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Gokoshima (Five-Pronged Vajra)

Asian Art

On View: Asian Galleries, Southwest, 2nd floor

Objects intended for ritual use by priests of Esoteric Buddhism include the bell "to awaken the seeds of enlightenment" and the weapon "to destroy human lusts and desires." Characteristically, they are executed with stylized ornamentation of scrolling lotus petals, floral scroll patterns, and auspicious Sanskrit symbols. The proper ghanta and vajra forms and decoration, along with their role in the rituals, were a matter of secret knowledge passed down from generation to generation of teacher to follower.

MEDIUM Gilt bronze
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 12th-14th century
    PERIOD Late Heian Period to Kamakura Period
    DIMENSIONS 1 3/4 × 1 3/4 × 7 5/8 in. (4.4 × 4.4 × 19.4 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Asian Galleries, Southwest, 2nd floor
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Bernice and Robert Dickes
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Gokoshima (Five-Pronged Vajra), 12th-14th century. Gilt bronze, 1 3/4 × 1 3/4 × 7 5/8 in. (4.4 × 4.4 × 19.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Bernice and Robert Dickes, 71.165. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 71.165_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 71.165_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Vajra ritual object Double five-pronged vajra (go-ko) with three flames on each prong except central one. Central grip consists of two bands of bound lotus petals. Vajra is a Sanskrit term for a lightning bolt. It is carried as a weapon by various Hindu and Buddhist deities. In esoteric Buddhism, the vajra is a central emblem because the pure energy of lightning delivers a swift, powerful, and precise blow that shatters what it touches, much as enlightenment can deliver a swift, powerful, and precise blow that shatters ignorance and other forces of darkness. In ancient India, the vajra was depicted as a forked weapon. The more elaborate form shown here developed later in India and became the standard depiction of the vajra throughout Buddhist Asia. Condition: Good, except has been cleaned recently (patina removed)
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