The Significance of the Bell and Dorje

Images of monks cloaked in deep red holding a bell in one hand and a dorje in the other are often synonymous with thoughts of Tibet and Buddhism. The bell and dorje are commonly used ritual implements for tantric practices — in the most basic breakdown representing wisdom and method (compassion). The use of them together represents enlightenment because combined they symbolize the marriage and balance of duality.

The bell (drilbu in Tibetan or ghanta in Sanskrit) is held in the left hand and symbolizes emptiness, wisdom, and the female aspect. The sound and the shape of the hollow bell signifies emptiness, or the true nature of all things. By understanding and accepting the “empty”/true nature of all things, we become free of attachment and are therefore liberated from suffering.

The dorje (or vajra in Sanskrit) is held in the right hand and embodies method, form and the male aspect. The term method conveys the compassion that leads one to relief of suffering, the elimination of ignorance and ultimately enlightenment. A dorje most commonly (but not always) consists of 5 prongs on each end representing both the five elements and Five Wisdom Buddhas — Vairochana, wisdom of universal lawfulness; Akshobhya, mirror-like wisdom; Ratnasambhava, wisdom of equnimity; Amitabha, discriminating wisdom; Amoghasiddhi, all-accomplishing wisdom. The name dorje is derived from the Tibetan word for diamond giving the dorje the significance of indestructibility while also holding the significance of destructibility because of its similar appearance to the thunderbolt often carried by different powerful deities such as Vedic god, Indra or the Olympian god, Zeus.

In Buddhism, the bell and dorje are inseparable, signifying indivisible emptiness and form or compassion and wisdom, the elements needed to set afoot on the path to enlightenment. At Hands of Tibet, we carry a few different bell and dorje sets along with many other ritual implements. Namaste!