Buddhist Philosophy

Bell and Dorje: Understanding Ritual Objects

In the Vajrayana context, practitioners utilize the bell and dorje as important symbolic ritual items. In this video, Tulku Migmar explains just some of the significance of this pair of implements.  We hold the dorje, or vajra, always in the right hand,  while we ring the bell with the left hand.  At the outer level, these two implements represent the indivisibility of means (vajra) and the wisdom recognizing emptiness (bell). At the same time, we can understand that the dorje represents compassion, while the bell signifies Prajñāpāramitā, the perfection of wisdom.

Understanding the Symbols

The following diagrams indicate the location of each symbol described in the video. You may want to compare your implements, and as Tulku Migmar notes, some instruments may not have every detail. As the drawing indicates, sometimes the numbers (for example of vajras o the bell) do not accurately reflect the numerical symbolism, but are merely representative.

Selecting a Bell and Dorje Set

Our partners at Akara Collection offer a selection of bells and dorjes that have been carefully selected for their quality craftsmanship and sound. Please follow this link to shop the site and hear the sound of the bells.

2 responses on "Bell and Dorje: Understanding Ritual Objects"

  1. really helpful and clear. great to have the diagram as well. thankyou

Leave a Message

Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.