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BUDDHIST SYMBOLS AND THEIR MEANINGS


Buddhist Symbols, Symbolism and Meanings
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Buddhist Symbols and symbolism are very different than what we in the western culture are familiar with. The most well known of are the eight auspicious symbols. They represent good fortune, and are representative of the eight gifts that the gods gave to Shakyamuni Buddha when he attained enlightenment.

The eight auspicious symbols are a parasol, two fish, the great treasure fish, a lotus flower, a conch shell, an endless knot, a banner representing victory, and the wheel of dharma. The concept of these eight symbols originated as gifts that were presented during the coronation of kings in India.

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The first symbol is an umbrella or parasol. It is a symbol of the sky and of the world above. The umbrella (the divine forces above) cast a protective shade over the world below. It represents protection from suffering and desire through spiritual means.



buddhist symbols 2

The second of the Buddhist symbols are two golden fish. They are symbolism of happiness, fertility, and abundance. The origins of it can be traced back to a symbol of the Yamuna and Ganges rivers in India, the two main sacred water ways that are revered by the Indian people. They are representative of the sun and the moon. (The fish in symbolism can also be traced back to other cultures. Early Christianity adopted the image of a fish as an emblem for Jesus Christ, and ancient Egypt used similar fish imagery to represent the Nile river.



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The third of the Buddhist symbols is known as the great treasure vase. The great treasure vase provided the Buddha with long life and an abundance of health. It is a common Indian water vessel, made of clay. A silk scarf from the gods wraps around it, along with a tree. The great treasure vase can never be emptied. Not matter how much is removed from it, more will return to it. It provided the Shakyamuni Buddha with long life, and health.



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The fourth of the Buddhist symbols is the lotus flower blossom. (The lotus flower symbol is discussed in depth on it's own page) In the tradition of the eight auspicious symbols it is a sign of the purity of the new Buddha. It is also a sign of one who is awakening or has awakened to the higher consciousness of purely spiritual energies. The gift of the lotus flower blossom signaled that the new Buddha had traversed the trappings of man and unfolded into a perfect, divine being. It is the symbol of his enlightenment.



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The fifth of the Buddhist symbols is the conch shell. The gift of the conch shell to the new Buddha represents a sign of his ability to keep lower energy forces at bay. The conch is believed to give the Buddha the ability to scare away evil spirits, banish dark energies, and even stop natural disasters from occurring. The conch shell has other symbolic meanings also. Buddhist stories tell of mythical heroes carrying a large white conch shell into battle as a symbol of their power and divinity.



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The sixth of the Buddhist symbols is the endless knot. The endless knot looks very similar to Celtic knotwork, but this knotwork tradition also exists within the Buddhist cultures. The endless knot is similar to the infinity symbol, it has no beginning and no end, wrapping continuously into eternity. The gift of the endless knot represents the Buddha's wisdom and compassion as eternal.



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The seventh of the Buddhist symbols is the banner of victory. It is a symbol for overcoming the lower energies of the world and giving oneself over to the pursuits of spirit: knowledge, compassion, meditation, wisdom, and ethics. It was given to the Buddha as a symbol of his enlightenment.


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The last of the Buddhist symbols is the wheel of dharma. It is representative of the natural laws of the universe, and it is what upholds them. In Buddhism, beings who uphold the dharma, or live in alignment with the dharma will achieve enlightenment faster. The concept of a wheel of life or wheel of order is very common in many mythologies.


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