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Buddhist Deity: Vajrasattva

By Devik Balami at
Buddhist Deity Vajrasattva

Vajrasattva is a Buddhist deity or Bodhisattva in the Mahayana Buddhism, and Vajrayana Buddhism. The name Vajrasattva means "Diamond Being" or simply "Thunderbolt Being", and in other words, vajra is closely related to tantric Buddhism, often called as the Tantric Buddhist Being. This Buddhist deity is majorly mentioned in two of the most popular Sutra: Mahavairocana Sutra and Vajrasekhara Sutra.

As mentioned in the first chapter of the Mahavairocana Sutra, the people were very enthusiastic about learning the Dharma from Vairocana Buddha. These people were led by the Vajrasattva. At the moment, Vajrasattva asks about the cause, goal, and foundation of all-embracing wisdom thus leading to the philosophical discourse by the Vairocana Buddha. During the discourse, the people weren't able to comprehend the teaching, so the Buddha demonstrates the use of mandala. Another question that was asked by Vajrasattva was why rituals and objects are needed if the truth is beyond form? In reply Vairocana Buddha said that these are expedient means to bring practitioners to experience awakening more readily.

Vajrasattva in different sect. of Buddhism

Newar Buddhism

Vajrasattva is an important icon in the Newar Buddhism which is followed by the Vajracharya of the Kathmandu Valley. Vajrasattva represents the ideal guru and is frequently invoked in the guru mandala, the foundational ritual for all other Newar Buddhist rituals and the daily puja for Newar priests.

Shingon Buddhism

In this sect. of Buddhism, Vajrasattva is traditionally viewed as the second patriarch. According to Kukai's writings in the record of the Dharma Transmission, he relates a story based on Amoghavajra's account that Nagarjuna met Vajrasattva in an iron tower in southern India. As mentioned in the Mahavairocana Sutra, Vajrasattva initiated Nagarjuna into the abhiseka ritual and entrusted him with the esoteric he had learned from Vairocana Buddha.

Tibetan Buddhism

In Tibetan Buddhism, the Vajrasattva root tantra is Dorje Gyan or Vajra Ornament. Vajrasattva practices are common to all of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and are used both to purify obscurations so that the Vajrayana student can progress beyond Ngondro practices to the various yoga practices of tantra and also purify any broken Samaya vows after initiation. Therefore, it is believed that the Vajrasattva practice is an essential element of Tibetan Buddhist practice. The Vajrasattva practice is not only bound to personal practice, it is also regarded as having the ability to purify karma, bring peace, and cause enlightened activity in general.

Hundred Syllable Mantra

In Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist practice, Vajrasattva is used in the Ngondro or preliminary practices prior to undertaking more advanced tantra techniques. This is mainly because to purify the mind's defilements. The yik gya, the Hundred Syllable Mantra of Vajrasattva, approaches universality in the various elementary Ngondro sadhana for sadhakas of all Mantrayana and Sarma schools bar the Bonpo.

The evocation of the Hundred Syllable Vajrasattva Mantra in the Vajrayana lineage of Jigme Linpa's ngondro from the Longchen Nyingtig displays Sanskrit-Tibetan hybridization. Such textual and dialectical diglossia is evident from the earliest transmission of tantra into the region, where the original Sanskrit phonemes and lexical items are often orthographically rendered in the Tibetan, rather than the comparable indigenous terms. Though Jigme Lingpa didn't compose the Hundred Syllable Mantra, his scribal style bears a marked similarity to it as evidenced by his biographies. Jigme Lingpa as pandit which in the Himalayan context denotes an indigenous Tibetan versed in Sanskrit often wrote in a hybridized Sanskrit-Tibetan diglossia.

Vajrasattva's Consorts

In Buddhist arts, Vajrasattva is often portrayed with various consorts. Among them, the peaceful ones are Vajragarvi or Vajrasattvatmika, Dharmadhatvishvari, Ghantapani and the most wrathful one are Diptacakra, Vajratopa, and Vajrabhrikuti.