Buddhist Handicrafts- Tools for Spiritual Healing
Before the Chinese occupation, Tibet used to be a flourishing centre of Buddhist culture some of which is still extant in the surrounding regions of Nepal, Bhutan and the Indian states in the Himalayas. Buddhism as a religion is very practical and there are dozens of Tibetan Buddhist artefacts and methods which aims to do away with man’s earthly entanglements while promoting meditation and spiritual healing. In today’s post, we are going to talk about some of the most popular Buddhist handicraft items which have a lot to do with the promotion of the well being of the mind and body.
Buddhist Prayer Wheels
The prayer wheel of the Buddhists are inscribed with certain chants or mantras and spinning the wheels around is supposed to be equivalent with chanting the mantras. The small hand prayer wheels which can be easily found in most of the Himalayan states in India are generally inscribed with the mantra ‘Om Manu Padme Hum’. At times you will also find representations of Protectors, Dakinis and the Ashtamangala or the eight auspicious symbols. The ‘Tree of Life’ forms the core of the cylinder which is usually crafted out of metal or wood with a few mantras written on it. According to the Tibetan Buddhists, spinning the prayer wheel is as effective for spiritual wellbeing as orally chanting the mantras.
The Mani wheel is the hand prayer wheels you get to see in most monasteries. They consist of a cylindrical body with a sheet metal with embossments which is mounted on a metal pin. It is believed that spinning the Mani wheels not only radiates positive energy but also allows the practitioner to acquire spiritual wisdom. According to Rinpoche Lama Zopa, just a few turns of the wheel is going to purify your soul while imbibing you with unbelievable merit.
The Tibetan Bell and Dorje
The Tibetan Dorje and bell are almost synonymous with the practices in Vajrayana Tantric Buddhism. These are some of the most powerful ritual symbols of Buddhism which is owned by most practitioners or would be practitioners of the religion. The bell which is attached to the Dorje or the vajra symbolizes endless Buddhist concepts. The bell is said to symbolize the feminine side of the divine while the vajra represents the unbridled masculine energy. The combination of these two aspects is supposed to bring about enlightenment. At the deepest level, the bell and the Dorje held together represent the compassion and wisdom of all the sutras of importance.
The Tibetans prayer flags are small coloured cotton squares on which the prayers and images are block printed. Rather than a tool for carrying the prayers to the divine, the prayer flags are believed to disseminate the prayers through the blowing of the wind. Each colour of the flag represents a certain element. Red stands for fire, green for water, white for air, yellow for earth and blue for wind. Receiving a prayer flag as a gift is considered to be a lucky omen so make sure to ask a friend on his way to the Himalayas to get one for you.
Tibetan Singing Bowls
The Tibetan singing bowls are basically a kind of a vertical bell which has been used for centuries in Tibet for meditation and spiritual healing. The singing bowls also known as rin gongs, suzu gongs or Himalayan bowls are known to produce a range of harmonic sounds which are said to restore the regular vibratory frequencies of an ailing person. These days the Tibetan singing bowls are popular all over the world and are mainly used for decorative purposes or for meditation, relaxation and spiritual wellbeing.
The Phurba dagger is a typical Tibetan Buddhism ritual instrument which is often called the ‘magic dagger’. This three-pronged dagger is said to have drawn its inspiration from an ancient Indian tool which was used for pinning down the sacrifices. Generally made out of copper, brass, stone or wood the Phurba comes with intricate carvings on the top. The Phurba is said to give one stability and foster positive energy by the destruction of the demon. The Phurba is used in a large number of Buddhist ceremonies and is an essential component of the Tibetan masked dances. Traditionally used for defeating the demon, Phurba is one of the most popular Tibetan artefacts you will find in the Himalayas.
The Tibetan tables feature some of the most exquisite examples of woodwork combined with beautiful Thangka paintings. Although meant as an altar table for placing the prayer items, these days many people from around the world like to keep one in the house for decorative purpose. The Tibetan tables and cabinets come with an antique look and colourful representations of typical Tibetan symbols like dragons.
They are basically small cymbal like instruments which are used during prayers by practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. The enchanting sound which is produced when the two bells are clapped together is often used during meditation for cleaning the surrounding environment.
The Thangka paintings are typical Tibetan Buddhist paintings made on cotton which generally depicts a mandala or a deity of the Buddha. They are valued not just for their aesthetic appeal but also for their use in spiritual practices. These painting which form a part of any meditation class are meant to enhance the concentration of the practitioners and forge a link between the human soul and the divine.
Incense and Incense Boxes
Burning of incense is an age old practice not just in Buddhism but in many other religions like Hinduism or Catholicism. Burning incense is supposed to purify the space no matter if it’s a temple, a monastery, a meditation room or even your bedroom. The pleasant fragrance of the incense sticks are also known to elevate your mood. In Buddhism three incense sticks burnt together stands for 3 essential concepts- the Dharma, the Buddha and the Sangha.
You need to get one of those beautiful wood incense boxes with lattice work to keep the fragrance of your incense intact. The Tibetan incense boxes also makes for an excellent gift for your loved ones.
Wrapping it Up
Tibetan Buddhism with all its philosophy, literature, art and poetry was quick to cross the Himalayas and make its way to India. The Bhotia are an ethnic group in Uttarakhand who still practice a blend of Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism. Uttarakhand is home to a number of monasteries and it goes without saying that one can easily find a vast collection of Buddhist handicrafts in many parts of the state.