Auspicious Symbol

Groupings of the Auspicious Symbols

Some drawings depict the three main groups of auspicious symbols and offerings. They appear in Tibetan Buddhist art. These are the eight auspicious symbols and the eight auspicious substances. They are also the offerings of the five sensual enjoyments.

The eight auspicious symbols form the most well-known group of Buddhist emblems. Their origins trace back to the advent of Buddhism in India. The eight auspicious substances date back to the same period. Although they are less well known as an auspicious group.

Offerings in Buddhist Imagery

The offerings of the five senses were incorporated into Buddhist imagery at a later date. They are first referred to as a symbolic group in the Guhyasamaja Tantra. They came into revelation between the sixth and eighth centuries AD. They appeared as ritual symbols of the five sensory enjoyments at a later time. It occurred in different representational forms from the early Vedic period.

The Eight Auspicious Symbols (Skt. ashtamangala; Tib. bkra shis rtags brgyad)

The Buddhist Symbols

The eight auspicious Buddhist symbols (Tib. bkra shis rtags brgyad) consist of some symbolic paraphernalia. A parasol, a pair of golden fishes, a treasure vase, a lotus, a white right-spiraling conch shell. As well as an endless knot, a banner of victory, and a golden wheel. These first formed a grouping of early Indian symbols of royalty. They were present at such ceremonies as the investiture or coronation of a king.

The Indian Grouping

The earliest Indian grouping of these eight precious objects comprised of many things. A throne, a swastika, a handprint, a hooked knot or hair-curl, a vase of jewels, among others. But also, a water libation flask, a pair of fishes, and a lidded bowl. A south Indian listing includes a whisk, a pair of fishes, an elephant goad, a mirror, a drum, a banner, a water vase, and a lamp.

The Jain and Newar Symbols

The Jains also adopted a list of eight auspicious symbols. It included a treasure vase, a water flask and two golden fishes. Along with a swastika, an endless knot, a hair-curl, a mirror, and a throne. In Nepal, the Newar Buddhist form of the ashtanangala re- places the golden wheel with a pair of fly whisks (Skt. Chamara), and most commonly the eight symbols form a composite vase-shaped arrangement.

Offerings to the Shakyamuni Buddha

In Buddhism, these eight symbols of good fortune represent the offerings made by the gods. It was for Shakyamuni Buddha immediately after he attained enlightenment. Brahma was the first to appear with an offering of a thousand-spoked golden wheel. He requested Shakyamuni to turn the teaching wheel of the dharma. The great sky god Indra appeared next, presenting a white, right-spiraling conch shell.

Buddha Holding Offerings

It presented as a symbol of the proclamation of the dharma. The earth goddess Sthavara (Tib Sayi Lhamo) borne witness to the Buddha's enlightenment. She presented Shakyamuni with a golden vase full of the nectar of immortality. Brahma and Indra stand to the left and right of Buddha's enlightenment throne. It is common in iconography. And they offer the golden wheel and the white conch shell.

Divine Marks on Soles and Palms

Early Buddhist aniconic representations of Buddha's footprints were invariable. They depicted auspicious symbols as divine marks on the soles of his feet. It included the lion throne, victory banner, vajra, water flask, and elephant goad. Along with eternal knot, swastika, and conch shell.

But the most common of these marks were the lotus and wheel. There is the spoked wheel an insignia of the chakravartin. An eight- or thousand-spoked wheel adorns the palms and soles of Buddha images.

The Ashtamangala Devi

One of the meanings of the word deva is 'auspiciously drawn'. It refers to the body markings on the palms, soles, breast, or throat of divine beings or gods. Indra, for example, bears the insignia of the shrivatsa or eternal knot on his breast. In early Indian Vajrayana Buddhism, the eight auspicious symbols were eight goddesses. The Ashtamangala Devi each carried one of the auspicious symbols as their attribute.

In his book, The Buddhist Tantras, Alex Wayman quotes the commentary of the Indian master Buddhaguhya on the eight auspicious symbols;

"Yoga displays itself as the eight emblems on the true nature of the body. The eight emblems of good luck are: the endless knot (slirivalsa) which is lotus-like; the wheel (chakra) which is frightening; the banner (dhvaja) which is victorious; the umbrella (chattra) which is dignified, the lotus (Padma) which is luminous, the flask (kalasha) of acute mind, the conch (shankha) of purity, the golden fishes (Matsya) of auspicious mind."

The Symbols As Buddha's Organs

In Chinese Buddhism, the eight symbols represent the vital organs of the Buddha's body. The parasol indicates the spleen, the two golden fishes are the kidneys. The treasure vase is the stomach, the lotus indicates the liver. The conch is the gall bladder, the endless knot forms the intestines.

The victory banner represents the lungs, and the wheel arises as the heart. An eight-spoked wheel - fashioned from bone or gold - adorns the breast of many Buddhist deities. It symbolizes the eight spokes or lotus petals of the heart chakra.

Buddha's Body

A Tibetan tradition identifies the eight symbols as forming the body of the Buddha. The parasol represents his head and the golden fish his eyes. The lotus is his tongue, and the treasure vase his neck. The victory banner is his body, the conch his speech, and the end-less knot his mind.
 

Symbols and Objects

Artistically the eight auspicious symbols may be depicted individually, in pairs, in fours, or in a group of eight. When illustrated as a collective group they often assume the simulacra form of a vase-shape. The treasure vase may be omitted as the other seven symbols form the outline of the vase.

Designs of these eight symbols adorn all manner of sacred and secular Buddhist objectsLike, carved wooden furniture, embellished metalwork, wall panels, carpets, and silk brocades. A beautiful Chinese brocade design depicts a pair of dragons holding the eight symbols in their claws. The eight auspicious symbols are frequently drawn on the ground in sprinkled flour or colored powders. They welcome visiting religious dignitaries to monastic establishments.

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