents the never-ending abundance of the Buddha. Much like the lamp of the genie, the vase encloses countless vast, rich spiritual benefits that one could ever imagine. The urn is also referred to as, “The Vase of Inexhaustible Treasures”, or “The Urn of Wisdom”. The vase also symbolizes a long life and magnificent prosperity. A treasure vase is often used in Buddhist initiation ceremonies.
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