Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Ringing Staff (Khakkhara)

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Video: Ringing Staff

The ringing staff is part of the possessions of a Buddhist monk. The code of conduct and the articles of clothing and belongings are stipulated in the Vinaya sutra literature. The most apparent objects of a monk are the patch-work robes, the black begging bowl and the ringing staff (Khakkhara).

The meaning of the staff is discussed in the two sutras that are listed and linked immediately below. The staff has very practical uses such as alerting animals of the prescience of a monk in the vicinity and encouraging animals and insects to make way on a walking path. There are also many abstract mnemonic meanings based on the physical characteristics of the staff. This type of mnemonic strategy can also be seen played out in the biography and songs of Milarepa where ordinary objects are used as the foundation for an impromptu teaching.

The most prominent figures to hold the staff are Shariputra and Maudgalyayana who are generally depicted in a standing posture to the right and left sides of Shakyamuni Buddha in both painting and sculptural arrangements.

In Buddhism, deities typically do not carry the staff although in the Bon religion Powari, a protector deity, of Menri Mountain behind the Menri Monastery in Tsang, Tibet.

Jeff Watt 12-2020

The Noble Sūtra on the Ringing Staff. (འཕགས་པ་འཁར་གསིལ་གྱི་མདོ། ’phags pa ’khar gsil gyi mdo). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.

The Rite for the Protocols Associated with Carrying the Ringing Staff. (འཁར་གསིལ་འཆང་བའི་ཀུན་སྤྱོད་པའི་ཆོ་ག). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.