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Purchasing a bell?
Chordal
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Post: #1
Purchasing a bell?
Hee. <!-- sSmile --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- sSmile -->

I'm putting this in the Magic section because I'm pretty sure it may tie in with Tibetan Buddhism...possibly into Tantric forms. And I don't know much about Tantric Buddhism, except that it's a more all-embracing path and that I probably don't want to be messing around with it, without knowing what I'm doing (as magic is part of it).

So I've had the thought to purchase a small brass bell. This is related to Bell, as his actual name is the ringing of a bell, and not the word, "Bell". I just recently found my original bell -- a small sterling silver charm that makes a faint, high-pitched, continual ringing, when worn. I'm hoping for something a bit louder and more substantial, though. Last year I found several little ones of different tones at a nearby Nepali/Tibetan store, and so have been thinking of going back there -- specifically buying a bell for the purpose of clearing my thoughts, and possibly summoning (exhuming?) Bell.

I'm writing in to ask if there are reasons why I should not get a bell. For example, I've heard of tingsha (stirrup bells) being used in certain cases, to summon Hungry Ghosts to accept an offering. I'm not really wanting to summon Hungry Ghosts at this point. <!-- sWink --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- sWink --> I'm not sure in this context if the bell is just a bell, or if the bell was created for a specific purpose and will work only for that specific purpose. For instance, my stone fetishes have a tendency to actually work; this is likely because they were created with an intention and then empowered with the same intention...even though I was unaware of their effects during certain times of my life, I certainly recognized it in hindsight.

From what I can tell, from my interactions and dreams, tantra may be a good qualifier as an actual path that would include my mode of thought (there is no lack of sexuality from Bell in some of the recurrent imaginings with him, which is pretty not-straitlaced-Buddhist)...however this is a weird thing with the whole close student-teacher relationship thing going on, to the point that it makes me wary of one who would claim to be a teacher. (This, in turn, probably stems off of my weird relationship with an old sensei.) I've just done a bit of searching online and found that there are also paths within my own ethnic group which are devoted to tantric texts, though as said before, I'm new to this.

Any research leads or experiential advice would be welcome -- I'll make sure to ask if you say something I don't understand. I've already read through _A Concise Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism_ (by John Powers) some years ago -- one of the few texts from the library that I actually read all the way through. <!-- sSmile --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- sSmile --> Beyond this, though, my focus in this field has been scatter-shot; I've recently been trying to focus on Daoism, but then school got in the way...
2012-12-17 3:32
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Chordal
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Post: #2
Re: Purchasing a bell?
I have some thoughts on the religious nature of this, having at this point read some of my backposts (which still make sense to me); but I'll put it in the Religion forum and link to it below. For now, the question here is basically only whether I may invite more in than I wish by using a bell from the Himalayas. As a more extended topic we could explore whether religious objects work when applied to unintended ends...

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2012-12-17 6:17
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Post: #3
Re: Purchasing a bell?
I oddly enough have this conversation with a friend last night regarding a phurbu though.

A tantric bell is not just a bell. If you look at a properly constructed one it's covered with carvings that aren't ornamental. You have a Dorje wall surrounding it, the dharmapalas, a mantra (generally Chenrezig's) , a face, a terminating dorje. This are not there for decorations, each part of them corresponds to something, and they all combine to represent something far greater. Much like a phurbu the bell is a complex tool with a lot of meanings on the Outer, Inner, and Secret levels (if you're unfamiliar, that's just one of many ways of labelling the degrees/depths in the teachings), and the problem is if you use it for the Outer level (Hey look, it's a bell and sounds cool) you can either offend the Inner/Secret levels (less so as drilbus aren't connected to a specific figure unlike a phurbu being the physical body of Dorjephurbu), or you can accidentally tap the Inner/Secret levels, which can have various unwanted side effects. Even tools as "simple" as the bell, are generally seen as something that requires training, and possibly empowerments to use properly.

That being said, they're being marketed because not everyone shares that view, and it can be argued that many of the prohibitions against laypeople using certain tools could also be a power-grab from the older monastic tradition. So yeah, there are classically reasons and practical ones for why you shouldn't get it, but the question is does that matter to you?

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2012-12-18 3:10
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Post: #4
Re: Purchasing a bell?
Gesigewigus Wrote:I oddly enough have this conversation with a friend last night regarding a phurbu though.

