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Tibeto-logic: The Bell and the Sound Symbols of Dharma


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THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2012


The Bell and the Sound Symbols of Dharma

10 years ago when we made our first

blog entry, it was in honor of Drolma
Kyab, a young author given a 10 year
sentence for writing a book. The news
is he has been released, but is in poor
health, with kidney and liver
problems likely due to his
imprisonment. More details to follow.
Meanwhile, see this story in Tibetan,
with some of his interesting artwork.

About the view, ask

the ships crow. Padampa

Bell and Vajra. From the British Museum
The Trustees of the British Museum

Many Kanjurs - TBRC

Derge & Lhasa Kanjur & Derge Tanjur
Search - RKTS
Derge Kanjur & Tanjur Search - AIBS

Today's blog entry is a continuation of this one.

Derge Kanjur Search - THLib

Nyingma Tantras - THLib

"The world is sound. Immediately the question arises: What

kind of sound?"

Nyingma Tantras - Tsewang Norbu

Peking Title Search - Otani
Tibskrit 2014

Berendt, p. 19.

Just after the Buddha kyamuni attained

Enlightenment on the Vajra Seat (Vajrsana)
beneath the Awakening Tree, He was hesitant to
speak, certain that He would not be understood. He
was even thinking to live out the rest of His days in
a lonely forest retreat. The gods Brahma, famous
for his melodious speech, and Indra, famous for his
power, came to convince Him that it would be
worth the effort to begin teaching His insights in
the form of the Dharma. The Wheel is one common
symbol of the Dharma, since the Buddha is said to
have set the Wheel of the Dharma in motion. As a


symbol of the same thing, Indra presented to the

Enlightened One a Conch shell.

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The Padampa Diet Plan

Homicide, Forced Suicide, Vengeance
& the Ghost

The stras, when they describe the Buddhas first

acts of teaching, prefer sound metaphors (or
couldnt we in fact call them auditory symbols?)
that emphasize a pealing or booming quality,
sounds that are clearly identifiable and sustained
and that carry for a long distance. Such metaphors
as the Conch, the Large Drum, Melodious Brahma
Voice, the Cymbal, the Lions Roar and the cry of
the Kalapinka Bird are common in many stras.[1]
Less common is the Thunder, and later on we even
find the cry of the Cuckoo Bird as a symbol of
Buddha Word. These sounds are unified by their

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Has Always Been a Part of China,
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Vanished Books
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The Birthday Party of the Year
Finding Phadampa in Bhutan
Reading at a Slow Pace
Newsweeks Photo Fact-Check Fail

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Tibeto-logic: The Bell and the Sound Symbols of Dharma

Buddha Word. These sounds are unified by their

startling quality, communicating not only the
Buddhas act of vocalization as a kind of wakeup
call to greater awareness, but also the
revolutionary nature of His revelation which, in His
time, seemed to be coming right out of the blue...
In a time when Indian religious teachers were
emphasizing the ultimacy of the Self or Atman, His
revelation announced to the world that there is no
such thing. In other words, these metaphors (they
were never simply metaphors) served as symbols
not only of the quality of the Buddhas voice, but of
the content of His message, with deep sounds to
correspond to His depth of insight. But there is still
one further step to the symbolism that might be a
little difficult to follow. It is nevertheless essential
for a fuller understanding of these symbols. Since
the Buddhas expression of the Dharma tells us the
way things are, the things, i.e., the elements of
apparent existence as Buddhistically conceived, are
also called dharmas.[2] Hence, our sonorous
symbols of Buddha Word are, besides being
identified with the Buddhist scriptures which
preserve His Word, equally identified with the
world of phenomena.
The Bell as such (Ghaa in Sanskrit and Dril-bu in
Tibetan[3]) is not listed among these metaphors of
Dharma in the Mahyna Stras we have
consulted. Bells, in the plural, appear there rather
as a meritorious offering which came to form a
permanent fixture of the Buddhist reliquaries
called Stpas. These bells, probably rather small
ones equipped with cloth hangings attached to
their clappers that made them ring when the wind
blew, were evidently hung in strings attached to
Stpas. Even without being explicitly identified
with the Dharmas (scriptural or phenomenal) in
the Mahyna stras as far as we know at present,
[4] the brief explanations of the symbolisms of the
Bell in its entirety and in its parts all identify the
Bell as the Transcendent Insight Stra, as well as
the Voidness of all phenomena which is the main
message of that Stra. The head of Transcendent
Insight even looks out at us from the center of the
Bells handle.[5] Tsong-kha-pa, in his most famous
work on the stages of the tantric Path, directly
states, The Bells sound symbolizes the
proclamation of the masses of Dharma.[6]
And Dragpa Gyeltsen says on the symbolism of the
Bell in its entirety: Its empty interior means
Voidness, the main point of the Transcendent
Insight [Stra]. The center [of the Bell] is the
reality of Full Knowledge of awareness. Its sound
indicates Voidness.
Following closely
Dragpa Gyeltsens brief
explanations of the individual parts of the Bell, we
start with the handle. The handle is composed of
(in descending order) [1] a half-Vajra, [2] a Lotus
(or Crown?), [3] a face, and [4] a vase of plenty.
Although less common, some Bell handles
incorporate a ring, below the face, which seems not
to have any special symbolism, but serves the
utilitarian purpose of a thumb-ring to keep a better
grasp.[7] This ring I think to be more common in
Newar Buddhist examples. About the half-Vajra,
Dragpa Gyeltsen says,
As for the Vajra, its use as a decorative
covering is a symbol of Insight being
ornamented by Method.[8]

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Like the prongs of the complete Vajra, the prongs

of the half-Vajra are also supposed to be supported
by a lunar disk resting on a Lotus, although the
Lotus is not always clearly distinguishable in every
example, frequently looking more like a crown for
the face below.[9] The face is one element which is
clearly present in nearly every example of the
Tibetan Bell (if they have any designs on them at
all) and, in nearly every explanation known to us,
[10] this face is identified as the face of Insight or
Transcendent Insight, sometimes simply as the

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Menri Monastery, Dolanji


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Mountain Phoenix over

Book Review: "In

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Tibeto-logic: The Bell and the Sound Symbols of Dharma

Transcendent Insight, sometimes simply as the

Mother (Yum), while some authorities call it the
face of Dharma[11] (I would say the latter is, given
our earlier discussion, entirely apt, even if not
directly supported in our particular Tibetanlanguage sources).

