The eight auspicious symbols are the most renowned group of Buddhist emblems which represent offerings made by the gods to Buddha after he attained his enlightenment.
Sacred collection of 8 auspicious symbols of Buddhism is called Ashtamangala in Sanskrit (ancient language of Hinduism) and it consists of:
- The Parasol
- Two Golden Fishes
- The Lotus Flower
- The Golden Treasure Vase
- The Dharma Wheel
- The Victory Banner
- The White Conch Shell
- The Endless Knot or Eternal Knot
So, why are these 8 auspicious symbols so important for Buddhists?
You will find lots of artistic representations of 8 auspicious symbols in the cities of Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet or India.
Ashtamangala symbols are very often reproduced by Tibetan Buddhists on various household items such as furniture, carpets, ceramics, wall panels and fabrics.
It is important to have all 8 auspicious symbols placed around the house, because they are believed to bring more success, good fortune and wisdom of Buddha’s teachings into our life.
So, whether you simply want to learn about Ashtamangala, or planning your next, exciting holiday to Himalayas, you could definitely benefit from understanding their hidden meaning by reading this article.
While different teachers may give different interpretations of 8 auspicious symbols, there are some common analogies between them and most of them have a universal meaning.
So, let’s dive deeper into the meaning of each, individual auspicious symbol of Buddhism:
1. The Endless Knot or Eternal Knot
Endless Knot is also known in Sanskrit as Eternal Knot. For Buddhists it is a symbol of connection between all beings and events representing perfect harmony of the Universe.
When you look closely at the Knot of Eternity, you will realise that it has no beginning and no end!
In Tibetan culture, endless knot is one the most treasured auspicious symbols, because it represents wisdom, compassion and timeless teachings of Buddha.
In Tibetan Buddhism, The Endless Knot also represents karmic cycle known as Samsara, which continues eternally until soul reaches liberation.
Eternal Knot also stands for continuity as the fundamental root of our existence.
2. Lotus Flower
Lotus is one of the most beautiful flowers, which can only grow only in the mud and whose petals open one by one.
While the roots of the lotus grow in the mud, the flower itself blossoms and rises above the water, therefore it is a symbol of spirituality, purity and renunciation.
Mud represents the suffering and obstacles of life, and the lotus flower symbolizes our journey of overcoming these obstacles on the path to enlightenment.
7 chakras are also known as lotuses and each chakra symbol is portrayed with a different number of lotus petals: 4, 8, 10, 12, 16, 2, or 1,000 petals.
If you are fascinated by a beautiful Lotus Flower, you can learn more about it by reading one of our previous blog posts: Lotus Flower Meaning & Symbolism
3. The Dharma Wheel
The Dharma Wheel (also known as Dharmachakra) is a symbol that reflects on the teachings of the Buddha and depicts dharma, which is the eternal law and order that rules the universe.
The Dharma Wheel consists of a hub and some spokes as well as a rim.
- The teachings of Buddha are known as the Dharma.
- The Dharma Wheel is round in shape to symbolize flawlessness of the teachings of the Buddha (the Dharma).
- The wheel has a rim which symbolizes the ability to perform meditation and to concentrate.
The Dharma Wheel helps to keep all of the teachings of the Buddha in one place.
You can learn more about The Dharma Wheel here.
4. Two Golden Fishes
The Pair of Golden Fishes is an ancient, pre-Buddhist symbol which originally represented 2 main, holy Indian rivers: Ganges and Yamuna.
Buddhists believe that golden fishes are a symbol of playfulness, optimism and happiness as they have absolute freedom in the water.
Golden Fishes are also symbol of bravery and contentment, as they instinctively swim through the vastness of rivers and oceans.
Two Pair of Golden Fishes became a popular symbol in China representing unity, fertility, wealth and abundance. Chinese word ‘yu’ can be translated to both ‘fish’ and ‘great wealth’.
5. The Parasol
The Parasol is a traditional Indian symbol of protection against disease, destructive powers, obstacles and suffering.
The umbrella above the head symbolises respect and honour. Throughout ancient India umbrellas were often placed above each other on a single pole as a symbol of kingship and royalty.
Historically, 13 umbrellas tend to have exhibited king's status, probably representing the sun and 12 houses of the horoscope wheel.
Some of the Buddha’s images often show a large, jewelled parasol with bells and a sapphire handle above his head. According to the ancient scriptures it was given to him by the King of the Nagas (divine serpent beings).
Buddhists believe that the parasol represents expansiveness and the protective nature of our 7th chakra (crown chakra). We all take shelter under the auspiciousness of the parasol.
6. The Victory Banner
Historically, Victory Banner (dhvaja in Sanskrit) was a military symbol carried by the ancient Indian soldiers in battle. Some of the greatest warriors very often decorated their chariots with this symbol.
The Victory Banner was embraced by Buddhism as a symbol of Buddha’s triumphant liberation and defeat of Mara's armies. Mara warriors represent 4 major obstacles on our path to enlightenment:
- Disturbing emotions
- Fear of death
In Tibetan Buddhism, there are 11 variations of Victory Banner, which symbolize various methods of overcoming these defilements, such as knowledge, wisdom, compassion, meditation, spirituality, selflessness, unity, formlessness and few others.
7. The Treasure Vase
The Treasure Vase symbolises the Buddha's eternal teaching quality: the gold inside of it never diminished regardless of how many lessons he taught.
The traditional Tibetan treasure vase is typically depicted as an ornamented golden vase with lotus-petal design and a set of jewels at the top of it.
The treasure vase represents a life full of wealth, abundance and brings more harmony to our surroundings.
8. The White Conch Shell
The Right-Turning White Conch Shell used to be an ancient Indian artefact carried by mythical warfare heroes as a horn trumpet.
Vishnu, who is one of the main deities of Hinduism, is very often portrayed with the fire-emanating White Conch Shell, known as Panchajanya.
Panchajanya means ‘to have control over the five classes of beings’.
The White Conch Shell is a symbol of strength, authority and power.
Sound vibration of the Panchajanya has the potential to blow away evil spirits, prevent from disasters and repel poisonous beings.
The White Conch has been adopted by the early Buddhists as the emblem of Buddha's techings.
It symbolises his courageousness in preaching the Dharma reality and his invitation to awaken and work in the interest of others.
The conch is also one of traditional Tibetan musical instruments, used during the rituals.