What is a dorje, and what does it mean?

Dorje is a Tibetan word. It refers to the ritual object that is held in the right hand of a Lama during various religious ceremonies. a dorje. Click to see a lama in colour with bell and dorje (31K)   If you click on this drawing you will see a colour image of Nawang Tenzing Zangpo, the Head Lama of Thyangboche monastery in the Everest region of Nepal. In front of him are bell and dorje that he is shortly to use.
Dorje is a common given-name for men in people of Tibetan culture. Hence Phu Dorje, Ang Dorje (young Dorje) and Nima Dorje (Monday Dorje) or, more usually, Dorje.

Symbolically a dorje represents the 'thunderbolt of enlightenment,' that abrupt change in human consciousness which is recognised by all the great religions as a pivotal episode in the lives of mystics and saints.
The transformative enlightenment experience is recounted in the various religions. In the Christian tradition, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus is a well known example and that of Muhammed on the mountain is fundamental to Moslem belief.
For Buddhists, it is what occurred to the historical Buddha and to all those who experience kensho-satori, the dropping away of 'self'. The Tibetans call this "the Great Death" to distinguish it from that physical one which will be the experience of us all.

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