11/4/15, 3:29 PM
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The Land of The
Eastern Queendom"
by Tenzin Jinba

Khyung-mkhar - =

The Direct
Introduction to the
Wisdom of

Tibetan Plateau

The Tibet Post - Opinions

and Columns
Tibetan election is a victory for
democracy and change

Tibetan Legend
Catalogue of Zangla Part 38.
For an enlargement of the "thumbnail," look here.
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Don Croners World Wide

Turkey | Cappadocia
| Gzelyurt

Here is Dragpa Gyeltsens explanation of the face:

Above [the vase] is a face of Transcendent
Insight that indicates Dharma Body [and]
Dharma Body, usually understood to belong to the
doctrinal category of Three Bodies of the Buddha,
is also interpretable in some contexts as the corpus
of [Buddhist] teachings, while Voidness is the
quintessential message of the Transcendent
Insight Stra. The face looks somewhat different in
different examples. Usually it has a meditative
expression, and very often a look of amusement,
and what we are tempted to call a knowing smile,
such as the Buddha often has in the Transcendent
Insight stras when He knows what His
questioners really have in mind when they ask their
questions, or when He knows what the future will
bring for them. She faces east, the direction of the
rising sun (increasing light), and so in direct
alighnment with the seed-syllable of Tr, TA, in
the eight-petalled lotus below.


> ?


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Secret Himalayan Hotel

Anthony Aris 1946-2015
Awesome Tibet

Beneath the face is a vase or pot, which Dragpa

Gyeltsen calls an elixir pot, as a symbol of the
origination [or emergence] of all [magical and
spiritual] attainments. The attainments or siddhis
may mean either common magical powers or the
Supreme Siddhi which is just another way of
saying Complete Enlightenment. Elixir often stands
as a metaphor for the siddhis. The Indian artistic
motive of the Full Pot, the Pra Ghaa (or Pra
Kumbha), is generally a symbol of wealth and
abundance, but to follow Dragpa Gyeltsen, we
would have to say that when it occurs on the handle
of the Bell, it must refer to a wealth of spiritual
attainment much more than secular riches.[12] The
vase is not always clearly distinguishable on every
Bell. Like the Makara faces on the Vajras prongs,
the vase has often become artistically distorted or
reinterpreted to the point that it is no longer clearly
recognizable as such. At times it is simply absent,
or replaced by the ring. Since it has been
persuasively argued[13] that the inverted pot found
near the tops of Indian pillars (including the
famous Aokan pillars) represents the pouring

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Page 3 of 16

Tibeto-logic: The Bell and the Sound Symbols of Dharma

famous Aokan pillars) represents the pouring

down of the heavenly waters, with all the crystal
clear agrarian connotations of abundance and
fertility that this entails, the upright overflowing
pot has a similar symbolic meaning, if for the
opposite reasons it is not emptying out from
above, but has been filled from above.
Proceeding down from the handle to the lower part
of the Bell which is the Bell proper (Trantha calls
it the belly of the Bell), we will divide it into two
main parts, the dome and the slope: [1] the dome at
the top of the Bell encircling the point where the
handle is attached (Tibetan texts on occasion refer
to this part as the shoulder) and [2] the slope, or
the external surface of the Bell which slopes down
from the dome to the lip. The surface of the dome
is always decorated with an eight-petalled lotus
flower design.[14] Within each of the eight petals is
a seed syllable, a Sanskrit letter represented in
Tibetan transcription, each letter with a circle
above it representing the Sanskrit anusvra (in
English transcriptions, represented as usually
pronounced like the ng in sung). The tops of the
letters are pointing outward, away from the point
where the handle is attached.[15] These eight
syllables are the seeds of eight female Buddhas,
which might be used as a basis for fully generating
their forms in contemplative visualizations. These
eight Buddhas are, to give their names according to
their meanings in English (but the feminine
grammatical endings are not translated here) with
their seed syllables: Buddha Eyela; Mother
Minema; White Robepa; Commitment
Saviourta;[16] Flowing Wealthva, here
represented in Tibetan as ba; Encouragercu,
here represented in Tibetan as tsu; Furrowed
Browbhri; Vajra Rosaryma, repeated.[17]
The presence of these female Buddhas on an
instrument identified as being feminine in gender
is significant.
Moving down to the slope of the Bell, we encounter
first a circular band of horizontal Vajras. At the
bottom of the slope, circling the outer part of the
lip, is still another circular band of Vajras that
stand vertically. Both of these are protective circles;
the upper band of Vajras is called the Vajra Rosary,
while the lower one is called the Vajra Wall in the
Tibetan texts. Between these two bands is the
greater portion of the surface area of the slope, and
it is here that we find interesting differences in the
designs which allow us to categorize various types
of Bells.

To end for now with a few of the interesting

details... The following typology of Bells is
provided on the basis of an eighteenth-century
Tibetan text,[18] since Dragpa Gyeltsen doesnt
mention the designs on this part of the Bell.[19]

There are six types of Bells. The first, called the

Hero Bell, may have either five- or nine-pointed
Vajra,[20] while the remaining five, named for
the five Buddha Families, always have five
points; hence we have the Tathgata Family Bell,
the Vajra Family Bell, the Jewel Family Bell, the
Lotus Family Bell, and the Deed (or Sword)
Family Bell. It is not entirely clear which
presently-available type of Bell the Hero Bell
might be intended to designate.[21] The most
commonly encountered type of Bell has eight
different symbols depicted around the central
part of the slope.[22] These eight symbols include
the emblems of the five Buddha Families,
although the symbols are not always distinct
enough to identify them with certainty, and
there appears to be a certain amount of
variation. The Tathgata Family has as its
heraldic emblem the Wheel of the Law, and so
the Tathgata Family Bell has a number of
Wheels arrayed around the upper side of the
slope. The Vajra Family Bell has Vajras, the

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Page 4 of 16

Tibeto-logic: The Bell and the Sound Symbols of Dharma

11/4/15, 3:29 PM

slope. The Vajra Family Bell has Vajras, the

Jewel Family Bell has Jewels, the Lotus Family
Bell has Lotuses, and the Deed Family Bell has
To be continued...

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[1] For examples of all of these, see the life of the Buddha as

told in the Lalitavistara Stra, Chapter 26 entitled Turning

the Wheel of the Dharma.
[2] The lack of initial capital on the word dharma when used

for the constituents (or qualities) of apparent existence is a

Buddhological convention used when translating Buddhist
texts into western languages. The original languages
Tibetan, Sanskrit, Pli etc. have nothing comparable to
capital letters, and so the observance of this convention has
nothing to do with Buddhist conventions. For believing
Buddhists, the distinction between Buddha Word[s] and
constituent[s] of apparent existence is an unnecessary one.
[3] Although this might create some confusion, the Bell is

often called in the texts Dorj Drilbu (Rdo-rje-dril-bu), or

Vajra Bell, since the Bell possesses a Vajra at its top. There
are some places in the texts where the conjunctive syllable
may be dropped (often for reasons of meter), and Rdo-rjedril-bu may have to be read as meaning Vajra and Bell.
Furthermore, Rdo-rje-dril-bu may appear in an abbreviated
form as Rdor-dril. The ritual Bell of the Bon religion is quite
different from that used in the other Tibetan schools. It is a
very shallow, and might look more like a cymbal, except that
it is equipped with a clapper. For a study of this Bon Bell
called, in Tibetan, gshang, see Helffer (1981). It is evidently of
Persian or Turkish origin. Mention of this instrument is not
limited to Bon texts of the tantric types, but is also found,
together with the drum, as a metaphor for the proclamation
of the Golden Light Radiant Jewel (Gser-od Nor-bu
Od-bar) Stra, and it is explicitly called one of the symbols
of the Word (bka rtags, the other symbols being the drum,
conch and something called slang, possibly a metal bowl used
as a gong or some other cymbal-like instrument) in the
apparently eleventh-century biography of Lord Shenrab, the
Condensed Scripture (Mdo-dus), to give two examples. It
occurs in Bon religious art as an attribute of deities both
peaceful and wrathful. That Bonpo teachers might
nevertheless make use in rituals of the usual Buddhist Vajra
and Bell is proven by photographs in Tucci (1989: 182, and
text on p. 184), although this would seem to be a
characteristic of New Bon (Bon Gsar). One further interesting
use of the Bell ought to be mentioned. Certain groups of nonBuddhist peoples in northern Assam, people who gained their
livelihoods through hunting and gathering, employed the Bell
in a secular way, as a form of currency which they used in
bartering. The Tibetans who originally supplied them with the
Bells would remove the handles before using them to
purchase goods from the Assamese. Evidently, Bells devoid of
their half-Vajra-tipped handles were no longer viewed as
sacred objects.
[4] We can be fairly certain of what we are saying here on the

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absence of Bells-as-symbols-of-Dharma, since we were able to

consult the texts of the Transcendent Insight and a number of
other important Mahyna stras in electronic versions
prepared by the Asian Classics Input Project. This makes it
possible to locate quickly every occurrence of a word in the
text of the stra (of course one still must take care to consider
the possibility of wrong or unusual spellings and
typographical errors as well as synonyms, epithets, etc.,
which computers have not been trained to catch). These
days, we also have the Vienna site, subject of this Tibeto-logic
blog page. I havent had time to look into the several hundred
occurrences of the word Dril-bu in the Kanjur texts, but my
impression is that in nearly all cases they are the strings or
networks (dra-ba) of bells used to decorate stpas. The word
dril-bu is frequently used together with g.yer-ka in the stra
contexts. A quite typical phrase is gser-gyi dril-bu g.yer-ka'i
dra-ba. There is often a mention of how they make their
sounds when the wind blows, which does tend to make us
think of wind chimes more than bells. In any case the
material on bells in the Tibetan canon overall is so great that I

Future of Learning in the Himalayas

hope some ambitious person will take up the challenge of

studying it all. I havent.

Dragon Year Losar eCard Greetings

[5] For the symbolism of the Bell and its parts, we are

fortunate to have a set of excellent contributions by Mireille

Helffer (1982, 1985a, 1985b), and our discussion is in some
degree based on them, but with our emphasis given to the
Tibetan-language work by Dragpa Gyeltsen.

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[6] Tsong-kha-pa (n.d.: 564).

[7] According to Rong-tha (n.d. 79), the ring is placed here on

no other authority than the craft tradition itself (meaning it

isnt justifiable from scriptural and commentarial works).
Kun-grol-grags-pa (1974: 533) says that the hole (bug-pa) is
not taught in any transmission lineage (brgyud, but I think
he intends rgyud, tantra). One example of a remarkable
Ming Dynasty Bell (a Chinese inscription in its interior
identifies it as belonging to the reign of Yongle) which
includes a ring in its handle has been published (Precious
Deposits 2000: III 224-5), but it seems that the handle could
have been added to the Bell at a later date. Many Bells with


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Page 5 of 16

Tibeto-logic: The Bell and the Sound Symbols of Dharma

have been added to the Bell at a later date. Many Bells with
rings seem to be of Nepalese origin. Even much more rarely,
Phurpas may have rings attached (a purportedly 12th-century
example from the Dali Kingdom of presentday Yunnan
Province was offered for sale in Rossi & Rossi 2002), and
probably with a similar motive, to keep the implement from
flying out of the hands during ritual usage.

