In the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, there is an axiom, and thus is it spoken: The Bell and the Vajra are always to be used TOGETHER. The bell is rung as the Vajra (also called the Dorje), is raised and it's powers released. To understand them, their mean ings should be considered together as well as apart.
The Bell is female. When filled with sound, the grace of it's ring cleanses the space around it of any negative influences at hand. It is also used to punctuate the various stages of a ritual. They are generally seen in three different sizes, producing th ree varying notes. Each of these are related to three of the major vibrational chakra centers in our bodies. The largest vibrates to the key of our heart, and opens the center there. The medium size vibrates the third eye (ajna), and the smallest and high est note, to the crown chakra, directly above our head. The body is our temple, and filled with gates, these being but a few. By awakening them, one is brought closer to the Throne of Wisdom (perfect balance).
There are seven to ten (depending on your source or inner vision) chakras above the crown, our thousand-petaled lotus. These are extremely subtle, and they are reached through the gate at the Crown. Essential to our existence, down through them comes the bioenergetic life force we need to survive. Through it, we access our deities, angels and protectors. All Buddhist visualizations use this process, where each deity melts into the one below it until all are finally dissolved into one's Crown. (For Kabbali sts, these Chakras fall into the category of the Ains).
The Vajra represents the male force. It's name means literally, the 'Thunderbolt", and is held by the right thumb and middle finger, at its mid-way point. It is often used somewhat like a wand; held up, pointed out, and waved in the air (in specific patte rns) in a dance to dispel negative forces (any entity or obstacle to the ritual being performed). The power gathers at the upper end and is then released by pulses of laser-like energy.
In advanced Vajrayana ritual, the lower end is placed in the center of one's right palm. Here, stellar energy is drawn into the Vajra, where it then flows into the practitioner. It proceeds down the arm and into the heart, where it can reside, or else it can flow into the left arm, and from there, into the Bell. This infuses the Bell's vibrations with the Vajra's force and strengthens its own powers increasingly, as a loop of energy, while it is being rung. In this way, it can be used in invoking or calli ng a specific deity. In such rituals, termed 'empowerments', the Bell calls the deity's attention. The deity's force ignites the Vajra, whose energy flows then either into the heart of the practitioner, or in and out again, into the Bell, strengthening th e Bell's call each time a circuit is completed. Thus, the Bell-song has become the medium through which the deity touches the spirits of the participants.
In order to perform an empowerment, a single Lama will spend months preparing himself to be a clear channel of the force to be called. A group of Dharma (lit. 'truth') students then come together to be given the 'introduction' (my own term) to that deity. The Lama provides that introduction by becoming the deity himself!
Such sacred ritual should not be attempted without detailed personal instruction from one's experienced Dharma teacher (guru). It is very powerful as well as dangerous, and should therefore be approached with knowledge, respect and caution. In such an emp owerment, the danger is minimized by the Lama's knowledge and purity. In one aspect, the Lama may be seen as the Vajra, and the participants as the Bell!
For those who attend these, preparation would include personal purification (such as leaving one's past, as well as shoes, at the door), and dedication to the Dharma. Those who receive this introduction within their hearts are then expected to do follow-u p practices daily, usually in the form of mantras and visualizations.
So-the Bell and the Vajra are seen to be at the very heart of the spirit of Tibetan Buddhism. They are used again and again.
Last summer, while in meditation in my garden, I was given a vision of a dark, sticky tar-ball of a thing: my ego taken form. So hard it was and dense, that I was in despair of ever being able to destroy it. Immediately afterwards, I saw many Vajras, from all directions, striking it with their lightning flashes. In this way, I was shown a method of meditation in order to free myself. The emptiness of the Bell was left in its place. The blue sky, unobscured by clouds. Empty, but not empty--for its hollow i nterior was filled by the vibrations of purified spirit.
All in all, the Male and Female forces must be used TOGETHER in order for them to function and for their purposes to be fulfilled. In such balance lies the Heartdrop of Dharma. And it is in this way that Wisdom grows in Balance, and the Middle Path become s visible.
And if we walk
The same Path together,
Who is to say Nay?
If you see the Ferns, and I, the Roses,
If you see the Grasses, and I, the Iris?
Still, it is the same Path.
We take from it, that which is best for us.
There are no contradictions:
There are only more Proofs.