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.
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