Vajrapāṇi (Sanskrit: "Vajra in [his] hand") is one of the earliest-appearing bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism. He is the protector and guide of Gautama Buddha and rose to symbolize the Buddha's power.

Vajrapāni is extensively represented in Buddhist iconography as one of the earliest three protective deities or bodhisattvas surrounding the Buddha. Each of them symbolizes one of the Buddha's virtues: Manjushri manifests all the Buddhas' wisdom, Avalokiteśvara manifests all the Buddhas' immense compassion, and Vajrapāni protects Buddha and manifests all the Buddhas' power [1] as well as the power of all five tathāgatas (Buddhahood of the rank of Buddha).[2]

Vajrapāni is one of the earliest Dharmapalas of Mahayana Buddhism and also appears as a deity in the Pali Canon of the Theravada school. He is worshiped in the Shaolin Monastery, in Tibetan Buddhism and in Pure Land Buddhism (where he is known as Mahasthamaprapta and forms a triad with Amitābha and Avalokiteśvara). Manifestations of Vajrapāni can also be found in many Buddhist temples in Japan as Dharma protectors called Nio. Vajrapāni is also associated with Acala, who is venerated as Fudō-Myōō in Japan, where he is serenaded as the holder of the vajra.[3]

Vajrapani American Museum of Natural History
Tibetan depiction of the wrathful Vajrapāṇi
(Pinyin: Jīngāngshǒu Púsà)
(romaji: Kongōshu Bosatsu)
(RR: Geumgangsu Bosal)
Wylie: phyag na rdo rje
THL: chak na dorje
VietnameseKim Cương Thủ Bồ Tát
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Vajrapāni is a compound word in Sanskrit in which 'Vajra' means "thunderbolt or diamond" and 'pāni' means "in the hand".[4]


In human form Vajrapāni is depicted holding the vajra in his right hand. He is sometimes referred to as a Dhyani-Bodhisattva, equivalent to Akshobhya, the second Dhyani Buddha. Acharya-Vajrapani is Vajrapani's manifestation as Dharmapala, often seen sporting a third eye, ghanta (bell) and pāśa (lasso). He is sometimes represented as a yidam with one head and four hands in a form known as Nilambara-Vajrapani, carrying a vajra, and treading on personage lying on snakes. Mahacakra-Vajrapani, also a yidam, is depicted with three heads and six arms, carrying a vajra and snakes whilst treading on Brahma and Shiva. He is often in union with his consort in yab-yum. Acala-Vajrapani is depicted with four heads, four arms and four legs carrying a sword, a lasso and vajra, treading on demons. Another depiction is in the form with the head, wings, and claws of Garuda. [5]

Vajrapāni's expression is wrathful, and is often symbolized as a yaksha, to generate "fear in the individual to loosen up his dogmatism."[6] His outstretched right hand brandishes a vajra, "symbolizing analytical knowledge (jñanavajra) that disintegrates the grasping of consciousness[7] Although he sometimes wears a skull crown, in most depictions he wears a five-pointed bodhisattva crown to depict the power of the five Dhyani Buddhas (the fully awakened state of the Buddha).[8]


The mantra oṃ vajrapāṇi hūṃ phaṭ is associated with Vajrapāni.[9][10] His Seed Syllable is hūṃ.

  • Tibetan: ཨོཾ་བཛྲ་པཱ་ཎི་ཧཱུྂ༔


In early Buddhist legends, Vajrapāni is a minor deity who accompanied Gautama Buddha during his career as a wandering mendicant. In some texts he is said to be a manifestation of Śakra, king of the Trāyastriṃśa heaven of Buddhist and Hindu cosmology and god of rain as depicted in the idols of the Gandharva. As Śakra, it is said that he was present during the birth of Tathagata. As Vajrapāni he was the god who helped Gautama escape from the palace at the time of his renunciation. When Sakyamuni returned from Kapilavastu he is stated to have assumed eight forms of devas who escorted him.[5]

According to Xuanzang, the Chinese monk and traveler, Vajrapāni vanquished a large serpent at Udyana. In another version it is stated that while the Nāgas came to worship the Buddha and hear his sermons, Vajrapāni assumed the form of a bird to deceive them so that they were not attacked by their deadly enemies, the Garudas.[5]

At the parinirvana of the Buddha, Vajrapāni dropped his vajra in despair and rolled himself in the dust. [5]


Vajrapāni is seen as a manifestation of Vajradhara and the "spiritual reflex", the Dhyani Bodhisattva of Akshobhya.[5] On the popular level, Vajrapāni is the bodhisattva who represents the power of all the buddhas just as Avalokiteśvara represents their great compassion, and Mañjuśrī their wisdom.[1] He is called the Master of Unfathomable Mysteries who upholds truth even in adversities of darkness and ignorance. [11]

According to the Pañcaviṃsatisāhasrikā- and Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitās, any bodhisattva on the path to buddhahood is eligible for Vajrapāni's protection, making them invincible to any attacks "by either men or ghosts".[12]

Appearances and identifications

In Cambodia

In Cambodia, three monasteries dated to 953 AD are dedicated to the worship of the triad of the Buddha - Prajnaparamita and Vajrapani; image of Vajrapani with four arms is venerated in one of these monasteries. Also, in niches are standing images of Vajrapani carved with four or two arms on each of the four faces of monoliths found in Western Cambodia.[13]

In Gandhara

Vajrapāni as Heracles or Zeus, second-century.

