Ritual Objects of Buddhism and Hinduism - the Bell, Viswa Vajra, Eight Auspicious Symbols, Om Mani Padme Hum Mantra and the Prayer Wheel

Added over 8 years ago


the bellThe bell, topped by a half vajra and clasped by lotus petals and leaves, symbolises wisdom in Buddhism, traditionally considered to be a female principal.  It is also the complementary object of the vajra, destroyer of ignorance, which represents the male principal. Used in harmony, the bell is held in the left hand while the vajra is held in the right hand.  Together their interaction leads to enlightenment.


Viswa Vajra

A Viswa Vajra

The double or crossed Vajra represents the stability of the physical world and is a powerful protective symbol in that it cannot be destroyed but itself destroys all evil.  Because of this the viswa vajra is often found stamped or applied to the base of statues or to canisters and containers that hold precious relics or prayers.  It is also associated with Amogasiddhi , one of the five Dhyani Buddhas whose mudra is Granting Protection or Fearlessness and whose consort is the Green Tara.


Astamangala (Eight Auspicious Symbols)

eight auspicious symbols

These are a suite or group of eight symbols endemic to a number of dharmic philosophies including Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism.  They represent the enlightened mindstream and are also used as teaching tools, appearing together or singly in manuscripts and artwork and as a decorative motif on relics, statuary, buildings and jewellery.  The exact symbols vary with the pholosophy being taught and with time.  In Buddhism, the symbols often represent the gifts given by celestial beings toSakyamuni Buddha on his attainment of enlightenment.  They are:

White Parasol - protects one from evil desires
Two Fishes - beings rescued from the ocean of earthly existence
Conch Shell - proclaims the glory of turning to the right path
Banner - signifying the victory of Buddhism
Endless Knot - represents the endless cycle of rebirth
Vase - treasury of all spiritual wealth
Wheel - representing transformation and teaching
Lotus - symbolising the progress of the soul


Prayer Wheel

a row of prayer wheelsA prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle, in which a scroll is placed with the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum written hundreds, if not thousands of times.  The wheel is spun in a clockwise direction (based on the movement of the sun across the sky), allowing with each revolution the accumulation of as much merit as though all of the mantra inscriptions were read aloud. Thus the more prayers a wheel holds, the more powerful it is considered to be. Traditionally, Tibetans and Nepalis use prayer wheels to accumulate merit and good karma; any accumulated merits that an individual may gather during a session of use are freely given to all other sentient beings.  A prayer wheel should be held almost upright and spun smoothly and slowly; greater benefit is achieved if the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is recited as the wheel is turned.

Tags: Bell, Buddhism, Eight Auspicious Symbols, Hinduism, Jainism, Prayer Wheel, Ritual Objects, Viswa Vajra


Next: Stories from the Silk Road - Magic Carpets

Previous: Tribal People of the World: The Rabari People of Northwest India