“We offer Thich our powerful collective energy”: People Around the World Hope for Fast Recovery for Renowned Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh

“Our practice of stability and peace in this very moment is the best support we can offer to [Nhat Hanh]. Let us all around the world take refuge in our practice, going together as a river to offer [Thich] our powerful collective energy. We are all cells of the great Sangha Body that Thay has…

Buddhism Could Now Be the 2nd Largest Spiritual Path with 1.6 Billion or 22% of the World’s Population According to Some Recent Studies

Buddhism has never been a “propagation” spirituality. Actively seeking out “converts” is discouraged for the most part. Individual spirituality is emphasized more than group activities. Some people don’t even think of Buddhism as a “religion”—certainly not an organized religion with dogma. So, it is with sense of optimism—without pride or attachment?—that we report the latest…

Swift Healing with White Tara: the Rapid Path to Long Life, Merit, Wisdom, and Health

When I need help in a hurry, Tara is the “swift one”—the One I call on first. If I’m in trouble, Green Tara. If I’m sick, White Tara. So far, end of life isn’t top of mind, but if I was concerned about how long I might live to practice dharma, I’d also think of…

“Mind is the creator of our own happiness or suffering”—Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche teaches Lojong  Seven-Point Mind Training

“On one level all our minds are connected,” said Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche in his introductory remarks at a weekend retreat dedicated to Lojong Seven-point mind training. “We are the creators of our suffering. Everything depends on mind.” This very special Lojong retreat took students deep into their own minds. Venerable Acharya Zasep Tulku Rinpoche,…

Wisdom and Compassion—Ghanta and Vajra: Why the Bell and Dorje are Inseparable Symbols of Indivisible Emptiness and Form

The Bell and Dorje are virtually synonymous with advanced Vajrayana tantric practice. A Tibetan practitioner is rarely separated from these powerful meditational and ritual symbols—just as the Bell and Dorje should never be separated from each other. Even non-Buddhists might recognize the symbolism immediately—among the most widely recognized symbols used in Buddhism. (See video below for “How…

Limitless Tara, Beyond the Green: Buddha, Bodhisattva, Savior, Mother of all the Buddhas, Hindu Maa Tara, Goddess of Many Colors, Consort of Buddhas, Wisdom Mother, Action Hero…

Most Buddhists know Tara—simultaneously, a friend, savior, caring Bodhisattva and enlightened being. Hindus consider Her one of the Mahavidyas, or Great Wisdom Goddesses—a role she carries on in Buddhism. To advanced practitioners, she is equally the great Wisdom Mother Prajnaparamita. Yet, at the same time, without contradiction, Tara is the intimate and treasured friend. The Vastness of…

Buddhist Mantras Help Crops Grow — Increase Output by Fifteen Percent; Studies Reveal the Power of Mantras to Help Plants — People

Buddhist farmers in Fujian Province increased crop yield and grain size with Buddhist Mantras, according to a report in the Global Times. [1] Faithful local Liangshan villagers installed 500 lotus-shaped loud speakers to saturate the crops with empowering mantras. They covered an area 26.7 hectares in scope. Not only was yield increased, pests decreased and grain-size…

Remembering a Revered Teacher: Geshe Lhundub Sopa, Renowned Teacher and Scholar, Passes Away of Natural Causes at 92

With reverence, Buddha Weekly is sad to report the most venerable Geshe Sopa “has entered into “clear light meditation”. He passed of natural causes on Thursday, August 28, 2104. Geshe Sopa will be missed—until his rebirth—by his many students. He was a very dear friend of the Dalai Lama, and abbot emeritus and spiritual director…

Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche Returns to Toronto in October for Teachings on Chittamani Tara, Black Dakini and Lamrim

His Eminence Archarya Zasep Tulku Rinpoche will return to Gaden Choling Mahayana Buddhist Meditation Center, Toronto, in October 2014 for three weeks of precious teachings and initiations: Chod initiation of the Five Dakinis. This is a Mana Annut Yoga Tantra for advanced students: October 10, 2014 Weekend teaching and practice of Gaden Tradition Black Dakini….

