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Vajrasattva Purification

Page history last edited by samantha.feld@... 14 years, 3 months ago


Sanskrit: वज्रसत्त्व, Tibetan: རྡོ་རྗེ་སེམས་དཔའ། - Short form is "dorsem" རྡོར་སེམས





Myths and Rituals


What Principle does this bodhisattva represent? How is it conveyed in the methodology?

 Vajrasattva represents the principle of purification and is a supreme Buddhist deity who delineates the purity of the enlightened mind. He manifests the purity of speech, mind and body of all Buddhas. He encompasses the ability to extinguish spiritual impurities such as negative karmic forces and tendencies in an effort to help sentient beings to a better rebirth or to reaching enlightenment. It is thought that visualizing Vajrasattva melting into ones body one will become inseparable with Vajrasattva’s pure body, mind and speech. His healing power is incredibly powerful and indestructible. In methodology and iconography he is typically seen as the minds pure essence and is always holding a thunderbolt (vajra) and a hand bell (ghanta). The thunderbolt (symbolic of a diamond) held in his right hand is a spiritual tool with the ability to cut any substance yet it cannot be cut itself. This insinuates the indestructible purity that Vajrasattva embodies. The hand bell (ghanta) in his left hand is symbolic of wisdom and compassion and the unity of the two, which is essential to reaching enlightenment. 

(written by: Jenny Lee) 


 Mantra or Prayer associated


Vajrasattva practice is a tantric meditation done for the purification of karma. The practice of purification is applied by using the Four Opponent powers of the Vajrasattva:  The Power of Regret, The Power of Reliance, The Power of Antidote and the Power of Promise.  Vajrasattva is associated with the hundred syllable mantra.  It is a chanting which is used in rituals of purification especially in funerals.  There is also a short version of the Vajrasattva mantra seen below.


The mantra associated with Vajrasattva is as follows:


om vajrasattva samaya manu palaya/ vajrasattva deno patita/ dido may bhawa/ suto kayo may bhawa/ supo kayo may bhawa/ anu rakto may bhawa/ sarwa siddhi mempar yatsa/ sarwa karma su tsa may/ tsitam shriyam kuru hum/ ha ha ha ha ho/ bhagawan/ sarwa tatagata/ vajra ma may mu tsa/ vajra bhawa maha samaya sattva/ ah hum pey


(written by Lindsey Herron)


In what other ways do Buddhas pay homage to this figure or request assistance?

Vajrasattva's assistance is also requested during confession. "Any negative action can be purified through confession:  "there is no harmful act that cannot be purified through confession".  However "purification only takes place when you confess sincerely in the right way" that is by first arousing bodhicitta -- that is, focusing with pure intention the desire to aid sentient beings to attain enlightenment without exception.  This True Aspiration is, in itself,  a purifier of  all past misdeeds." His assistance is requested in this instance because he represents purification, which is the essence of confessing.


The assistance of Vajrassattva is also requested in current events. In regards to Vajrasattva's ability to 'purify karma, bring peace, and cause enlightened activity', The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche announced a project called, Prayer 4 Peace following the September 11th attacks on the United States. The purpose was to accumulate one billion six syllable Vajrasattva recitations by practitioners around the world. "The six syllable mantra (OM VAJRASATTVA HUM), is a less formal version of the one hundred syllable mantra on which it is based but contains the essential spiritual points of the longer mantra." Below is a version of the 100 syllable mantra according to He Tsewang Seetar. 

O Vajrasattva: 

Guard and protect my commitments.

O Vajrasattva, help me be strong. 

Be my constant support.

May I ever be pleasing to you.

May you ever be happy with me. 

Hold me in your affectionate regard.


Help me attain all sublime accomplishments. 

Help me to act virtuously always,

and to purify my mind. 


Hum! [invocation to and delight in, the Five Buddha Families and symbolizes: care,  compassion, joy, equanimity.]

O Lord, 

Vajra of All Tathagathas,

Never abandon me, Eternal Vajra,

Great Embodiment of commitment.

[So might it be, So might it endure, So might it remain.]