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[8] Feminist thinkers may find it cause for delight or dismay

that here Dragpa Gyeltsen makes Father Method subservient

(ornamental) to the face of Mother Insight. She wears the
Vajra of Voidness as Her crown, since Voidness is Her
ultimate insight.
[9] The face is often described in the non-Tibetan-language

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literature as being crowned, but among our Tibetan texts

only Rong-tha (n.d. 78) states this explicitly. Ignoring the
texts, and basing ourselves entirely on visual aspects, it often
does look as if there is a crown, but a crown ought to have five
lobes for the five Buddha Families. On the example in hand,
there are eight lobes entirely encircling the handle.
Therefore we prefer to interpret these lobes as being rather
lotus petals intended to support the Vajra prongs (as in the
symbolism of the Vajra discussed above) rather than to
crown the face.


[10] Except for a late Dge-lugs-pa text, which says that when

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the Bells are distinguished by Buddha Families (see below),

the face should be the face of the main Buddha of the family
to which the Bell belongs (Helffer 1985b: 58). Trantha
(1983a) suggests that a wrathful Bell ought to have a face with
wrathful appearance. Stag-tshang (n.d. 32) refers to the Face
as that of the Blessed Lady (Bcom-ldan-das-ma) or, in
another place, that of Transcendent Insight (Sher-phyin).
Dpal-sprul (1994: 187), writing in the nineteenth century,
says The bell bears the image of a face which, according to
the outer tantras, is that of Vairochana and, in the view of
higher tantras, is Vajradhatvishvari. (Most surprising here is
the possibility of identifying the face as Vairocanas,
Vairocana being a Buddha with male form.)

Yo! Wangdu!

[11] Olsen (1950: 35), for example, says, the head of the

Chinese Feelings Most Often Hurt by

goddess Dharma or Prajna, Supreme Wisdom. One

scriptural source, the Sampua Tantra (Derge Kanjur, vol. 79
[GA], fol. 289 recto), is quite explicit about the face at the
center being that of Goddess Prajpramit (Lha-mo Shesrab Pha-rol-phyin), further specifying that it should, in its
shape, be beautiful and endowed with qualities. This text also
describes a lotus as being above the face, with no mention of a
crown. This scriptural evidence strengthens the impression
that the globular part at the center of of the Vajra is meant to
correspond to the face at the center of the Bell.
[12] On the Indian symbolism of the Full Pot, see Gairola

(1954), Rosu (1961), Agrawala (1965: 10-11, 43-46),

Coomaraswamy (1971, pt. 2: 61-64), and especially
Bhattacharya (2000). Smith (1989) gives evidence for its
antiquity in Buddhist architecture in which it is associated
with pillars. See as well Harvey (1991: 74-76), where an
argument is made for a Buddhist interpretation which would
emphasize the fullness of the Buddhas Teachings, the
Dharma, which fits nicely with the other symbolic motives
found on the Bell. The lotuses or Bodhi tree sometimes
depicted growing from the pot would then be a symbol of
spiritual growth nourished by the resources of the Buddhas
Teachings. The reference to an elixir pot reminds us of the
Indian cosmogonical story of the churning of the Milk Ocean
that resulted in, among other things, the production of the
divine sustenance or elixir, a drink of immortality, which
was placed in a pot. Pots filled with water, with leaves and
other decorations decorating their mouths, have been, and
still are, used during deconsecration/reconsecration rituals,
as temporary abodes for the deities when images or stpas
are being repaired. I would further suggest that all the
elements of the Bell handle above the Full Pot ought to be
conceived as emerging out of it.

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Learning's Point
Hardening Stance
Free Drolma Kyab!
Xi Does it Gangnam Style
Happiness of Tibetans
Silence of Intellectuals

Tibetan Stroboscope
Buried Evidence - Chilling
Hide the Satisfied Store
You May Say He's a Dreamer
PAP assisted by Israeli Border Police
Arts of Tibetan Painting
Still in Prison! Crime? Writing
Mao in Tibetan Disguise?
Sentenced for Dissent
Pearl of the Snowlands - Derg
Tibetan Language School Shutdown
Destroy Nomads, Extract Gold
Traces of Gandhran Buddhism
Bon History Book - Bodleian
Different Approaches to Conservation
Jinpa Sherpa - Life in the Bronx
Beijing Blames Who?
Horse Riding & Target Shooting
Copper More Precious than Buddhas
Meditation & Neural Renetworking
Writers Arrested Recently
Why Not Meditate?
History Boy
Hu Indicted

[13] Vajracharya (1999: 53-64).

Rainbow Body

[14] See Ronge (1980), where the process of bell-making is

Nomad Genocide

described in some detail. The decorations on the dome are

directly transferred to the mold from the blank prototype
Bell that is used to form the mold, but the decorations on the
slope have to be subsequently stamped onto the inside of the
mold. This explains why the decorations on the slope are

