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Zen bell . . . The "great" bell . . . why is it rung that many times ?

I’ll be joining some friends and attending a Zen meditation retreat soon. Part of the experience there will be them ringing what they call the ‘ Great Bell ‘. It is rung a very specific number of times. Do you know why it is rung that many times ? Just wondering ?
I’d heard that the ‘ great bell ‘ is rung 108 times. Reason for that number of rings ?


  1. I have heard of an annual ritual where it is rung once for every human vice to ward off the spirits that encourage those vices.
    I will ring your doorbell and run away!!!
    No pun intended there.

  2. Work as meditation happens when the work you are doing is very simple and repetitive, and it can involve an actual meditation practice that you do as you are working–like being aware of your hands and feet, or of your tool as it moves, or of the rhythm of your movements in the work. Most physical work involves some sense of rhythm or timing. When you can enter into this timing and flow with it, you can work very efficiently and at the same time be very relaxed. You enter into something bigger than the thoughts inside your head or your distractions and complaints. Work as meditation can also involve periodic pauses during the work to recollect yourself–to go to your breath, or stop for a moment to come back to the present if your mind is wandering. In some of our work places we have the custom of striking a bell every now and then to bring us back. Just as in zazen, you can be aware of your mind as you work and keep trying to bring it back to the task at hand all the time, even when there is no bell or no special pause.


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