Buddhist ritual implements – Items of outer devotion
Most Buddhists use ritual in pursuit of their spiritual aspirations.
Common devotional practices are receiving a blessing, making merit, making a resolution, prostrating, making offerings, chanting traditional texts and pilgrimage.
Buddhism regards inner devotion as more important than outer ritual. However, rituals do have an important place in Buddhism.
Table of Contents
- 1 - List of Buddhist ritual implements
- 1.1 - Thangka
- 1.2 - Vajra
- 1.3 - Mandala
- 1.4 - Damaru
- 1.5 - Prayer flag
- 1.6 - Prayer wheel
- 1.7 - Kapala
- 1.8 - Namkha
- 1.9 - Khata
- 1.10 - Dhvaja
- 1.11 - Phurba
- 1.12 - Fly-whisk
- 1.13 - Applique Thangkas
- 1.14 - Bumpa
- 1.15 - Stone lantern
- 1.16 - Hama yumi
- 1.17 - Sanbo
- 1.18 - Japamala
- 1.19 - Azusa Yumi
- 1.20 - Khakkhara
- 1.21 - Standing bell
- 1.22 - Tingsha
- 1.23 - Dadar (ritual tool)
- 1.24 - Kartika (knife)
- 1.25 - Chatra (umbrella)
- 1.26 - Bonshō
- 1.27 - Mirrors in Shinto
- 1.28 - Ruyi (scepter)
- 1.29 - Trishula
- 1.30 - Keman
- 1.31 - Ōryōki
- 1.32 - Mitsu-gusoku
- 1.33 - Mani stone
- 1.34 - Khaṭvāṅga
- 1.35 - Keisaku
- 1.36 - Honzon
- 1.37 - Gohonzon
- 1.38 - Fuzi
- 1.39 - Dhyāngro
- 1.40 - Dai Gohonzon
- 1.41 - Chutor
- 1.42 - Butsudan
- 1.43 - Wooden fish
List of Buddhist ritual implements
Buddhist rituals take place through several practices, expressed through physical movement, speech, and mind.
This is a list of Buddhist ritual implements used in some Buddhist communities.
Thangka is an art. A thangka is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, silk applique, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. Thangkas are traditionally kept unframed and rolled up when not on display, mounted on a textile backing somewhat in the style of Chinese scroll paintings, with a further silk cover on the front.
Vajra is a ritual scepter symbolizing compassion and skillful means, and also a symbol of indestructibility.
In tantric rituals, the vajra is the necessary counterpart of the bell, which symbolizes the wisdom of emptiness.
Vajra and bell are a set where both have the same number of spokes. Their number varies from one to one thousand, yet the most commonly known are the five-spoked ones called “Samaya vajra and bell” and the nine spoked called “wisdom vajra and bells”.
The size of the vajra can vary from 4 inches to twenty, and the bell should be in proportion.
A mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe. In common use, “mandala” has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.
A damaru or damru is a small two-headed drum, used in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. In Hinduism, the damru is known as the instrument of the deity Shiva, and is said to be created by Shiva to produce spiritual sounds by which the whole universe has been created and regulated. In Tibetan Buddhism, the damaru is used as an instrument in tantric practices.
A prayer flag is a colorful rectangular cloth, often found strung along trails and peaks high in the Himalayas. They are used to bless the surrounding countryside and for other purposes. Prayer flags are believed to have originated with Bon. In Bon, shamanistic Bonpo used primary-colored plain flags in Tibet. Traditional prayer flags include woodblock-printed text and images.
A prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather or coarse cotton. Traditionally, the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is written in Newari language of Nepal, on the outside of the wheel. Also sometimes depicted are Dakinis, Protectors and very often the 8 auspicious symbols Ashtamangala. At the core of the cylinder is a “Life Tree” often made of wood or metal with certain mantras written on or wrapped around it. Many thousands of mantras are then wrapped around this life tree. The Mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is most commonly used, but other mantras may be used as well. According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition based on the lineage texts regarding prayer wheels, spinning such a wheel will have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers.
A kapala or skullcup is a cup made from a human skull and used as a ritual implement (bowl) in both Hindu Tantra and Buddhist Tantra (Vajrayana). Especially in Tibet, they are often carved or elaborately mounted with precious metals and jewels.
Namkha, also known as Dö; is a form of yarn or thread cross composed traditionally of wool or silk and is a form of the Endless knot of the Eight Auspicious Symbols (Ashtamangala).
A khata or khatag(Tibetan: ཁ་བཏགས་ ; Dzongkha: དར་, Dhar, Mongolian : ᠬᠠᠳᠠᠭ / Mongolian: хадаг / IPA: [χɑtɑk], khadag or hatag, Nepali: खतक khada, Chinese 哈達/哈达; pinyin: hādá/hǎdá) is a traditional ceremonial scarf in tengrism and Tibetan Buddhism. It originated in Tibetan culture and is common in cultures and countries where Tibetan Buddhism is practiced or has strong influence.