As Buddhism expanded in Central Asia and fused with Hellenistic influences into Greco-Buddhism, the Greek hero Heracles was adopted to represent Vajrapāni. In that era, he was typically depicted as a hairy, muscular athlete, wielding a short "diamond" club. Buddhaghosa associated Vajrapāni with the deva king Indra.[12] Some authors believe that the deity depicted is actually Zeus, whose Classical attribute is the thunderbolt.[14]

In India

The Buddha with his protector Vajrapāni. Gandhara, 2nd century

During the Kushana period Gandhara art depicted Vajrapani's images in which he is shown primarily as a protector of Sakhyamuni and not in the role of a bodhisattva. In the Indrasalaguha scenes, mountains form a part of his environment where his presence during the conversion of the naga Apalala is shown. In these depictions he is shown wearing exclusive Western attire and always in the presence of other deities. The reliefs in this art form depict Vajrapani always present in the scenes where Buddha is converting people; his presence is shown when the Buddha confronts the opponents of the dharma like Mara before his enlightenment. Scenes of Shakyamuni competing with the heretics are also part of this art tradition. Scenes of Buddha using the vajra of Vajrapani as the "magic weapon" to perform miracles and propagate "superiorty of his doctrine" are also common.[15]

Paintings of Avalokiteshvara or Padmapani and Vajrapani on either side of the Buddha in Cave 1

Ajanta Padmapani
Indischer Maler des 7. Jahrhunderts 001

In the western groups of caves in Aurangabad, Vajrapani is depicted as a bodisattva with his vajra in a tableau, a votive panel of sculptural composition in which he in a standing posture (the only extant figure) over a lotus to the left of a Buddha in a dhyanasana. In this panel he is adorned with a tall crown, two necklaces, a snake armlet and holds the vajra in his left hand, and resting on a scarf tied across his hips. This close iconographic composition is at the entrance to the porch of cave 2 and in the incomplete porch of cave 1. Such votive carved panels with Vajrapani are also seen in the interior of pradkssina passage of cave 2 in which his presence is with other the ascetic bodisattvas like Avalokiteśvara; in this panel he has a crown in the form of a stupa with a scarf fastened over his left thigh. [16]

In the eastern group of caves at the entry to cave 6 in Aurangabad, Vajrapani is carved as a commanding persona in the form of a huge dvarapala along with Avolokiteśvara. Vajrapani image is flanked by a small attendant. He carries Vajra, his luminous weapon on the left hand, which rests on a scarf tied across his hip. His right arm is bent forward -perhaps he held a lotus like his paredros Avalokiteśvara. Both the bodhisattvas guarding the entrance to cave 6 are carved wearing princely headdresses (crowns).[16]

In Indonesia

Buddha Mendut
The Buddha Vairocana (center) flanked by Padmapani (left) and Vajrapāni (right). Mendut, 8th century

In Indonesia, Vajrapani is depicted as a part of triad with Vairocana and Padmapani. A famous 3 metres tall stone statues of Vairocana, Padmapani, and Vajrapāni triad can be found in central chamber of Mendut temple, located around 3 kilometres east from Borobudur, Central Java. Both seated Padmapani and Vajrapani, regarded as the guardian of Buddha Vairocana, are depicted as a handsome well-built men with serene expression adorned with exquisite crown and jewelries. The statues are the fine example of the 9th century Central Javanese Sailendran art, which influenced the Buddhist art in Southeast Asia, including Srivijayan art of Sumatra and Malay Peninsula (Southern Thailand).

In Japan

In Japan, Vajrapāni is known as "the head vajra-wielding god" (執金剛神 Shukongōshin), and has been the inspiration for the Niō (仁王, Benevolent Kings), the wrath-filled and muscular guardian gods of the Buddha, standing at the entrance of many Buddhist temples under the appearance of frightening, wrestler-like statues. He is also associated with Acala (不動明王 Fudō-myōō); the mantra for Fudō-myōō references him as the powerful wielder of the vajra.

The origin of the image of Vajrapani should be explained. This deity is the protector and guide of the Buddha Sakyamuni. His image was modeled after that of Hercules. (...) The Gandharan Vajrapani was transformed in Central Asia and China and afterwards transmitted to Japan, where it exerted stylistic influences on the wrestler-like statues of the Guardian Deities (Nio).[17]

In Japan, though he is not a very popular form of statue worship, he is frequently depicted in diagrams (Mandala); the sixth formation of the Garbakhosa mandala is named as "Vajrapani enclosure" in which he is represented in 20 different forms with Kongsatta as the presiding deity.[13] In Japanese iconography he is depicted in red colour at the death of Buddha.[5]

In Nepal

'Bodhisattva Vajrapani' from Nepal, 1731, gilt bronze, Norton Simon Museum
Bronze image Bodhisattva Vajrapani from Nepal, 1731

In Nepal, Vajrapani is depicted holding a vajra supported on a lotus with its stem held in the right hand while the left hand is shown in a posture of "charity and argument". His paintings are in white colour.[13]

