Buddhist Things: Buddhist Art and Ritual Objects

The articles in this section explore the form, function and symbolism of the rich variety of objects used in the ritual and symbolic art of Buddhism.

General Buddhist Things   Tibetan Buddhist Things
Begging Bowl
The simple begging bowl is one of the very few possessions of a Buddhist monk. It is used to collect alms and symbolizes the Buddha's teachings.
A mandala is a sacred geometric figure that represents the universe and functions as a sacred area open to deities and forces.
Buddha Image
Although not used in earliest Buddhism, the Buddha image has become one of the most popular Mahayana Buddhist ritual objects.
  Musical Instruments
Bells, drums, trumpets and horns are used especially in esoteric Buddhism to symbolize mantras, dispel evil, and send out the Dharma.
Incense Burners
One of the most universal of Buddhist ritual vessels, incense burners are used in all Buddhist cultures and range from large pots to small censers.
  Prayer Wheel
The Tibetan prayer wheel contains a roll of printed mantras; to spin the wheel is to release the prayers into the universe.
Prayer Beads (Mala)
Prayer beads, or mala beads, usually have 108 beads and are used both in Hinduism and Buddhism for counting mantras, chants or prayers.
  Singing Bowl
When rubbed with a wooden puja stick, a Tibetan singing bowl makes a resonant sound that assists in meditation and produces a calming effect.

Monks' Robes
The garb of Buddhist monks varies widely, from the simple saffron robes of Thailand to the elaborate robes and headdresses of Tibetan lamas.
  Skull Cup
The skull cup, normally made from a human skull, is an object used in Tibetan rituals and associated with wrathful deities in art.
Stupas and Pagodas
Stupas and pagodas are shrines containing sacred relics and appear in many sizes and styles throughout the Buddhist world.
A thangka ("flat painting") is a painted or embroidered banner hung in a monastery or a family altar and carried by lamas in ceremonial processions.
Zen Art
Zen monks created the unique art of monochrome ink painting and calligraphy, which expresses the Zen principles of simplicity and spontaneity.
  Vajra (Diamond Thunderbolt)
The vajra is the central symbol and an important ritual object in Vajrayana Buddhism.


  Ritual Weapons
Ritual weapons are used in Tibetan Buddhist art and ritual to symbolize the vanquishing of evil and ignorance.

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