The Endless Knot, or the Knot of Eternity, is a rich symbol in Buddhism and is frequently used in Buddhist art and iconography and malas. It is used from different perspectives in different traditions. In some traditions, it represents the interweaving and turns of the spiritual path, crossing and re-crossing.
The Endless Knot with no beginning and no end symbolizes the beginning-less of ultimate reality, the illusory nature of time, and the infinite wisdom of the Buddha.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the endless knot is one of the eight auspicious symbols. As such, it symbolizes the nature of reality interdependence of all things. It also represents the mutual dependence of religious and secular affairs, and monastic and lay communities, each supporting the other and dependent on the other for growth and nourishment. When we are on the path of spiritual training, it symbolizes the inseparability of emptiness (of an inherently existent nature of all things) and dependent arising of all things. This is the wisdom aspect of Buddhist training that develops as we deepen our understanding of reality.
The endless knot also represents the complete union of wisdom and method
(compassion) at the time of full enlightenment.
Like other images and symbols, contemplating the symbolism of the Endless Knot can help us question and break through our common conception of time and reality. At the very least, it can remind us that there is a deeper reality than that which arises in a linear fashion before our ordinary eyes. Used as such, it is an example of the power of symbols not only to enrich our spiritual practice, but more importantly to challenge and transform our limited finite perspective.
Contributing author Kate Cowsky