In Tibet

In Tibet, Vajrapani is represented in many fierce forms. Some of the notable ones are: Vajrapani-Acharya (Dharamapala) in a human form with only one head with a third eye with hair raised and crowned by a skull with fiery expression. His neck is adorned with a necklace of snakes, and with waist band made of tiger skin covered with skulls. Stepping to the right, his lifted hand holds a vajra. When painted in blue colour the image is encircled by flames with images of small Garudas; [13] Nilambara-Vajrapani with one head, with a third eye, a crown made of skull with four or six arms and in some cases with untidy hair bedecked with vajra and snake. Two hands are crossed to the breast in mystic posture (mudra), the second right hand is lifted up and carries a vajra. Stepping to the right, regally crowned and lying over a bed of snakes;[13] in Achala-Vajrapani form he is shown with four heads, four arms and four legs adorned with symbols of vajra, sword, lasso and skull cup (kapala) and trampling over demons;[13] Mahachakra-Vajrapani is a form with three heads and a third eye, and with six arms and two legs. The icon is adorned with symbols of vajra, snake with yum held in its main hands, and as shakti it to his left is shown holding a skull-cup (kapala) and grigug (chopper or hooked knife). The icon is shown stepping over Brahma on the right and on Shiva to the left;[13] in the Thunderbolt-Wielder form known as "snake charm form" to protect from snake bites, he is depicted sitting on a lotus throne carried by peacocks. The right hand posture holds one end of rope noose to capture snake demons while the left hand held over the hips carries the other end of the noose. He is followed by two bodhisattvas - "Sarvanivarana-Vishkambhin, Effacer of Stains, and Samantabhadra, the Entirely Virtuous One". His adornments consist of a tall crown and snakes coiling his arms and ankles. In a painted form, usually in white colour "crossed-vajra" is held to the left raised above the accompanying Bodhisattvas but when painted in blue colour the left hand holds a double vajra;[18] his Garuda form is with wings and claws or with human head with a beak or head with wings fully spread (his painted form is in blue colour). he may be trampling over a demon or dead naga (snake). In some images he is shown carrying a sword, a bottle in the shape of a gourd, a chopper or hands held in a prayer mode.[18]

In literature and art

In literature and art Vajrapani has a prominent place with his identification as a yaksha leading becoming a full scale bodhisattva. This, reflected through the Mahayana sutras has become an "emblem of esoteric knowledge and the revealer of Buddhist Tantra". In the role of yaksha, his special relationship with mountains and caves is established. According to E. Lamotte, author of books on Buddhism, Vajrapani was the chief of Guhayakas genies des cavernes or secret yakshas, who played a mysterious role in the Buddhist and brahmanical literature of India. Lamotte based his assessment on many textual passages which explained Vajrapani's use of his magic vajra to rock the mountains. The story of importance in this context narrated in the Mulasaravasitivada vinaya, is the encounter between the Buddha and Devadutta in which Vajrapani's vajra strength to destruct the rock is brought out. In another textual reference, in the Sarvastivada vinaya vibhasha, Vajrapani protects the pradakshina path adopting his magic weapon. This fact is verified in the location of huge Vajrapani images in cave 6 at Aurangabad both at the entrance and exit end of the passage where circumambulation terminates.[19]


The Buddha and nude Vajrapani at Jamal Garhi
The Buddha and a naked Vajrapani in a frieze at Jamal Garhi, Gandhara.

Conversion of Ambattha

The Pāli Canon's Ambattha Sutta, which challenges the rigid nature of caste system, tells of one instance of him appearing as a sign of the Buddha's power. At the behest of his teacher, a young Brahmin named Ambatha visited the Buddha. Knowing the Buddha's family to be the Shakya clan, who are Kshatriya caste, Ambatha failed to show him the respect he would a fellow Brahmin. When the Buddha questioned his lack of respect, Ambatha replied it was because the Buddha belongs to a "menial" caste. The Buddha then asked the Brahmin if his family was descended from a “Shakya slave girl”. Knowing this to be true, Ambatha refused to answer the question. Upon refusing to answer the question for a second time, the Buddha warned him that his head would be smashed to bits if he failed to do so a third time. Ambatha was frightened when he saw Vajrapāni manifest above the Buddha's head ready to strike the Brahmin down with his thunderbolt. He quickly confirmed the truth and a lesson on caste ensues.[20]

Vajrapāni and Maheśvara

A popular story tells how Vajrapāni kills Maheśvara, a manifestation of Shiva depicted as an evil being.[21][6] The story occurs in several scriptures, most notably the Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṅgraha and the Vajrāpanyābhiṣeka Mahātantra.[22] The story begins with the transformation of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra into Vajrapāni by Vairocana, the cosmic Buddha, receiving a vajra and the name "Vajrāpani".[23] Vairocana then requests Vajrapāni to generate his adamantine family in order to establish a mandala. Vajrapāni refuses because Maheśvara "is deluding beings with his deceitful religious doctrines and engaging in all kinds of violent criminal conduct".[24] Maheśvara and his entourage are dragged to Mount Meru, and all but Maheśvara submit. Vajrapāni and Maheśvara engage in a magical combat, which is won by Vajrapāni. Maheśvara's retinue become part of Vairocana's mandala, except for Maheśvara, who is killed, and his life transferred to another realm where he becomes a Buddha named Bhasmeśvaranirghoṣa, the "Soundless Lord of Ashes".[25]

According to Kalupahana, the story "echoes" the story of the conversion of Ambattha.[6] It is to be understood in the context of the competition between Buddhist institutions and Shaivism.[26]

Patron saint of Shaolin monastery

Varjapani magao caves
Vajrapāni at Mogao Caves's Hidden Library, Dunhuang, China. Power and anger personified. Late 9th century, Tang dynasty. Ink and colors on silk.

