Ashtamangala:  (Tibetan: བཀྲ་ཤིས་རྟགས་བརྒྱད་)

Ashtamangala are a sacred suite of Eight Auspicious symbols and are teaching tools. These symbols point to qualities of enlightened. Groupings of eight auspicious symbols were originally used in India at ceremonies such as an investiture or coronation of a king. In Buddhism, these eight symbols of good fortune represent the offerings made by the gods to Shakyamuni Buddha immediately after he gained enlightenment.

Conch Shell (Sanskrit: शंख, Tibetan: དུང་གྱས་འཁྱིལ)

Conch Shell represents the beautiful, deep, melodious, interpenetrating and pervasive sound of the Buddhist philosophy. It is meant to awaken disciples from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own welfare and the welfare of others.

Vajrayana Buddhism absorbed the conch as a symbol which fearlessly proclaimed the truth of the dharma. Among the eight symbols, it stands for the fame of the Buddha's teaching, which spreads in all directions like the sound of the conch trumpet.

In addition to Buddha's throat, the conch also appears as an auspicious mark on the soles, palms, limbs, breast or forehead of a divinely endowed being.

In Hinduism the Conch is an attribute of Lord Vishnu. The conch shell is thought to have been the original horn-trumpet. In an ancient Indian mythical story called the mahabaratha it was used to signal the beginning and end of the war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lotus (Sanskrit: Padma,Tibetan: པད་མེ)  

Lotus represents 'primordial purity'  of body, speech, and mind. The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment.

The colour of the lotus too has an important bearing.

White Lotus : This represents the state of spiritual perfection and total mental purity. It is associated with the White Tara and proclaims her perfect nature, a quality which is reinforced by the colour of her body.

Red Lotus : This signifies the original nature and purity of the heart. It is the lotus of love, compassion, passion and all other qualities of the heart. It is the flower of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.

Blue Lotus : This is a symbol of the victory of the spirit over the senses, and signifies the wisdom of knowledge. Not surprisingly, it is the preferred flower of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom.

Pink Lotus : This the supreme lotus, generally reserved for the highest deity. Thus naturally it is associated with the Great Buddha himself.

 

Wheel: (Sanskrit: धर्मचक्र,  Tibetan: འཀོར་ལོ།)  

The wheel symbol is represented as a chariot wheel with eight or more spokes. It is one of the oldest known Buddhist symbols.

In Buddhism number of spokes of the wheel represents various meanings: 

  • 8 spokes representing the Noble Eightfold Path.
  • 12 spokes representing the Twelve Laws of Dependent Origination
  • 24 spokes representing the Twelve Laws of Dependent Origination and the Twelve Laws of Dependent Termination.
  • 31 spokes representing 31 realms of existence (11 realms of desire, 16 realms of form and 4 realms of formlessness).

Its overall shape is that of a circle, representing the perfection of the dharma teaching. The hub stands for discipline, which is the essential core of meditation practice .The rim, which holds the spokes, refers to mindfulness which holds everything together. Its underlying form is that of a circle, which is recognized across all traditions as a shape that is complete and perfect in itself, qualities which inform the teachings of the Buddha too.

 

Parasol: (Sanskrit: छत्ररत्न, Tibetan: རིནཆེན་གདུགས)

The Parasol is symbolized by the umbrella, whose important function is to cast a shadow, the shadow of protection. The parasol or umbrella is a symbol of both protection and royalty. The coolness of its shade symbolizes protection from the heat of suffering, desire, and other spiritually harmful forces.

The dome of the umbrella is held aloft by a vertical handle (just like the mountain upholds the sky), which is identified with the central axis upholding the world. The umbrella is carried above an important dignitary or the image of a deity, to indicate that the person or symbol below the umbrella is in fact the centre of the universe, and also its spiritual support.

In Tibet, depending on their status, various dignitaries were entitled to different parasols, with religious heads being entitled to a silk one and secular rulers to a parasol with embroidered peacock feathers. Exalted personalities such as the Dalai Lama are entitled to both, and in processions, first a peacock parasol and then a silk one is carried after him.

The dome symbolizes wisdom, and the hanging skirt, compassion. Thus the composite form of the parasol signifies the union of these dual elements.

