Vajra

vajra

Vajra [vuhj-ruh] is a Sanskrit word meaning both thunderbolt and diamond. It is a short metal weapon – originally a kind of fist-iron like Japanese yawara – that has the symbolic nature of a diamond (it can cut any substance but not be cut itself) and that of the thunderbolt (irresistible force). The vajra is believed to represent firmness of spirit and spiritual power. It is a ritual tool or spiritual implement which is symbolically used by Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, all of which are traditions of Dharma. 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. It also implies indestructibility, just as diamonds are harder than other gemstones.

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 petaled 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 two, four, or eight 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 experience). From the mouths of the makaras come tongues which come together in a point.

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