In his book The Shaolin Monastery (2008), Prof. Meir Shahar notes Vajrapāni is the patron saint of the Shaolin Monastery. A short story appearing in Zhang Zhuo's (660-741) Tang anthology shows how the deity had been venerated in the Monastery from at least the eighth century. It is an anecdotal story of how the Shaolin monk Sengchou (480-560) gained supernatural strength and fighting ability by praying to the Vajrapāni and being force-fed raw meat.[27] Shaolin abbot Zuduan (1115–1167) erected a stele in his honor during the Song dynasty.[28] It reads:

According to the scripture [Lotus Sutra], this deity (Narayana) is a manifestation of Avalokitesvara (Guanyin).[29][30] If a person who compassionately nourishes all living beings employs this [deity's] charm, it will increase his body's strength (zengzhang shen li). It fulfills all vows, being most efficacious. ... Therefore those who study Narayana's hand-symbolism (mudra), those who seek his spell (mantra), and those who search for his image are numerous. Thus we have erected this stele to spread this transmission.[31]

— Stele re-erected (chong shang) by Shaolin's abbot Zuduan

Instead of being considered a stand-alone deity, Shaolin believes Vajrapāni to be an emanation of the Bodhisattva Guanyin. The Chinese scholar A'De noted this was because the Lotus Sutra says Guanyin takes on the visage of whatever being that would best help pervade the dharma. The exact Lotus Sutra passage reads: “To those who can be conveyed to deliverance by the body of the spirit who grasps the vajra (Vajrapāni) he preaches Dharma by displaying the body of the spirit who grasps the vajra.”[32]

He was historically worshiped as the progenitor of their famous staff method by the monks themselves. A stele erected by Shaolin abbot Wenzai in 1517 shows the deity's vajra-club had by then been changed to a gun staff,[33] which originally "served as the emblem of the monk".[34] Vajrapāni's yaksha-like Narayana form was eventually equated with one of the four staff-wielding "Kinnara Kings" from the Lotus Sutra in 1575. His name was thus changed from Narayana to "Kinnara King".[35] One of the many versions of a certain tale regarding his creation of the staff method takes place during the Yuan-era Red Turban Rebellion. Bandits lay siege to the monastery, but it is saved by a lowly kitchen worker wielding a long fire poker as a makeshift staff. He leaps into the oven and emerges as a monstrous giant big enough to stand astride both Mount Song and the imperial fort atop Mount Shaoshi (which are five miles apart). The bandits flee when they behold this staff-wielding titan. The Shaolin monks later realize that the kitchen worker was none other than the Kinnara King in disguise.[36] Shahar notes the part of the kitchen worker might have been based on the actual life of the monk Huineng (638-713).[36] In addition, he suggests the mythical elements of the tale were based on the fictional adventures of Sun Wukong from the Chinese epic Journey to the West. He compares the worker's transformation in the stove with Sun's time in Laozi's crucible, their use of the staff, and the fact that Sun and his weapon can both grow to gigantic proportions.[37]

Statues and paintings of kinnaras were commissioned in various halls throughout Shaolin in honor of his defeat of the Red Turban army. A wicker statue woven by the monks and featured in the center of the "Kinnara Hall" was mentioned in Cheng Zongyou's seventeenth century training manual Shaolin Staff Method. However, a century later, it was claimed that the Kinnara King had himself woven the statue. It was destroyed when the monastery was set aflame by the KMT General Shi Yousan in 1928. A "rejuvenated religious cult" arose around kinnaras in the late twentieth century. Shaolin re-erected the shrine to him in 1984 and improved it in 2004.[38]


Vajrapani with Heraklean club

Vajrapāni with Heraklean club


Vajrapāni with a group of Buddhist monks. Gandhara


1517 stele dedicated to Narayana's defeat of the Red Turban rebels

Met, gandhara, hercules and the nemean lion, 1st century

Hercules and the Nemean lion. Gandhara, 1st century

COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Boeddhistisch beeld van mogelijk acoliet in de tempel Tjandi Mendoet rechts. TMnr 60004721

Boddhisattva Vajrapani. Mendut near Borobudur, Central Java, Indonesia. Sailendran art c. 8th century.


