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  • RobeRt beeR

    th e ha n d b o o k o f

    tibetan buddhist symbols

    ExcE

    rpt

    ExcE

    rpt

  • The Handbook of

    T i b e t a n b u d d h i s t S y m b o l s

    Handbook of Tibetan Buddhis#128 9/1/10 11:23 AM Page i

  • The Handbook

    of

    Handbook of Tibetan Buddhis#128 9/1/10 11:23 AM Page ii

  • T i b e t a nb u d d h i s tS y m b o l s

    Written and Illustrated by

    R O B E R T B E E R

    S h a m b h a l a Boston 2003

    Handbook of Tibetan Buddhis#128 9/1/10 11:23 AM Page iii

  • Shambhala Publications, Inc.4720 Walnut Street

    Boulder, Colorado 80301www.shambhala.com

    2003 by Robert Beer

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and

    retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataBeer, Robert.

    The handbook of Tibetan Buddhist symbols / Written and illustrated by Robert Beer.

    p. cm.isbn 978-1-59030-100-5eisbn 978-0-8348-4000-3

    1. Art, TibetanThemes, motives. 2. Symbolism in artChinaTibet. I. Title: Tibetan symbols. II. Title.

    n7346.t5b436 2003704.9'46'09515dc21

    2003045433

    Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols ebook_pp00i-xviii 11-17-15_Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols_pp00i-xviii 7-10-03 11/17/15 9:47 AM Page iv

  • Contents

    Acknowledgments ixIntroduction xi

    THE EIGHT AUSPICIOUSSYMBOLS 1

    The parasol 3The golden fishes 5The treasure vase 6The lotus 7The right-turning conch shell 9The endless or glorious knot 11The victory banner 12The wheel 14

    THE EIGHT AUSPICIOUSSUBSTANCES 16

    The mirror 19The precious medicine 20The curds or yogurt 21The durva grass 21The bilva fruit 23The right-turning conch shell 24The vermilion powder 24The mustard seed 25

    THE FIVE ATTRIBUTES OFSENSORY ENJOYMENT 27

    Sight or form 29Sound 29Smell 32Taste 33Touch 34

    THE CHAKRAVARTIN 36

    The Seven Possessions of the Chakravartinor the Seven Precious Jewels 37

    The precious wheel 37The precious jewel 38The precious queen 40The precious minister 40The precious elephant 40The precious horse 41The precious general 41

    The Seven Secondary Possessions of the Chakravartin or the Seven AuxiliaryJewels 42

    The sword 42The naga skin 43The royal house 43The robes 43The royal gardens 43The throne 44The boots 44

    The Seven Jewel Insignia of theChakravartin 46

    The unicorn or rhinoceros horn 46The elephants tusks 46The queens earrings 46The ministers earrings 46The generals insignia 46The triple-eyed gem 46The coral branch 46

    Handbook of Tibetan Buddhis#128 9/1/10 11:23 AM Page v

  • SYMBOLIC EMBLEMS ANDOFFERINGS 49

    The three jewels 49The three victorious creatures of

    harmony 50The four friends or harmonious

    brothers 51The six symbols of long life 53The emblem of the three great

    bodhisattvas 55The seven water bowl offerings 56The wheel and deer emblem 58

    ANIMALS AND MYTHICALCREATURES 60

    The elephant 60The deer 62The lion and snow-lion 63The tiger 64The horse and wind-horse 66The four supernatural creatures of the

    four directions 67The dragon 69The naga 72The garuda 74The water-monster or makara 77The kirtimukha or face of majesty 78

    COSMOLOGICAL SYMBOLS 80

    The sun and moon 80The five elements of earth, water, fire,

    air, and space 82Mount Meru 82The mandala offering 84

    MAIN RITUAL AND TANTRIC IMPLEMENTS 87

    The vajra 87The bell 92The crossed-vajra 95The swastika 97

    The ritual dagger 98The tantric staff or khatvanga 102The hand-drum or damaru 107The thighbone trumpet 110The skull-cup 110The curved knife 112

    WEAPONS 115

    The bow and arrow 115The arrow-banner or silk arrow 118The fire-arrow 120The tiger-skin bow case and leopard-

    skin quiver 121The flower bow and flower arrow 121The sword 123The shield 124The scorpion-hilted sword 125The scorpion 126The water-knife or wave-bladed knife 127The razor 128The dart or shakti dagger 128The scythe or sickle 129The plowshare or plow 129The trident 130The trident pike or spear 132The caduceus or serpent-trident 133The spear 135The spear-flag 135The javelin 135The harpoon 137The club 137The transverse club or wooden gong 139The skull club 140The skeleton club 141The corpse club 142The impaled corpse club 142The forked stick 143The axe 144The hammer 145The foundry hammer and bellows 145The iron hook or goad 146The rope noose or snare 147The flower hook and flower noose 149The serpent noose 149The iron chain 150

    Contentsvi

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  • Contents vii

    The chakra or discus 150The wooden pestle 152The brazier 153The mass of fire 153The fire-wheel and wind-wheel 154The firebrand 154The net 154The weapons of Maras army 155

