The Endless Knot is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols in Buddhism, and one of the most popular symbols in Tibetan Buddhism. Also referred to as the ‘Mystic Dragon’, it symbolizes the infinite wisdom and compassion of the Buddha for all sentient beings.
Resembling the well-known Celtic knot, this unbroken weaving of geometric lines has shown up in many cultures around the world, making it a universal symbol. The design is a symmetrical knot, loosely woven, balanced and graceful with no loose ends – in fact no end at all – a closed loop signifying eternity and unity.
For Buddhists, the Endless Knot is a reminder that everything in the universe is related, and that future events have their root in the present. The design represents and symbolizes cause and effect, in other words – karma. The knot, eternal design and symbol that it is, tells us that we are bound to our karmic destiny. The knot is also a reminder to us to keep to the path of enlightenment and to meditate on the master’s teachings.
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” These are familiar words from Buddha.
Since Buddhism began in India, many of its symbols were borrowed from other religions. The eight lucky (auspicious) symbols themselves are a development from grouping of eight commonly symbols used at Indian ceremonies marking investiture or other rites of passage. As Buddhist lore entered the religion, centuries after Buddha’s death, the Eight Auspicious Symbols were said to be offerings made to Buddha by the gods upon his ‘awakening’.
The Endless Knot may have started off as the intertwining of two snakes – the Naga symbol – (meaning serpent or dragon) and suggestive of dualities like good and evil, or light and darkness. But such opposing forces are destined to come together to create harmony in the universe. A decidedly snakelike banner is sometimes shown lacing its way through the lower loops of the Endless Knot.
The Endless Knot has given rise to many interpretations that involve interdependence, such as wisdom and compassion, religion and secular affairs, stillness and action.
In China, the endless knot shows up in many art forms including paintings and embroidery as a symbol of infinity and longevity.