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Samaya Gokorei (Five-Pronged Vajra Bell)

Asian Art

On View: Asian Galleries, Southwest, 2nd floor
A stylized representation of a lightning bolt, called a vajra, has long been an important emblem of power in Buddhist teachings and art. Vajras usually look like two-sided tridents, with prongs on both ends of a shaft, but their heads can have one, three, five, or six prongs. Esoteric Buddhism is called Vajrayana, or the “way of the vajra,” because the lightning bolt represents the active, forceful approach to enlightenment, one that cuts through ignorance and fear.

In esoteric Buddhist practice, initiated worshippers often hold a vajra and a hand bell, known in Sanskrit as a ghanta. The vajra symbolizes action or method, and the bell represents wisdom. Buddhists believe that these two complementary qualities must be combined and balanced in order to gain insight and progress toward enlightenment.
MEDIUM Bronze with traces of gilding
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 13th century
    PERIOD Kamakura Period
    DIMENSIONS Height: 7 1/8 in. Diameter at base: 3 in.  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Bernice and Robert Dickes
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Asian Galleries, Southwest, 2nd floor
    CAPTION Samaya Gokorei (Five-Pronged Vajra Bell), 13th century. Bronze with traces of gilding, Height: 7 1/8 in. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Bernice and Robert Dickes, 1989.145. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1989.145.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 1989.145.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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