Amulet against Wolves

Old Tibetan Oms with Wings
Atisha's Butter-Lamp Aspiration

Page 6 of 16

Tibeto-logic: The Bell and the Sound Symbols of Dharma

mold. This explains why the decorations on the slope are

often less distinct than the decorations on the dome. We
ought to emphasize that the names slope and dome do not
come from our Tibetan-language sources, while the term lip
is in fact used by them.
[15] The garland of letters is very deeply rooted in Indian

religious history, and we will not attempt to trace its history

here. One finds it in the Cakrasamvara tantric systems
visualization of the seat of the deity. Here the vowels (for
insight) circle counterclockwise twice and transform into the
lunar disk, while the consonants (for method) circle
clockwise twice and transform into the solar disk. The seat
being the site of the enlightened being that is seated on it,
the letters, in this case the Sanskrit letters transcribed into
Tibetan, are both the seeds of the sacred scriptures and the
initial definition of the sacred space. (See, for example, Beyer
1973: 112.) Quite similar, even with its differences, is the rite
that forms a part of Catholic church consecration rituals
called the abecedarium, in which two lines of the Latin and
Greek alphabets (the alphabets of the two sacred languages
used in traditional [pre-Vatican II] Catholic scriptures and
sacred chants) are inscribed from corner to opposite corner
forming an X-shaped cross. These alphabets are the
beginnings and basics of sacred doctrine... and the beginnings
of the Word of God (Repsher 1998: 82; see also Bowen 1941:
475). Given the obviously different arrangements of the
letters in circles and crosses, nevertheless the similar in their
usages of seed letters of scripture to define sacred spaces is
[16] The syllable ta is symbolically oriented toward the east,

and the Face in the middle of the handle is also supposed to

be oriented in the same direction. Stag-tshang (n.d. 33) calls
this an Inner Bell. He also describes as an Outer Bell one
that has a ring below the Face as well as the seed syllable or
emblem of Buddha Eye in the east. The arrangement of seed
syllables in Kun-grol-grags-pa (1974: 531-532) is quite
[17] The lists of eight female Buddhas are not always the same.

Especially the last four frequently vary from our list, which is
derived from
Dragpa Gyeltsens work. We have not
attempted to sort out the reasons for this variation. The seed
syllables of these Buddhas are formed simply by taking the
first letters of their names (in their original Sanskrit form)
and adding anusvra.

11/4/15, 3:29 PM



IATS - Bergen 2016

Sino-Tibetan Borderlands - Paris
SOAS - London 2015
ISYT - Leipzig 2015
IATTM - Kathmandu 2014
Translation & Transmission 2014
Evolution of Tantric Ritual - Berkeley
Workshop on Indigenous Elements Olomouc 2014
Buddhist Studies IABS - Vienna 2014
Taxing Tibet - Fontainebleau 2013
13th International Association of
Tibetan Studies - Ulan Bator,
Mongolia 2013
Recapturing the Tibetans - Bonn 2013
Manuscripts & Xylographic Traditions
- Hamburg 2013
Himalayan Languages Symposium
Int'l Tib Med Conference in Da'sa
Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman
Mind & Science - IIHTS Austria 2012
3rd Int'l Conference on Tibetan
Language 2011


Langues du Tibet
Lotsawa Discussion List

[18] This work by Kun-grol-grags-pa, an eighteenth-century

Tibetan Studies Forum

[19] Although this cannot be accomplished here, it will be


Bon-po teacher in Eastern Tibet, is discussed in Helffer

(1985), and we have based our explanation on this.
interesting in the future to consider how the designs on this
part of the Bell might have developed over time. It is a
possibility that Dragpa Gyeltsen doesnt mention these
design elements because they were not commonly in use in
his time. One Tibetan text suggests that earlier Bells might
have been less decorated. See Khams-ston (1990: 256), where
it says that there exist unornamented bronze Bells in Tibet
which were made by Indian craftspersons. These are said to
be Bells especially meant to be used in dance performances,
and are sometimes called old Tibetan (Bod rnying) Bells. I
have seen a set of relatively unornamented Vajra and Bell
offered for sale in Kathmandu at a tremendous cost (300,000
Nepalese rupees, to be exact; perhaps 3,000 US dollars), a
price justified by the dealer since, according to her belief, the
set had been imported to Tibet from India in the eleventh
century. The Bell was unornamented except for the half-Vajra
at the top and a few highly-worn decorative bands around the
slope. Buyers beware, however, especially since nowadays
many if not most Bells are manufactured to have a worn
appearance, and so the indistinctness of the decorative
elements (which may also result from the method of casting,
as mentioned in an earlier note) is not in itself necessarily a
proof of antiquity.

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1940 Videos by Basil Gould

Mind and Life XXVI, 2013
Piatigorsky, Subtitled
Chinese Overcome Their Difficulties
in Tibet
Translating the Dharma - 2010
Bhutan Remix
The Power of Truth Will Prevail
Gyalwa Rinpoche Channel
Leaving Fear Behind - Film Maker is
Spending 6 Years in a Work Camp
H.H. the Dalai Lama Fields Questions
Learn Tibetan Letters - David Curtis
Birthday Song from Golok

[20] According to Kun-grol-grags-pa (1974: 530), Nowadays

[most common are the] five-pointed Vajra used in peaceful

and extending [ritual actions] and the nine-pointed Vajra
used in influencing and overpowering [ritual actions].
Evidently Bells topped by Vajras of like number of points
would share the same ritual usage.
[21] The problem is discussed in some detail in the works of

Helffer listed below. According to Rong-tha, as well as Dkonmchog-bstan-dzin, it has the two Vajra bands as the only
decoration on its slope. It lacks the emblems as well as the
pearl strings (to be described presently). Sangs-rgyas-rdo-rje
(1995: 13) distinguishes three types of Bells. The first is the
Vajradhra Bell (nine-pointed only), the second the Hero Bell
(five- or nine-pointed), and the third the Particular Family
Bell (five-pointed only). The last one includes the five
different Bells belonging to the five Buddha Families. He
defines the Hero Bell (on p. 17) as a five- or nine-pointed Bell
which has the Vajra Rosary, but in which the latticework of
pearl strings is replaced by insets of precious substances
(gold, silver or gems).
[22] According to Dkon-mchog-bstan-dzin (1994: 314), this

type of Bell with eight different emblems is called the Vajra

Being Full Knowledge Bell (Rdor-sems Ye-shes-kyi Dril-bu).


