Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism
The ‘Eight Auspicious Symbols’ of Buddhism are one of the most frequently witnessed symbols of this religion. Understanding these eight symbols will help you learn the meaning of Buddhist symbols. According to Buddhist beliefs, each of the eight symbols incorporated in the ‘Eight Auspicious Symbols’ have a special significance and meaning. Each of them represents a specific teaching of Lord Buddha.
When all these eight symbols come together, they form a powerful union. The Ashtamangala not only has a strong Tibetan influence as mentioned in this article earlier, but also shares an Indian connection, especially in terms of its iconography.
The ‘Eight Auspicious Symbols’ consist of the following:
Parasol or chattri
Golden fish or suvarnamatsya
Treasure Vase or kalasha
Lotus Flower or padma
Conch shell or sankha
Endless knot or shrivasta
Victory banner or dhvaja
Dharma Wheel or dharmachakra
The parasol or the chattri in Buddhism stands for ‘protection’ as well as ‘royalty’. It symbolizes the protection of the followers of this faith against the ‘heat of defilement’. The parasol signifies protection from earthly emotions such as suffering and desire. The Buddhists believe that just like the ‘axis mundi’ holds the parasol in its place, the central axis upholds this world.
The parasol also signifies the importance of the person underneath it. According to Buddhist beliefs, the person or symbol underneath the parasol is the center of the universe. Once can come across several pictorial depictions of Lord Buddha, where he has a parasol over his head.
The next important symbol under the Ashtamangala is the Golden Fish. This symbol consists of two fish, standing in a vertical position with their heads turned inwards, towards each other. It is believed that the symbol of the two golden fish actually belongs to the pre-Buddhist era, where the two fish represented the holy Indian rivers of Ganga and Yamuna respectively.These rivers in turn stand for the breathing pattern of the human body. In Buddhism however, the symbol of golden fish represents happiness. This is because the fish have complete independence when they are in water. Just as the fish procreate at a rapid rate, the symbol of golden fish also signifies fertility
The Golden Fish
The next symbol is the treasure vase or kalasha. In Buddhism, the treasure vase is portrayed as a fat vase with a short, but slim neck. The treasure vase is shown as having a jewel at its mouth, which means that the vase is full of treasure. As per Buddhist philosophy, the treasure vase is symbolic of wealth and abundance.
It is said to have a harmonious effect on its surroundings. Therefore, it is a common Buddhist practice to bury similar treasure vases in mountains, water springs, and to place them at altars.
The Lotus Flower
The lotus flower is said to capture one of the founding beliefs of Buddhism. The lotus takes root in mud, grows through the water level and blooms into a beautiful flower with a wonderful scent. Buddhists believe that the lotus flower signifies the ‘progress of a human soul’. This means that just like a lotus is born in mud, humans are born in a web of materialism.
The lotus flower rises through the water level; similarly, the human soul grows with experience, to ultimately attain enlightenment, portrayed by the lotus flower in full bloom.
The Conch Shell
The fifth symbol is the conch shell or sankha. The conch shell is a much-respected object in the Indian culture. It is said to ward off evil, and is believed to be a symbol of power and authority. The Conch shell is an emblem that proclaims the truth of the dharma. The Buddhists make use of conch shell to announce important religious assemblies.
The Tibetan Buddhists make use of the conch shell as a musical instrument, and also as a carrier of holy water during religious ceremonies.
The Endless Knot
The sixth symbol from the ‘Eight Auspicious Symbols’ of Buddhism is the ‘Endless knot’ or shrivasta. If a close inspection of this Buddhist symbol, you will find that it is made up of lines that are intertwined and are all at right angles. The Endless Knot has never ending loops, no beginning and no end. Popular in Chinese inspired art and even in used in the Celtic Culture.
This symbol is indicative of the endless wisdom possessed by Lord Buddha. It is said that this Buddhist symbol has a Naga inspiration behind it.
The Victory Banner
The seventh Ashtamangala symbol is the victory banner or the dhvaja. While the victory banner has always had an important military significance in Indian culture, for the Buddhists, it signifies the victory of knowledge over ignorance.
It is a symbol of Lord Buddha’s enlightenment and symbolic of overcoming adversity and defilement.
The Wheel of Life
The eighth and the last symbol of the Ashtamangala is the ‘Wheel of life’ or the dharmachakra. The ‘Wheel of Life’ is the most important of all the ‘Eight Auspicious Symbols’. This is because the ‘Wheel of Life’ represents the teachings of Lord Buddha.
The wheel symbolizes the spiritual change that it brought about by the teachings of Lord Buddha. His first religious teaching, which took place at the Deer Park in Sarnath is said to be the ‘first turning of the dharmachakra’.
The discourses given by Buddha in Rajgir and Shravasti make the second and the third turning of the dharmachakra respectively. The eight spokes of the dharmachakra stand for the Eightfold Path, as prescribed by Buddha in his teachings.
I hope you have a better understanding of the meaning of Buddhist symbols. Share this post The Meaning of Buddhist Symbols with others who are searching for a deeper understanding of Buddhist symbols and imaginary. There are great resources on the internet and in books. Enjoy your spiritual journey and have a blessed day!