Hand Mudras: How to Use the Vajra and Bell

Hand mudra class by Ven. Dhonyo
Hand mudra class by Ven. Dhonyo at Gyuto Vajrayana Center in San Jose, California.

To learn more about the use of hand mudras (chakya) in Tibetan Buddhist offering prayers, we recently attended a fascinating class by the Venerable Thupten Donyo, Founder and Director of the Gyuto Vajrayana Center in San Jose, California.

We learned that these hand mudras, in general, represent various kinds of offerings to enlightened beings.

In the video below, taken from the first part of Ven. Donyo’s longer class, you will find:

  • An introduction to some of the ritual instruments used in a very common offering prayer called the Guru Puja (also called Lama Chopa)1
  • How to hold and use the Bell (called tribu in Tibetan, and  symbolizing wisdom), the Vajra (called dorje, and symbolizing method) and the Damaru (drum).
  • How to perform the hand mudras for the Guru Puja mantras with the Vajra and Bell
  • Explanation of the eight offerings (zay gye) which we visualize while performing the hand mudras

The Eight Offerings (Zay Gye) and their Mantras*

The eight offerings commonly used on Tibetan Buddhist shrines.
The eight offerings commonly used on Tibetan Buddhist shrines.
OfferingMantra
Water (Drinking)OM ARGHAM AH HUM
Water (Washing)OM PADYAM AH HUM
FlowerOM PUPE AH HUM
IncenseOM DHUPE AH HUM
LightOM ALOKE AH HUM
PerfumeOM GHANDE AH HUM
FoodOM NEUDE AH HUM

Music

(Not shown above)

OM SHAPTA AH HUM

 *Information from a handout from the class

Tibetan Buddhist ritual instruments used in offerings.
Tibetan Buddhist ritual instruments used in offerings.

 If you would like to learn more about the Gyuto Vajrayana Center, please check here for a calendar of upcoming events and classes >>

Footnotes:

1 The Guru Puja “is a commitment for those practicing tantra to restore and reaffirm their vows and pledges. However, anyone and everyone is welcome to attend this ritual of making extensive offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, accumulating the positive energy needed to progress along the spiritual path.” (From a description of the Guru Puja on the Gyuto Vajrayana Center website)

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Updated on February 6, 2020. First published on July 28, 2012.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Victoria says

    Thank you so much for posting this. Finally….nicely video taped, easy to understand explanation for the hand mudra, plus the words and translation. Could it get any better?
    I have shared it on my FaceBook page. Most grateful and hope you may post others like it.
    Victoria;)

    • yowangdu says

      You are so very welcome, Victoria! We are always delighted when our content fits exactly what our viewers need — we’re always reaching for that 🙂 We definitely plan to bring more in this vein. Thanks again for the kind thoughts!

  2. rodrigo ginzalez zimmerling says

    thank you for the hand mudra video- maybe rinpoche can show next time , how to add the “turning of the lotus” mudra between the offering mudras

  3. David says

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’m curious to know if this form of ritual can only be performed by a person who has “taken refuge” ?

    The use of the phrase “empowerment” seems confusing from what I have read- some usage of the bell and vajra seems open to everyone, whereas some usage seems exclusively limited to those who have been empowered. Is this correct?

    Many thanks,

    David (UK)

    • yowangdu says

      You are so welcome David. Honestly we don’t know the whole answer to your question. When we get a chance, we will follow up more with Gen Donyo or someone else and let you know. In the meantime, we do know that you are correct that some hand mudras are open to be performed by anyone, while others require an empowerment. In general, we also think that you would not need to take refuge to perform the basic hand mudras taught in this post and video. That is, you don’t have to “officially” be a Buddhist to perform these prayers and rituals. Hope this helps.

