What is the meaning of the Vajra symbol in Buddhism?

The Vajra, also known as Dorje in Tibetan (written as rdo-rje), holds significant importance in various Buddhist representations and teachings. It serves as a powerful symbol, representing indestructibility, strength, and clarity of mind. 

This symbolizes the unyielding nature of enlightenment, likened to a thunderbolt, capable of piercing through ignorance and delusion. In Buddhist rituals and ceremonies, the Vajra/Dorje is frequently utilized, believed to possess immense spiritual power and offer protection to those who invoke it.

The Vajra symbolizes the state of enlightenment characterized by being impenetrable, immovable, and indestructible. This is the general meaning of vajra

That said, the meaning of the Vajra Symbol is not limited to this. So, what is the meaning of Vajra?

Let’s talk about it.

The General Meaning of the Vajra Symbol 
The Vajra represents “male,” which symbolizes Upaya or skillful means. In Buddhism, the Vajra symbol represents many things, including but not limited to the diamond-like, indestructible, and unchangeable quality of the mind. Additionally, it also symbolizes the unshakeable and powerful nature of enlightenment.

In numerous portrayals, the Vajra is often accompanied by the bell, representing its feminine counterpart and symbolizing wisdom, known as Prajna. Furthermore, certain Hindu deities are depicted holding both the vajra and the bell, symbolizing the unity of compassion and wisdom.

Additionally, the vajra and bell-like ones from the Himalayan Shop are also often used to signify the oneness of compassion and wisdom.

Meaning of Vajra Symbol Based on the prongs
When examining the Vajra symbol closely, you’ll notice that they come in various forms. Typically, Vajras are depicted with one, three, five, or nine prongs. Among these, the five-pronged Vajra is the most commonly found. The significance of the Vajra can also differ based on the number of prongs it possesses.

Following are the meanings of the four major types of Vajra:

  1. Meaning of Single Pronged Vajra Symbol 

This symbol of Vajra represents the central channels at Mount Meru’s central air. The single prong on this symbolism of Vajra represents a union of all the dualities, which includes but is not limited to:

  • the duality of wisdom and compassion
  • emptiness and bliss
  • relative and ultimate truths

Note: Mount Meru holds sacred significance in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is depicted as a five-peaked mountain and is believed to be the center of all physical, metaphysical, and spiritual universes.

  • Meaning of three Pronged Vajra Symbol 

The symbol of the Vajra embodies three distinct aspects. Firstly, the three-pronged Vajra symbolizes the trinity of time, encompassing the past, present, and future. Additionally, it represents the three Kayas of the body: Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya, and Dharmakaya.

The term “Kayas” translates directly to “body,” but it often signifies dimensions of or the basis of a body. The three kayas represented by the Three-pronged Vajra symbol signify:

  • Sambhogakaya: The body of Enjoyment
  • Nirmanakaya: Body of Manifestation
  • Dharmakaya: Body of Truth

The three-pronged vajra symbol’s third aspect is the three gates, i.e., Body, Speech, and Mind.

  • Meaning of five Pronged Vajra Symbol 

The five-pronged vajra is the most frequently encountered type of vajra. Its five prongs symbolize the attainment of the five pearls of wisdom through transcending the five kleshas in Buddhism. Kleshas, in Buddhist teachings, refer to mental states arising from unwholesome actions. The five kleshas represented by the five-pronged Vajra symbols are:

  • Greed
  • Anger
  • Delusion
  • Pride
  • Envy

This vajra symbol also represents the five cosmic directions’ five buddhas, namely Vairochana, Amitabha, Ratnasambhava, Amoghasiddhi, and Akshobhya.

The five-pronged Vajra symbol also represents the five kayas mentioned in the Anuttarayoga Tantra. In addition to the ones mentioned earlier, the two additional kayas are:

  • Vajrakaya: Body of the unchanging natural state
  • Abhisambodhikaya: Body of complete awakening
  • Meaning of Nine Pronged Vajra Symbol 

The Nine-pronged Vajra represents not only the buddhas of the five cardinal directions but also the four mothers: Lochana, Manki, Pandara, and Tara. This vajra symbol also symbolizes the nine vehicles of Vajrayana, which include:

  1. Shravaka Yana
  2. Pratyekabuddha Yana
  3. Bodhisattva Yana
  4. The yana of Kriya tantra
  5. The yana of Charya tantra
  6. The yana of Yoga tantra
  7. The yana of Mahayoga
  8. The yana of Anuyoga
  9. The yana of Atiyoga

Besides these four common types of Vajra, there is another type of Vajra that you may have noticed.

  • The meaning behind the symbol of the crossed vajra is: 

 The crossed Vajra, also known as VishvaVahra, consists of a double Vajra. The point where the Vajra intersects represents the foundation of the universe, akin to Mount Meru. This symbol embodies the principle of absolute stability, symbolizing the unwavering solidity reminiscent of Mother Earth.

Furthermore, on each corner of the crossed vajra, you’ll often find four swastika signs. In Vajrayana Buddhism, the swastika symbolizes the element of earth and its stability. However, it’s worth noting that the meaning of the Vajra can vary slightly when depicted in Thangka (Thanka) art.

