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Thread: Heart Sutra Bells

  1. #1

    Heart Sutra Bells

    Dear friends,
    Does anyone know the significance of the bells rung throughout a recitation of the Heart Sutra?

  2. #2

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    Hi Soen!
    Good question!

    I thought (not sure...this is pure speculation ) that the rining was like emphasis, an exclamation point. Ringing after each mention of the heart sutra as to drive hope the point of the sutra, and like ....Prajna paramita*
    Well that was more my interpretations of it than fact, so I too, would like to know the answer


  3. #3

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    Shohei wrote:
    the rining was like emphasis, an exclamation point. Ringing after each mention of the heart sutra as to drive hope the point of the sutra,
    This is what I always assumed. Honestly I would be surprised if Jundo or Taigu come back and tell us different :shock:


  4. #4

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    Hi Guys,

    Could well be actually. But remeber, sounds in the ceremony go along with actions (opening zagu), head touching the bowing mat etc.



  5. #5

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells


    Yes, absent some more mysterious, esoteric interpretations (which some mystic somewhere is always finding in such things in religion * ) ... it is a signal when to offer incense or bow, especially at mention of the words "Perfection of Wisdom" (Prajna Paramita) ...

    For example, page 3 here ... ... dzEwbQG-9A

    In my own heart, bell ringing is just ringing the bell. When the bell rings, bow. **

    But also, the reverberations do expand on into space, endlessly and unendingly ... a wonderful taste of 'emptiness'. One can hear ... taste, ring out, ring in, through, be ... many lessons in the ringing of a bell ... ***

    Gassho, Jundo

    * Here is an example of a more esoteric interpretation of Buddhist bell ringing, taken from a Tibetan Buddhist site.

    The bell is the most common and indispensable musical instrument in tantric Buddhist ritual. Gods and apotheosized lamas alike hold this popular symbol, along with the thunderbolt in their hands. The bell has an elemental function and its sound, like those made by the trumpet and the drum, is regarded as auspicious; it is said to drive away evil spirits. Like the church bell, the Buddhist hand bell sends the message to evil spirits that they must stay away from the consecrated area where the ritual is being performed.

    As already mentioned, in ritual the bell is paired with the vajra. The vajra represents the compassion of the Buddha, the masculine principle; and the bell represents wisdom, the female principle. To achieve enlightenment, those two principles must be combined. The bell is visualized as the Buddha's body, the vajra is visualized as his mind, and the sound of the bell is visualized as Buddha's speech in teaching of the dharma.

    The use of the bell and vajra differs according to the ritual performed or the sadhana chanted. The vajra can be used for visualization or evocation of deities; ringing the bell can be used to request protection or other actions from a deity, or it can represent the teaching of dharma, and can also be a sound offering. As one example of their use, during meditation on the deity Vajrasattva, the vajra is placed on the chest of the practitioner, meaning that Vajrasattva is brought to the meditator, and they become one and inseparable. Ringing the bell then represents the sound of Buddha teaching the dharma and symbolizes the attainment of wisdom and the understanding of emptiness.

    While chanting, the vajra is held in the right hand, which faces down, and the bell is held in the left hand, which usually faces up, and they are moved in graceful gestures. Sometimes the hands are held with the wrists crossed over each other, against the chest. This represents the union of the male and female principles.
    ** I am reminded of this Bell koan from the Gateless Gate ... the bell to get dressed for a ritual at the temple perhaps ...

    Unmon said, "The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your seven-piece robe at the sound of the bell?"

    Yes, in a world where one is totally free to dress or not ... why bother? Thus, we dress to honor that fact!

    or this ...

    The entire brotherhood was engaged in farming one afternoon when, the moment the dinner bell rang, one monk instantly raised his spade, gave out a hearty laugh, and went off. The master, Hui-hai, remarked: “What an intelligent fellow! This is the way to enter the Kwannon gate of truth.”

    When he returned to the monastery he asked for the monk and said, “What was the truth you saw a while ago when you heard the bell?”

    “Nothing much, Master. As I heard the dinner bell, I went back and had my meal.”

    This time it was the master who gave the hearty laugh.
    *** There is this poem by Dogen, about his teacher, entitled "windbell", from Dogen's commentary on the Heart Sutra ... I suppose the image is a bell like this ...

    The whole body is a mouth
    Hanging in space
    Not caring which way the wind blows
    east, west, south or north
    All day long it speaks
    of Prajna Paramita for everyone
    ting-ton, ting-ton, ting-tong

    Gassho, J

  6. #6

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    Thank you(s)


  7. #7

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man
    is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a
    Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse,
    as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor
    of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death
    diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And
    therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
    It tolls for thee.