Dhvaja, meaning banner or flag, is composed of the Ashtamangala, the “eight auspicious symbols.”
The phurba or kīla is a three-sided peg, stake, knife, or nail-like ritual implement traditionally associated with Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Bön, and Indian Vedic traditions.
A fly-whisk is a tool that is used to swat flies. A similar gadget is used as a hand fan in hot tropical climates, sometimes used as part of regalia, and called a chowrie, chāmara, or prakirnaka in South Asia and Tibet.
Applique Thangkas are made of silk, either by appliqué or embroidery.
During some festivals, giant applique thangkas are designed to be unrolled against a wall in a monastery for particular religious occasions
The bumpa, or pumpa, is a ritual vase with a spout used in Tibetan Buddhist rituals and empowerments. It is understood to be, in some contexts, the vessel or the expanse of the Universe.
Stone lanterns are a type of traditional East Asian lantern made of stone, wood, or metal. Originating in China, stone lanterns spread to Japan, Korea and Vietnam, though they are most commonly found in both China – extant in Buddhist temples and traditional Chinese gardens – and Japan. In Japan, tōrō were originally used only in Buddhist temples, where they lined and illuminated paths. Lit lanterns were then considered an offering to Buddha. Their use in Shinto shrines and also private homes started during the Heian period (794–1185).
The Hama Yumi (破魔弓) is a sacred bow used in 1103 A.D. in Japan. The Bow is said to be one of the oldest and most sacred Japanese weapons; the first Emperor Jimmu is always depicted carrying a bow.
‘Sanbo ‘ is a stand used in the Shinto rituals of shinto to place shinten. In ancient times, it was also used to present objects to a noble person. The same type of stand is also used in temples, but in this case it is sometimes written sampo, which stands for Three Treasures.
A Japamala or mala is a string of prayer beads commonly used in Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Shintō for the spiritual practice known in Sanskrit as japa. The rosary is usually made from 108 beads, though other numbers are also used. Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or the name or names of a Deity.
An azusa yumi is a sacred bow (yumi) used in certain Shinto rituals in Japan, as well as a Japanese musical bow, made from the wood of the Japanese azusa or Japanese cherry birch tree. Playing an azusa yumi forms part of some Shinto rituals; in Japan, it is universally believed that merely the twanging of the bowstring will frighten ghosts and evil spirits away from a house. In Japanese poetry, the word azusa yumi functions as a makurakotoba.
A khakkhara (Sanskrit: sounding staff; English: monk staff; is a Buddhist ringed staff used primarily in prayer or as a weapon, that originates from India. The jingling of the staff’s rings is used to warn small sentient beings to move from the carrier’s path and avoid being accidentally trodden on. In ancient times it was used also to scare away dangerous animals. Ringing also is used to alert the faithful that there is a monk within earshot in need of alms. In the Sarvāstivāda vinaya the khakkhara is called the “sounding staff” because of the tinkling sound the rings make.
A standing bell or resting bell is an inverted bell, supported from below with the rim uppermost.
Such bells are normally bowl-shaped, and exist in a wide range of sizes, from a few centimetres to a metre in diameter.
They are often played by striking, but some—known as singing bowls—may also be played by rotating a mallet around the outside rim to produce a sustained musical note.
Tibetan tingsha are small cymbals used in prayer and rituals by Tibetan Buddhist practitioners. Two cymbals are joined together by a leather strap or chain. The cymbals are struck together producing a clear and high pitched tone. Typical sizes range from 2.5–4 inches in diameter. Tingsha are very thick and produce a unique long ringing tone. Antique tingsha were made from special bronze alloys that produce harmonic overtones.
Dadar (ritual tool)
The Dadar, or arrow often though not always dressed with rainbow ribbon, is a teaching tool, ritual instrument symbol for Nyingmapa and Bonpo Dzogchenpa and is a particular attribute for Mandarava and Saraha.
A kartika is a small, crescent-shaped hand-held ritual flaying knife used in the tantric ceremonies of Vajrayana Buddhism. The kartika is said to be “one of the quintessential attributes of the wrathful Tantric deities.” It is commonly known as the “knife of the dakinis.”
The chatra is an auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.
Bonshō , also known as tsurigane or ōgane are large bells found in Buddhist temples throughout Japan, used to summon the monks to prayer and to demarcate periods of time. Rather than containing a clapper, bonshō are struck from the outside, using either a handheld mallet or a beam suspended on ropes.
Mirrors in Shinto
A Shinto mirror Shinkyou (神鏡) is a mirror sacred in Shinto. Some mirrors are enshrined in the main hall of a shrine as a sacred object of the divine spirit, or are placed in front of the deity in a hall of worship. Mirrors in ancient Japan represented truth because they merely reflected what was shown, and were a source of much mystique and reverence. Japanese folklore is rich in stories of life before mirrors were commonplace.
