Vajra is a symbolic ritual tool that is used in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism to represent
the unyielding power of spirit. It is a Sanskrit word that means ‘thunderbolt’. Vajra is a
classic symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism, one of the 3 main branches of the religion. Its Tibetan
equivalent is Dorje. Dorje symbolizes the striking and irresistible force that leads to an abrupt
transformation in human consciousness resulting in the attainment of enlightenment. Thus, the
Vajra is essentially representative of the powerful, indestructible, indomitable, impenetrable,
immutable, enduring and eternal state of enlightenment.
In Buddhist iconography, the Vajra or Dorje wielded by a deity or teacher symbolizes the
resolve to apply the ultimate solution, which is Dharma. The chief deities that are associated
with this scepter are Vajrapani, Vajradhara, Vajrasattva, Vajrakali, Vajravidarana and Hevajra.
The Vajra has a sphere in the center that signifies ‘shunyata’ or the actual reality, the unity
underlying everything in the universe. Two 8-petaled lotuses are placed at either side of the
sphere, representing the phenomenal and the noumenal worlds. Arranged on top of the lotus
flowers are the heads of sea monsters and coming out of them are tongues that meet at a point
where a central prong also culminates. In totality, the two faces of Vajra scepter are symbolic of
the unity of the relative and the absolute truth.
There are several variations of Vajra, depending on the number of spokes or prongs that may
be three, five or nine. The spokes may join at the tip or be slightly splayed. The closed Vajra is
considered a peaceful and benign tool, an embodiment of compassion; whereas the open Vajra
is considered wrathful and wielded by deities to express righteous anger.