84000 Reading Room

Antiquities of Zhang-zhung
Bibliography of the History and
Culture of the Himalayan Region
Blue Annals e-Text
Bodleian Tibetica - PDF catalog
Bodong E Monastery History
Brahmi in Socotra Caves
Curious Old Pictures
Curiously Coded Epistles
Cyberspace Revelations
Dhondup Gyal
Digitized Tibetan Books from Munich
Download Dictionaries at Archive Org
Ehrhard's Rosary of Rubies
Hopkins Tibetan-Sanskrit-English

Page 7 of 16

Tibeto-logic: The Bell and the Sound Symbols of Dharma

11/4/15, 3:29 PM

Institute of Tibetan Classics

Ladakhi Phrasebook
Lalou's Dunhuang Catalogue
Learning Amdo Dialect
Lexicon of Zhangzhung & Bonpo
Terms - PDF
Mipam's Gateway to Knowledge
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
New Horizons in Bon Studies - PDFs
Notes on Marco Polo
Raven Crest by Terrone - PDF
Recent Dissertations Reviewed
Reflections on Translation
An Old Bell in Patan Museum, Nepal

Sakya Research Center
Silk Road Project, Digital Archive -

Toyo Bunko
Social History of Tibetan Societies

Literary works
Studies in Indian Art, Vishwavidyalaya Prakashan (Varanasi 1965).
Joachim-Ernst BERENDT
Nada Brahma, the World is Sound: Music and the Landscape of
Consciousness, tr. by Helmut Bredigkeit, East-West Publications
(London 1983). This book may make you think about sound like
you never did before. Each chapter ends with footnotes to recorded
Stephan BEYER
The Cult of Tr: Magic and Ritual in Tibet, University of
California Press (Berkeley 1973).
The Enigmatic Pot, contained in: Maurizio Taddei and Giuseppe De
Marco, eds., South Asian Archaeology 1997, Serie Orientale Roma
no. 90, Istituto Italiano per lAfrica e lOriente (Rome 2000), vol. 3,
pp. 1342-1365. For a list of this author's publications in PDF, try this
The Tropology of Medieval Dedication Rites, Speculum, vol. 16, no.
4 (October 1941), pp. 469-479. Available at JSTOR through
subscribing institutions.
Yakas, Part I and Part II, Munshiram Manoharlal (New Delhi
Bzo-gnas Skra Rtsei Chu-thigs [The Arts: A Drop at the Tip of the
Brush Hairs] Krung-goi Bod-kyi Shes-rig Dpe-skrun-khang
(Beijing 1994). A modern textbook on Tibetan art history and
techniques, Drop of Liquid on the Tip of the [Brush-]hairs.
The Words of My Perfect Teacher: Kunzang Lamai Shelung,
translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, Harper Collins
(San Francisco 1994).
See Grags-pa-rgyal-mtshan.
volution du pra ghaa (vase dabondance) dans lInde et lInde
extrieure, Arts Asiatiques, vol. 1 (1954), pp. 209-226.
Rdo-rje Dril-bu dang Bgrang-phreng-gi De-kho-na-nyid [The
True Reality of Vajra, Bell and Rosary], contained in: Sa-skya-pai
Bka-bum, Toyo Bunko (Tokyo 1968), vol. 3, pp. 271-2-4 through
Venerated Objects and Symbols of Early Buddhism, contained in:
Karel Werner, ed., Symbols in Art and Religion, Motilal
Banarsidass (Delhi 1991), pp. 68-102.
Mirielle HELFFER
Notes propos dune clochette gshang: Tibet et rgions de
culture tibtaine, Objets et mondes, vol. 21, no. 3 (Autumn 1981),
pp. 129-134.
Du texte la musographie: donnes concernant la clochette
tibtaine dril-bu, Revue de musicologie, vol. 68, no. 1/2 (1982) 248269.
A Typology of the Tibetan Bell, contained in: B.N. Aziz &
M.Kapstein, eds., Soundings in Tibetan Civilization, Manohar
(N.Delhi 1985a), pp. 37-41. This is an abstract of the longer study in
French in Arts Asiatiques (see below).
Essai pour une typologie de la cloche tibtaine dril-bu, Arts
Asiatiques 40 (1985b) 53-67.

Stony Brook Fiches

Studies on the History & Literature of
Tibet & the Himalayas
TOHP - Tibetan Oral History Project
Tempangma Catalogue
Terentyev's Iconography Guide
The Rigdzin's Inscription
Tibet Journal - Special Issue
Tibeto-Burman Reproductive System
Vienna Tibet Courses 2012 PDF
Wikipedia in Tibetan


2006 (2)
2007 (17)
2008 (20)
2009 (21)
2010 (13)
2011 (19)
2012 (16)
January (1)
February (2)
March (1)
April (3)
May (2)
The Vajra in Vajrayna
The Bell and the Sound Symbols
of Dharma
June (1)
July (1)
August (1)
September (2)
October (1)
December (1)
2013 (6)
2014 (17)
2015 (12)



Rgya Bod-kyi Nor-rdzas-kyi Ris Brtags-shing Dpyad-pai Dpyad
Don Yid-kyi Dod-jo, contained in: Bzo-rig Nyer-mkho Bdams
Bsgrigs (Gangs-can Rig Mdzod series no. 14), Bod-ljongs Bod-yig
Dpe-rnying Dpe-skrun-khang (Lhasa 1990), pp. 229-262. A treatise
on how to recognize highly valued objects in Tibetan material
culture, probably composed in the fifteenth century.
Gsang-sngags Theg-pa Chen-poi Bsten-par Bya-bai Dam-rdzas
Ji-ltar Chang-bai Rnam-bshad Rnal-byor Rol-pai Dga-ston
(Feast of the Playacting Yogis: An Explanation on How to Hold the
Commitment Substances for Use in the Great Vehicle of Secret
Mantra), contained in: Mkha-gro Bde-chen-dbang-mo, et al.,
Yum-chen Kye-ma-od-mtshoi Zab Gsang Gcod-kyi Gdams-pa Las
Phran dang bcas-pai Gsung-pod, Tshering Wangyal, TBMC
(Dolanji 1974), pp. 515-599.
Eleanor OLSEN
Catalogue of the Tibetan Collection and Other Lamaist Articles in
the Newark Museum: Volume II, The Newark Museum (Newark



Orna Almogi
Claude Arpi
Claude Arpi (blog)
Pasang Yontan Arya
Jacques Bacot
Robert Barnett
Christopher I. Beckwith
Christopher I. Beckwith - Wiki
Charles Bell
John Bellezza

Page 8 of 16

Tibeto-logic: The Bell and the Sound Symbols of Dharma

11/4/15, 3:29 PM

1950, reprint 1973).