    [John Donne's Meditation no. 17 from "Devotions upon Emergent Occasions" (1624)]

    Gassho all, with thanks.

  8. #8

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    The after ring of a bell reminds me of the reverberation of each and every action has on our universe. When I say action, I include every thing from a huge explosion to the smallest whisper and beyond to the most fleeting thought. It/they all create a reaction; i.e. the butterfly effect.

  9. #9

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    I've been thinking and googling this off and on since you mentioned it...I've not found anything conclusive (although i like what Jundo wrote!).

    What struck me this morning however is:

    "What does the bell mean to you?"

    Maybe too esoteric or new-agey, but somehow I feel there is an answer somewhere in there.



  10. #10

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    Well according to the Guardian Angel Clarence in "It's a Wonderful Life", every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. So I'm all for bell ringing! Big deep resounding belly vibrating bells; Sharp loud chest thumping bells; Tiny tinkling ear tickling bells; Soft random breeze moving bells; Jingling of the tintinnabulum round a camel's neck; Thunking clank of cowbells coming home;all the clinking, clanking, clunking, tinkling, chinkling, gonging, bonging or knelling of bells is wonderful to me.

    In school, at the turning of the hour there was one person assigned to ring a small hand bell, at which time everyone stopped what they were doing. The ringer would say, "Let us remember that we are in the Holy Presence of God". We we pause for a moment then move on with what we were doing. I still have that thought come fleetingly to mind when I hear a bell rung, any bell. A moment to refocus, before moving on.


    Seishin Kyrill

  11. #11

  12. #12

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    By the way, I remember Stephanie saying it was a great application is. I am using it everyday.
    The bell sounds are so beautiful and the flexibility of the timer amazing: ... 2899?mt=8#

    just a suggestion...



  13. #13

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    Taigu wrote:
    By the way, I remember Stephanie saying it was a great application is. I am using it everyday.
    I use this app everyday as well! Beautiful bells and just the fact that I can set it and forget it is worth its weight in goldl(no more watching the clock)! Best of all it goes where i go! I have used it to time sittings outside of home. Insight connect is pretty cool too. I have been using it to keep track of my mandatory Treeleaf daily sittings. I find it works well to keep one motivated. However I'm not so sure about the badges though? I highly recommend it for anyone with an iPod touch or iPhone! By far the best and most used app I own!


  14. #14

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    Since we are talking about apps here are a few of my favorites for the Heart Sutra. Warning: they are all in Japanese. Even if you don't speak it it is great for studying to remember it in Japanese!

    This first one has the best chanting! Pros: Wonderful voice, drum, and bell. Cons: doesn't repeat, have to swipe screen to follow along because it doesn't automatically follow the words. And if you don't swipe screen to follow along your iphone/pod will go into sleep mode and chanting cuts out. You can stop it from playing but have to restart from beginning if you do. Makes it harder to study individual parts.

    The 2nd one here Pros: this one has by far the best program. It repeats over and over so you can just sit and listen as many times without having to restart. You can repeat single lines over and over. Has a slow, regular and fast speed. It has explanation on all the passages. Screen highlights and follows words as they are chanted. Cons: sounds like the developer recorded his grandma and grandpa chanting.

    There is one other one I have that Is cool because it has a video of a priest chanting but I can't seem to find that one again in the app store?


  15. #15

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    Hey John can you post the names of those Heart Sutra ones? I am an Android man myself but find they have almost all the same things. At the end of the day though we do have an ipod and an ipad should i need to grab it from the itunes store.

    Many thanks,



  16. #16

    Re: Heart Sutra Bells

    Shawn wrote:
    Hey John can you post the names of those Heart Sutra ones? I am an Android man myself but find they have almost all the same things. At the end of the day though we do have an ipod and an ipad should i need to grab it from the itunes store.
    Hi Shawn,
    All the app names are written in Kanji so I'm not sure how helpful that may be for you to find them. Personally I'm only good at reading Hiragana. Here is what I did to find them. I just entered heart sutra in the search bar. Quite a few come up. I only bought the Japanese ones. Those are easy to find first by the name of the developer(some are Chinese or Korean), then I would click on it to see if the description or screen shots of the app were written in Hiragana. If so I'd get them. I'm at work right now but I can try to upload screen shots from my phone so you can at least see what they look like to try to match them with the ones you may find in your search on the android.

    Here is a question of my own perhaps someone here might be able to answer:
    Is it even possible to upload photos from a cell phone to Treeleaf? If so I haven't figured out how on earth to do it??


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