The Eight Auspicious Symbols Guide

The Eight Auspicious Symbols – or (Ashtamangala) are a sacred suite of Eight Auspicious Signs endemic to a number of Dharmic Traditions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. The symbols or ‘symbolic attributes’ are yidam and teaching tools. Not only do these attributes, these energetic signatures, point to qualities of enlightened mindstream, but they are the investiture that ornaments these enlightened ‘qualities.’ Many cultural enumerations and variations of the Ashtamangala are extant. Groupings of eight auspicious symbols were originally used in India at ceremonies such as an inauguration or coronation of a king. An early grouping of symbols included: throne, swastika, handprint, hooked knot, the vase of jewels, water libation flask, pair of fishes, lidded bowl. In Buddhism, these eight symbols of good fortune represent the offerings made by the gods to Shakyamuni Buddha immediately after he gained enlightenment.

 

The Umbrella or parasol (chhatra) embodies notions of wealth or royalty, for one had to be rich enough to possess such an item, and further, to have someone carry it. It points to the “royal ease” and power experienced in the Buddhist life of detachment.

The two fishes originally represented the two main sacred rivers of India – the Ganges and Yamuna. These rivers are associated with the lunar and solar channels which originate in the nostrils and carry the alternating rhythms of breath or prana. They have religious significance in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist traditions but also in Christianity (the sign of the fish, the feeding of the five thousand). In Buddhism, the fish symbolize happiness as they have complete freedom of movement in the water. They represent fertility and abundance. Often drawn in the form of carp which are regarded in the Orient as sacred on account of their elegant beauty, size, and life-span.

The treasure vase or Urn of Wisdom represents health, longevity, wealth, prosperity, wisdom and the phenomenon of space.

The lotus flower, representing ‘primordial purity’ of the body, speech, and mind, floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire; represents the full blossoming of wholesome deeds in blissful liberation.

Conch – The right-turning white conch shell, representing the beautiful, deep, melodious, interpenetrating and pervasive sound of the Buddhadharma which awakens disciples from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their welfare and the welfare of others.

The Knot – The ‘endless knot’ or ‘eternal knot’ it represents the intertwining of wisdom and compassion; represents the mutual dependence of religious doctrine and secular affairs.

Victory Banner – Dhvaja banner was a military standard of ancient Indian warfare. Makara Dhvaja has become latter an emblem of the Vedic god of love and desire – Kamadeva. Within the Tibetan tradition, a list of eleven different forms of the victory banner is given to represent eleven specific methods for overcoming defilements. Many variations of the Dhvaja design can be seen on the roofs of Tibetan monasteries to symbolize the Buddha’s victory over four maras.

The Dharma-Wheel (Dharmachakra) – The Wheel of Law, sometimes representing Sakyamuni Buddha and the Dharma teaching; also representing the mandala and chakra. This symbol is commonly used by Tibetan Buddhists where it sometimes also includes an inner wheel of the Gankyil (Tibetan).