Octagonal and square parasols are also common, representing the Noble Eightfold Path and the four directional quarters respectively.

 

Eternal knot (Sanskrit: श्रीवत्स, Tibetan: དཔལ་བེའུ)

The endless knot is a closed, graphic ornament composed of right-angled, intertwined lines. This  image signifies the dramatic interplay and interaction of the opposing forces in the dualistic world of manifestation, leading to their union, and ultimately to harmony in the universe. This fact is amply reflected in the symmetrical and regular form of the endless knot. It represents the inter relatedness and interconnection of:

  • Wisdom and compassion
  • The mutual dependence of religious doctrine and secular affairs
  • The union of wisdom and method
  • The inseparability of emptiness and Dependent Co-arising
  • The union of wisdom and great compassion
  • The linking of ancestors and omnipresence and the magical ritual and meta-process of binding

The intertwining of lines reminds us how all phenomena are conjoined and yoked together as a closed cycle of cause and effect. Thus the whole composition is a pattern that is closed on in itself with no gaps, leading to a representational form of great simplicity and fully balanced harmony.

Since all phenomena are interrelated, the placing of the endless knot on a gift or greeting card is understood to establish an auspicious connection between the giver and the recipient. Since the knot has no beginning or end it also symbolizes the infinite wisdom of the Buddha.

  

Fish (Sanskrit: मत्स्य , Tibetan: གསེར་ཉ) 

The fish represents the state of fearless suspension in the huge ocean. The pair of fishes originated as an ancient pre-Buddhist symbol of the two sacred rivers of India, Ganga and Yamuna. Symbolically, these two rivers represent the lunar and solar channels, which originate in the nostrils and carry the alternating rhythms of breath or prana. In Buddhism, the golden fishes symbolize happiness, as they have complete freedom in water. They represent fertility and abundance as they multiply very rapidly. Fish often swim in pairs, and in China they represented conjugal unity and fidelity, where a pair of fishes would often be given as a wedding present.

 

The Victory Banner (Sanskrit: Dhwaja, Tibetan: རྒྱལ་མཚན) 

 

The banner or sign of victory .Originally, the victory banner was a military standard carried in ancient Indian warfare, and bore the specific insignia of its champion. For example in the Mahabharata, Krishna's chariot was adorned with a banner showing the image of the monkey-god Hanuman.

The victory banner was adopted by early Buddhism as an emblem of the Buddha's enlightenment, heralding the triumph of knowledge over ignorance. It is said to have been placed on the summit of Mt. Meru by Buddha himself, symbolizing his victory over the entire universe. Again, Mount Meru here is believed to be the central axis supporting the world.

The flag of victory also denotes Buddha's triumph over Mara, who personifies hindrances on the path to spiritual realization. Specifically, there are said to be four types of Maras, each one representing an individual hurdle on the path to spiritual progress. These are:

  • The Mara of Emotional Defilement
  • Mara of Passion
  • Mara of the Fear of Death
  • Mara of Pride and Lust

It was only after conquering these four negative traits that Buddha could proclaim victory over ignorance, and achieve nirvana.

Cylindrical victory banners made of beaten copper are traditionally placed at the four corners of monastery and temple roofs. These signify the Buddha's victorious dharma radiating to the four directions and also his triumph over the four Maras.

 

Urn of Wisdom (Sanskrit: कुम्भ, Tibetan: བུམ་པ )

The treasure vase or Urn of Wisdom  represents health, longevity, wealth, prosperity, wisdom and the phenomenon of space. Space is that elemental matrix which contains, holds and conducts all phenomena. Space is the repository and conduit of everything that is manifest, embodied or incarnate. 

Its symbolic meaning was almost always associated with the ideas of storage and the satisfaction of material desires. In the sagas and fairytales of many different cultures, for example, there is the recurring idea of an inexhaustible vessel.

Wealth vases, sealed with precious and sacred substances, are commonly placed upon altars and on mountain passes, or buried at water springs, where their presence is believed to attract wealth and bring harmony to the environment.

In relation to Buddhism it specifically means the spiritual abundance of the Buddha, a treasure that did not diminish, however much of it he gave away.

 
 
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