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Buddhism is a religion and a philosophy that Gautama Buddha taught between the 6th and 4th centuries BC. In Buddhism, there exists a sacred suite of eight symbols which are known as Ashtamangala. These are also called The Eight Auspicious Signs. Buddhist symbols and symbolic attributes are teaching tools that the devotee uses to attain a higher level of consciousness. They are manifestations of an enlightened mind, a “meditation deity” (‘yidam’) on which you focus during prayer and meditation.

In this article, we explore five of these eight Buddhist symbols and what they mean, so that it will help you on your path to enlightenment.

1. The Dharma Wheel or Dharmachakra.

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After attaining enlightenment, the Buddha sat on the First Wheel of Dharma and gave us his teachings of The Eightfold Path which lead to the Four Noble Truths. The eight-spoked Dharma Wheel is the oldest symbol for Buddhism itself.

There are multiple ways of interpreting the Dharma Wheel. To understand this symbol, let us analyze the individual parts of it discover what they mean.

The rim of the wheel is circular. This represents the Universe, Infinity, and Nirvana. The perfect circular shape represents the perfection that can be attained by following the Buddha’s teachings.

The spokes which lead from the hub (center) of the wheel to the circular rim, represent the different teachings of the Buddha that lead to enlightenment. When the wheel contains four spokes, it symbolizes the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and a wheel with eight spokes represents the eightfold path. When there are 12 spokes, it symbolizes the Twelve Links of Dependent Origin. The Ashoka Chakra has 24 spokes contained within it, symbolizes the twenty-four ideal qualities of the person who is on the path to Enlightenment.

The hub at the center of the wheel represents moral discipline and faith in the Buddhist teachings. As a whole, this symbol gives us a gist of the basic principles of Buddhism. Strong moral disciple and faith (the hub) along with the teachings of the Buddha (the spokes) lead to Nirvana (The rim).

2. The Eternal Knot.

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The Eternal Knot is a symbol drawn on gifts and greeting cards. The symbol establishes an auspicious connection between the person who is giving the gift and the person who receives it. It reminds the receiver that good karma which leads to positive outcomes in the future has their roots in past righteous action.

The Endless Knot is an ancient symbol found on clay tablets from the Indus Valley Civilisation. It represents the interweaving of the Spiritual Path with the flowing of Time and Movement within Space, which is Eternal. The flowing lines represent actions that move in time and effects born out of a cause. All actions are connected and circle back to the origin. This creates an endless knot that is Divine and Eternal.

This Buddhist symbol also represents the dissolution of opposites once they are brought into the Light of Consciousness. The Dhammapada, the most widely read Buddhist scripture, says: “Conquer the angry man by love. Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness. Conquer the miser with generosity. Conquer the liar with truth.” This means that once you become a conscious being, you will be able to assimilate contrasting aspects within yourself into a whole being.

3. The Parasol.

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The parasol in Buddhism is a symbol that represents protection from harmful forces and effects. The canopy of the parasol represents the firmament in the sky, beyond which is expansive space and Aether.

If you want to make progress on the Buddhist path of enlightenment, then you have to take refuge under Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. ‘Sangha’ is a community of people who share your faith. Belonging to a Sangha is very important for guidance, counseling, and confidence of faith. If you ever fail, the parasol of Buddhism and the Buddhist community will always be there to protect you.

4. The Lotus.

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The Lotus that is in full blossom is a symbol in Buddhism that represents enlightenment itself. When the Lotus is closed, it represents a time before enlightenment. Sometimes, the flower is partly opened, with the center hidden, which means that enlightenment is beyond ordinary sight.

In Buddhist art, the Lotus is often seen blossoming out of the mud. The mud symbolizes our messy human lives, all our suffering, and sorrow. It is in the midst of this chaos that e strive to break free from the painful cycle and bloom like the flower. It is important to notice that while the petals are above the mud, the roots and the stem still exist in the mud. This means that we do still live an earthly life, but our life can be enlightened. A Zen verse says “May we exist in muddy water with purity. Like a lotus.” “Om Mani Padme Hum” roughly translates to “(let us be like) the jewel in the heart of the lotus”.

5. The Victory Banner.

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No human being can live without feeling emotions at all. Everyone feels emotions. The Buddha said that there are four aspects of human nature that hinder our path towards enlightenment. These aspects are called “Mara”. Emotional Defilement (anxiety, anger, greed, etc), Desire, Fear of Death, Pride, and Lust. These are the four baser aspects of humans that need to be overcome by the Boddhisattva.

To live a Buddhist life means to gain mastery over these emotions. Only when you shed the Light of your Consciousness onto your human aspects, you can live a truly peaceful and enlightened life. This is what the Victory Banner celebrates- Conquering your emotions and gaining mastery over them. This symbol was adopted by early Buddhists to celebrate the enlightenment of the Buddha and to herald the triumph of self- mastery over ignorance. These are five symbols in Buddhism which you could incorporate into your life. These auspicious symbols guide the Bodhisatva on the path to enlightenment. They contain hidden meanings that reveal deeper truths that are well known in the Buddhist community. When seen together as a set of symbols, they bring out the essence of Buddhist teachings that have existed for decades.