The set of eight Tibetan auspicious symbols is very important in Tibetan Buddhism. Although they are usually seen as a set, popular symbols such as the endless knot are commonly displayed individually. Additionally, the meanings can fluctuate marginally depending on the teacher. These sets of eight Tibetan auspicious symbols are very popular in Tibet and are frequently seen adorning monasteries and religious centers.
These Tibetan Buddhist symbols are believed to represent attributes and aspects of the Buddha’s body that are connected to Buddhist virtues. These metaphors are presented in an ancient sutra known as the “Heap of Good Fortune”.
Eight Copper Tibetan Auspicious Symbols – Metaphors
Precious White Parasol
The precious white parasol protects us from the harsh elements of the natural environment such as sun and rain. As a result, those who are able to use an umbrella will have a fair complexion. However, in Buddhism the white parasol is believed to protect devotees from the harsh aspects of unwholesome thoughts (kilesas). As a result, they will have good karma that is well protected. The physical metaphor here is that the Buddha’s head is a protecting parasol.
Two Golden Fish
In China, the two golden fish symbolize unity and fidelity in marriage. Additionally, fish swim easily through the oceans and Buddhists aspire to swim with the same ease through the ocean of suffering. Here this pair of golden fish are compared to the two eyes of the Buddha. Indeed, a pair of beautiful eyes are still compared to two fish in India. A woman with pretty eyes is known as “minakshi”.
The treasure vase is symbolically connected to the Buddha’s throat in the sutra of good fortune. The Buddha’s teachings endlessly came forth in his resonant deep voice and enticed many disciples to follow the Dharma path. Additionally, they passed through his throat and never ceased or diminished for his entire life. Therefore, his throat was a Dharma treasure vase that never diminished no matter how much treasures came from within.
Right Turning White Conch
In ancient India the conch was used to summon troops to battle or to signal over long distances. However, the right turning white conch was also seen as being very auspicious because the planets and stars also orbit to the right. As a result, the sounds that come from this special conch are believed to carry special melodies. Therefore, the Buddha’s harmonious speech is naturally compared to the melodious sound of the right turning white conch shell.
It is impossible to untie the auspicious knot. Furthermore, there are certain aspects of the universe that are inseparable. For example in Buddhism, compassion and wisdom are inseparable and in Nirvana they are eternally joined. Additionally, Buddhists believe that cause and effect is endless and therefore the cycle of life is infinite. The Buddha’s mind is compared to the never ending knot because his wisdom is infinite.
The lotus flower is very symbolic in Buddhist beliefs. Ironically, in Tibet the natural environment does not permit the lotus flower to grow. Nonetheless, the lotus is ubiquitous in Tibetan art. Buddha statues, thankas and this set of eight Tibetan auspicious symbols all contain the lotus flower. Of the 4 colors, the pink lotus is believed to represent the Buddha’s tongue in the sutra of good fortune.
Banner of Victory
In Buddhism, the banner of victory represents the triumph over the self. Additionally, Mara is the demon that uses the defilements to corrupt individuals. As a result, the sutra of good fortune uses the banner of victory to represent the Buddha’s body. The Buddha’s body is proclaiming victory over the attacking armies of Mara. Therefore, a Buddha statue can also be seen as a banner of victory over Mara.
The Golden Wheel
The “first turning of the wheel of Dharma” occurred at Deer Park in Sarnath after the Buddha’s enlightenment. According to the teachings in the sutra of good fortune the wheel is a metaphor for the feet of the Buddha that tread the Dharma path. Additionally, the wheel hub represents discipline, the 8 spokes represent wisdom and the rim stands for concentration. Discipline is the axis of meditative practice and serves as the foundation on which everything is built. Next, the correct application of wisdom with the practice of Dharma will cut off ignorance. The rim serves as a metaphor for concentration which holds the mind together just as the rim in the wheel of life holds the wheel together.