TheVajra is the symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism, which derives its name from the vajra itself. The Sanskrit term vajra means 'the hard or mighty one', and in Tibet the equivalent dorje means an indestructible hardness and brilliance like the diamond, which cannot be cut or broken. The vajra essentially symbolizes the impenetrable, immovable, immutable, indivisible, and indestructible state of enlightenment or Buddhahood.
The form of the vajra as a scepter or a weapon appears to have its origin in the single or double trident, which arose as a symbol of the thunderbolt or lightning in many ancient civilizations of the Near and Middle East. Parallels are postulated with the meteoric hammer of the Teutonic sky-god Thor, the thunderbolt and scepter of the Greek sky-god Zeus, and the three thunderbolts of the Roman god Jupiter. As a hurled weapon the indestructible thunderbolt blazed like a meteoric fireball across the heavens, in a maelstrom of thunder, fire and lightning.
In ancient India, the vajra, has a chief weapon a thunderbolt, this was used by the Vedic sky-god Indra. This god controlled the forces of thunder and lightning, breaking open the monsoon storm clouds, bringing the welcome rains to the parched plains of an Indian summer. The weapon was according to legend, fashioned from the bones of the great Rishi Dadhichi, who was decapitated by Indra in sacrifice in order to make this awesome weapon with his 'indestructible' skull-bones he gave Indra the most powerful of weapons. With its energy he slew uncountable numbers of his enemy demons. It was shaped either like a circular discus with a hole at its center, or in the form of a cross with transverse bladed bars. Its appearance was that of a notched metal club with a thousand open prongs.
The Buddhist vajra also have such a powerful weapon but this is represented with one to nine prongs. It has a central shaft that is pointed at each end. The middle section consists of two lotuses these spring at each end. Together with the projecting and pointed central shaft, each end thus becomes seven pronged. The outside six prongs face inwards towards the central prong. Each of these outside prongs arise from the heads of makaras, mythical crocodiles these face outwards. The mouths of the makaras are wide open and the prongs emanate from the mouth like tongues of flame.
It is two-sided but the vishvavajra or the double thunderbolt has four heads representing the four dhyani Buddhas of the four directions namely, Amoghasiddhi for north, Akshobhya, who presides over the east, Ratnasambhava, lord of the south, and Amitabha who reigns over the west. It is the emblem of the crossed vajra that is inscribed upon the metal base that is used to seal deity statues after they have been consecrated.
The vajra is indeed the most important ritual implement and symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism. It is so important that many of the Vajrayana deities have the word vajra prefixed to their names, two of them being Vajradhara and Vajrasattva. When used in ritual, the vajra is paired with the bell. It represents the masculine principle and is held in the right hand, the bell, held in the left hand, represents the female principle.
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