                                                                              (Melissa Hagan)





What ways does this Mahayana figure fulfill the bodhisattva vow of benefiting all sentient beings? 

Negative karma can ripen into an aftermath or rebirth that entails more suffering or may even result in rebirth into a lower realm. Vajrasattva recognized that sentient beings suffer as a result of their negative karma so he made a vow to free all sentient beings of their negative karma through his purification powers.  One can purify karma from past as well as present lives and ultimately eliminate the possibility of the negative karma causing a worse rebirth. This may even lead some to enlightenment or at least enhance their esoteric practice. 

(Jenny Lee) 


How many myths can you find about this figure?

     Myth #1: The manifestation of Vajrasattva (Nepal): A lotus flower of precious jewels appeared on the summit of the mountain which is the center of the universe, and above it arose a moon crescent upon which "supremely exalted," Vajrasattva was seated. 

     Myth #2: Vajrasattva is the emanation of Rahula who is the physical son of Buddha Shakyamuni. It has been said that when Rahula came to realize the true nature of reality and became a Buddha, the form in which he appeared as a Buddha is Vajrassatva. 

     Myth #3:  A young prince who had been banished from his homeland slowly comes to realize that he is lost and, with help from his father, returns to his country and his royal heritage

     Myth #4: The Return Journey- A young man leaves his father's house and goes from place to place trying to find work wherever he is able to. This journey lasts many years and he travels to several distant countries. Unfortunately, he is always poor, surviving on the most menial work. In the meantime, his father has been gaining a great fortune and so he really wants to find his son so that he can share his happiness with him. Many years have passed and the son, while he is wandering, finds himself at a great mansion and sees a man sitting outside displaying his wealth through his fashion. The young man starts to leave, but the rich man, who happens to be his father, sees that this is his son and sends messengers after him but he runs away from them, believing he is in trouble. The rich man realizes that his son is scared of rich people so he sends servants dressed in old clothes to see him. They offer him a job working on the grounds of the mansion and the son accepts. As he works he gradually becomes promoted and finally becomes the rich man's steward and treasurer. It is at this point that the rich man reveals to him that he is his father, and that all of his wealth is his son's inheritance. (Samantha Feld)






Are myths associated with different images and iconography?

The Vajra: The myth is that it destroys all kinds of ignorance and is indestructible.

Clothing: The fine silk and jewels that he wears in images represent him as a prince, which is from the myth that he is a young, wealthy prince.  (Samantha Feld) 







This is am image of Vajrasttva representing purification.  He has about four inches above his head and an open white lotus upon which is a moon disc. Vajrasattva is seated upon this. His body is made of white light and adorned with beautiful ornaments and clothes of celestial silk. His two hands are crossed at his heart; the right holds a vajra, the left holds a bell. At his heart is a moon disc with the seed syllable HUM at its center and the letters of Vajrasattva's hundred-syllable mantra standing clockwise around its edge.

(Image by Lindsey Herron)






This is a statue of the bodhisattva Vajrasattva in his standard pose. He is seated in the lotus position (legs crossed) holding a thunderbolt (vajra) tight to his heart with his right hand while his left hand rests near his waist holding a bell (ghanta). The vajra and the ghanta represent indestructible purity, compassion and wisdom, necessary for attaining enlightenment. He is adorned in elaborate ornaments, for instance he is wearing an urna, which is a sign of illumination. He is also wearing a crown, large earrings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. His elongated ear lobes suggest royalty. He is probably sitting in the Diamond Realm which is a metaphysical realm inhabited by the Buddhas of wisdom.  Statues such as this one where probably used for worship of this bodhisattva. Since he is a force of purification Buddhists use Vajrasattva's purification practices in hopes of eliminating their karmic negativities. The statue is likely of Pala art influence possibly dating back to the 11thcentury. 

  • (Jenny Lee)




 Although the actual image of Vajrasattva is very small, this piece is significant because of the spacing and what it represents. Derived from the Yoga Tantras is the idea of the 'Universal Solitary Ruler'. This represents Vajrasattva being the inner form of the buddha, Vajradhara. It also represents all the peaceful buddhist families. Buddha Vajradhara's 100 syllable mantra and it's practice is central to Vajrayana Buddhism. Below you can find and listen to a youtube version of the mantra.

