Astamangala- The Eight Auspicious Symbols In Buddhism


Astamangala, the eight auspicious symbolize the eight-fold path of Buddhist practice. Each symbol represents an aspect of Buddhist teaching and has its specific meaning and when they appear together, their powers are multiplied. These eight symbols are frequently witnessed symbols of Buddhism. These symbols are a group of lucky Buddhist symbols that appear on many Buddhist textiles, objects, and paintings. In Buddhism, these eight symbols represent the offerings made by the gods to Shakyamuni Buddha immediately after he gained enlightenment. The eight auspicious symbols consists of the following:

  1. Parasol or chattri
  2. Golden fish or suvarnamatsya
  3. Treasure Vase or kalasha
  4. Lotus or padma
  5. Conch shell or sankha
  6. Endless knot or shrivasta
  7. Victory banner or dhvaja
  8. Dharma Wheel or dharmachakra

 1. The Parasol:

Chatra, The ParasolThe Parasol known as chhatraratna in Buddhism symbolizes for ‘protection’ and also ‘royalty’. The shade of the parasol symbolizes protection of beings from  illness, harmful forces, obstacles and so forth.

The dome of the umbrella is held aloft by a vertical hand, which is identified with the central axis upholding the world. The umbrella is carried above an important dignitary or the image of a deity, to indicate that the person or symbol below the umbrella is in fact the centre of the universe, and also its spiritual support.

The dome symbolizes wisdom, and the hanging skirt, compassion. Thus the composite form of the parasol signifies the union of these dual elements.

2. The Golden Fish

Matsa, The Golden FishThe next important symbol under the Ashtamangala is the Golden Fish. This symbol consists of two fish, standing in a vertical position with their heads turned inwards, towards each other. It is believed that the symbol of the two golden fish actually belongs to the pre-Buddhist era, where the two fish represented the holy Indian rivers of Ganga and Yamuna respectively.

The golden fish symbolizes the auspiciousness of all living beings in a state of fearlessness, without danger of drowning in the ocean of sufferings, and migrating from place to place freely and spontaneously, just as fish swim freely without fear through water.

 3. The Treasure Vase

Kalasa, The Treasure VaseThe next symbol is the treasure vase or kalasha. In Buddhism, the treasure vase is portrayed as a fat vase with a short, but slim neck. As per Buddhist philosophy, the treasure vase symbolizes an endless rain of long life, wealth and prosperity and all the benefits of this world and liberation. It is said to have a harmonious effect on its surroundings. Therefore, it is a common Buddhist practice to bury similar treasure vases in mountains, water springs, and to place them at altars.

4. The Lotus

Padma, The LotusThe lotus flower symbolizes the complete purification of the defilement of the body, speech and mind, and the full blossoming of wholesome deeds in blissful liberation.

The color of the lotus too has an important bearing.

White Lotus : This represents the state of spiritual perfection and total mental purity. It is associated with the White Tara and proclaims her perfect nature, a quality which is reinforced by the color of her body.

Red Lotus : This signifies the original nature and purity of the heart. It is the lotus of love, compassion, passion and all other qualities of the heart. It is the flower of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion.

Blue Lotus : This is a symbol of the victory of the spirit over the senses, and signifies the wisdom of knowledge. Not surprisingly, it is the preferred flower of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom.

Pink Lotus : This the supreme lotus, generally reserved for the highest deity. Thus naturally it is associated with the Great Buddha himself.

5. The Conch Shell

Sankha, The conch shellThe fifth symbol is the conch shell or sankha. The conch shell is a much-respected object in the Indian culture. It is said to ward off evil, and is believed to be a symbol of power and authority. The white conch which coils to the right symbolizes the deep, far-reaching and melodious sound of the Dharma teachings, which being appropriate to different natures, predispositions and aspirations of disciples, awakens them from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own and others’ welfare.

 6. The Endless Knot

Srivasta, The Endless KnotThe sixth symbol from the ‘Eight Auspicious Symbols’ of Buddhism is the ‘Endless knot’ or shrivasta. If a close inspection of this Buddhist symbol, you will find that it is made up of lines that are intertwined and are all at right angles. This symbol is indicative of the endless wisdom possessed by Lord Buddha and the inter-winding reminds us how all the phenomena are conjoined and yoked together as a closed cycle of cause and effect. It is said that this Buddhist symbol has a Naga inspiration behind it.

 7.  The Victory Banner, Dhwaja

Dhwoja, The Victory BannerThe victory banner was adopted by early Buddhism as an emblem of the Buddha’s enlightenment, heralding the triumph of knowledge over ignorance. The flag of victory also denotes Buddha’s triumph over Mara, who personifies hindrances on the path to spiritual realization. Specifically, there are said to be four types of Maras, each one representing an individual hurdle on the path to spiritual progress. These are:

  • The Mara of Emotional Defilement
  • Mara of Passion
  • Mara of the Fear of Death
  • Mara of Pride and Lust

It was only after conquering these four negative traits that Buddha could proclaim victory over ignorance, and achieve nirvana.

Cylindrical victory banners made of beaten copper are traditionally placed at the four corners of monastery and temple roofs. These signify the Buddha’s victorious dharma radiating to the four directions and also his triumph over the four Maras.

 8. The Wheel of Life

Dharmachakra, The Wheel Of LifeThe eighth and the last symbol of the Ashtamangala is the ‘Wheel of life’ or the dharmachakra. The ‘Wheel of Life’ is the most important of all the ‘Eight Auspicious Symbols’. This is because the ‘Wheel of Life’ represents the teachings of Lord Buddha. The wheel symbolizes the spiritual change that it brought about by the teachings of Lord Buddha. His first religious teaching, which took place at the Deer Park in Sarnath is said to be the ‘first turning of the dharmachakra’. The discourses given by Lord Buddha in Rajgir and Shravasti make the second and the third turning of the dharmachakra respectively. The eight spokes of the dharmachakra stand for the Eightfold Path, as prescribed by Lord Buddha in his teachings.

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