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The Eight Auspicious Symbols

The eight auspicious symbols are also known as the “Eight auspicious signs of good fortune” or the “Eight lucky symbols.” These signs are the white umbrella, the two golden fish, the treasure vase, the lotus flower , the right-turning conch shell, the endless knot, the banner of victory and the golden wheel,

Tibetan symbols on wallhangingThese symbols frequently appear throughout our range of traditional Tibetan rugs, wall hangings and other products. They have been widely used across Asia in religious and daily life to attract prosperity and harmony since the beginning of time. The eight signs have become increasingly popular emblems for display as decorative items in homes and businesses throughout the world.

Symbol on carpetThe eight signs can be dated back as far and beyond the first century. They first appeared as the original royal insignias of India. In recent years with the increasing popularity of Buddhism, they have become globally accepted as the general symbols of “good fortune”.

The symbols are also used the practice of “Feng Shui”, which is based upon an ancient Chinese system, believed to utilize the laws of heaven and earth to improve daily living by creating positive energy flows in homes and businesses to attract good health and prosperity. The signs feature strongly in Tibetan, Indian and Chinese religious and iconic imagery. The yogi’s of India believe the eight objects signify the fundamental nature of the body highlighting its luminous essence. To the Chinese, the eight objects represent the eight vital organs of the Buddha’s holy body and attract prosperity, fertility and long life.

The eight auspicious signs and the Tibetan Tradition

Symbol drawingsTibetans regard the eight auspicious symbols as a representation of the holy Buddha’s body. The umbrella signifies the Buddha’s head, the two golden fish are his eyes, the lotus his tongue, the treasure vase his neck, the wheel his feet, the victory banner his body, the conch shell his speech and the mystical knot the Buddha’s omniscient mind.

In Tibet, the eight symbols are regarded as sacred objects and they are extremely popular. Tibetans believe their presence in homes and buildings attract good fortune and hold an array of mystical qualities so they can be seen everywhere, in temples, monasteries, private homes, palaces and public buildings. The eight signs also flourish in traditional Tibetan rugs and art work.

The symbols are often displayed independently, in pairs or as a group of eight. The styled imagery of the eight signs may vary depending on whether they are used on furniture, in paintings, as wall hangings or embroidered onto fabrics, clothes and robes.

Tibetans draw these symbols on the ground with coloured chalk or powder to welcome high lamas and religious dignitaries to monasteries and integrate them into their prayer sessions by hanging colourful fabrics embodied with the eight objects.

The White Umbrella

The white umbrella symbolAbove the mountain is the “dome of the sky”. This is symbolised by The White Umbrella, whose important function is to cast a shadow, the shadow of protection.

The umbrella symbolically protects beings from illness, negativity, harmful forces, bad luck, suffering and negative obstacles that enter our lives. It represents respect and honour and provides protection from the heat of suffering, desire and other spiritually harmful forces.

The Tibetan version of the umbrella was adopted from ancient royal Indian and Chinese prototypes. White, yellow, or red silk is stretched over the domed frame and silk pendants hang from the circular frame forming an overhanging skirt.

Umbrella DomeThe umbrellas dome represents wisdom and the hanging skirt symbolises compassion. The combined structure of the umbrella signifies the union of both duel elements.

Tibetan dignitaries depending upon their status were entitled to different umbrellas. Religious heads were entitled to silk umbrellas and rulers were entitled to an umbrella embodied with peacock feathers. Dignified personalities such as the Dali Lama are entitled to both. In processions a peacock parasol and then a silk one is lead behind him.

The umbrella originated as an ancient Indian symbol of protection and royalty. It was associated with wealth and status, the more umbrellas included in a person’s entourage, the more influential the person was. 13 umbrellas defined the status of king.

The Golden Fish or Two Golden Fish

The golden fish symbolIn Tibetan culture the Golden Fish symbolise good fortune, salvation, happiness, long life and “complete freedom” in water.