  1. ^ a b Santangelo 2013, p. 217-218 footnotes.
  2. ^ Linrothe1999, p. 157.
  3. ^ Getty (1928), p. 34.
  4. ^ Santangelo 2013, p. 217 footnotes.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Getty 1988, p. 50.
  6. ^ a b c Kalupahana (1992), p. 220.
  7. ^ Kalupahana (1992), p. 219.
  8. ^ Leviton 2012, p. 232.
  9. ^ Vajrapani mantra - Om Vajrapani Hum
  10. ^ Vajrapani Mantra
  11. ^ Power 2013, p. 41.
  12. ^ a b DeCaroli (2004), p. 182.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Getty 1988, p. 52.
  14. ^ "In the art of Gandhara Zeus became the inseparable companion of the Buddha as Vajrapani." in Freedom, Progress, and Society, K. Satchidananda Murty, R. Balasubramanian, Sibajiban Bhattacharyya, Motilal Banarsidass Publishe, 1986, p. 97
  15. ^ Brancaccio 2010, p. 169.
  16. ^ a b Brancaccio 2010, p. 167-68.
  17. ^ Katsumi Tanabe, "Alexander the Great, East-West cultural contacts from Greece to Japan", p23)
  18. ^ a b Getty 1988, p. 53.
  19. ^ Brancaccio 2010, p. 168-69.
  20. ^ Vessantara (1993), p. 162.
  21. ^ Davidson (2012), p. 148-153.
  22. ^ Davidson (2012), p. 148.
  23. ^ Davidson (2012), p. 148-150.
  24. ^ Davidson (2012), p. 150.
  25. ^ Davidson (2012), p. 151.
  26. ^ Davidson (2012), p. 152.
  27. ^ Shahar (2008), pp. 35–36
  28. ^ Shahar (2008), p. 40
  29. ^ This usage of Narayana is not to be confused with one of the many names of the Hindu god Vishnu.
  30. ^ Instead of being a stand alone Bodhisattva, Shaolin considers him to be an emanation of Guanyin.
  31. ^ Shahar (2008), p. 42
  32. ^ Shahar (2008), p. 85
  33. ^ Shahar (2008), p. 84
  34. ^ Shahar (2008), p. 102
  35. ^ Shahar (2008), p. 87
  36. ^ a b Shahar (2008), p. 87–88
  37. ^ Shahar (2008), p. 109
  38. ^ Shahar (2008), p. 88


Further reading

External links

  • Media related to Vajrapani at Wikimedia Commons

The Abhidharmadīpa or Lamp of Abhidharma is an Abhidharma text thought to have been authored by Vasumitra as a response to Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośakārikā.

The text consists of verse and prose commentary. It currently survives as an incomplete collection of Sanskrit fragments. However, the text is valuable insofar as it confirms the identity of Vasubandhu as author of the Abhidharmakośakārikā.


Acala (Sanskrit: अचल "immovable") is a dharmapala primarily revered in Vajrayana Buddhism. He is seen as a protective deity particularly in Shingon traditions of Japan where he is known as Fudō Myō-ō, in Tangmi traditions of China and Taiwan as Búdòng Míngwáng, in Nepal and Tibet as Caṇḍaroṣaṇa, and elsewhere.He is classed among the Wisdom Kings and is preeminent among the Five Wisdom Kings of the Womb Realm. Accordingly, his figure occupies an important hierarchical position in the Mandala of the Two Realms

In Japan, Acala is highly venerated in the Shingon Buddhism, Tendai, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism and in Shugendō. Fudō Myō-ō is also highly revered amongst some Yakuza members, who oftentimes draw on his intense facial expression and demeanor.


Amitābha (Sanskrit pronunciation: [ɐmɪˈtaːbʱɐ]), also known as Amida or Amitāyus, is a celestial buddha according to the scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. Amitābha is the principal buddha in Pure Land Buddhism, a branch of East Asian Buddhism. In Vajrayana Buddhism, Amitābha is known for his longevity attribute, magnetising red fire element, the aggregate of discernment, pure perception and the deep awareness of emptiness of phenomena. According to these scriptures, Amitābha possesses infinite merit resulting from good deeds over countless past lives as a bodhisattva named Dharmakāra. Amitābha means "Infinite Light", and Amitāyus means "Infinite Life" so Amitābha is also called "The Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Life".

Buddhism in Japan

Buddhism in Japan has been practiced since its official introduction in 552 CE according to the Nihon Shoki from Baekje, Korea, by Buddhist monks. Buddhism has had a major influence on the development of Japanese society and remains an influential aspect of the culture to this day.In modern times, Japan's popular schools of Buddhism are Pure Land Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon Buddhism and Zen. As of 2008, approximately 34% of the Japanese identify as Buddhists and the number has been growing since the 1980s, in terms of membership in organized religion. However, in terms of practice, 75% practice some form of Buddhism (compared with 90% practicing Shinto, thus most Japanese practice both religions to some extent (Shinbutsu-shūgō)). About 60% of the Japanese have a Butsudan (Buddhist shrine) in their homes.


Chagpori, Chakpori, Chokpori, Chagpo Ri (Wylie: lcags po ri, literally "Iron Mountain"; is a spirit-mountain of Vajrapani within the city of Lhasa in Tibet. It south of the Potala and just to the left when one is facing the Potala. It is considered to be one of the four holy mountains of central Tibet.

