The sides have a great deal going on. The overall design was taken from a silk brocaide, possibly supplied as part of a Choyon. Mahamudra is visible around the side's top-edges. In the center of the Dharma Wheel & the stylized trefoil flower is the Wheel of Joy. The Wheel of Joy is similar in style to the Chinese yin-yang, but with three or four segments rather than two. When shown with three sections, the wheel relates to the three jewels of Buddha, dharma & sangha (body, speech, & mind). Four sections refer to the four noble truths. There are also Blue ashoka & lotus blossoms, multicolored kusha grass, & rainbows. The billowing clouds or mist are Mahamudra, the union of compassion & wisdom -- the ultimate realization of one’s true nature. They are represented as the transformation of our vices into the 4 powers of regret, vow, reliance, & remedy, so the practitioner will realize purification & enlightenment. This is also the basic meaning of the "Heart Sutra." The lotus (padma, 1st of the trinity flowers), represents the path that leads from ignorance to knowledge; the Ashoka, the second of the trinity of holy flowers, sprouts from the holy water-font of the Amitayus, one of the forms in which the Buddha Amitabha appeared (symbolizing the transformation from greed to discriminating wisdom).
In three parts, the Dharma wheel is as a hub, the center of the world. The 8 spokes denote the 8 paths to enlightenment. These 8 steps work together, not separately. 1. right understanding . 2. right attitude 3. right speech 4. right action 5. right work 6. right effort 7. right mindfulness 8. right meditation The rim represents the attribute of limitation. All are contained within a circle, which is perceived to be perfect & complete, like the teachings of the Buddha. Kusha grass grows to a height of two feet & is used to purify defilements. Those wishing purification sleep in a field or patch of kusha grass for ritual purification. Placed under a pillow at night before initiation, Kusha grass is believed to produce clear dreams; it is also used to enhance the clarity of visualization & meditation. Kusha is the grass of choice for the manufacture of sacred meditation mats. The rainbow is eternity’s expression of momentary delight. This is Auspicious & takes on a supernatural meaning: the demise of a great teacher & his rebirth. Rainbows materialize & dissolve into nothingness, & in Tibetan tradition, it is the “Body of Light” or the “Rainbow Body” & refers to a great master who has attained Mahamudra & no longer perceives the world as a conceptual concrete dimension; rather, he now permeates space as mist, also known as the ultimate form of reality. The self is now permeating space with luminescence transparency, with nothing solid or any sharp lines of separation.
The top has a lotus depicting all three stages (past, present, future) along with purple-cliff simulacra in the shape of a snow lion with water springing forth. The 3 stages of the lotus, bud, utpala (mid-blossom) & the full blossoming throne represent the past, present & future respectively. The lotus flower is a natural symbol & also represents earth. Tibetan Buddhist mystics imagined the earth floating like a lotus flower on the oceans of the universe. The heart of the flower is the cosmic mountain, the axis of the universe. The generally acknowledged meaning of the lotus flower is purity of mind or divine creation. From the muck of a pond, where the roots of the lotus reside, an immaculate white flower emerges to rest on the surface of the water as a metaphor for the harmonious unfolding of spirituality.
The lotus is an important Buddhist motif. Images of the Buddha & other important persons often are shown seated on a lotus throne. The growth of the lotus, with its roots in mud, growing through water, & emerging as a wonderful plant above the surface, is seen as an analogy of the soul’s path from the mud of materialism to the purity of enlightenment.
The mantra on each end of the box is OM AH HOM, which is the "Body~Speech~Mind" of Buddha, as in one's acquisition of these properties.