The Endless Knot
The Endless, or Eternity Knot is one of the “Eight Auspicious Symbols” of Buddhism. The other seven symbols include the: Conch Shell, Lotus, Parasol, Pair of Golden Fishes, Victory Banner, and Treasure Vase. The Tibetan phrase for Endless Knot is dpal be’u, and its Sanskrit name is shrivatsa. There are several other English terms that can be used for this historic symbol, such as: the Tibetan Knot, the Mystic Dragon, the Knot of Eternity, and the Lucky Diagram.
Though found mostly in Tibetan Buddhist culture, the Endless Knot can also be found in Chinese and Chinese-inspired art. The Endless Knot is comparable to knots of other cultures, bearing a striking similarity to the Celtic Knot of the ancient Celts. The Endless Knot is an intricate design of looped or intertwined lines that weave in and out of each other in right angles to form a lattice pattern. The knot seemingly has no beginning and no end.
The divine significance of the Endless Knot is that it represents the connection between one’s spiritual path, the movement of time, and the omnipresent Buddha self – or divine eternal consciousness. One can find several other spiritual significances of the knot, for a symbol representing interconnectedness lends itself to many interpretations. Some believe the knot is representative of the endless cycle of Samsara, or continuous succession of birth, death and rebirth. Others believe it signifies the desirable union between right wisdom and right practice, or wisdom and compassion.
The origin of the Endless Knot may have been initially derived from a simpler icon of two entwined snakes, further characterizing the knot as a symbol of duality. Buddhism often focuses heavily on this notion of duality, inspiring followers to embrace both sides of each situation, for if both sides are accepted, disciples will effortlessly let go of attachment and hatred, resulting in a closer path to Enlightenment. Similarly, the symbol also represents the exceptional and omniscient wisdom of the Buddha.
Though the knot appears complex and dense to the eye, the multitude of twists and turns in fact illustrate the theory of interconnection all over the world. If all beings were truly separate, life would be much more complex. It is through this interconnectedness throughout existence that makes life simpler, as each being has essentially the same desires and struggles in life. This ancient emblem reflects this paradox.
The Endless Knot symbol can be placed on gifts in order to create a favorable link between the giver and receiver of the gift. This symbol will simply act as a reminder of the underlying unification between two or more individuals. Also, by reminding one’s self and others of the important philosophy of interconnectedness and spiritual consequence, both the giver and receiver can enjoy a small dose of good karma.
Surprisingly, the religious symbol of the Eternity Knot is said to symbolize the interdependence between religious and secular matters. However, it is more greatly utilized to conjure understanding regarding more mystical concepts such as the undeniable association between emptiness and dependence. The knot can also be viewed as a representation of perfect harmony. If all of existence works together in flawless cooperation, as the lines in the Endless Knot do, then a perfect reality truly exists. All events transpire just as they should, and each being is in his or her proper place in the universe. In yet another interpretation, some wear a talisman of the Endless Knot in an effort to attract a long life, because of its “endless” and everlasting quality.
In most cases, the Endless Knot simply sheds light upon the nature of duality, inspiring the viewer, wearer or recipient of the knot to ponder the connectivity between opposites. As The Dhammapada reads:
Conquer the angry man by love.
Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness.
Conquer the miser with generosity.
Conquer the liar with truth.
The Endless Knot is an indispensable character in the art and culture of Tibetan Buddhists. The knot can be found adorning everything from jewelry to rugs. It is imperative for Buddhists to remember the interconnectedness of all beings and events in space and time, while also considering the eternal energy, wisdom and compassion present in the universe. The Endless Knot serves to remind all penitent Buddhist devotees of these very beliefs.