The eight auspicious symbols of good fortune used throughout Asia by practitioners of the Mahayana Buddhist faith have become increasingly popular emblems for adornment as well as for display as decorative household items. They were widely used in Tibet to adorn temples and monasteries, and in recent years, with the growing popularity of Tibetan Buddhism, they have become globally accepted as general symbols of good fortune, displayed and worn to attract prosperity and harmony.
In Tibet, the eight auspicious symbols are considered sacred objects and are extremely popular. many believe that its presence in houses and buildings attracts good fortune; so they can be seen everywhere, in temples, monasteries, private houses, palaces and public buildings. they are performed individually and in pairs, or as a group of eight. they are sometimes painted as a collective group assuming the simulated form of a vase (see main image above). there are many different styles and designs of the eight objects, depending on whether they are used on furniture, in paintings, as wall panels, or embroidered on clothing and robes.
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Tibetans also draw these symbols on the ground with colored chalk or powder to welcome visiting high lamas or religious dignitaries to monasteries and temples.
Practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism also incorporate these symbols into their prayer sessions. This they do by hanging colourful brocades sewn with the eight objects and also by making mystical hand mudras as they chant special prayers. The hand mudras that signify the eight objects are shown above. It is a hugely moving experience watching monks perform these mudras as they chant their prayers.
1: The Lotus This is a universally loved symbol of purity. The beautiful lotus rising serenely from the mud signifies renunciation of worldly pleasures and suggests incredible beauty and purity hidden within the depths of the darkest and muddiest of situations. The lotus signifies the divine nature of the Buddhas and has a very special place in the iconography of many Asian cultures. Planting a lotus in one’s home is said to enhance the harmonious chi that filters through our doorways. When the lotus blooms, it signifies the advent of a happy occasion. White, pink or cream – coloured lotus blooms suggest someone or something of great beauty is coming. The lotus stalk and its root, when cut, show the empty compartments, signifying the wisdom of understanding emptiness.
2: The Mystical Knot The Indians believe the knot is the favourite emblem of the Goddess Shri (also known as the Goddess Lakshmi, the Indian Goddess of Wealth), the consort of the God Vishnu. It adorns the breast of Vishnu, usually depicted as an eight-looped knot. These associations surround the mystical knot with mysterious powers said to bring happiness and attainments. The mystical knot overlaps, suggesting no beginning and no end. From a religious viewpoint, this signifies the Buddha’s endless wisdom and compassion. As a secular symbol, it represents an assured continuity of love. The knot is also the infinity symbol shown thrice. The infinity symbol also corresponds to the symbol of 8.
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3: The Pair Of Golden Fishes These have their origins in the two sacred rivers of India the Ganges and the Yamuna. Symbolically, these rivers signify the lunar and solar channels of the human body, originating in the nostrils and carrying the alternating rhythms of breath, or chi, also known as prana. So the golden fishes bring life and happiness. They represent fertility and abundance as they multiply rapidly. Fish often swim in pairs, and in China, a pair of fish signifies conjugal fidelity and unity.
Giving a pair of fish as a wedding gift is considered very auspicious. this means a fervent wish that the couple find happiness together and be blessed with many children. The Chinese word for fish yu also means great wealth, so material prosperity is also wished for the couple.
The fish used in symbolism here is usually the carp, considered sacred to many Asian cultures due to its beauty, size, and longevity. In India and Tibet, golden carp is considered exceptionally auspicious. even in ancient egypt, a pair of fish is considered a sacred icon, as it symbolizes life, which brings the waters of the nile river. having fish at home, especially in pairs, is very auspicious.
4: The White Umbrella Also known as the parasol, this is a traditional symbol of protection. It is also an emblem of being royal. The white umbrella is regarded as a symbol that brings great honour and recognition. The parasol protects against the blazing heat of the sun and its shade cools the heated breast.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a very powerful deity emanating from the Buddha’s forehead known as the White Umbrella Goddess. This goddess protects against all forms of black magic and it is her white umbrella that signifies this protection.
In the old days, the umbrella meant royalty and 13 umbrellas meant the status of a king. thus, the symbolism of 13 umbrellas, one on top of the other, is very popular. Another representation of this symbol is the umbrella with a thousand arms.
