Tibetan Buddhism's eight auspicious symbols - part 2


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Our last piece introduced Tibet's commonly seen Eight Auspicious Symbols. Seen in the arts, decorations, and even on everyday objects, Tibetans ascribe must power and influence to these symbols. In addition to the four previously listed - the lotus flower, the infinite knot, the golden fish pair, and the victory banner, the following four symbols round out the list of Tibetan Buddhism's most revered icons.

5. The Wheel of Dharma represents knowledge and the teaching of the Buddha. The wheel consists of three basic parts: the hub, the rim, and spokes (generally eight in number). Individually, the rim represents the element of limitation, the hub is the axis of the world, and the eight spokes denote the Eightfold Path set down by the Buddha, which leads to the cessation of all suffering. The wheel's swift motion serves as an apt metaphor for the rapid spiritual change, the joy of wholesome deeds, and liberation engendered by the teachings of the Buddha.

6. Treasure Vase represents inexhaustible treasure and wealth. The vase is sealed with precious and sacred substances, which are commonly placed by Tibetans upon altars and on mountain passes or buried at water springs, where their presence is believed to attract wealth and bring harmony to the environment. It also specifically means the spiritual abundance of the Buddha in Buddhist thinking, a treasure that will supposedly not diminish no matter how much is given away.

7. The Parasol represents protection. The precious parasol symbolizes the wholesome activity of preserving beings from illness, harmful forces, obstacles and so forth in this life. It also represents the enjoyment of a feast of benefit under its cool shade.

8. Right-coiled White Conch represents the thoughts of the Buddha. The white conch which coils to the right symbolises the deep, far-reaching, and melodious sound of the Dharma teachings and for the fame of the Buddha's teaching, which spreads in all directions like the sound of the conch trumpet.

What is the significance of the conch being right-coiled? It is said that shells which coil to the right in a clockwise direction are a rarity and are considered especially sacred. The right-coiling movement of such a conch is believed to echo the celestial motion of the sun, moon, planets and stars across the heavens. 

In addition to Tibetan paintings, you may be surprised to find that the Eight Auspicious Symbols have been so widely revered as to be tattooed on the people's soles, palms, limbs, and even forehead! Truly, the Eight Auspicious Symbols are an integral part of every Tibetan's life.

Similarly, the name "windhorse" is drawn from Tibetan symbolism, from a symbol that embodies the idea of well-being and good fortune, which is the pivotal element found in a Tibetan illustration representing the four cardinal directions. Windhorses are also a kind of colorful Tibetan mantra flag with all five animals printed on them, which can be see often when you trek Tibet.

If you are interested in Tibetan symbols and culture, consider a cultural tour of Tibet. See the most influential monasteries and schools of thought, revered holy mountains and lakes, and engage local Tibetans to get a feel for how they live these beliefs in their daily life!

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