Ruyi is a curved decorative object that serves as a ceremonial sceptre in Chinese Buddhism or a talisman symbolizing power and good fortune in Chinese folklore. A traditional ruyi has a long S-shaped handle and a head fashioned like a fist, cloud, or lingzhi mushroom. Ruyi are constructed from diverse materials. For example, the Palace Museum in Beijing has nearly 3000 ruyi that are variously made from valuable materials like gold, silver, iron, bamboo, wood, ivory, coral, rhinoceros horn, lacquer, crystal, jade, and precious gems. The “ruyi” image frequently appears as a motif in Asian art.
Trishula is a trident, commonly used as the principal symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Keman , is a Buddhist ritual decoration, placed hanging on the beam of the inner sanctuary before the enshrined Buddha, in the main hall of the temple.
鉢多羅, is a transliteration of Sanskrit pātra, also called 應量器, means “vessel that contains just enough” is a set of nested bowls and other eating utensils for the personal use of Buddhist monks. Ōryōki also refers to a meditative form of eating using these utensils that originated in Japan and emphasizes mindfulness awareness practice by abiding to a strict order of precise movements.
Mitsu-gusoku in Japanese Buddhism is a traditional arrangement of three articles, often displayed in front of a painting of the Buddha or important Buddhist figures.
Mani stones are stone plates, rocks and/or pebbles, inscribed with the six syllabled mantra of Avalokiteshvara, as a form of prayer in Tibetan Buddhism. The term Mani stone may also be used in a loose sense to refer to stones on which any mantra or devotional designs are inscribed. Mani stones are intentionally placed along the roadsides and rivers or placed together to form mounds or cairns or sometimes long walls, as an offering to spirits of place or genius loci. Creating and carving mani stones as devotional or intentional process art is a traditional sadhana of piety to yidam. Mani stones are a form of devotional cintamani.
A khaṭvāṅga is a long, studded club originally created as a weapon. It was adopted as a religious symbol in Indian religions such as Shaivism and Vajrayana Buddhism. The khatvāṅga was adopted by some lineages of historical tantra though it preceded such traditions.
In Zen Buddhism, the keisaku is a flat wooden stick or slat used during periods of meditation to remedy sleepiness or lapses of concentration. This is accomplished through a strike or series of strikes, usually administered on the meditator’s back and shoulders in the muscular area between the shoulder and the spine. The keisaku itself is thin and somewhat flexible; strikes with it, though they may cause momentary sting if performed vigorously, are not injurious.
Honzon, sometimes referred to as a Gohonzon, is the enshrined main image or principal deity in Japanese Buddhism. The buddha, bodhisattva, or mandala image is located in either a temple or a household butsudan.
Gohonzon is a generic term for a venerated religious object in Japanese Buddhism. It may take the form of a scroll or statuary. In Nichiren Buddhism, it refers to the hanging calligraphic paper mandala inscribed by Nichiren to which devotional chanting is directed.
A fuzi, also known as a fuchen, is a type of fly-whisk, consisting of a short staff with hair that are used as instruments by Chan Buddhist monks and Taoist daoshi. Originally used as a tool to shoo away flies from livestock without injuring them, it eventually came to be adopted by Buddhism and Taoism as it was perceived as having the power to sweep away desires and evil influences both in the environment of the holder and within their own thoughts, bringing them closer to enlightenment or transcending the mortal realm.
The dhyāngro is a frame drum played by the jhakri (shamans) of Nepal—especially those of the Magars, the Kirati, and the Tamang—as well as by Tibetan Buddhist musicians.
The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings, commonly known as the Dai-Gohonzon is a venerated calligraphic mandala image inscribed with Sanskrit and Chinese characters on a plank of Japanese camphorwood. The image is the main object of worship in Nichiren Shōshū Buddhism, which claims that the image was painted by Nichiren on wood, then carved by his artisan disciple Izumi Ajari Nippo as the supreme object of worship and veneration by the Nichiren Shoshu faithful.
Chutor is a type of water offering to Dzambhala, the god of wealth, is the Tibetan Ritual Set for Water Offering.
A Butsudan, sometimes spelled Butudan , is a shrine commonly found in temples and homes in Japanese Buddhist cultures. A butsudan is either a defined, often ornate platform or simply a wooden cabinet sometimes crafted with doors that enclose and protect a Gohonzon or religious icon, typically a statue or painting of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, or a calligraphic mandala scroll.
A wooden fish, also known as a Chinese temple block. is a wooden percussion instrument. The wooden fish is used by monks and lay people in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. It is often used during rituals usually involving the recitation of sutras, mantras, or other Buddhist texts. The wooden fish is mainly used by Buddhist disciples in China, Japan, Korea, and other East Asian countries where the practice of Mahayana, such as the ceremonious reciting of sutras, is prevalent. In most Zen/Ch’an Buddhist traditions, the wooden fish serves to keep the rhythm during sutra chanting. In Pure Land Buddhism, it is used when chanting the name of Amitabha.