A tantric bell is not just a bell. If you look at a properly constructed one it's covered with carvings that aren't ornamental. You have a Dorje wall surrounding it, the dharmapalas, a mantra (generally Chenrezig's) , a face, a terminating dorje. This are not there for decorations, each part of them corresponds to something, and they all combine to represent something far greater. Much like a phurbu the bell is a complex tool with a lot of meanings on the Outer, Inner, and Secret levels (if you're unfamiliar, that's just one of many ways of labelling the degrees/depths in the teachings), and the problem is if you use it for the Outer level (Hey look, it's a bell and sounds cool) you can either offend the Inner/Secret levels (less so as drilbus aren't connected to a specific figure unlike a phurbu being the physical body of Dorjephurbu), or you can accidentally tap the Inner/Secret levels, which can have various unwanted side effects. Even tools as "simple" as the bell, are generally seen as something that requires training, and possibly empowerments to use properly.

That being said, they're being marketed because not everyone shares that view, and it can be argued that many of the prohibitions against laypeople using certain tools could also be a power-grab from the older monastic tradition. So yeah, there are classically reasons and practical ones for why you shouldn't get it, but the question is does that matter to you?
Thanks for the response -- I went and looked up the terms I wasn't familiar with, so I'm hoping I've got at least a basic understanding, here.

The bit about the Outer + Inner + Secret levels does help, because that's basically what I'm afraid of. I've had not-so-great experiences with things aligned with Tibetan Buddhism before, and so don't want to go around offending any spirits, bodhisattvas, etc. The type of bell that I was thinking of getting wasn't the type that comes up on a Google Image search for "drilbu"; the ones I was thinking of were basically really small brass bells, around 1.5-2 inches (3-4 cm?) in diameter, undecorated, with just a tab at the top with a hole in it, possibly for hanging. I wouldn't get something that was obviously a recognizable ritual bell (though I do have a singing bowl, which I'm not sure falls into the same category)...these other ones, though, they could have some significance that I don't know about.

In the store I found them in, these live next to the tingsha (the tingsha do have what appear to be cast mantras), if that helps, at all -- I don't know if they're being separated out by function. Basically the reasoning behind picking up one of these is that the alloys, shape, and individual tones make them sound nicer than most bells I've heard (though cast-iron ones -- windchimes from Japan -- also fall into this category; notably, the windchimes also are meant to attract good spirits).

The major thing that would bother me is, as you've said, accidentally tapping the Inner/Secret levels. Or, tapping them as a side-effect and basically then having to deal with things I don't understand and can't predict. The question of offending the Inner/Secret levels is also a good one -- I've had at least one nightmare that I don't like to think about, with being chased by an angry ghost at a jade auction, and I'd like to avoid that again, if at all possible.

Do you recognize the description of the bells that I'm thinking of? (3-4 cm wide, brass, plain/no decorations, tab and hole at the top?) Would these have the same intended meaning as one of the decorated bells with the dorje as the handle? I'm not really intending to set up any religious links other than to my own spirits, and don't want to set off a flurry of extra phenomena, or give extra meanings to surrounding spirits, that I don't intend (as I know that this can happen even if one doesn't plan on them happening).

Thanks again...
2012-12-18 5:31
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Post: #5
Re: Purchasing a bell?
What shape are the bells? Are they tall and thin, are they more like the tingsha, or?

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2012-12-20 3:17
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Post: #6
Re: Purchasing a bell?
Gesigewigus Wrote:What shape are the bells? Are they tall and thin, are they more like the tingsha, or?

You know, the best I can recall is that they're shaped like standard bells -- almost Liberty-bell like (but not as angular; and plainer), or like the hollow parts of the top hits for "drilbu" under a Google image search -- except there are no markings, and the dorje handle is replaced by (what I best recall is) a little tab with a hole...I think. I know the clapper was suspended from inside, somehow, and now I'm puzzling over whether it was connected to solid metal or to a separate piece of metal that reaches down through a hole. But it's been a year since I've seen them. I could easily go back and check.

I do get the sense that photography is a big no-no, though, looking at some of the local reviews. It reminds me of Japanese culture where it used to be said that taking photographs steals something's soul...(a customer got shouted out of one of these stores for taking photos inside.) It would be easy enough to take a trip down there, though. <!-- sSmile --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- sSmile --> EDIT: ...avoiding any photos. <!-- sWink --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- sWink -->
2012-12-20 5:13
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Post: #7
Re: Purchasing a bell?
Hmmm, hard to say. In general it could just be a windchime type bell, but it could also be a yer'ka or similar bell, on the plus side most of the ones that come to mind are made to call upon Peaceful figures, or neutral ones.

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2012-12-24 3:39
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Post: #8
RE: Purchasing a bell?
Digging this up because I just bought a small brass bell recently, and have adored it ever since.

I haven't used it for anything quite like this, though, my partner is very interested in tantric magic, as am I. I bought the bell because I like to use it for cleansing purposes (gently ringing the bell throughout a space to create a cleansing tone/vibration), and also to help signify events and actions during rituals and spells. It's also an absolutely adorable altar piece, and spiritual object to have in general.

I'm going to look more into tantric magic, and how bells play into it... this has piqued my interest.

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2021-05-07 16:12
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