The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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In a general sense peacocks are a Symbol of openness and acceptance. In Christianity the peacock is a Symbol of immortality. In Mesopotamia appeared a symbolic representation of a tree flanked by two peacocks, which is said to symbolise the dualistic Mind and the absolute unity. In Hinduism the patterns of the peacocks feathers, resembling eyes, symbolise and stars. In Buddhism they symbolise Wisdom.
Peacocks are said to have the ability of eating poisonous plants without being affected by them. Because of that, they are synonymous with the great Bodhisattvas. A Bodhisattva is able to take delusions as the path toward Liberation and transform the poisonous Mind of Ignorance, desire and hatred [ moha, raga, dvesa ] into the Thought of Enlightenment or Bodhicitta, which opens colourfully like the peacocks' tail.
"In jungles of poisonous plants strut the peacocks, Through medicine Gardens of Beauty lie near. The masses of peacocks do not find Gardens pleasant, But thrive on the essence of poisonous plants, In similar fashion the brave Bodhisattvas Remain in the jungle of worlds concern. No matter how joyful this World pleasure garden, These brave ones are never attracted to pleasures, But thrive in the jungle of Suffering and pain."
The Mind of the Sentient beings in this World is like a thick forest of desire and hatred. The pleasures and material possessions are like a beautiful medicinal garden. The brave-minded Bodhisattvas, because of having realised the shortcomings of Samsara, are not atracted to samsaric pleasures, just as the peacocks are not attracted to medicinal plants. The Bodhisattvas, having the attitude of wishing only to work for Sentient beings and not desiring any Happiness for themselves, can utilise the poisonous thoughts of Ignorance, desire, hatred and so forth in order to accomplish the works for Sentient beings.
Bu eating poison, the peacocks' Body becomes healthy and beautiful. He is adorned with five feathers on the head, which symbolise the Five Paths of the boddhisattva and the attainment of the Five Buddha Families. They have beautiful colours, like blue, red, green and please other beings just by being seen. Similarly, any Body who sees a Bodhisattva receives great Happiness in his Mind. The peacock's eating habits of eating poisonous plants do not cause harm to other beings. Similarly the Bodhisattvas don not give the slightest harm to any other Sentient beings. By eating poison the colours of his feathers become bright and his Body healthy. Similarly, by taking all problems and Suffering upon themselves, the Bodhisattvas quickly purify the Mental obscurations and develop their Mind quickly, attaining higher and higher realization. Particularly peacocks symbolise the transmutting of desire into the path of Liberation. Therefor they are the vehicle of Buddha Amitabha, who represents desire and Attachment transmuted into the Wisdom of Discriminating Awareness.
The peacock is a very important bird, 1st it is an emblem of romantic love and beauty. In Buddhism the peacock supports the throne of Amitabha, the red Buddha of the west (main qualities include passion (lotus), love, vital fluids, evening twilight, summer and fire). The peacock is the mortal enemy of snakes, killing cobras with their talons. The main quality of the peacock is transmutation of poison into amrita or nectar. This is tied to Lord Shiva getting a blue throat from taking the poison produced by the churning of the ocean; thus the transmutation of poison or venom by the peacock is said to produce the electric blue of its throat plumage and the wisdom eyes of its tail feathers. In Vajra yana symbolism a bundle of peacock feathers is used as a sprinkler for the consecrated water or amrita contained in the blessing flask. In specific tantric rituals individual feathers are used as fan, mirror, and parasol adornments, also as the feathers for darts, and as the peacock feather parasol used by the goddess Palden Lhamo, symbolizing her wisdom activities and the transmutation of all evils or poisons.