Alex Berzin - Berzin Archives

Precious Deposits: Historical Relics of Tibet, China, Morning Glory

Publishers (Beijing 2000), in five volumes.

Bhuchung Tsering
Henk Blezer
Bhikkhu Bodhi

The Rite of Church Dedication in the Early Medieval Era, The

Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston 1998).
Rong-tha Blo-bzang-dam-chos-rgya-mtsho (1863-1917), Thig-gi
Lag-len Du-ma Gsal-bar Bshad-pa Bzo-rig Mdzes-pai Kha-rgyan.
An 85-folio treatise on Buddhist sacred arts, purchased in Lhasa in
1996. The printing blocks for this edition were originally kept at
Rgyud-smad Grwa-tshang, the Lower Tantra College in Lhasa.
Veronica RONGE and N.G. RONGE
Casting Tibetan Bells, contained in: Michael Aris and Aung San Suu
Kyi, eds., Tibetan Studies in Honour of Hugh Richardson, Aris and
Phillips, Ltd. (Warminster 1980), pp. 269-276.
Anna Maria ROSSI and Fabio ROSSI

Yigal Bronner
Katia Buffetrille
Jos Cabezn
Lokesh Chandra
Geoff Childs
Choedak Rinpoche
Tsetan Chonjore
Barry Clark
Ian Coghlan
Sienna Craig

Beyond Lhasa: Sculpture and Painting from East and West Tibet
(exhibition catalogue), Anna Maria & Fabio Rossi Publications
(London 2002).

Bryan Cuevas
Olaf Czaja

Praghata et le symbolisme du lotus dans lInde, Arts Asiatique,

vol. 8, no. 3 (1961), pp. 163-194.
Responses to Various Polemical Writings, Sherab Gyaltsen Lama &
Acharya Shedup Tenzin (Rewalsar 1985).
R. Morton SMITH
Pots without Pans, contained in: Devendra Handa and Ashvini
Agrawal, Ratna-Chandrik: Panorama of Oriental Studies [Shri
R.C. Agrawala Festschrift], Harman Publishing House (New Delhi
1989), pp. 59-64.
Rten Gsum Bzhugs-gnas dang bcas-pai Bsgrub-tshul Rgyas-par
Bshad-pa Dpal-byor Rgya-mtsho. Microfilm of a 54-folio
manuscript in the possession of Gyaltsen (Swayambhunath, Nepal)
courtesy of the Nepalese National Archives (reel no. E574/29;
running no. E15094). A treatise on Buddhist sacred arts composed
in 1459.

Sarat Chandra Das

Alexandra David-Neel
Hubert Decleer
Mahinda Deegalle
Ippolito Desideri
Bart Dessein
Anagarika Dharmapala
Dragomir Dimitrov
Thierry Dodin
Gyurme Dorje
Brandon Dotson
Dorji Wangchuk - CV
Georges Dreyfus
George van Driem
Tony Duff - Padma Karpo
Franz-Karl Ehrhard
Helmut Eimer
Emily Yeh
Isrun Engelhardt

Tsong-kha-pa Blo-bzang-grags-pa (1357-1419), Rgyal-ba Khyabbdag Rdo-rje-chang Chen-poi Lam-gyis
Rim-pa Gsang-ba Kun-gyi Gnad Rnam-par
Phye-ba (=Sngags-rim Chen-mo; =Rjei
Gsung-bum Ga-pa), Tibetan Cultural Printing
Press (Dharamsala n.d.). A very famous
treatise on Buddhist tantra in general by
Tsong-kha-pa, credited with founding the Dgelugs-pa School.
Giuseppe TUCCI

Asaf Federman
Danny Fisher
Ph. Foucaux
Chris Fynn
Garchen Rinpoche
Jay L. Garfield
Holly Gayley
Gelek Rinpoche

Sadhus et brigands du Kailash: Mon voyage

au Tibet occidental, Editions R. Chabaud
(Paris 1989).

Barbara Gerke
David Germano

Symbolism of Ashokan Pillars: A Reappraisal
in the Light of Textual and Visual Evidence, Marg (Mumbai), vol.
51, no. 2 (Dec. 1999), pp. 53-78.

Peter Gold - Humane Being

Melvyn Goldstein
Richard Gombrich
Steven D. Goodman
Albert Grnwedel


Andreas Gruschke
Elio Guarisco
Kalsang Norbu Gurung


Kim Gutschow

Portland Veterinarian Sunday, June 03, 2012

awesome stuff! More power to your blog!

Janet Gyatso
Erik Haarh
Paul Hackett


Michael Hahn
Heinrich Harrer - Archive

Vandana Friday, May 02, 2014

Hanna Havnevik

very well explained, thanks for the wonderful post.

