Tibetan Buddhist Deity Vajrasattva - Holder of Thunderbolt and Bell

Tibetan Buddhist Deity Vajrasattva - Holder of Thunderbolt and Bell


Long, long ago, before the idea called history evolved, there existed a sexless entity called the Adi-Buddha or Primordial Buddha. From 'Him' emerged the duality which was to be the potential progenitor of all creation. This dual element is visualized in Buddhist aesthetics either as the deity Vajrasattva or Vajradhara . The significant characteristic common to them are the bell (female) and thunderbolt (male), which they hold in their hands. These deities are believed to be two expressions of the same principle, and the wellspring of all creation.

At the center of the artwork is Vajrasattva, seated in padmasana on a high, multi-pedestal floating lotus throne. Sattva means a 'sentient being,' and vajra of course is the quintessential symbol of Tibetan Buddhism, representing its indestructible power. His right hand holds a five-pronged vajra, which symbolizes the five Dhyani Buddhas. Here it is interesting to observe that Vajrasattva is considered by some to be the sixth Dhyani Buddha and the priest of the group. His left hand is placed on the corresponding thigh, holding a vajra-ghanta (bell). When paired with each other, these two ritual implements take on an added significance. The vajra represents the compassion of the Buddha, the masculine principle; and the bell symbolizes wisdom, the female principle. To achieve creative enlightenment, these two elements must be combined. The bell is visualized as the Buddha's body, the vajra as his mind. The sound of the bell is believed to be the Buddha's speech in teaching of the dharma.

During meditation on Vajrasattva, a vajra is placed on the chest of the practitioner, meaning that Vajrasattva is brought to the meditator, and they become one and inseparable. Ringing a bell then represents the sound of Buddha teaching the dharma and symbolizes the attainment of wisdom and the understanding of emptiness.

Vajrasattva's body is slender and lissom. His neck has three folds, which are derived from the auspicious conch shell blown at Buddhist ceremonies, and which signify the sweetness of his own speech. The sensitive and thin red lips lend a pleasant character to the facial expression, while the five-pronged crown and the numerous jewels adorning his from celebrate his pre-eminent status in the Buddhist pantheon, a fact which is reaffirmed by the rainbow aureole in the background.

  • Specifications