  4. Veneraboe Lobsang Khando says

    Thank you so very much. I took my vows in March and have been practicing many things. I held my lay vows for many years before taking my vows. I was so happy when I finally took them at Kopan! It was amazing. I have been practicing mainly alone so your video’s are so helpful to me! I was doing Medicine Buddha Puja twice monthly and wasn’t sure of the technique to use vajra and bell as I am not at a monastery. So had no examples. I live in the UK far from my teachers at Sera. This makes it so much easier to practice. I am moving to Nepal to build a hospital from the sale of my house, it’s a big project and I would like to ask that you say prayers for our success please. Ven. Ngawang Palden and I are both working on this together (he was born in the village where we are building our hospital). Please go to my web site and read our story. I am so lucky to be able to do this and practice Bodhichitta in this way. Thank you so much for your kind teaching, it makes it so much easier when you have someone show you. With prayers for your long life and happiness my brother. I am going to share this on face book, Palden will be happy I am learning while I wait to go to Kathmandu!

    • Yolanda says

      This is truly great to hear Ven. Lobsang Khando! How wonderful that you are building a hospital 🙂 All our very best wishes and prayers for you and your project!

  5. Bruce Whitewolf says

    Thank you very much for posting this video and information. I’m just starting my Buddhist path and received my Bell and Vajra yesterday. This information and video was great and I will share it with the people I’m called to. I look forward to learning more from your site!!!!

    Namaste Om

  6. Andrew McKenzie says

    this is a great video – except I have *extreme* problems following the instruction because it is mirror image. is there a video or drawings anywhere taken *from behind* so that one can see how these actions are to be performed from the point of view of the practitioner? perhaps it’s just me, but it would be *so* helpful to have this a) slower and b) so that it is possible to follow along without having to continually switch left and right in the mind while dealing with the body? sorry if this sounds like complaining, because it isn’t – I would just be so grateful for more clarity on the subject! have spent quite some time on trying to do this with no success…

    keep up the excellent work!

    ./a

    • yowangdu says

      Hi Andrew and thank you for the useful feedback. We do understand this is a challenge. Unfortunately we won’t be taping that lesson again most likely, but we will pass the information on to Gen Donyo. Best of luck to you on your practice.

  7. Sabyasachi Sen says

    Can Dorje / Vajra be charged and used as healing wand instead of crystal pencils or crystal wands. My believe is Vajra / dorje is powerful enough to remove the negative energy and brings in positive energy. Dorje / Vajra can cut through anything but nothing can cut the Vajra / Dorje (like a diamond).

    Since diamond itself is a best quality crystal ( though not available at himalayas) and should be charged and used for Reiki healing.

    I will be thankful if anyone kindly clears my doubt / query

    Thank you in advance

  8. Alisha says

    this video is really so useful for my practice, thanks a lot, one year ago I ask if you know some Buddhist teachers here in Kathmandu whether you remember or not, now I found my teacher and practicing Tibetan Buddhism, I am very happy, THANK YOU SO MUCH FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART, 🙂

  9. drakpa donyi says

    Hello, thank you very much for such a helpfull and instructive video, I ust took refuge and wonder if I have t be empowered to use the vajra and bell for praying, I was told that an empowerment for high tantra is needed, is it true?

    • yowangdu says

      Hi, We are not 100% sure, but we believe that you can use the vajra and bell without empowerment, though you need empowerments for certain prayers. We’ll try to find out more about this. Best to you.

  10. Arindom Dutta says

    Thanks a lot Sir,myself Arindom Dutta from Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Sir can you guide me in finding out a Guru in Buddhism who can teach the rituals of Buddhism ,mantras and prayers in Kolkata. Waiting for your valuable feed back.

  11. Christine says

    Hello thank you for your work! Do you know if there is a particular mudra that should be used when reciting vajra guru mantra? Maybe just Anjali (palms pressed in prayer)?
    Thank you!

  12. Devananda says

    Thank you! I know the Sanskrit devanagari. I’m learning the Tibetan alphabet. Can someone guide me to where I can see these 8 mantra in Tibetan Sanskrit?

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