Chagpori was the site of the monastic medical college of the same name founded there by Sangye Gyatso in 1696. This medical college, which incorporated a recently restored temple made by Thang Tong Gyalpo, was supplied with revenue generating lands and with a constant stream of students by a "monk tax". It remained an important medical institution in Tibet and Central Asia up until the mid-Twentieth century. Peter Aufschnaiter was photographed by Heinrich Harrer on top of the College of Medicine (Men-Tsee-Khang) using a theodolite for surveying the city of Lhasa. Aufschnaiter wrote, "Since 23 December 1947 I have been staying in Lhasa for some months to make a town plan, and have now been appointed to the government service by a decree of the Regent."

During the March 1959 Lhasa uprising, the medical school established by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama named Men-Tsee-Khang and a temple housing statutes of coral (Tsepame), mother-of-pearl (of Tujechempo) and turquoise (of Drolma) were demolished by the People's Liberation Army artillery as the Tibetans had placed a few cannons up there. Jianglin Li's book Tibet in Agony: Lhasa 1959 says,"On March 20 (...) That was the morning of the shelling of Chakpori Hill. While the Tibetan Medical Institute crumbled..."The monk Jampa Phuntsok of the Namgyal Monastery recalled, "when the bombardment of Chakpori Hill began (...) the Tibetans at the Potala could only watch as their beloved landmark went up in smoke." It is now crowned by radio antennas. A road has been constructed through the spur that used to connect Chagpori with the Marpori ('Red Hill') on which the Potala is built. At this spur connecting these two hills was the famous chorten Pargo Kaling, a spired reliquary with a tunnel that was destroyed by the Chinese People's Liberation Army after the March 10, 1959 Tibetan uprising..Some rebuilding has since taken place a number of old rock carvings have survived through damage. Some of them are thought to have been carved during the reign of king Songtsen Gampo (605 or 617? - 649 CE) and painted by Nepalese artists. Some buildings have been rebuilt near the base of the hill and there is now again a small temple with prayer wheels.Tradition has it that the three main hills of Lhasa represent the "Three Protectors of Tibet." Chagpori is the soul-mountain (bla-ri) of Vajrapani, Pongwari that of Manjushri, and Marpori, the hill on which the Potala stands, represents Chenresig or Avalokiteshvara.

Fierce deities

In Buddhism, fierce deities are the fierce, wrathful or forceful (Tibetan: trowo, Sanskrit: krodha) forms of enlightened Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or Devas (divine beings). Because of their power to destroy the obstacles to enlightenment, they are also termed krodha-vighnantaka, "fierce destroyers of obstacles". Fierce deities are a notable feature of the iconography of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. These types of deities first appeared in India during the late 6th century with its main source being the Yaksha imagery and became a central feature of Indian Tantric Buddhism by the late 10th or early 11th century.

Goshir Gyaltsab

Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche (Tibetan: རྒྱལ་ཚབ།, Wylie: Rgyal-tshab) is a leading incarnate lama (tulku) in the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He is believed by his followers to embody the activity of Vajrapani.The first Gyaltsab Rinpoche Paljor Dondrub (1427–1489) was born in Nyemo Yakteng and received the title Goshir (traditional Chinese: 國師; ; "state teacher") from the Emperor of China. In Tibet, Gyaltsab Rinpoche is known as Tsurphu Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche. He is the regent looking after Tsurphu monastery and the interests of the Karmapas in between two Karmapas. In Tsurphu, Gyaltsab Rinpoche's monastery Chogar Gong lies directly behind Karmapa's monastery.

Gyaltsab Rinpoche was recognized by the Sixteenth Karmapa before he was born in 1954 and after the official enthronement by the 16th Karmapa in 1959, Gyaltsab Rinpoche made the journey to Sikkim together with the Karmapa.

Greco-Buddhist art

Greco-Buddhist art is the artistic manifestation of Greco-Buddhism, a cultural syncretism between the Classical Greek culture and Buddhism, which developed over a period of close to 1,000 years in Central Asia, between the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, and the Islamic conquests of the 7th century AD. Greco-Buddhist art is characterized by the strong idealistic realism and sensuous description of Hellenistic art and the first representations of the Buddha in human form, which have helped define the artistic (and particularly, sculptural) canon for Buddhist art throughout the Asian continent up to the present. It is also a strong example of cultural syncretism between eastern and western traditions.

The origins of Greco-Buddhist art are to be found in the Hellenistic Greco-Bactrian kingdom (250–130 BC), located in today’s Afghanistan, from which Hellenistic culture radiated into the Indian subcontinent with the establishment of the Indo-Greek kingdom (180–10 BC). Under the Indo-Greeks and then the Kushans, the interaction of Greek and Buddhist culture flourished in the area of Gandhara, in today’s northern Pakistan, before spreading further into India, influencing the art of Mathura, and then the Hindu art of the Gupta empire, which was to extend to the rest of South-East Asia. The influence of Greco-Buddhist art also spread northward towards Central Asia, strongly affecting the art of the Tarim Basin, and ultimately the arts of China, Korea, and Japan.

