Fortune Animals in Tibetan Buddhism


        There are many different symbols of fortune in Tibetan Buddhism. These symbols include the Eight Auspicious Signs, which is probably the most well-known symbol of fortune. In addition, animals used in Buddhist art and design are popular as fortune symbols. 

        The elephant is large and strong, but as a fortune symbol the elephant represents mental and emotional strength and dependability. In Buddhism the elephant is the symbol for intellectual prowess. As a visualization tool, the gray elephant is said to represent the mind when one begins to study Buddhism, wild and running to and fro without logic, and the white elephant represents the Buddhist mind once it is well-trained and has been formed by meditation. Culturally, the elephant is a symbol for fortune and statues of elephants standing on coins are prevalent in many Asian countries. And of course, one of the most important deities in Hinduism who is also well-loved in Buddhism is Ganesh, who is an emanation of Avalokitesvara. 

 

Ganesh Mask, Ganesha, with Coral and Turquoise Inlay, Elephant Mask


        The Garuda is a bird who is known as the king of the birds. An enemy of snakes, the Garuda protects from snakebite, and other poisons. The Garuda appears in the form of a bird’s head with a human body. As a symbol, the Garuda destroys jealousy and hate. When the Garuda expands his wings they represent an infinite freedom of the mind. Untethered by hate or jealousy, the mind can expand and encompass all things, and we can learn and grow. 

        The Lion is proud and majestic and strong. The lion travels in a group and never alone. In Buddhism, the lion symbolizes the Bodhisattvas. The lion is also a protector of the dharma. Statues and artwork of ‘snow lions’ permeate Tibetan Buddhism, although there are no lions living in Tibetan or Nepal (though there are tigers living in Nepal. Snow lions in art are usually white or blue. Lions are usually shown in pairs and are used for protection in front of temples and monasteries. 


 Snow Lion Statue

        The peacock symbolizes wisdom in Buddhism. It is said that the peacock is able to eat poison and turn that poison into good for those who practice dharma. The peacock is likened to a bodhisattva because they can take the evil of the world and transform it into good. Because the bodhisattva only cares for followers of the dharma, and are themselves free of evil thoughts, they are able to transform ugliness into good. By eating the poison in the world the peacock can then transform that evil into something beautiful as shown in the beautiful colors of their wings. Peacocks are often shown in pairs as a fortune animal.


Lokta lantern 


        In Tibetan Buddhism, the horse is symbolic of the energy we put forth to study the dharma. The wind horse, also known as lungta, floats on the wind with vigorous energy, and he can choose his path, just like we can choose our path or direction when we practice Buddhism. The wind horse is one of the most important symbols in Tibetan Buddhism, and it originally was a symbol for the form of Tibetan Buddhism that is most closely related to Shamanism, and was practiced by the people (Mi-cho- religion of humans). In Tibetan people use the wind horse in their speech in daily life, and the phrase rlung rta dar ba which means an increase in the wind horse, and it is used to describe a situation when things are going well for someone, or they are having good luck. The wind horse is shown on many prayer flags throughout Tibet and Nepal.

Neon lungta (wind horse) prayer flags