Buddhism has 8 “Auspicious Symbols.” What Are Your Symbols?

I love numbered lists. My 12 Personal Commandments. My 8 Splendid Truths. The 10 Myths about happiness. The Essential 7 of Habits.

Buddhism has many numbered lists—the Triple Refuge, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths—which is surprising to me, given Buddhism’s emphasis on gateless gates and transcending the bounds of rational thinking.

There’s a koan to be written about that paradox, for sure. (Along with numbered lists, I love koans.) Let’s see…how about, “Use numbers to throw away enumeration.” 

I particularly love Buddhism’s eight auspicious symbols:

1. Parasol
2. Golden fish
3. Treasure vase
4. Lotus
5. Conch shell
6. Endless knot
7. Victory banner
8. Wheel of Dharma

I made up a list of my seven auspicious symbols:

1. Bluebird (of course)
2. Ruby slippers (what I want is already within my grasp)
3. Dice (chance and fortune)
4. Blood (hard to explain: diabetes, hepatitis C, St. Therese of Lisieux)
5. Gold star (my right actions are their own reward)
6. Holstein cow (my family, Kansas City)
7. Peacock feather (symbols beyond words)

This is so satisfying, I could keep going with more symbols. How about you?

What would you choose for your auspicious symbols, and why?

  • Mimi Gregor

    Crows are an auspicious symbol for me, as I consider them my totem animal because they are so intelligent (They have been known to use tools, such as a twig, and to leave tough shelled nuts in parking lots for cars to run over so that they can get at the nutmeat) and such great scavengers. I think of myself as a scavenger because so much of my “stuff” has been scavenged from yard sales, consignment shops, and yes, even dumpsters when people move out. CAW!

    Finding a coin means that whatever I’m thinking about at the time is meaningful or will work out in some way.

    Pink roses are an auspicious symbol because of a transcendental moment I had once involving one.

    • Megan

      Cute, your CAW! 🙂
      I wish I was more introspective, I would love to have symbols that I identify with, but I just can’t think of any. Definitely something to think about.

      • Paula

        Look at the things you already have, that you’ve chosen to surround yourself with – often these are a collection, we just haven’t put symbolic weight to them yet.

    • Randee Bulla

      I LOVE crows. We have Fish Crows in our yard all the time and I love to listen to them. My office window looks out of our backyard and I really enjoy watching them hide things I’ve thrown out for them (watching them try to hide hamburger buns in the mulch is my favorite), and then bring them back during the winter and dunk them in our bird bath to soften them up.

  • Penelope Schmitt

    1. BUTTERFLY: Hope, noticing infinite variety and beauty in the world. I was lifted out of a very ‘down’ moment by seeing one, and since have become a butterfly watcher.
    2. LABYRINTH / MANDALA: Wholeness, meditation, getting to the center of things.
    3. ROSE: St. Therese, gifts from providence, synchronicity
    4. QUILT patterns: All of these seem to be a way to ‘make up a world’ of wholeness, harmony, beauty, perfection and creation. I love the interplay of color and pattern. My quilts and the process of making them are my favorite way to ‘fill up the screen’ of life so that I can be completely absorbed in the wonder of the present moment and the joy of making something as beautiful as I am able.
    5. FOSSILs, especially brachiopod shells — wholeness in a male-female relationship. The two sides of the shell are shaped differently but fit together as a winged-looking whole. My ‘rock collection’ from High School is still with me 50 years later and includes one of these, as well as stones from the creek near home that was my favorite hiking spot. Connection to the earth and ancient time.
    6. Cemeteries (i.e. country or village size ones): Bizarre? Perhaps, but not for a memento mori but rather for a sense of complete peace and solitude in a city that is made by humans, enveloped in nature, and full of beauty. The cemetery in my little home town, where my Dad is buried, has been one of my favorite places to go, walk, sit, dream and imagine since I was a little girl of about six.

  • Gillilan

    1. Thistle – My Scottish birth and heritage.
    2. Hummingbird – Beauty, Magic of Nature, Doing what I can (relates to an African story), The way thoughts dart in and out of my mind, often not staying long enough.
    3. Bare deciduous trees – Nature, Beauty, Simplicity.
    4. VW Camper – Excitement, Freedom, Adventure, Happy Memories (18 months touring Europe).
    5. Glasses (wine, champagne) Saluting – Gratitude, Celebration.
    6. Sound of Waves on a Beach – A sense of the universe. Connecting to my Soul.
    7. Daffodils – The joy of spring.
    8. Rainbows – My Heart Leaps Up; Child is Father of the Man; Natural Piety.