List of bodhisattvas

In Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist thought, a bodhisattva (Chinese: 菩薩; pinyin: púsà; Japanese pronunciation: bosatsu; Korean pronunciation: bosal) is a being who is dedicated to achieving complete Buddhahood. Conventionally, the term is applied to beings with a high degree of enlightenment. Bodhisattva literally means a "bodhi (enlightenment) being" in Sanskrit. Mahayana practitioners have historically lived in many other countries that are now predominantly Hindu, Muslim or Theravada Buddhist; remnants of reverence for bodhisattvas has continued in some of these regions.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of bodhisattvas primarily respected in Indian, Tibetan Buddhism and East Asian Buddhism.

List of suttas

Suttas from the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon.

List of Digha Nikaya suttas

List of Majjhima Nikaya suttas

List of Samyutta Nikaya suttas

List of Anguttara Nikaya suttas

List of Khuddaka Nikaya suttas


Mahāsthāmaprāpta is a bodhisattva mahāsattva that represents the power of wisdom, often depicted in a trinity with Amitābha and Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin), especially in Pure Land Buddhism. His name literally means "arrival of the great strength".

Mahāsthāmaprāpta is one of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism, along with Mañjuśrī, Samantabhadra, Avalokiteśvara, Ākāśagarbha, Kṣitigarbha, Maitreya and Sarvanivarana-Vishkambhin.

In Chinese Buddhism, he is usually portrayed as a woman, with a likeness similar to Avalokiteśvara. He is also one of the Japanese Thirteen Buddhas in Shingon Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism, Mahāsthāmaprāpta is equated with Vajrapani, who is one of his incarnations and was known as the Protector of Gautama Buddha.

Mahāsthāmaprāpta is one of the oldest bodhisattvas and is regarded as powerful, especially in the Pure Land school, where he takes an important role in the Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra.

In the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, Mahāsthāmaprāpta tells of how he gained enlightenment through the practice of nianfo, or continuous pure mindfulness of Amitābha, to obtain samādhi. In the Amitayurdhyana Sutra, Mahāsthāmaprāpta is symbolized by the moon while Avalokiteśvara is represented by the sun.


Maitrīpāda (c. 1007–1085, also known as Maitrīgupta, Advayavajra, and, to Tibetans, Maitrīpa), was a prominent Indian Buddhist Mahasiddha associated with the Mahāmudrā transmission. His teachers were Shavaripa and Naropa. His students include Atisha, Marpa, Vajrapani, Karopa, Natekara (also known as Sahajavajra), Devākaracandra (also known as Śūnyatāsamādhi), and Rāmapāla. His hermitage was Mithilā (also known as Tirhut), somewhere in northern Bihar and neighboring parts of southern Nepal. He was influential as the major source of the teachings of mahamudra for Tibetan Buddhism.

He is the namesake of Maitripa College.


The Mañjuśrī-Nāma-Saṃgīti (Tibetan: འཇམ་དཔལ་མཚན་བརྗོད, Wylie: 'jam dpal mtshan brjod) (hereafter, Nama-samgiti) is considered amongst the most advanced teachings given by the Shakyamuni Buddha. It represents the pinnacle of all Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings, being a tantra of the nondual (advaya) class, along with the Kalachakra Tantra.

The Nama-samgiti was preached by Shakyamuni Buddha for his disciple Vajrapani and his wrathful retinue in order to lead them into buddhahood. The essence of the Nama-samgiti is that Manjushri bodhisattva is the embodiment of all knowledge. The Nama-samgiti is a short text, only circa 160 verses and a prose section. It is a fraction of the vast Sutras such as Avatamsaka Sutra and Prajñāpāramitā Sutras or the endless ocean of tantras such as manjushri-mula-kalpa and the mountainous Hinayana teachings and sea of sundry extra-canonical works. And yet, the Nama-samgiti contains all of the Buddha's dharmas. It summarizes everything he taught. As Shakyamuni Buddha says of the Nama-samgiti, it is "the chief clarification of words". It is the "nondual reality". Therefore, all sentient beings should definitely study and recite the manjushri-nama-samgiti.


Niō (仁王) or Kongōrikishi (金剛力士) are two wrathful and muscular guardians of the Buddha standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in East Asian Buddhism in the form of frightening wrestler-like statues. They are dharmapala manifestations of the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi, the oldest and most powerful of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon. According to Japanese tradition, they travelled with Gautama Buddha to protect him and there are references to this in the Pāli Canon as well as the Ambaṭṭha Sutta. Within the generally pacifist tradition of Buddhism, stories of dharmapalas justified the use of physical force to protect cherished values and beliefs against evil. The Niō are also seen as a manifestation of Mahasthamaprapta, the bodhisattva of power that flanks Amitābha in Pure Land Buddhism and as Vajrasattva in Tibetan Buddhism.

Orgyen Chokgyur Lingpa

Chokgyur Lingpa or Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa (1829-1870) was a tertön or "treasure revealer" and contemporary of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul. Regarded as one of the major tertöns in Tibetan history, his termas are widely practiced by both the Kagyu and Nyingma schools.

