Signs and Symbols

What signs or symbols distinguish Buddhist ritual specialists?

Priests who officiate in Buddhist temples that serve the public wear a variety of colors and use various implements. Priests often wear a robe called a kashaya (kesa in Japan). The vestment is unusual in that it is typically a patchwork of many colors and textures, recalling the simplicity and poverty of the Buddha’s earliest disciples. An abbreviated form of the kesa is the wagesa, a simple swatch of cloth worn over the shoulders. Some monastic priests in Japan carry a staff called a shakujo. Six metal rings near the top make a jangling sound, alerting small defenseless creatures to remove themselves from harm’s way. The Bodhisattva Jizo, usually dressed as a monk or priest, typically carries the staff. Within private or monastic settings, ritual specialists have an even greater diversity of signs and symbols, since their rituals are often more esoteric and complex. Tibetan monks, for example, don very colorful headgear distinctive of their various lineages. Tibetans and members of other esoteric sects also use a wider variety of ritual objects than are used in popular denominations, most notably the bell and the vajra, a metal object with several spokes on each end closed into a lotus shape and a symbol of the indestructible reality of the dharma.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Religion Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App