  • Carla Brown

    I did this great weaving program where you make a pouch and you put symbols in their to remind you of what you value. You can read about the whole project at my blog – http://trashmagination.com/woven-bundle-from-recycled-t-shirts/ – but to summarize – here are my objects:

    1) A circle woven from vines, made by my daughter – This represents my focus on my family. My daughter made it during a long walk. Making these vine circles took our minds off the walk. To me, that is a good example of why family is so important. When you have a long journey, a strong family gives you what you need to keep going. Also, the way she twirled the vines, it made a circle, which is a symbol of togetherness. And the vines twined together makes the circle stronger.

    2) An orange plastic cap – This represents my focus on creative recycling. I chose this cap because I have a lot of plastic caps, but the orange ones are my favorite color, and I especially like this one because it looks like an orange. Not many caps try to be something else, and I like that about this design.

    3) A 12-sided dice – This represents my focus on coaching innovation. We use this type of dice in our creative exercises. It’s a way to help people make choices that are not necessarily their first choice. It is human nature to do what looks easiest, but that will not usually give you the stimulus you need to create something really meaningfully unique.

    4) A squash ball – This represents my focus on physical movement. Squash was the first sport I tried as an adult that I totally fell in love with, something I really enjoy doing with my husband too.

    5) A love light pin – This represents my focus on “soul work.” There is something inside me that makes me constantly search for the best way to live. The love light pin came from my children’s pre-school. They had a program where the kids would pin on a little yellow circle of felt and it represented all the love in their heart, all the good they could be. They would talk about letting their love light shine. I made a whole bunch of these pins one Christmas for our family to wear. I just love that idea that I have a love light and I must shine. I must find the best way to let out all that love.

  • PolarSamovar

    Hmm, I think know them even though I’ve never thought about it before:

    Red-and-white umbrella – Good cheer acting as protection from adversity

    Fiddlehead shape – I’m a violinist, and my husband loved fern fiddleheads, so this shape means joy, love, and renewal to me

    Grass plume – grass is my totem plant. I love how it’s resilient, humble and bendy but persistent; it feeds humanity (via grain and grazing animals), and I love the feel of open grasslands

    Turtle – “It’s turtles all the way down!”

    Candle flame – light in the darkness, intimate gatherings with friends

    Grackle bird – my spirit animal. Grackles are funny, confident, gregarious, and they don’t care what anyone thinks of them – all qualities I wish I had more of.

    Empty bowl – reminds me of this part in the Tao Te Ching as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell: “We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside
    that holds whatever we want. … We work with being, but non-being is what we use.”

  • Elizabeth

    Off topic…have you noticed any patterns of political leanings paired with any of the four tendencies

    • Penelope Schmitt

      I’d bet NO. “Upholders” may want to uphold entirely different sets of regimes of what is right. “Questioners” may simply push the boundaries of any view. etc. Obligers will follow the lead of whatever matters most to them, and Rebels will see their views as being totally individualistic. I’d bet far Right and Left wing elements include some unorganized Rebel elements for sure. Just guessing of course.

  • I am a Buddhist so already those on the list 🙂 I can also add owls (i have a miniature collection).
    For all people who like lists, there is a list of Buddhist lists that’s pretty awesome:

  • Randee Bulla

    Hawk – My grandma and I used to count hawks on the way between a bigger city and our hometown. We’d normally spot around 5. Sadly, she passed away about 15 years ago. But right after her funeral, my dad drove me the same route to the bigger city to fly to my new hometown, I shared my hawk counting habit that I shared with his mom and we started counting them together. Dad and I counted around 20 that day, a new record. Now every time one of us sees a hawk, we think of her. I moved to another city 6 years ago and imagine my delight when I found two different types of hawks that like to hang out in our neighborhood and occasionally sit on our backyard fence. I find this very comforting.

    Dragonfly – I fell back in love with dragonflies during a turbulent time in my 30s. I remembered how much I loved them as a child, and learned they stand for change. So every time I see them, I look positively forward to change. It’s kind of my way of facing change that’s going to happen anyway with a smile instead of a grimace like I’d like to sometimes.

    Coin – Good luck! It doesn’t matter what kind of coin or whether it’s heads or tails, I say that it’s good luck and the rest of my day is going to be fabulous…and then I put it into my left shoe.

  • Julie Bestry

    I love that parasols are considered auspicious, as they always strike me as the optimistic obverse of umbrellas. I’m also curious as to whether Buddhism considers any sounds as auspicious. It seems that the more organized and/or controlled our lives/environments are, happening upon visual systems may be less common then happening upon auspicious sounds.

  • Birds are one of my auspicious symbols. Whenever I’m going through a tough time, I’ll suddenly hear birds chirping or see a bird land on the tree outside my window. I like to think of them as my “happiness triggers” because they help me shift my focus back to what’s positive in my life.

  • Diana

    My lucky symbols … color grey/silver/dark orange and light brown. As for actual symbols, I would say round and triangular shapes. But I never really gave a lot of thought to this idea, I will and get back with a better answer. By the way, I truly appreciate all your work and found many of your ideas great and useful, they gave me courage and self-trust. I wish you all the best! Diana, from Romania