5: The Banner of Victory
In Sanskrit, the banner or sign of victory is known as dhvaja, which means banner, flag or insignia. Originally, the victory banner was a military banner carried in ancient Indian wars and carried the specific insignia of its champion. In Buddhism, the victory flag also denotes the Buddha’s triumph over the four Maras (evil), personifying the obstacles on the path to spiritual realization. The four Maras are: Mara of Emotional Corruption, Mara of Passion, Mara of Death, and Mara of Divine Pride and Lust. It was adopted as an emblem of the Buddha’s victorious enlightenment and his defeat of the armies of Mara.
The banner of victory symbolizes the victory of one’s own and others’ activities of the body, speech and mind over obstacles and negativity. it also represents the complete victory of the Buddhist doctrine over all harmful and pernicious forces, all disagreements, disharmony and obstacles, so that it can produce permanent and lasting happiness. it is also said to denote triumph over anger and aggression.
6: The Treasure Vase This is the vase of inexhaustible treasures. It has a flat base, a round body, a narrow neck and a fluted upper rim. A typical auspicious vase is ornately decorated with auspicious symbols with lotus petal motifs radiating outwards. The great treasure vase is decorated with a multitude of gemstones. Around its neck is a silk cloth. From the vase spouts forth several bejewelled branches from a wish-granting tree. Inside the vase are longevity waters that create all varieties of inexhaustible treasures.
This is the description and meaning of the golden treasure vase, and over time there have been many different versions of the vase.
The Chinese have always regarded the vase with great affection, assigning all kinds of auspicious meanings to it. therefore, the vase is also said to bring contentment and harmony, peace and prosperity to homes. The size of the vases should not overwhelm the rooms and entrances of the houses, but having large vases is said to be auspicious.
7: The Right-Turning Conch Shell To Indians and Tibetans, the white conch shell is precious and drenched with meaning. Used originally as a horn trumpet, ancient epics describe the conch as the indispensable amulet of brave warriors. Thus, Vishnu’s conch and Arjuna’s conch are legendary for their mystical powers in subduing foes and generating terror in the hearts of enemies.
The conch has been considered an emblem of power, authority and sovereignty. The sound of the conch shell has the power to drive away evil spirits, prevent natural disasters, and drive away poisonous creatures. there are male and female snails. the male variety has thicker shells. Conch shells are found in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Ancient shells have been found in the Himalayan and Tibetan mountains, and of course these mountains were once the ocean floors!
Tibetans prefer the right-turning conch shell, believing it to be especially sacred. this conch has the lower opening placed to the right of the spiral tip. Tibetans use only clockwise turning conch shells for their religious ceremonies and rituals. they believe that the correct spiral motion echoes the celestial motion of the sun, moon, planets, and stars through the heavens. the spirals of hair on the buddha head also rotate to the right. If you ever come across a natural right-turning conch shell or other white shell, keep it as a lucky charm. who knows what kind of power and good fortune it will bring you!
8: The Golden Wheel This is the most sacred symbol of all. In India, the wheel symbolizes creation and protection. It is regarded as a solar symbol associated with the Gods. Tibetans view the wheel as signifying transformation and spiritual change. It is thus a weapon to overcome all obstacles and hindrances through rapid spiritual transformations, through effecting a change in our attitudes and to the way we respond to negative people and aggravating situations.
the term turning the wheel always means that buddha gives teachings. when Buddhists ask their lamas or gurus to give them teachings, they use the term “turning the wheel of dharma”.
Buddha’s first turn of the wheel after attaining enlightenment in Bodhgaya was in the Deer Park near the city of Sarnath in India. It was then that the Buddha taught the four noble truths: the truth of suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the truth of the eight noble paths that lead to the cessation of suffering. the wheel symbolizes the moral discipline of man, while the eight spokes of the wheel symbolize the eight noble ways to end all suffering, i.e. through right understanding, right thinking, right speech, right action, the right sustenance, the right effort, the right mindfulness, and the right concentration.
Thus, the magical golden wheel signifies the achievement of the highest form of happiness. the wheel encloses the path to permanent happiness, or in other words, it causes the cessation of all suffering. placing the magic golden wheel in the home is the best way to achieve lasting happiness.
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The content of this article is taken from the “feng shui world (March/April 2005)”.