They represent harmony, peace, fertility and abundance because they often swim in pairs and multiply rapidly. The golden fish are the descendants of Koi Carp which can live for over one hundred years.

The fish are symbolic of beings saved from the ocean of earthly life and suffering. They represent the “Buddha’s eyes” and wisdom and provide guidance to the path of liberation.

They represent a state of fearless suspension in the harmless ocean of Samsara (the revolving door between life, death and reincarnation) and the release of ones spirit from all suffering.

Koi CarpsFeng Shui practitioners believe the fish symbolise prosperity and bring good fortune into your home or business. For centuries the fish have been drawn in the form of Koi carp. Koi carp are sacred in Asia because of their elegant beauty, large size, and long lifespan.

Prior to Buddhism the golden fish represented the two main sacred rivers of India, the Ganges and the Yamuna. Both rivers represent the lunar and solar channels which originate in the nostrils carrying the alternating rhythms of breath or life sustaining forces.

Fish have religious significance in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions as well as in Christianity (the sign of the fish, the feeding the thousands). In China the fish signify prosperity, fertility, unity and fidelity and they are often given as a wedding present.

The Great Treasure Vase

The great treasure vase symbolThe Great Treasure Vase symbolizes inexhaustible treasures. No matter how much is removed from the vase, it remains eternally full. It symbolises an endless rain of long life, wealth, the fulfilment of material desires, the attainment of prosperity and all of the benefits of this world.

It signifies inexhaustible wisdom, inner wealth and the riches available in the Buddhists teachings. It contains spiritual jewels and the treasury of all desires.

In Tibet, wealth vases are sealed with precious and sacred substances. They are commonly placed upon alters, in mountain passes or buried at water springs where their presence is believed to “attract wealth” and bring harmony to the environment.

Treasure vases are often buried or stored at certain locations at monasteries or Buddhist centres to generate wealth and prosperity. The treasure vase is a fat bellied vessel with a slim short neck and a large jewel located at on top at the opening, indicating a treasure vase. It was traditionally crafted with Indian clay and sealed with precious, sacred substances.

The Lotus Flower

The lotus flower symbolThe Lotus flower is the universal symbol of purity and it is present in all forms of Buddhism and Hinduism. The lotus represents the complete purification of body, speech and mind and the blossoming of wholesome deeds toward the path of spiritual liberation.

The roots of a lotus are in the mud and the stem grows through the murky water. The beautiful heavily scented flower lies above the water basking in the sunlight. The flower rises and blooms high above the water due to the strength of its stem. This pattern of growth refers to many aspects of spiritual growth.

As it grows from the mud (samsara), up through murky waters it appears clean on the surface “purification of the mind”, and finally produces a beautiful flower “enlightenment”.

Lotus FlowerThe white blossom represents purity and the stem stands for the practice of Buddhist teachings which elevate the mind above the mud of worldly existence. An open blossom signifies full enlightenment; a closed blossom signifies the potential for enlightenment.

The lotus does not grow in Tibet however it has been depicted in Tibetan art works for centuries. It is connected with the Buddha and every important deity (or divine being) where they are imaged holding a lotus in their hands or being seated upon one. The colour of the lotus flower has a significant bearing upon its symbolic meaning.

The white lotus flowerThe “White Lotus” represents spiritual perfection and total purity of the mind. It is associated with the White Tara, the goddess of compassion, long life, healing and serenity.

The red lotus flowerThe Red Lotus signifies the original nature of purity. It is the lotus of love, compassion, passion and other qualities of the heart. It is the flower of Avalokiteshvara, the Bhuddist god of compassion.

The blue lotus flowerThe Blue Lotus Symbolises the victory of the spirit and our senses signifying the wisdom of knowledge. It is the preferred flower of Manjushri, the god of wisdom.

The pink lotus flowerThe Pink Lotus Is the supreme lotus. It is generally reserved for the highest deity and is associated with the Great Buddha himself.