    THE FIVE MAGICALWEAPONS OF SHRI DEVI 156

    The bag of diseases 156The bundle of red curses 157The white and black spotted dice 157The ball of thread 158The demon cross-stick 159

    WRATHFUL ATTRIBUTESAND OFFERINGS 161

    The head of Brahma 161The severed head 162The garland of severed heads and

    skulls 162The severed arm and leg 164Intestines or entrails 164The heart 165The piece of skull 166The cemetery shroud 166The wind-cloth 167The needle and thread 167The sorcerers magical horn 168

    HAND EMBLEMS ANDRITUAL ATTRIBUTES 169

    The lotus 169The golden wheel or dharmachakra 171The conch shell 171The umbrella or parasol 172The victorious banner 172The makara banner 173The wolf, bull, and tiger banner 174The flag 174The silk ribbon 175The triple banderole 176

    The jeweled tassel 177The yak-tail flywhisk 177Peacock feathers 178The peacock-feathered fan and mirror 179The peacock-feathered parasol 180The book 180The basket 182The alms-bowl 182The monks staff 184The possessions of an ordained monk 185The image of the Buddha 186The stupa or caitya 186The rosary 189The jewel or gem 190The wish-granting gem 192The wish-granting tree 193The crystal 193The gzi stone 194The mongoose 196The golden horsewhip 196The gold earrings and jeweled crown 197The celestial palace 197The incense-burner or censer 197The mirror 198The water-pot or flask 198The ritual vase or flask 199The long-life vase 201The treasure vase 202The treasure box 202The amulet-box 203The basin and bowl 203The lute and vina 204

    PLANT ATTRIBUTES 205

    The picula fruit 205The citron 205The radish 205The myrobalan fruit 206The ear of corn 206The ear of grain 207The ear of rice 207The bodhi-tree or tree of enlightenment 207Divine trees and flowering branches 208The ashoka tree 208The naga tree 208

    Handbook of Tibetan Buddhis#128 9/1/10 11:23 AM Page vii

  • Contentsviii

    THE REALITY-SOURCE ORDHARMODAYA 209

    The wheel of joy 209The reality-source or dharmodaya 209The dharmodaya of Vajrayogini 210

    TORMAS AND SYMBOLICOFFERINGS 212

    The torma 212The thread-cross 213The ransom offering of an arrow and

    spindle 215The wrathful offering of the five senses 215The inner offering 217

    HAND GESTURES ORMUDRAS 221

    The boon-granting gesture 223The protection gesture 223The gesture of giving refuge 224The earth-touching gesture 224

    The wheel of dharma gesture 225The enlightenment gesture 226The meditation gesture 226The palms-folded gesture 227The humkara gesture or gesture

    of victory over the three worlds 228The spirit-subduing gesture 228The threatening forefinger 229The mandala gesture 229The cunda gesture 230

    APPENDICES 231

    Appendix One The Legend of the Churning of the Ocean 231

    Appendix Two The Five Buddha Families 234

    Appendix Three The Three Kayas 237

    Appendix Four The Channel Wheel System 239

    GLOSSARY 245

    Handbook of Tibetan Buddhis#128 9/1/10 11:23 AM Page viii

  • Primarily I would like to express my grati-tude to my partner Gill Farrer-Halls forlovingly taking care of me throughout themany months of solitude in writing this text,and for making many helpful editorial sug-gestions. I express my thanks to AnthonyAris and his wife Marie Laure, and to ShaneSuvikapakornkul of Serindia Publicationsfor their constant encouragement, and toJonathan Green and the staff of ShambhalaPublications in Boston. For financial assis-tance I would like to thank Jane Reed andthe Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation inLondon. The layout and design of this bookwas accomplished with the assistance ofToby Matthews in London, a man of greatskill, diligence, and patience.

    Gratitude is expressed to all my manyfriends around this world for their support.In particular I would like to thank AniJampa, Phunsok Tsering, Evan Dvorsek,

    David Ford, Liz Specterman, Robert Svo-boda, Marc Baudin, Judy Allan, KhalilNorland, Danah Zohar and Ian Marshallfor their constant friendship and generosity,and to Christina, Thomas, Kali, Mac, andto Mike, Phil, and Leigh of Wisdom Booksin London. I would also like to thank myfriends Edward Henning, Martin Willson,Martin Boord, Ani Tenzin Palmo, Stephenand Martine Batchelor, and Karma Phunsokfor their dedicated work and insight into Va-jrayana Buddhism. My thanks are also ex-pressed to my daughters Carrina and Rosia,and to Helen for bringing such jewels intothis world.

    True democracy occurs when soul meetssoul on the open road. There are so manyfine people whom I have met upon this roadof the alone that have touched me deeply.They know well who they are, even thoughthey are not all mentioned by name.

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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  • Handbook of Tibetan Buddhis#128 9/1/10 11:23 AM Page x

  • INTRODUCTION

    In the su