The Sacred Ashtamangala:
The Ashtamangala (ashta meaning eight and mangala meaning auspicious; Sanskrit अष्टमंगल Aṣṭamaṅgala) are a suite of eight auspicious symbols revered for their sacredness in Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. Originally they were used in India at ceremonies and coronations for a king, but over time they’ve become embedded within varying cultures, often seen as common motifs in households and in art.
Throughout history the nature and order of the Ashtamangala have varied culturally, taking on different forms and attributes, but historically they’ve shared in the commonality of being honored and revered for their divine attributes associated with the physical form of the Buddha. In Buddhism, these eight symbols of good fortune represent the offerings made by the Devas to Shakyamuni Buddha in recognition of his kingship immediately after he gained enlightenment.
Symbolism of the Auspicious Eight:
In ancient times the Ashtamangala were enumerated in Buddhism as a throne, a swastika, a handprint, a knot, a treasure urn, an ewer, a pair of fish, and a covered bowl, but since the 21st. century the following eight are the ones most widely used and venerated.
- The White Conch Shell represents the pervasive sound of dharma and is said to awaken disciples from the deep slumber of sleep that is veiled in ignorance, urging us to seek our own welfare and the welfare of others. In Buddhism, it represents the voice of Buddha and his sacred teachings, and in Indian epic literature, it is the hero’s trumpet. In Hinduism, the conch shell is a symbol of the Sudarshana Chakra.
- The Endless Knot was originally a symbol of love, and it represents the ultimate unity within everything. The endless knot also symbolizes the great spirit of the Buddha, the interdependence of all things, as well as, enlightenment that arises from the union of compassion and wisdom.
- The Two Goldfish originally represented two sacred rivers of India; the Ganges, and Yamuna, and is associated with the lunar and solar channels, said to originate in the nostrils, carrying alternating rhythms of breath and prana. In Buddhism, they represent the vision of the Buddha, as well as, aiding those along the spiritual path towards liberation without drowning in samsara.
- The Lotus Flower symbolizes divine beauty and primordial purity, for its ability to float above muddy water, free from attachments and desires. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are often represented sitting on lotus flowers, symbolizing divine language and the purification of the body, word, and spirit. Today, the lotus flower is mostly known for symbolizing the opening of our energy centers aka; chakras.
- The Jewelled Parasol was originally an attribute of royalty in India, and in Buddhism it represents the head of the Buddha, offering protection against material and spiritual dangers such as illnesses, harmful forces, and the elements of the aether. It can also represent the canopy of heaven, the expansive firmament of the sky, and the unfolding of space.
- The Treasure Vase represents material ease or prosperity in wealth, health or longevity, and spiritual benefits. In Buddhism, it represents the neck of the Buddha and his unlimited ability to teach the dharma, which never lessons or loses its value over time. In Vajrayāna anointing ceremonies it is the container of wisdom and can represent the vastness of space.
- The Victory Banner represents the body of the Buddha and his victory over the four māras, or hindrances in the path of enlightenment… pride, desire, disturbing emotions, and the fear of death. In Tibetan Buddhism, there are eleven different forms of the banner, which represent eleven different methods for combating negative forces.
- The Dharmachakra or “Wheel of the Law” is the most well know symbol throughout Buddhism, historically symbolizing a lunar or solar chariot, driven by royalty, called a Chakravartin. A Chakravartin is the one whose wheels turn without barriers, and as such, is a master of both land and sea aka; physical reality and akashic waters.
Meditation and contemplation upon these eight auspicious symbols is said to have the ability to bring us closer to understanding the divine nature of the Buddha and the divinity within each of us waiting to be self-realized.
© Written by Carrie Love
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