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The Four Instruments
When the Dharma ceremony is conducted in the early mornings and evenings at temples, the sounds of the four instruments are offered first of all. The four instruments, found in most temple's Bell Pavilion, are: the Dharma drum, the temple bell, the wooden fish and the cloud-shaped gong.
The Dharma drum is sounded to save all land animals. The intent is to let the sound of the drum resonate in the minds of sentient beings and awaken them to the truth of the Buddha-Dharma just as the sound of the drum reverberates and spreads far and wide. The Dharma drum is sounded with two wooden sticks beating in the shape of the Chinese character “心” which means “mind.” The temple bell is rung to save sentient beings suffering in Buddhist hell. It is also sounded to gather together sangha members for ceremonies and events and to mark special times or occasions.
The wooden fish is sounded to save fish. It is a Dharma instrument which admonishes practitioners to be constantly awake to cultivate themselves just as fish keep their eyes open day and night. The cloud-shaped gong is sounded to save all winged creatures. It is made of bronze or iron. The wooden fish and cloud-shaped gong are sounded only at the morning and evening Dharma ceremonies. They can only be found in Mahayana Buddhist temples where Buddhist ceremonies and rituals are developed.
- excerpt from Buddhist English (Elementary 2) published in 2014 by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism