The front has a "presenting the Dharma " set of colorful rock cliffs with kusha grass sprouting from the tops, as well as durva grass mixed with the Mahamudra billows. The "presenting the dharma" is the conch horn; an emblem of power and authority and is thought to banish evil. The right spiraling (echoing the celestial movement of the sun, moon and stars) conch shell is one of the oldest icons in Buddhism. It is made by nature and not man. A conch horn sounds in all directions, as do the teachings of the Buddha. Consequently, the conch is seen as a vehicle fearlessly proclaiming the truth of the dharma in all directions. The white conch shell was presented to Sakyamuni by the great sky god Indra. The rock/cliff formation represents the syllable "E" which appears in the opening stanza of early Buddhist scriptures, ("'thus,' I have heard"). The blue, red and green cliffs represent the unmoving nature of the mind when enlightenment has been attained. The tops of these cliffs have Kusha grass growing out of them. 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. Durva grass symbolizes long life. Because grass is highly resilient, it is believed to be immortal. Therefore, it proclaims the end of samsara, the successive death & rebirth of all beings. It usually takes a long time to overcome samsara, & a longer lifespan will allow greater progress in moving towards enlightenment within a given cycle. The billowing waves 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 that the practitioner will realize purification and enlightenment.
The lid's front edge has a Tibetanized rendition of Sanskrit and is the holy script/text of Tibet. It begins with the Tibetan symbol of greatest respectful greeting & continues in Romanized Tibetan with the mantra, OM MANI PADME HUM ~ OM MA. The first 6 syllables are the famous mantra of Avalokiteshvara, which is sometimes explained as ”The jewel in the heart of the Lotus.” The first OM refers to Buddha’s body, speech & mind, as in possessing this oneself; the MA of MANI is a jewel or treasure, (wisdom/thinking). The NI of the MANI is the altruistic mind. PADMI is the lotus flower, the nature of reality of Buddha’s wisdom. HUM is the determination and resolution to acquire and retain these qualities. The second part of the script, after a spacer, OM MA is a commitment to follow the Dharma.
The sides continue the central theme of presenting the Dharma, with rock cliffs dominating the sides. The sides as well as the top and front are bordered with blue and red Chrysanthemums with white tips. The chrysanthemum symbolizes autumn & the gathering of the harvest. In this case, it is a metaphor for achieving the goal of enlightenment & its accompanying peace. The blue represents compassion. Red is the transmutation of passion into compassion. The white tips denote purity.
The top adds some new elements for meditation, central is a beautiful Ashoka blossom, accompanied by to Camp flowers. Underneath this arrangement are two mountains with a rainbow inbetween. The Ashoka Blossom is 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). The sprout materialized from a tear that Buddha Amitabha shed when hearing of the deeds of the great warrior Ashoka that overcame all of his enemies to win freedom for his oppressed people. The rainbow is eternity’s expression of momentary delight. This is Auspicious and takes on a supernatural meaning: the demise of a great teacher and his rebirth. Rainbows materialize and dissolve into nothingness, and in Tibetan tradition, it is the “Body of Light” or the “Rainbow Body” and refers to a great master who has attained Mahamudra and 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.