Chokgyur Lingpa was the "manifestation," meaning the reincarnation, of King Trisong Deutsen's son, Prince Damdzin. Another of his former lives was the great terton, Sangye Lingpa, who revealed the Lama Gongdu. Chokgyur Lingpa was the last of the 100 major tertons. He was the owner of seven transmissions and is regarded as the universal monarch of all tertons. One of the reasons for this is that no other terton has revealed a teaching that includes the Space Section (Longde) of Dzogchen. There are several Mind Section (Semde) revelations and all major tertons have revealed the Instruction Section (Mengagde), but only Chokgyur Lingpa transmitted the Space Section. This is why the Dzogchen Desum is considered the most extraordinary terma that he ever revealed.

Chokgyur Lingpa's main consort was Dechen Chodron (Lady Degah) and Padmasambhava predicted that his three children would be emanations of the three family lords: Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani. I don't like saying this, for it may sound like I'm bragging about my family line, but such a prophecy does exist. The Manjushri emanation was supposed to be Wangchok Dorje, the Avalokiteshvara emanation Tsewang Norbu and the Vajrapani emanation my grandmother, Konchok Paldron.

Chokgyur Lingpa founded Neten Monastery in Nangchen in 1858. It is the seat of the Neten Chokling reincarnation line.Neten Chokling Rinpoche and Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche are the fourth reincarnations of Chokgyur Lingpa.

This lineage traces back to Trisong Detsen, the Tibetan king who invited Padmasambhava to Tibet.

Potala Palace

The Potala Palace (Tibetan: ཕོ་བྲང་པོ་ཏ་ལ་, Wylie: pho brang Potala) in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China was the residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Chinese invasion. It is now a museum and World Heritage Site.

The palace is named after Mount Potalaka, the mythical abode of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. The 5th Dalai Lama started its construction in 1645 after one of his spiritual advisers, Konchog Chophel (died 1646), pointed out that the site was ideal as a seat of government, situated as it is between Drepung and Sera monasteries and the old city of Lhasa. It may overlay the remains of an earlier fortress called the White or Red Palace on the site, built by Songtsen Gampo in 637.The building measures 400 metres (1,300 ft) east-west and 350 metres (1,150 ft) north-south, with sloping stone walls averaging 3 metres (9.8 ft) thick, and 5 metres (16 ft) thick at the base, and with copper poured into the foundations to help proof it against earthquakes. Thirteen storeys of buildings, containing over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues, soar 117 metres (384 ft) on top of Marpo Ri, the "Red Hill", rising more than 300 metres (980 ft) in total above the valley floor.Tradition has it that the three main hills of Lhasa represent the "Three Protectors of Tibet". Chokpori, just to the south of the Potala, is the soul-mountain (Wylie: bla ri) of Vajrapani, Pongwari that of Manjusri, and Marpori, the hill on which the Potala stands, represents Avalokiteśvara.

Purbuchok Hermitage

Purbuchok Hermitage (Phur bu lcog ri khrod) is a hermitage situated in the northeastern corner of the Lhasa Valley in the northern suburb of Dodé in the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. Destroyed by the Chinese in 1959, it was mostly restored in 1984. Affiliated to the Sera Monastery, it is the last hermitage to be visited on the “Sixth-Month Fourth-Day” (drug pa tshe bzhi) pilgrimage circuit. The hills surrounding the monastery have been given name tags of the three protectors of the divine paradise namely the Avalokiteśvara, Manjusri and Vajrapani. It is also identified with the six-syllables divine mantra (sngags)- OM Mani Padme Hum.

Skanda (Buddhism)

Skanda (Chinese:塞建陀, 室建陀), also known as Wei Tuo (Chinese: 韋馱) and Idaten (Japanese: 韋駄天) is a Mahayana bodhisattva regarded as a devoted guardian of Buddhist monasteries who protects the teachings of Buddhism. He is also sometimes called in the Chinese tradition "Hufa Weituo Zuntian Pusa", meaning "Honored Dharma Protector Skanda Bodhisattva", because he is the leader of the twenty-four celestial guardian deities mentioned in the Golden Light Sutra.

In Chinese temples, Skanda faces the statue of the Buddha in the main shrine. In others, he is on the far right of the main shrine, whereas on the left is his counterpart, Sangharama (personified as the historical general Guan Yu). In Chinese sutras, his image is found at the end of the sutra, a reminder of his vow to protect and preserve the teachings.

According to legends, Skanda was the son of a virtuous king who had complete faith in Buddha's teachings. When the Buddha entered nirvana, the Buddha instructed Skanda to guard the Dharma. It was his duty to protect members of the sangha when they are disturbed by Mara, the tempter, and also to resolve conflicts amongst members of the sangha. A few days after the Buddha's passing and cremation, evil demons stole his relics. Skanda's vow of protecting the faith and Dharma was proven when he managed to defeat the evil demons and returned the relics.


Vairocana (also Mahāvairocana, Sanskrit: वैरोचन) is a celestial buddha who is often interpreted, in texts like the Avatamsaka Sutra, as the dharmakāya of the historical Gautama Buddha. In Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Buddhism, Vairocana is also seen as the embodiment of the Buddhist concept of Śūnyatā. In the conception of the Five Tathagatas of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, Vairocana is at the centre and is considered a Primordial Buddha.

Vairocana is not to be confused with Vairocana Mahabali, son of Virochana.

Topics in Buddhism
The Buddha
Key concepts
Major figures
Chinese Buddhist pantheon


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