Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Auspicious Sign

The swastika (Sanskrit "auspicious sign") is an ancient symbol which existed for thousands of years before its use by Nazi Germany. Carved swastikas, about 12 000 years old, have been discovered in Ukraine. It appears in cultures all over the world, and often, as is the case with this Amerindian sand painting, there appears to be no way of explaining this in terms of intercultural influence. It suggests that the sign is somehow hard-wired into the collective psyche of mankind.
Though stigmatised in the West because of its adoption by fascist political parties, in the East the swastika continues to be very popular and widely used, and is a religious symbol of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The Nazi swastika is banned in Germany, however, it is legal to use the sign in a religious context.
For religions originating in India it is a sign of auspiciousness. Its four arms are symbolic of the four petals of the Mooladhara Chakra, the energy centre which forms the base of the subtle body. The Mooladhara is the abode of the qualities of innocence and wisdom in a person. In Hinduism, the Swastika represents Shri Ganesha, the elephant-headed aspect of the Divine who resides in the Mooladhara.
The Nazis used a black swastika and rotated it into an unstable diamond shape. The traditional Hindu swastika is drawn, with auspicious red paste, in a stable square shape.

Auspicious clockwise swastika
in stable square orientation

The reverse (anticlockwise) swastika is usually considered inauspicious in India. This form originated in pre-Buddhist Tibet, but was incorporated into Tibetan Buddhism, which spread it to China and Japan.

Elephant statue with swastika, Carlsberg building, Denmark, dating from pre-fascist times.

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