The Crossed Vajra



An often used image, or logo in the Artist's work is the vishvavajra or ‘crossed vajra.’  This symbol has become a very personal one for Rajive, and it recurs in various different examples of his work.  Below are excerpts from Robert Beer’s The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs that explain the significance of this symbol.

THE VAJRA (Tib. rdo rje)

The vajra is the quintessential symbol of the ‘diamond vehicle’ or Vajrayana Buddhist path, becoming both its namesake and the appellation or prefix of a host of vajra-named divinities, attributes, and qualities.  The Sanskrit term vajra means ‘the hard or mighty one’, and its Tibetan equivalent dorje (Tib. rdo rje) means ‘the lord of stones’, implying an indestructible hardness and brilliance like the diamond (Tib. pha lam), the adamantine stone which cannot be cut or broken.  The vajra essentially symbolizes the impenetrable, immovable, immutable, indivisible, and indestructible state of enlightenment or Buddhahood as vajra mind.

As the adamantine sceptre of peaceful divinities and the indestructible weapon of wrathful deities, the vajra symbolizes the male principle of method or skillful means.  It is held in the right or male hand.  When coupled with the ghanta or bell – which symbolizes wisdom and is held in the left or female hand – their pairing represents the perfect union of method and wisdom, or skillful means and discriminating awareness.  As a sexual symbol, the vajra is coupled with the lotus as a metaphor for the penis and vagina.

The primordial or Adi Buddha, Vajradhara (‘the bearer of the vajra’), is regarded as the supreme dharmakaya manifestation of Shakyamuni Buddha.  Vajradhara is the primordial source from which the Five Buddha Families and all of their fivefold qualities emanate.  Vajrasattva (‘vajra-being’ or hero) and Vajrapani (‘vajra-in-hand’), are two other tantric deities that assumed pre-eminence in the early tantric transmissions.

The form of the vajra as a sceptre or a weapon appears to have its origins in the single or double trident, which arose as a symbol of the thunderbolt or lightning in many ancient civilizations of the Near and Middle East.  Occidental parallels are postulated between the meteoric hammer of the Teutonic sky-god Thor, the thunderbolt and sceptre of the Greek sky-god Zeus, and the three thunderbolts of the Roman god Jupiter.  As a hurled weapon the indestructible thunderbolt blazed like a meteoric fireball across the heavens, in a maelstrom of thunder, fire, and lightning.

The historical vajra was probably both a weapon and a sceptre.  As a weapon it could be flung or hurled, or, as interpreted by martial arts enthusiasts, it could be used in the closed fist as a ‘tantric knuckle-duster’.  As a sceptre or symbol of royalty, its arched cluster of four prongs converging on a central axis parallels the prototype for the coronation crowns of European kings, and many other royal insignia, becoming the ‘crowning glory’ on heraldic standards, emblems, and devices.


(Skt. vishvavajra; Tib. rdo rje rgya gram, sna tshogs rdo rje)

The vishvavajra, as the crossed or ‘universal’ vajra, which underlays the foundation of Mt. Meru’s universe, represents the principle of absolute stability, characterized by the solidity of the element earth.  Bodh Gaya, where Shakyamuni Buddha attained the realization of enlightened ‘vajra-mind’ (Tib. thugs rdo rje), is also known as Vajrasana (Tib. rDo rje gdan) or ‘vajra-seat’.  The posture in which he sat, and in which the vast majority of seated deities are also depicted, is known as ‘vajra-posture’ (Skt. vajraparyrika; Tib. rdo rje skyil krung) with legs crossed in the opposite manner to the Hindu ‘full-lotus’ posture of padmasana. 

The raised wooden throne on which sit high lamas, such as the Dalai Lama, is usually decorated on its front with a hanging silk brocade square which displays the vishvavajra at its center, often with four swastikas in the corners.  This emblem represents the indestructible reality of Buddha’s vajra mind as the unshakable throne or ground of enlightenment.  In the Bonpo iconographical tradition an anticlockwise swastika (Tib. g.yung drung) replaces the Buddhist vajra as a symbol of adamantine reality.  The relationship between the crossed vajra and the swastika, as stability symbols of the element earth, also finds expression in the visualization or drawing of a vishvavajra or swastika under a practitioner’s meditation seat during retreat. 

Similarly, the emblem of a crossed vajra is enscribed on the metal base that is used to seal deity statues after they have been consecrated.  If the vertical vajra represents the visualized generation of the deity, the horizontal vishvavajra represents the visualized generation of the deity’s mandala palace, symbolizing the stability of the vajra-earth upon which it rests.

Beer, R. 1999. The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs.  Shambala.