- Museum number
Vajra (sankosho). Made of gilded bronze.
- Production date
Length: 13.90 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Ritual tray, thunderbolts and jewel wheel
These gilt bronze implements were used in tantric Buddhist rituals. The tray is decorated with lotuses and was used to carry the implements or sacred texts.
The jewel wheel represents Buddhist law.
The ritsual thunderbolt, vajra in Sanskrit and kongo in Japanese, is a symbol of wisdom. Hard as a diamond, its smashes ignorance and also has sexual symbolism.
Thunderbolts have one, three or five prongs.
Gilt bronze, wood, textile, 1400s
Thuderbolts and jewel wheel
Gilt bronze, 1700s-1800s
Given by Frank Dillon
(Label Copy, 2017)
The bell, kenchi (gantha), and three types of kongosho (vajra) form a ritual assemblage used in Shingon Buddhism. The bell symbolises the connection between the phenomenal and real world, its sound implying the illusory nature of the former. The single-barbed vajra represents the union of the two worlds, the three-barbed represents Buddha, lotus, and vajra, and the five-barbed Five Wisdoms and the Five Buddhas. The rimpo (cakra) was an ancient Indian solar symbol of royalty which probably derived from a throwing weapon. It was adopted into Buddhism as the 'Wheel Of The Law' and represents Dainichi Nyorai, the supreme Buddha of the esoteric Tendai and Shingon sects. The wheel has eight spokes in the form of vajra, and a central lotus symbolising Buddhist rebirth.
(label copy, VH, 1998)
In Japanese Tantrism three varieties of ‘vajra’, or ‘kongōsho’, and a ‘ghaṇṭā’, or ‘kenchi’, form a ritual assemblage. The single-pronged ‘vajra’ represents non-duality, the three-pronged the triple concept of Buddha, lotus and ‘vajra’, and the five-pronged variety Five Wisdoms and Dhyāni Buddhas. The ‘ghaṇṭā’, symbolises the connection between the phenomenal (‘garbhadhātu’) and ultimately real (‘vajradhātu’), its sound standing for the illusory nature of the former. This group is used ritually when ‘mudrās’ are performed, accompanying ‘sūtra’ readings, and the five-pronged ‘vajra’ consubstantiates the practitioner in Buddhahood.
- On display (G93/dc4/sG)
- Exhibition history
2006 Oct 13-, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'
- Acquisition date
- Registration number