Science: Research Proves Vajrayana Meditation Techniques Involving Deity Visualization Improve Cognitive Performance and May Be Promising For Degenerative Brain Disorders.

Science, and in particular the medical profession, has long accepted the positive benefits of all forms or meditation. Many studies across decades of research have proven meditation is simply good for the body—and your health. A new study from the National University of Singapore, attempts to differentiate the relative benefits of different types of meditation….

Why is Following a Guru Difficult to Accept in the West? Why is it Important for Vajrayana Practitioners to Find an Enlightened Teacher?

“We must rely on a wisdom teacher because, although we have Buddha nature, ultimate wisdom does not exist in our dualistic minds. Samsaric ego always tries to protect itself, and will trick us into thinking that we have gone beyond dualistic mind when we have not. Although we intrinsically have Buddha nature, without a teacher,…

Broken Commitments: Breaking Buddhist Vows or Promises Carries Heavy Karma, But What Do We Do About It?

Damage from broken commitments sounds very heavy, ominous, depressing. Any vow or promise should be taken seriously, but it carries an even more rigorous standard in Buddhist practice. It’s tempting for people brought up in “the west” to wonder if breaking our practice commitments and our promises to our teacher is really all that big…

It’s Important to Rejoice and to Laugh: Precious Teachings from Zasep Tulku Rinpoche

“It’s important to rejoice,” said Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche at a weekend Lam Rim and Green Tara retreat in Toronto. “It’s important to be positive. Enjoy your day. Enjoy your friendships. Enjoy your meditations. Rejoicing is the antidote for self-pity, envy and jealousy.” Positive rejoicing certainly set the tone for a wonderful weekend retreat (April…

Green Tara Retreat: Calm Abiding, Mindfulness, Compassion and Wisdom. Why Retreat is So Important to Practice

There is something very special about retreat. Hectic modern life makes regular—or even irregular—retreats important to most of us. In a teaching in Spain in 1983, the Most Venerable Lama Thubten Yeshe said: “Why is retreat important? In order for our spirituality, pure morality, wisdom, single-pointed concentration and insight into reality to grow, we need…

Precious Green Tara Teachings: Venerable Zasep Rinpoche Returns to Gaden Choling

Rinpoche teaches in English with a warmth and charm that keeps attendees engaged, always ready to laugh and even make a joke. His vast knowledge of Dharma and willingness to answer tough questions adds to his irresistible charisma. By Derek Armstrong Retreats and Dharma talks from the Most Venerable Archarya Zasep Tulku Rinoche are always…

How is the Mind Different from the Brain? Science May Support the Duality of Separate Mind and Brain.

“We don’t know what consciousness is, or what it does,” said Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. in his lecture The Mind is Not the Brain “There’s no known, obvious reason, why we should be conscious at all, or exactly how the mind works.” His conclusion, based on significant research, was:  “…The mind is field-like. That it’s not…

Drumming for a Wakeful Mind

Drumming for a Wakeful Mind

Mokugyo are instantly recognizable by their entirely unique and pleasant penetrating sound that almost seems to hypnotize with it’s intensity. The use of the fish drum is nearly universally used in ritual and private meditation amongst most forms of Zen or Chan, Mahayana Buddhism and Pure Land Buddhism. (See video below of monk playing fish drum.)
By whatever name—mokugyo in Japan, muyu in China, mock gnu in Vietnam, moktak in Korea, shingnya in Tibet—the piercing pang, pang, pang of the fish drum can be heard at virtually all rituals. Any chanting of sutras or mantras is likely to accompanied by the trance-inducing wooden fish drum. Taoists and Shinto practitioners have also adopted this powerful little drum.

In Chan and Zen traditions, together with many Mahayana Buddhist traditions, variations on the fish drum are used to symbolize wakefulness, keep us alert, and to add sound and blessings to chants.

