The eight auspicious symbols (Ashtamangala) stands for good fortune or happiness. The symbols are accepted not only by Buddhists but also by different Hindu sects. These Auspicious symbols are said to represent the celestial offerings presented to Buddha Sakyamuni after he attained enlightenment under Bodhi tree. These symbols reproduced here, are very popular among Nepalese and Tibetans. They can be found not only in most of the monasteries of the Kathmandu valley but also in private homes. They can be painted on walls or fashioned out of wood or metal. Apart from their decorative function, these eight are thought to be auspicious omens of spiritual and material well being. These eight symbols are also drawn in the entrance gate of a monastery or in a Newar private home to welcome a newlywed bride or elders because of their auspicious nature. Newar Buddhist, during wedding ceremonies or other religious occasions, often recite a verse dedicated to all these symbols. They enjoy wide popularity not only in Nepal but also in Tibet, Bhutan, China, and Mongolia.
1. Endless Knot
A pattern of 8, 10, 18 rectangles or squares studded with jewels, said to give off a cool sweet fragrance and five colours of dazzling light. It stands for the possibility of attaining omniscience of Buddhahood by following the path. It is also interpreted as representing the begginingless round of existence. The eternal knot overlaps without a beginning or an end, symbolizing the Buddha’s endless wisdom and compassion. As a secular symbol, it denotes continuity or dependent origination as the underlying reality of existence.
This is one thousand-petalled lotus with pistils of five colours. Just as a lotus grows from the muddy bottom of the lake and remains pure and undefiled by the mud, similarly the Buddha Dharma afflictions were undefiled by them. The lotus, therefore, represents spiritual purity and compassion. It symbolises the stainless actions of body, speech, and mind which lead to happiness and enlightenment. The lotus is a favourite emblem of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara or padmapani. When the Buddha was born, he took seven steps and immediately lotus flower sprang up underneath his feet. According to Swayambhu Purana, the Adi Buddha manifested himself in the form of a flame rising from a lotus. In the Buddhist tradition, it represents the non-abiding nirvana (Skt. Apratistha Nirvana) of Buddha and Bodhisattvas. Although the lotus comes from a muddy lake, it still unstained by the mud of the lake. Similarly, Buddha and Bodhisattvas are born in this world and yet are not defiled by the delusions of cyclic existence. In Hindu tradition, the Padma symbolizes creation; for example, this is why Brahma sits on a lotus throne.
A flag or banner made of cloth woven by heavenly fairies or deities, studded with jewels having the fragrance of a sweet smell such as incense. Just like the banner flatters in the sky, so too does the Buddha doctrine stand out prominently and unchallenged in the world. The banner of victory, which is planted on the summit of mt. Meru at the centre of the universe proclaims the victory of dharma over the forces of ignorance.
4. Vase (skt: Kalash; Tib: bum pa)
A vase or jar of gold studded with precious jewels with fivefold divine light. Just as the vase is the container of ambrosial nectar, which gives immortality to one who drinks it, in the same way, one who experiences the teaching of buddha achieves the immortal state of nirvana. In other words, the vase pours forth an endless rain of long life, health and prosperity available to all beings who sincerely follow the dharma.
5. fly-whisk (Skt. Camara)
This is a chowrie or the bushy tail of a yak (Camara), waved like a fan over the head of a kind of a Buddha; It has a golden handle bedecked with precious jewels and drives away disease when fanned over the patient. Just like a fan cools the weary traveller, so too does the Buddha’s teaching bring the deluded traveller out of his cyclic existence. Instead of a fly whisk, the dharma -wheel (Skt. Dharmacakra; tib: Chokyi Khorlo) is used in Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
6. Pair of Fishes (Skt. Matsyayugma; Tib: ser nya)
A pair of golden coloured fishes having miraculous powers symbolizing the unity of wisdom and compassion. The pair also represents the release from the ocean of samsara. Just as a fish is not bothered by the turbulence of water when they swim through the deepest oceans, so too is it possible for spiritual seekers to follow the path without being distracted or impeded by the vicissitudes of life. The Buddha’s teachings constitute a pure and defile Mahamudra, the unity of wisdom and compassion.
7. Umbrella (Skt. Chatra; Tib: Rinchen dug)
Just as an umbrella tames the heat of the sun, similarly, beneath the umbrella of the Buddha’s doctrine one finds the peace and happiness of Nirvana, devoid of disease, grief and any kind of suffering. The umbrella also represents the symbol of royalty which protects one from evil influences.