The Conch shell or White Conch Horn

The Conch shell or white conch horn symbolThe Conch Shell originated from the beginning of time and is the original trumpet or horn. It signifies victory, an emblem of power, fame, authority, and sovereignty. Is blast is believed to banish evil spirits, avert natural disasters, and deter harmful beings.

In Tibetan Buddhism the conch is used to congregate religious assemblies, as a musical instrument or a container for holy water during the religious practice.

When the conch is used as a horn, it symbolises the deep, far reaching sounds of the teachings as it awakens beings from the slumber of ignorance.

The Right-Turning Conch is especially sacred. The right spiralling motion is believed to echo the celestial motion of the sun, moon, planets and stars across the heavens. It can be heard in all directions proclaiming the fame of the Buddha’s teachings.

It is recognized as the original horn or trumpet. Ancient Indian mythical epics portray heroes carrying conch shells. The Indian god Vishnu is also described as having a conch shell of one of his main emblems.

The Interwoven Endless Knot

The interwoven endless knot symbolThe Endless Knot is also known as the Interwoven Knot of life or The Knot of Eternity. Tibetans believe the mystical knot is surrounded with mysterious powers that bring happiness, long life, love and a balance of harmony.

It represents the illusive character of time, and brings long life as it is endless. It represents the knot of love and the thread that guides us to an everlasting happiness.

From a Tibetan perspective the knot has no beginning or end signifying the Buddha’s endless wisdom, compassion and devotion. As a secular symbol, it represents an assured continuity of love and the nature of reality where everything is interrelated and only exists as part of a web of cause and its effect (karma).

The endless knot on Tibetan carpetThe intertwining of lines illustrates how all phenomena are conjoined and connected as a closed cycle of cause and effect. Therefore the whole symphony is a pattern closed upon itself with no gaps, leading to a representational form of great simplicity and a fully balanced harmony.

This is one of the most significant symbols in Tibetan culture. The design can vary and often appears in artwork on fabrics and on traditional Tibetan rugs. 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.

The Supreme Banner of Victory or “Victory Banner”

The supreme banner of victory symbolThe Victory Banner is the traditional symbol of protection, an emblem of royalty. It brings great honour and recognition.

The banner symbolises the victory of the Buddha’s teachings over death, ignorance, disharmony and all of the negativities of this world.

It represents a powerful deity that emanated from the Buddha’s forehead known as the umbrella goddess who provides protection from black magic and evil. The white umbrella signifies her protection.

The red lotus flowerTibetan monasteries are often decorated with victory banners. The banner represents the attainment of knowledge, wisdom and compassion. The adjacent picture illustrates red, yellow and green banners decorating the path and of a Tibetan monastery.

The eight auspicious symbols are drawn in chalk on the path to welcome high Buddhist lamas.

In early Buddhism, the victory banner represented Buddha’s victorious enlightenment. In ancient times the victory banner was carried in battle. Great warriors would often have banners with their own emblems displayed on the back of their chariots.

The Golden Wheel or of Dharma Wheel

The golden wheel or dharma wheel symbolThis mystical symbol is the most sacred of the eight auspicious signs. It signifies the attainment of the highest form of happiness.

It encompasses the way to permanent happiness while bringing an end to all worldly suffering. Tibetans believe that placing the golden wheel in one’s home is leads to ever lasting happiness.

Tibetans view the wheel as signifying transformation through spiritual change, a weapon to overcome all obstacles and hindrances through spiritual evolution, resulting in a change in our attitudes and the way that we respond to negative and stressful situations.

It is said that after Buddha achieved enlightenment, Brahma came to him and offered a Dharma-Wheel requesting the Buddha to teach. The term turning of the wheel of Dharma always refers to Buddha’s teachings.

The hub of the wheel symbolises moral discipline, and the eight spokes represent analytical insight gained through meditation. The eight spokes point to the eight directions and symbolize the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path of understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, mindfulness, and concentration. In India, the wheel symbolizes creation and protection.

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