What is the Significance of the Eight Buddhist Symbols?
Indian art is home to a variety of symbols and icons, which adhere to the idea of
manifesting spiritual essence. During ancient times, many symbols were also
associated with kings; coronations, which were later adopted by Tibetan Buddhism.
Primarily, they emphasize well-being, happiness, and success. Hence, they are
termed as ‘auspicious eight symbols’ and appear to have been depicted in Buddhist
monasteries through murals, frescoes, thangkas, and other forms of Buddhist art.
Let us enlighten ourselves with the significance of these meaningful eight symbols.
Essentially, do look out for these symbols in available Buddha paintings for sale.
Eight Symbols of Buddhism
1. The Parasol
Generally, the symbol of the parasol signifies royal dignity. Relevantly, in Buddhism,
this symbol represents protection from the endless causation of dukkha or suffering.
Ornate parasol is also a symbol of wisdom. Resembling a dome in stupas, the
representation of the skirt around its edge is a sign of compassion. Moreover, the
octagonal-shaped domes symbolize the Eightfold Path of Buddhist principles.
However, a parasol is also one of the cultural symbols, found not only in Indian
paintings but also in European artists like Rembrandt’s work.
2. Two Golden Fish
Two Golden Fish, showing two fishes facing each other’s tail and face, is a symbolic
representation of two rivers, Yamuna and Ganga. Again like a parasol, they are one of
the oldest symbols also used in Jainism, Hinduism apart from Buddhism.
In the Buddhist art, Two golden fishes depict Buddhist devotees who practice
Dhamma. Fearless from drowning in the waters of extreme suffering, they float and
swim around to open up the petals of enlightenment gradually.
3. The Conch Shell
Common in Asia, the conch shell is used as a battle horn. The Indian epic of
Mahabharata shows how Arjun blows a conch to terrorize his enemies. Similarly, the
conch shell is like a shield to keep you at bay from the daily negativities and
inhibitions. The monks in the monasteries of Tibet use the conch to call for religious
4. The Lotus
Lotus is one of the most used symbols in arts of all ancient civilizations. Passed onto
various cultural regions, Lotus has observed a multitude of changes in its forms.
However, its original association with Buddhism presents us with numerous in-depth
meanings of life and spirituality.
Lotus is an aquatic plant with roots deep in the mud and stem growing through the
murky water. In Buddha sculptures, Lotus is used to depict the actual representation
of true human beings and their nature. It highlights their inside beauty and the
clarity of enlightenment. Lotus is available in different colors, and each color has its
meaning, such as:
· White color represents spiritual and mental purity
· The red color is for love, heart, compassion, and affection
· The pink color represents the historical Buddha.
· Blue is for wisdom.
· Purple is for Mysticism
5. The Banner of Victory
The symbol of Victory Banner implies the victory of Buddha over four maras at the
threshold of gaining nirvana or enlightenment. The four maras are lust, passion,
pride, and fear of death, which are depicted in human form in a variety of Buddhist
paintings. The real human victory lies deep in keeping a check over emotive turmoil
to witness the routine with an equanimous mind.
6. The Vase
The symbol of the treasure vase is forever filled with sacred and precious objects.
Symbolizing the pure teachings of Buddha, it never gets empty and continues to
provide seekers with umpteem knowledge. In addition, this symbol, in a Buddha
statue and thangkas, is also used to depict the image of prosperity and long life.
7. The Dharma Wheel
The Dharma Wheel is also known as dharma-chakra or the dhamma chakka. This
symbol has a separate and unique identity in Buddhism. In most images, the Wheel
is based on eight spokes, which represent the Eightfold Path.
According to Buddhist history, the Dhamma Wheel had turned when Buddha
delivered the first sermon after enlightenment. This wheel has two different turnings:
based on teachings of sunyata or emptiness, and the other based on inherent
8. The Eternal Knot
According to Buddhist philosophy, the entwined relationship of cause and effect is eternal. Any action happens because of the existing action, which causes it and continues the chain. This is known as dependent origination. The eternal or endless knot symbolizes the life of humans entwined in this never-ending process of cause and effect.
Nevertheless, Buddhism also helps humankind to redeem itself from this miserable bondage. Thus through Indian art, these auspicious eight symbols are an idea of how a human psyche operates and continues to do so for many lives unless he starts walking on the path of dhamma.
Written by: Urvi Chheda
Photo Credit: https://itibettravel.com/eight-auspicious-symbols/