Sunday, September 2, 2007

Vajra and Vajrayana



Vajra (Devanagari: वज्र) is a Sanskrit word meaning both thunderbolt and
diamond and is a ritual tool or spiritual implement which is symbolically
important to both Buddhism and Hinduism, but is particularly important in

The equivalent word in Tibetan is dorje (Wylie: rdo-rje; ZWPY: dojê), which is
also a common male name in Tibet and Bhutan. Dorje can also refer to a small
sceptre held in the right hand by Tibetan lamas during religious ceremonies.

Vajrasattva holds the vajra in his right hand and a bell in his left hand.

Vajra and Vajrayana

The vajra destroys all kinds of ignorance, and itself is indestructible. In
tantric rituals the Vajra symbolizes the male principle which represents method
in the right hand and the Bell symbolizes the female principle, which is held in
the left. Their interaction leads to enlightenment. Also the Dorje or Vajra
represents the "Upaya" or method Tibetans name Vajra as "Dorje". When made to be
worn as a pendant, it reminds the wearer, and the viewer, of the supreme
indestructibility of knowledge.

In Buddhism the vajra is the symbol of Vajrayana, one of the three major
branches of Buddhism. Vajrayana is translated as "Thunderbolt Way" or "Diamond
Way" and can imply the thunderbolt experience of Buddhist enlightenment or bodhi
and also implies indestructibility, just as diamonds are harder than other

Vajrasattva holds the vajra in his right hand and a bell in his left hand.In the
tantric traditions of both Buddhism and Hinduism, the vajra is a symbol for the
nature of reality, or sunyata, indicating endless creativity, potency, and
skillful activity. The term is employed extensively in tantric literature: the
term for the spiritual teacher is the vajracarya; instead of bodhisattva, we
have vajrasattva, and so on. The practice of prefixing terms, names, places, and
so on by vajra represents the conscious attempt to recognize the transcendental
aspect of all phenomena; it became part of the process of "sacramentalizing" the
activities of the spiritual practitioner and encouraged him to engage all his
psychophysical energies in the spiritual life.

An instrument symbolizing vajra is also extensively used in the rituals of the
tantra. It consists of a spherical central section, with two symmetrical sets of
five prongs, which arc out from lotus blooms on either side of the sphere and
come to a point at two points equidistant from the centre, thus giving it the
appearance of a "diamond sceptre", which is how the term is sometimes

Various figures in Tantric iconography are represented holding or wielding the
vajra. Three of the most famous of these are Vajrasattva, Vajrapani, and
Padmasambhava. Vajrasattva (lit. vajra-being) holds the vajra, in his right
hand, to his heart. The figure of the Wrathful Vajrapani (lit. vajra in the
hand) brandishes the vajra, in his right hand, above his head. Padmasambhava
holds the vajra above his right knee in his right hand.

In Hindu mythology vajra is a powerful weapon having the combined features of
sword, mace, and spear. It was created out of hard thigh bones of sage Dadhichi
who gave up his life willingly for a noble cause so that his spine could be used
to build the weapon to be used for a noble cause. This was the weapon Lord Indra
used to kill Vritrasura who had conquered heaven and terrorized gods. Due to
this supreme sacrifice sage Dadhichi became a legend.


The vajra is made up of several parts:

In the center is a sphere which represents Sunyata, the primordial nature of the
universe, the underlying unity of all things.

Emerging from the sphere are two eight petalled lotus flowers. One represents
the phenomenal world (or in Buddhist terms Samsara), the other represents the
noumenal world (or Nirvana). This is one of the fundamental dichotomies which
are perceived by the unenlightened.

Arranged equally around the mouth of the lotus are 2, 4, or 8 mythical creatures
which are called makaras. These are mythological half-fish, half-crocodile
creatures made up of two or more animals, often representing the union of
opposites, (or a harmonisation of qualities that transcend our usual

From the mouths of the makaras come tongues which come together in a point.

The five pronged vajra (with four makaras, plus a central prong) is the most
commonly seen vajra. There is an elaborate system of correspondences between the
five elements of the noumenal side of the vajra, and the phenomenal side. One
important correspondence is between the five 'poisons' with the five wisdoms.
The five poisons are the mental states that obscure the original purity of a
being's mind, while the five wisdoms are the five most important aspects of the
enlightened mind. Each of the five wisdoms is also associated with a Buddha
figure. (see also Five Wisdom Buddhas)

The following are the 5 poisons and the analogous 5 wisdoms with their
associated Buddha figures

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