Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sacred object: The thunderbolt diamond

Vajrasattva holds the vajra in his right hand and a bell in his left hand.
Vajra is a Sanskrit word meaning both thunderbolt and diamond and refers to a symbol important to both Buddhism and Hinduism, but is particularly important in Buddhism. The equivalent word in Tibetan is dorje (Wylie: rdo-rje; ZWPY: dojê), which is also a common male name in Tibet and Bhutan.

637 AD tale of diamond throne Chinese pilgim Huen-tsang's ( also konw Xuan Zang and Hieun Tsang) records from his 637 AD visit to the location of of Siddartha Gautoma's efforts to attain Enlightenment. The future Buddha was warned by a god on Pragbodhi Hill, near Bodhgaya, that if he attempted meditation at that place the earth would open up and the mountain would fall on top of him. When he tried another place on the same mountain he was told by yet another god that 'This is not the place for a Tathagata to perfect supreme wisdom. From here south west, not far from the place of penance, is a pipal tree under which is a diamond throne, a vajrasana. All the past Buddhas seated on this throne have obtained true enlightenment and so will those yet to come. Pray then, proceed to that spot.' He found that spot about three kilometres south of Pragbodhi Hill.More

Supreme indestructibility of knowledge: Dorje can also refer to a small sceptre held in the right hand by Tibetan lamas during religious ceremonies. The vajra destroys all kinds of ignorance, and itself is indestructible. In tantric rituals the Vajra symbolizes the male principle which represents method in the right hand and the Bell symbolizes the female principle, which is held in the left. Their interaction leads to enlightenment. Also the Dorje or Vajra represents the "Upaya" or method Tibetans name Vajra as "Dorje". Made to be worn as a pendant, it reminds the wearer, and the viewer, of the supreme indestructibility of knowledge. 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 and also implies indestructibility, just as diamonds are harder than other gemstones.

What the Varja means: 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 petalled 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.

Makaras - fish monster and zodiacal sign Capricorn Arranged equally around the mouth of the lotus are 2, 4, or 8 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. (Described as a marine monster, horned shark, or dolphin. Makara is also the name of the zodiacal sign Capricorn).

Makaras in Nepal: "He is the riding animal of Varuna. Varuna Deva is also one of the powerful deities representing the lord of water element. He is generally presented as white in colour. He sits on a Makara. He has the colour of lotus. He holds the invincible noose and a conch in his hands. He is adorned with the serpent’s hood over his head. It is said in the Guna Karanda Vyuha Sutra, that Varuna emerged from the knees of Arya Avalokiteshvara and instructed
that he should protect the sentient beings by bestowing Amrita or nectar or pure water. Being the lord of the underworld, lord of Nagas, he should bestow riches of the underworld to the people and protect the dharma. Avalokiteshvara instiucted, ‘If you perform Bodhicarya as I mention, you will definitely acquire tremendous merits and will attain Buddhahood in the future’. In reply Varuna Deva promised to act accordingly".More

Deities of eight Directions In Nepalese Buddhist tradition, in the Guru mandala rite the offerings are also made to Varuna deva in the group of eight. i.e. the deities of eight Directions.

Makaras in PersiaA noteworthy variant of the Manu legend, with a closer parallel to the Alexander and Qur’anic versions with respect to the dessication of the ‘fish’ occurs in Jaimimya Brahmana, in. 193, and Pancavimsa Brahmana, xiv. 5. 15; here Sarkara, the ‘sisumara’, refuses to praise Indra, Parjanya therefore strands him on dry land and dries him up with the north wind (the cause of the desiccation of the fish is thus indicated). Sarkara then finds a song of praise for Indra, Parjanya restores him to the ocean (as does Khizr, though unintentionally, in the Qur’anic version), and by the same laud Sarkara attains heaven, becoming a constellation. There can be no doubt that the constellation Capricornus, Skr. makara, makarasi, is intended. Makara, jhasa, and sisumara are thus synonymous;[22] and this Indian Leviathan clearly corresponds to the kar-fish, ‘greatest of the creatures of Ahuramazda’, who swims in Vourukasha, guarding the Haoma tree of life in the primordial sea (Bundahis, XVIII; Yasna, XLII. 4, etc.); and to the Sumerian goat-fish, the symbol and sometimes the vehicle of Ea, god of the waters (Langdon, Semitic Mythology, pp.105-6).

Mysterious sea creature holds up vajra: That in the late Indian iconography Khizr’s vehicle is an unmistakable fish, and not the crocodilian makara, need not surprise us, for other instances of the alternative use of makara and ‘fish’ could be cited from Indian iconographic sources; in some early representations, for example, the river-goddess Ganga is shown supported by a maker, but in the later paintings by a fish. In Bhagavad Gita, X. 31, Krsna is jhasanam makarah, the makara is therefore regarded as the foremost amongst the jhasas, or monsters of the deep. The word makara occurs first in Vajasaneyi Samhita, XXIV. 35; simsumara in Rg Veda, I. 116. 18. More( Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, “What is Civilisation” and Other Essays, (Cambridge: Golgosova Press, 1989) pp. 157-167.)

The five pronged vajra (with four makaras, plus a central prong) is the most commonly seen vajra. There is an elaborate system of correspondences between the five elements of the noumenal side of the vajra, and the phenomenal side. One important correspondence is between the five 'poisons' with the five wisdoms. The five poisons are the mental states that obscure the original purity of a being's mind, while the five wisdoms are the five most important aspects of the enlightened mind. Each of the five wisdoms is also associated with a Buddha figure.


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