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Vajrapani

Vajrapani’s (Tib. Chakna Dorjé) name can be translated either as “vajra (or indestructible) hand” or “vajra-in hand”,  the “one who holds the vajra”. He appears in the Pali scriptures as well as in Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna texts.
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Vajrapani’s (Tib. Chakna Dorjé) name can be translated either as “vajra (or indestructible) hand” or “vajra-in-hand”,  the “one who holds the vajra”. He appears in the Pali scriptures as well as in Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna texts. In the Pali Ambattha Sutta, he plays a prominent role as a protector of the teaching, overpowering the bloated pride of a Brahmin. In early sutras, he appears most frequently as a yakṣa, a class of semi-divine beings that have ambiguous aims. They can either haunt or protect natural places and towns. In these depictions he acts as Buddha Śākyamuni’s bodyguard. He was sometimes identified as being a manifestation of Śakra and could appear in multiplicity as a large crowd of vajra wielding non-human beings to guard the Buddha. References to his control of the yakṣas occur in such texts as the Mahāyāna work the Ārya Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtrendrarāja Mahāyānasūtra,  the King of Glorious Sutras, the Sublime Golden Light. 

In Mahāyāna sources, he is counted among the three great bodhisattvas along with Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri. In texts such as The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities, Vajrapani is empowered and entrusted to teach by the Buddha. He instructs the audience by teaching a dharani and by advising them on correct ritual practice.

In the tantric context, Vajrapani is often referred to with the epithet ‘Lord of Secrets’. This stems from his role as the main recipient, holder, and protector of all the Tantric teachings received from the Buddha Shakyamuni (in his appearance as the Buddha Vajradhara). He belongs to the vajra family of Akshobya Buddha. In the Chokling Tersar tradition, Vajrapani is one of the three protectors of the Rigsum Nyingtik, The Heart Essence of the Enlightened Families and represent the enlightened power of all the buddhas.

An excerpt from Vajrapani’s instruction from the The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities:

“Blessed One,” said the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi,

 “I pay homage to this Dharma teaching. I will also worship those who teach it, write it down, hold it, and read it aloud. Those who worship this Dharma teaching and make offerings of clothes, ornaments, parasols, and carriages to the ones who teach it are thereby worshiping all the thus-gone ones. Blessed One, to those who worship me and all the bodhisattvas with the highest offerings, I will grant protection in every kingdom, I will fulfill all their aspirations, and I will make them venerable in every kingdom. Blessed One, I will also bestow the words of a dhāraṇī mantra for the sake of those who listen to the Dharma. I will fulfill all their aspirations. I will care for them.”

“Noble son, speak for the sake of beings!” urged the Blessed One.

The bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi then uttered the words of this dhāraṇī mantra:
namaḥ sarva­tathāgatānāṃ, namo ´mitābhāya tathāgatāya, namaḥ sarva­buddha­bodhi­sattvānāṃ, namaḥ sarva­mahārdhikebhyas. tadyathā: huhu hehe, mati mati, mahā­mati, vajra­mati, dṛḍha­vajra­mati, tathāgatānu­paripālite, sara sara, ayomukhi bhṛkuṭi, bhṛkuṭa­mukhi, kṛpe kṛpāluke, satya­vacanam anusmara, bhagavan vajra­pāṇi, sarva­karmāvaraṇāni kṣapaya, sarvāśāṃ pari­pūraya, dehi me varam buddha­satyena bodhi­sattva­satyena, svāhā.1A tentative translation of this dhāraṇī based on the Tibetan (as in the Degé Kangyur) is as follows: “Homage to all the thus-gone ones! Homage to the thus-gone Amitābha! Homage to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas! Homage to them, the possessors of great powers! It is as follows: Huhu hehe! Mind, mind, O great-minded one, vajra-minded one, steadfast vajra-minded one! You who are protected by the tathāgatas, go, go, O you who have an iron mouth, knitted eyebrows, and a frowning face, O you who have compassion and a compassionate gaze! Pay heed to these words of truth, O exalted Vajrapāṇi, destroy all karmic obscurations, fulfill all my aspirations! By the truth of the buddhas and the truth of the bodhisattvas, grant me a boon! Svāhā!” The Sanskrit version according to Criegern (2009) is as follows: namaḥ sarva­tathāgatānāṃ namaḥ amitābhāya tathāgatāya, namaḥ sarva­bodhisatvānām, namaḥ sarva­mahardhikebhyaḥ. tadyathā: huhu hehe, mati, mahā­mati, vajra­mati, dṛḍha­vajra­mati, tathāgatānu­paripālite, sara sara, ayomukhi, bhṛkuṭi, bhṛkuṭā­mukhi, kṛpe, kṛpāluke satyam anusmara bhagavan vajra­pāṇi sarva­karma kṣapaya, sarvāśāṃ pari­pūraya dehi me varaṃ buddha­satyena bodhi­satva­satyena svāhā.

The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities
Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum

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