Vajrapani was a Boddhisattva who represents the energy of the enlightened mind. Boddhisattvas are beings who work for the enlightenment of not just themselves but of all others. They are venerated and are called upon for help during times of need. They are said to be the epitome of compassion and wisdom. The four pledges that a Boddhisattva generally takes are-
1.To learn the truth and teach others
2.To save all beings from difficulties
3.To destroy all evil passions
4.To lead all beings to Buddhahood
If a Boddhisattva crosses the threshold into enlightenment himself he would no longer be reborn and will not be able to help other beings. Thus he pauses on the brink, turns back and voluntarily takes rebirth to help others.
Meaning and Iconography
Vajrapani is a Boddhisattva who is usually depicted blue in colour and holds a Vajra or a thunderbolt in his right hand. Vajrapani means ‘Wielder of the Thunderbolt’. It indicates the power to cut through the darkness of delusion. The image of Vajrapani is sometimes seen as wrathful but he is completely free from anger and hatred. He is pictured dancing wildly within flames which represent the transformative power of Awakening. In his left hand he holds a lasso with which to bind demons. He wears a loin cloth made up of tiger’s skin and his left knee holds the head of the tiger. He wears a serpent necklace around his neck. His posture is generally that of a warrior. He wears a five pointed Boddhisattva crown symbolising the power of the five Buddhas and has a third eye. In some cases he is depicted as wearing a skull crown.
Vajrapani in mythology
According to mythology, Vajrapani is said to have his roots in Indra the God of thunder and the leader of Gods and is thus connected to Jupiter and Zeus who like Indra all represent the same thunderbolt wielding sky deity. The earlier form of Vajrapani is not wrathful and images of him are that of a powerful, semi naked muscular figure with similarities to Hercules the Greek God. He is even considered to be a manifestation of the war deity Kartikeya or Skanda who also wields a Vajra and has a flaming halo in Indian mythology.
Vajrapani represents the energy, power and fearlessness of the Buddha. He is one of the three protective deities surrounding the Buddha, the other two being Avalokiteshwara and Manjushri. Since he is said to be responsible for transmitting tantras to the human realm, he is also referred to as the ‘Lord Of Secrets’(Guhyapati).
Vajrapani is said to be the Patron saint of the Shaolin Monastery with the story of the Shaolin monk Sengchou praying to Vajrapani and gaining fighting prowess and supernatural strength.
Names of Vajrapani in other Countries
Sanskrit- Vajrapani or Vajra-Sattva
Japan- Kongo Shu Bosatsu or Wairaoneisa or Bajarahaji
Korea-Geumgang Su Bosal or Balsarapani
China-Jingang Shou Pusa or Heyiluohuanyuecha or Basheluoboni
Vietnam-Kim Cuong Thu Bo Tat or Bat Xa La Ba Ni or Hoa Di La Hoan Duyet Xoa
Mongolia-Ochirvaani or Bazarvaani
The mantra associated with Vajrapani is Om Vajrapani Hum Phat and the seed syllable is Hum.
Prayers to him make one invincible to any attacks from men and ghosts and assures one of Vajrapani’s protection. Vajrapani symbolizes persevering and unrelenting effectiveness in the conquest of negativity. He is the remover of obstacles and grave illnesses are combated by the power of his name.
It is said that when Buddha was giving sermons, his jealous cousin Devadatta rolled a large boulder from atop the hill and it was Vajrapani who jumped in front of it, splitting it into two which harmlessly fell to the sides protecting Lord Buddha.
Vajrapani is a bodhisattva who has two faces. In one he is denoted as peaceful and in the other he is said to have a wrathful image which is the more popular and known image. In spirituality, the form and image is of no consequence and prayer to him is said to give courage, heal illnesses and remove negativity. Great beings like him live on earth only to redeem mankind from suffering and help them to transcend the eternal cycles of birth and death.