In the middle of the painting is an image of Vajrasattva. His sitting position is peaceful. In his right hand, which is held near the heart, is an upright Vajra scepter. The Vajra scepter is a symbol of the Vajra family. In his left hand he is holding an upturned bell with a Vajra handle, which is held against his left hip. The upturned bell with the Vajra handle symbolizes enlightenment. He is sitting in the Vajra posture, with one leg crossed over the other above a Lotus.

The image in the upper left depicts Shakyamuni Buddha in the middle of a circular pavilion filled with 10 forms of Vajrasattva. In the upper right, the Buddha Tara sits with 10 forms of Vajrasattva in attendance. The rest of the painting is filled with 1500 other forms of Vajrasattva arranged evenly apart in rows.

The painting style is 'tsal thang'. Painting on a red vermilion background, the details are executed with fine gold lines.



Youtube video:



                    • (Melissa Hagan)






This image is a Thangka, a Tibetan silk painting with embroidery, of Vajrasattva. He is usually represented as white in color as he is here. He is sitting cross-legged on a moon disk seat above the multi-colored lotus throne. The posture he is sitting in is known as the vajra posture. The gesture he is making is his palm is upward across his chest. His clothing consists of fine silks and he is richly adorned with gold and jewels in the form of a crown, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. The headdress he is wearing is symbolic of his complete enlightenment as well as salvation of all beings. He holds a vajra in his right hand, which is held to the heart as well as an upturned bell in his left hand, which is resting on his left thigh. The vajra is symbolic of great bliss and the bell is symbolic of the wisdom of emptiness. Together, the vajra and the bell signify Vajrasattva’s attainment of the enlightened state, the inseparable unity of the wisdom and form bodies. The ancillary figure in this image is Sattvavajri, the female wisdom aspect who is also known as “Adamantine Womb.” She is ornamented and dressed similarly to her male aspect, Vajrasattva. She is holding a skullcup in her left hand. Her and Vajrasattva are embracing in the “bonded-union” position. This physical union is the joining of wisdom and compassion and is thereby full enlightenment.  The image as a whole is meditated upon with the male as skillful means and compassion and the female as wisdom and final attainment. The story that this image tells is of a young man in the prime of his life who has all the silks and jewels of a wealthy prince.

            This image is used for meditation. While in meditation, one envisions the embracing as well as a small moon disk in the heart-mind of Vajrasattva-Sattvavajri. On the moon disk is the blue or white bija letter HUM. From this emerges the mantra of Vajrasattva-Sattvavajri. The art of making Thangka’s is believed to create merit for the artist as well as others, which is another purpose this image serves. (Samantha Feld)

Huntington, John C., and Dina Bangdel. The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art. Serindia Publications, 2003. Google Books. Google. Web. <http://books.google.com/books?id=l3KmWbcq5foC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false>.





Comments (3)

sushupta.srinidhi@... said

at 9:46 am on Apr 10, 2010

The alignment of the work was a little weird, but the information was consise and through...I definitly learnt something from this page!

Henry said

at 12:56 pm on Apr 17, 2010

This article covers most of the essential points especially symbolism, myth, mantras, and Vajrasattva’s soteriological role. My primary critique regards significant redundancy. The symbolism of the vajra and bell is referred to continually. I would suggest tying the piece together more, although every section is written by a different person there is no need for so much repetition. Another point; more elaboration on certain myths would be helpful, for example in myths #3&4 it is unclear what role Vajrasattva plays. I enjoyed reading the section on repentance and this could be connected to the first of the Four Powerful Opponents. As for the Four Powerful Opponents more could be said. For instance, the third is explicitly associated with reliance on the Three Jewels and the arousal of bodhicitta. The imagery you have chosen is fantastic as are the invocation of contemporary examples of the bodhisattva’s efficacy in prayer and translations of mantras directed to him. Overall you have an excellent start that needs some polishing.

Henry said

at 2:04 pm on Apr 17, 2010

Grade: 4.0

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