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Phurba Dagger- The Tibetan Buddhist Ritual Instrument


In Sanskrit it is called the kilaya or the kila, and in Tibetan it is called the phurba, phurpa. The phurba is also called 'the magic dagger'. 'Phur' is translated from the Sanskrit 'kila' and it means peg or nail. Padmasambhava is widely assumed to have invented the phurba. Padmasambhava used the phurpa to consecrate the ground when he established the Samye monastery in the 8th century. The phurba is a three-sided stake that is used in Buddhist rituals. Because Tibet has always been a nomadic culture, the tent is an important part of Tibetan lives, and placing the tent pegs into the ground is always seen as sacrificing the ground. The shape of the phurpa may have come from the stake used to hold down tents.

The three-sided style of the phurba comes from an ancient vedic tool used to pin down sacrifices. The phurba has three segments on its blade. The three segments represent the power of the phurba to transform negative energies. These energies are known as the 'three poisons,' and are attachment, ignorance, and aversion. The three sides of the phurba also represent the three spirit worlds, and the phurba itself represents the axis of the three spirit worlds. The phurba brings the three spirit worlds together. The handle of the phurba represents 'wisdom', while the blade represents 'method'.

The phurba is often stabbed down into a bowl of rice or other grains in Tibetan rituals. Phurbas can be made from wood, bone, or metals such as copper and brass. If more than one metal is used to make a phurba, it is done in a combination of three or nine metals, which are both meaningful combinations numerically.

There are always carvings at the top of phurpas. Some popular images are skull heads or Buddha heads. Sometimes the Buddha heads come in threes to mirror the blade, so that each way the blade is turned, there is always a Buddha's head facing you.

The phurba symbolizes stability, and it is often used during ceremonies. The phurba is often used by Tantric practitioners. The phurba can also hold demons in place. Only those who are empowered to use the phurpa may use it in these rituals. The phurba can be used to tether negative energies during ceremonies, or as a stabilizer. The blade on a phurba is never sharp, it is only used as a ritual dagger, not an actual weapon.

The phurpa is also used by Dorje Phurba a.k.a. Vajrakilaya, who is the wrathful form of Vajrapani (who is one of the wrathful deities). Vajrakilaya is often seen holding the phurba on Buddhist statues and thangkas (Buddhist paintings). Vajrakilaya is a wrathful deity who removes obstacles. Vajrakilaya's consort is Khorlo Gyedunma, and she is a manifestation of the Green Tara.

Phurpas are only to be used ritualistically by Shamans or those who have been taught how to properly do so. To use the phurba, practitioners first meditate, then they recite the sadhana of the phurba, and invite the deity to enter the phurba. They then stab the phurba into the ground, or into a bowl of rice or grain, and imagine that the evil spirits or negative energies are underneath the blade. Phurpas can also be used as decoration in homes and temples, and many use phurbas as part of their meditation rooms. To see our selection of phurbas, please check out our bells, dorjes, and phurbas section.

Some of our best-selling phurbas are, the Tibetan Buddhist Three-Headed Buddha Phurba, the Tibetan Copper Brass Gold-Plated Phurba, and the Ganesh Phurba.