Ritual Objects of Buddhism and Hinduism - the Gau, the Phurpa and the Vajra

Added over 8 years ago


a gau, worn around the neck or in the hairA small metal amulet container or prayer box carried by many Tibetan Buddhists as a portable shrine or altar. The Gau usually contains an image of a personal deity, a blessed written prayer or a sacred yantra diagram and a small offering of rice.  Gaus may vary considerably in size and shape, depending on the requirements of the owner.  Smaller gaus range in size from 2 cm to 10 cm in diameter are often worn as jewelry and thus may be made of beaten silver or gold and heavily decorated inside and out with precious stones or carvings.  Larger gaus may have a window in front to view the contents and are generally encased in a protective cloth bag and carried slung over the shoulder.



the vajra or thunderboltThe Vajra is a powerful symbolic ritual object common to Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.  Also known as a Dorje in the Tibetan language, Vajra is a Sanskrit word meaning both "thunderbolt" and "diamond".   Physically the vajra is shaped like a double-ended flower bud or club. In Buddhism the vajra destroys all kinds of ignorance and represents spiritual power, but is itself as indestructible as a diamond.  To the Hindus it is the weapon of the god Vishnu, while to the Jains it is the symbol of one of their Bodhisattvas, one who has achieved enlightenment but remains on earth while the cycle of human suffering continues.



The three bladed PhurpaA triple sided ritual dagger which in Buddhism symbolizes the slaying or destruction of foe or obstructions.  Generally crowned with a Vajra (Dorje), a three-dimensional representation of a thunderbolt.  The Phurpa is not designed to cause actual bodily harm and is in heavily blunted – in fact it’s unusual shape is derived from traditional tent pegs used by nomadic Tibetans and Nepalis to secure their tents to the ground. The segments and the triple blade represent the three spirit worlds, while the Phurpa as a whole symbolizes the "worlds axis" bring all three worlds together.  It may be made of a number of materials including wood and bone, but is more generally crafted from brass, bronze or iron. The Phurpa is a powerful tool used by practioners to subdue evil spirits and negative energy, transforming them into positive forces.

Tags: Buddhism, Buddhist Ritual Object, Gau, Phurpa, Vajra


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