Joerg Heimbel


Ann Heirman
Amy Heller
Edward Henning - Kalacakra

Anonymous Friday, May 02, 2014

Nathan Hill


Nathan Hill 2


Gregory Hillis
Ken Holmes
Jeffrey Hopkins - Symposium

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Heinrich August Jschke
Jan Willem de Jong (1921-2000)
Wolf Kahlen
Matthew Kapstein
Karma Lekshe Tsomo

Please write what you think. But please think about what you write.
What's not accepted here? No ads, no links to ads, no back-links to
commercial pages, no libel against 3rd parties. These comments won't
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Tsering Wangdu Shakya - 1
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E.Gene Smith - The Blog
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11/4/15, 3:29 PM

Malcolm Smith - Tibetan Medicine

Jan-Ulrich Sobisch
Gesh Sopa
Per K. Srensen
Gareth Sparham
Elliot Sperling
Richard Keith Sprigg
Rolf A. Stein
Daniel Stender
Helmut Tauscher
Erwan Temple - Tibet Bibliography
David Templeman
Antonio Terrone
Sonam Thakchoe
F.W. Thomas
Bob Thurman
Tom Tillemans
Tom Tillemans - Wiki
Francis Tiso
Nicholas Tournadre
Gombojab Tsybikov
Gary Tubb
Giuseppe Tucci
Gray Tuttle
Charles van Tuyl
Glenn Wallis
Dorji Wangchuk
Cameron D. Warner
Alex Wayman
Christian Wedemeyer
Simon Wickham-Smith
Jan Willis
Daniel Winkler
Michael Witzel
Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim


ACIP - Asian Classics Input

Advanced Tibetan
Berzin Archives
Columbia Research Guide
for Modern Tibetan Studies
Digital Sanskrit Buddhist
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Iconography Guide
International Dunhuang
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Document Archive
Latse - Bya-ra Journal
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Mahvyutpatti Vocabulary
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OTDO - Old Tibetan
Documents Online
Rangjung Yeshe Wiki
Resources for Kanjur &
Tanjur Studies
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erkenntnistheoretischlogischen Schule des
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Resource Center
Thesaurus Literaturae

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THLib Tibetan &
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Tibet Encyclopedia
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UMA-Institute for Tibetan
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Universal Tibetan Font
WTN - World Tibet News
Wylie Indices (to


Ayur Vijnana
Bulletin of Tibetology
CHBJ EMSCAT - tudes mongoles
et sibriennes,
centrasiatiques et
Himalaya, Journal of the
Association for Nepal and
Himalayan Studies
Himalayan Linguistics
Himalayan Research
JIABS - J. of the
International Association
of Buddhist Studies
Journal of Bhutan Studies
Journal of Buddhist Ethics
Journal of the
International College for
Advanced Buddhist Studies
Journal of the Tibet Society
Kailash - Journal of
Himalayan Studies
Ladakh Studies
Linguistics of the TibetoBurman Area
Lungta - Amnye Machen
Pacific World
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** Stras Online
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11/4/15, 3:29 PM

Animated Architecture
Armenian Buddhism
Bajaur Manuscript Collection
Bibliography of Buddhism
Blazing Splendor
Bon Foundation
Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Chinese Sutras in English
Darjeeling, Old School Photos
Derge Printery
Dharma Download
Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar
Echoes in Exile
High Altitude Effects
Huntington Archive
In the Footsteps of Joseph Rock
Indian (& Zhang-zhung) Scripts Used
in Tibet
Indologica (New Book Notices)
Int'l Association of Buddhist Studies
Japanese Association for Tibetan
Kagyu Office
Kalacakra Calendar
Kathok Monastery
Korean Buddhist Canon
Library of Congress Tibetica
Library of Tibetan Works & Archives LTWA
Lotsawa House
Mandala Magazine (FPMT)
Namgyal Institute
National Library of Bhutan, Online
Nepal-German Manuscript Catalog
Project - NGMCP
Norbulingka - Dharamsala
Nyingma Tantras, British Library
Padmakara Translation Group
Reflections of Reflections
Rinjing Dorje - Tibetan Storyteller
Roerich Museum
Rubin Museum of Art (NYC) - RMA
Rung Mung
Sakya Resource Centre
Serajey Library - Byllakuppe
Songtsen Library - Dehra Dun
Students for a Free Tibet - SFT
Tai Situ Paintings
Telescoping Trumpets
The Tibet Album, Pitt Rivers Museum
The Worst Horse
Tibet Environmental Watch - TEW
Tibet Info Net
Tibet Maps
Tibetan Armor
Tibetan Centre for Advanced Studies Amnye Machen
Tibetan Dialects Project
Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts TIPA
Tibetan Stamp Covers
Tibetan Studies WWW Virtual Library
Translating Buddhism in Tibet
Uncle Tompa
Unseen Dharamsala
XaoS Fractal Zoomer
Zhangzhung Dictionary, Namgyal

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Tibeto-logic Archived by Wayback



Bon Bibliography
Tibschol 2010, Tibskrit 2014 &
WorldCat Search - Press here to go


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Atlanta - Emory U.
Beijing - Minzu U.
Berkeley - UCSB
Bir - Ming-tsam
Bloomington - Indiana U.
Cambridge MA - Harvard U.
Charlottesville - U. of Virginia
Dharamsala - Lotsawa Program
Hamilton - Tibetan Language
Houston - Rice University
Htenberg - I.I.H.T.S.
Ithaca (Buffalo?) - Craig Preston
Jerusalem - H.U.
Kathmandu - IBA
Kathmandu - Int'l Languages Campus
Kathmandu - RYI
Lhasa - Tibet U.
London - SOAS
Merigar - Shang Shung Institute
New Haven - Yale
New York City - Columbia
New York City - Columbia 2
Paris - CNRS
Paris - EPHE, Sorbonne
Sarnath - C.U.T.S.
St. Petersburg
Tallahassee - F.S.U.

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Copying these
words is not
acceptable. Make
links. But dont copy. No copycats. I
screen comments. Spams will never
reach them. No need to even try. No
comments with advertising links will
ever be put up. Neither will (joking
and satire aside) any personal libel,
unless its directed only at me. (For
obvious reasons, I will not put up
comments that contain email
addresses. Yes, you may send me
comments and request that they not
be posted, and yes, I will not post
them.) Except for the types just
mentioned, all comments, anonymous
comments included, are welcomed.
Anonymity (or use of monikers) will
be respected; no (serious) attempt will
be made to 'out' your 'real'-life
identity. Use obscenities and
expletives if you feel moved to or have
your reasons. I dont mind.

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