Why use a drum

We use a drum in meditation to keep us wakeful, mindful, alert. At the same time, the stimulating sound, entirely unique in percussion, has a trance-like effect, allowing something of an altered state of meditation. The sound’s uniqueness also instantly evokes sacredness. The sound travels, apparently on forever, penetrating all of the illusion we call our world, and carrying our mantras and sutras along.

Fish drum doesn’t always look like a fish

The fish drum is hand-carved out of a single block of wood, then hollowed out, smoothed, carved with symbols, then lacquered. Small mokugyo sit on a cushion to make sure the sound is pleasant. Larger temple muku normally rest on a temple stand. When struck by a wooden mallet, with or without felt or rubber striking tips, the sound is entirely unique.

The fish drum doesn’t always resemble a fish. Large fish drums, suspended in Chinese temples, are elaborately carved into fish and painted with gold and red. These giant fish are struck each morning and evening to help us remember all the fish in the sea, and to remind us to be wakeful.

What does it mean?

Because the fish never sleeps, it becomes a symbol of awakened meditation and even enlightenment. Since most fish adapt to have large eyes, to see in the murky waters, they also represent penetrating sight, overcoming illusion and attachment.
Fish is one of the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism
The fish is one of the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism, accepted by all streams of Buddhism. This auspicious symbol is normally two golden fish, symbolic of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and represents good fortune in general. Striking the drum reminds us, with each piercing strike, to remember the lessons of the eight auspicious signs.

The other symbols are:
• the Lotus, one of the most recognized symbols, standing for the beauty and clarity of enlightenment and the true nature of all beings because the beautiful flower reaches out of the muck

• the Parasol, symbol of royal dignity and protection
• Conch Shell horn representing the sound of the Dharma penetrating the universe to release all beings
• the Banner of Victory: symbolizing Buddha’s victory over Mara, who represents passion, fear of death, pride and lust
• the Vase, filled with sacred items, the never emptying vase is always full and represents long life
• the Dharma Wheel: the eight spoked wheel representing the eightfold path taught by Buddha
• the Eternal Knot: a never-ending symbol that signifies that all phenomena are linked.

Larger fish drums are often hung outside temples.

Fish symbolism

The fish is a universal symbol of well-being, happiness, prosperity in freedom in all of Asia. This symbolism is partially because fish are always active and a source of a good life, but also because in India—the well-spring of enlightenment—the Ganges river (and its fish life) are sacred.
Good fortune fish are a major part of Feng Shui in China and aquariums are often prominent in homes to bring happiness and prosperity.

Leave a Reply

Recent Stories
“We offer Thich our powerful collective energy”: People Around the World Hope for Fast Recovery for Renowned Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh
"Our practice of stability and peace in this very moment is the best support we can offer to [Nhat [more]
Buddhism Could Now Be the 2nd Largest Spiritual Path with 1.6 Billion or 22% of the World’s Population According to Some Recent Studies
Buddhism has never been a "propagation" spirituality. Actively seeking out "converts" is discouraged [more]
Swift Healing with White Tara: the Rapid Path to Long Life, Merit, Wisdom, and Health
When I need help in a hurry, Tara is the "swift one"—the One I call on first. If I'm in trouble, G [more]
“Mind is the creator of our own happiness or suffering”—Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche teaches Lojong  Seven-Point Mind Training
"On one level all our minds are connected," said Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche in his introductory [more]
Wisdom and Compassion—Ghanta and Vajra: Why the Bell and Dorje are Inseparable Symbols of Indivisible Emptiness and Form
The Bell and Dorje are virtually synonymous with advanced Vajrayana tantric practice. A Tibetan prac [more]
Limitless Tara, Beyond the Green: Buddha, Bodhisattva, Savior, Mother of all the Buddhas, Hindu Maa Tara, Goddess of Many Colors, Consort of Buddhas, Wisdom Mother, Action Hero…
Most Buddhists know Tara—simultaneously, a friend, savior, caring Bodhisattva and enlightened be [more]

Copyright Buddha Weekly 2007-14. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to excerpt stories with full credit and a link to Budddha Weekly. Please do not use more than an excerpt. Subject to terms of use and privacy statement.