Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism in Tibetan Jewelry

By: Amelie Mag

The eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism, translated from the Sanskrit 'Ashtamangala', are very popular in Tibet and are used for Tibetan jewelry. It is said that Buddha didn't like to be worshiped as a person and therefore he was reluctant to accept images of himself. Because of that he was mostly represented by the Eight-Spoked Wheel and the Bobhi Tree. Other signs were used in representing him also, like Buddha's Footprints, an Empty Throne, a Begging Bowl and a Lion. The eight auspicious symbols are however the following: the Umbrella or parasol, the Golden Fish, the Treasure Vase, the Lotus, the Conch, the Endless Knot, the Victory Banner and the Dharma-Wheel (Dharmachackra).

The Umbrella or Parasol, translated from the Sanskrit 'chattra', symbolizes the sky the dome that lies above the mountain. Its most important function is to cast shadow, the shadow of protection upon oneself. As a traditional Indian symbol of royalty and protection, the umbrella is found in all cultures with a similar meaning. In Europe the umbrella was until recently a symbol of wealth reflecting one's high social status. In Oriental cultures, the shade the umbrella casts took a religious note as the protection from the heat of suffering, desire and other forces harmful to the spirit. The vertical handle of the umbrella is compared to the central axis of the world, transforming its bearer into the center of the world. The umbrella is also compared to the mobile temple; therefore Buddha was often represented with a large umbrella over his head. Tibetan jewelry often represents the Buddhist symbol of the Umbrella.

Tibetan jewelry using the Golden Fish symbol is usually worn for good fortune. Positioned upright with their heads turned inwards, the two fish first appeared in the Indian culture as a symbol for the two sacred rivers Ganga and Yamuna. In Buddhism they symbolize happiness, fertility and abundance. The Treasure Vase symbol worn as Tibetan jewelry is meant to attract the infinite riches of this world. It consists of a fat-bellied vessel with a narrow and short neck, covered with a large jewel. It symbolizes endless wealth and prosperity. Tibetan jewelry representing the two Golden Fish and the Treasure Vase can make very nice and suitable wedding gifts representing only good wishes for the future family.

The Lotus flower is perhaps the most admired and worn symbol for Tibetan jewelry. The Lotus symbolizes the progress of the soul because of the way such a plant grows. The roots of a lotus lie in the mud, as the stem grows up to rise eight to ten inches above the surface of the water where the heavily scented flower basks in the sunlight. The beauty of the flower is extremely attractive and quite unusual due to the fact that it grows from the underwater mud. Therefore many people around the world want to be adorned with Tibetan jewelry that represents such amazing positive energy and power of life.

The Conch is a symbol for power, sovereignty and authority. The powerful blast that the conch makes when blown is believed to banish the evil spirits, to be able to stop disasters from happening and to keep away poisonous creatures. This symbol is rarely represented in Tibetan jewelry due to the fact that the actual conch shell makes a rather more powerful statement than a jewel representing it would.

The Endless Knot is one of the most favorite symbols in Tibetan Buddhism. It is often related to the endless wisdom of Buddh and it is also significant for the interaction of opposing forces leading to their union and harmony in the universe. The symmetrical shape of the knot signifies all these things and arouses the curiosity of those who are passionate about wearing Tibetan jewelry. Giving someone Tibetan jewelry representing an Endless Knot or giving away a greeting card with such a symbol on it signifies a connection between the giver and the receiver. It is also a reminder that the roots of every future positive effect are found in the present.

The Victory Banner symbolizes Buddha's enlightenment and his knowledge triumph over ignorance. It is said that Buddha placed the banner on top of Mt. Meru to show the world his victory over the entire universe. The Victory Banner also signifies Buddha's triumph over the four Maras of emotional defilement, of passion, of the fear of death and of pride and lust.

The Wheel is consistent of three basic components the hub, the spokes and a perfect circle. The first element symbolizes the axes of the world and stands for moral discipline while the spokes represent the eightfold path set down by Buddha and stand for the correct application of wisdom and the rim. The perfect circle, which represents the element of limitation, refers to concentration and holds the entire meditative practice together.

These symbols remind people to embrace change and be open to novelty, but never let go of positive values which never go out of fashion. Because of the message they send out to people, the popularity of Tibetan jewelry never diminishes attracting thousands of people to believe in Buddhism.

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