For many years my art practice has been based on exploring belief systems including rituals, celebrations, icons and symbols associated with those systems.
I have been intrigued with places of worship in the different places and cultures that I have interacted with and these influence much of my production, mixed with aspects of my culture.
My journey to Inner Mongolia reopened an intrigue with a series of symbols that have interested me for several years, leading me to create a small drawing and further research on the symbols.
In Ordos I was taken to a dinner hosted by local government officials and presented with a blue scarf called a Khata. Embedded into the scarf is a series of eight symbols called Ashtamangala. It was a pleasant surprise to be reintroduced to the Khata and the eight auspicious symbols that I had first seen in the Beijing Yonghe Lamasery in 2002 and in many Tibetan Temples and Monasteries in 2013.
I had received a white Khata in Tibet with the same embedded symbols.
The silk Khata is used and worn at many ceremonial occasions, including the arrival and departure of guests. They are usually white to symbolize purity and compassion; however, Mongolian Khatas are generally blue representing the sky and are often tied to altars, shrines, stupas, rocks and special trees.
The eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism are a Conch Shell, a Lotus, a Wheel, a Parasol, an Endless Knot, a Pair of Golden Fish, a Victory Banner and a Treasure Vase.
I have often seen these symbols painted on walls, on hanging banners, as three-dimensional icons on altars and as large sculptures in temple courtyards.
This is a very brief description of the symbols according to various Internet searches and text collections that I have on file.
The Conch represents a trumpet and at the same time associated with the three conch like lines on the neck of Buddha symbolizing Buddha’s melodious voice and uplifting message.
Much can be read on the left and right spiraling conch that cause echoes of the message to spread in all directions.
The Lotus on which Buddha sits represents the progress of the soul or the journey from darkness to enlightenment.
The Wheel of three parts, hub, rim and spokes is a circle, which is recognized as complete in itself. The rim represents limitation; the hub is the world axis and eight spokes being the Eightfold Path leading to cessation of all suffering.
The Parasol symbolizes the dome of the sky and its function is the casting of a Protective shadow.
The Endless Knot is a closed ornament of intertwined lines. It represents the interplay of opposing forces as in cause and effect. As the pattern composition is closed on itself with no gaps the form is of simplicity and balanced harmony. With no beginning and no end it symbolizes infinite wisdom.
The Golden Fish usually appear standing vertically with their heads turned towards each other. They represent two great rivers, which in turn symbolically represent the lunar and solar channels. They also symbolize fertility and abundance as they swim in pairs and happiness due to complete freedom in water.
The Victory Banner is an emblem of the Buddha’s enlightenment, heralding triumph of knowledge over ignorance.
The Treasure Vase is a round, full-bellied lidded vessel with a large jewel on top. It is associated with storage of treasures. It is a vessel that is perpetually full attracting wealth, harmony and spiritual abundance. It does not diminish however much is given away.
More information on Ashtamangala and the eight auspicious symbols can be easily found on the internet.
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