What is the meaning of the Vajra symbol when depicted in Thangka?
Thangka (also spelled Tangka, Thanka, or Tanka) is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist art form that portrays Buddhist deities or mythological events on a cotton canvas. Given that these paintings predominantly feature Buddhist deities and mythological narratives, it’s common to find depictions of the Vajra within them.

The Vajra in this art form is depicted in different forms as a hand ornament or as a crown ornament, depending on the deities.

Depiction of the five- and nine-pronged Vajra Symbol in Thangka 
In Tibetan art, both the five-pronged and nine-pronged Vajras are depicted similarly. The main distinction lies in their ends: the five-pronged Vajra has closed ends, whereas the nine-pronged Vajra has open ends.

In general, both the five and nine-pronged Vajras are depicted in gold in Tibetan art. However, in instances where an extremely wrathful deity holds the Vajra, it may be depicted in deep blue. The meaning of the vajra symbol does not change regardless of the color. 

Depiction of the crossed Vajra and the meaning behind the symbol 
Unlike the five-pronged and nine-pronged Vajras, the symbolism and meaning of the Vishvavajra vary slightly from the general understanding. In Thangka art, the Vishvavajra is depicted using the five colors of the Buddha Mandala, where each color symbolizes one of the five cardinal directions. These colors and their corresponding cardinal directions are:

  • Blue: Central
  • White: East
  • Yellow: South
  • Red: West
  • Green: Green

In traditional tangka art, VishvaVajra is typically portrayed as a three-pronged Vajra. This configuration amounts to twelve prongs in total, with each prong symbolizing one of the twelve great deeds of the Shakyamuni Buddha. These deeds include:

  1. The descent of lord Buddha from Tushita Heaven
  2. Entry of the Buddha into his mother’s womb
  3. The birth of lord Buddha
  4. His mastery of skills and arts
  5. The marriage of lord buddha, along with the birth of his child
  6. The renunciation of all the worldly wealth of lord Buddha
  7. Lord Buddha practicing austerities
  8. Meditation of lord Buddha under the Bodhi Tree
  9. He conquered the Evil Mara
  10. His attainment of Enlightenment
  11. The turning wheel of Dharana
  12. The final Parinirvana of lord Buddha

That said, both the depiction/ symbol in Thangka and the real Vajra share the same meaning of stability.

Some Buddhist deities holding Vajra with its Spiritual meaning: 
Although the core of the symbol remains the same, i.e., a powerful weapon that aids in the destruction of evil, the spiritual meaning of the vajras changes slightly depending on the depiction of deities that hold the vajra. Some Buddhist deities holding Vajra and their spiritual meanings are as follows:.


Vajrasattva is a revered bodhisattva in Vajrayana Buddhism, embodying the virtues of purification and the cleansing of negativities. His name, “Vajrasattva,” translates to “diamond being” or “indestructible being,” symbolizing his association with primordial purity and the unchanging essence of the mind.

In Vajrayana practice, Vajrasattva is commonly envisioned as a white deity, seated on a lotus throne and holding a vajra and a bell in his hands. The vajra he holds symbolizes his power to cut through and purify obscurations, delusions, and negative karma. Furthermore, the vajra in Vajrasattva’s hand represents the union of skillful means and wisdom, essential aspects of Buddhist practice.


Vajrayogini is a revered deity in the Vajrayana tradition of Tantric Buddhism, closely linked with the Chakrasamvara practice. She is commonly depicted as a fierce, red-colored figure in a dynamic dance, adorned with symbolic ornaments such as human skulls. In Vajrayana practice, Vajrayogini symbolizes the embodiment of emptiness realization and the harmonious union of wisdom and skillful means.

The Vajra held by Vajrayogini carries profound spiritual significance. It symbolizes the potent and transformative essence of her practice, centered on realizing emptiness and awakening inner wisdom. Moreover, it signifies her ability to dispel delusions and overcome obstacles hindering sentient beings from attaining enlightenment.


Vajrapani is commonly portrayed as a fierce deity in Tantric Buddhism, characterized by a blue or green complexion, one or multiple heads, numerous arms, and an intense expression. In his hands, he typically holds a vajra (thunderbolt) in one and a lasso in the other.

The vajra held by Vajrapani signifies his capacity to overcome obstacles and dispel illusions through skillful means. Additionally, it symbolizes his steadfast dedication to the journey toward enlightenment. Moreover, the vajra represents the profound clarity and unyielding essence of reality, aspects that Vajrapani both unveils and embodies.

Guru Rinpoche 

Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, holds legendary status in Vajrayana Buddhism, revered as the “second Buddha.” Credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet during the 8th century, he is hailed as the founder of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Depicted as a figure of peace, love, and compassion, Guru Rinpoche occupies a central role in Vajrayana Buddhism.

The vajra held by Guru Rinpoche represents his expertise in the Vajrayana path and his power to conquer and convert negativity and challenges into positive traits and enlightened actions. It’s a symbol of the enduring and immutable essence of emptiness, the fundamental nature of all things, according to Buddhist beliefs.

In the end,

To sum up, the vajra is a potent symbol embodying the timeless and invincible essence of enlightenment. Vajra or Dorje is often depicted as a diamond-shaped object with a central sphere and two sets of prongs. Each set can contain a different number of prongs, depending on the depiction. The meaning of the vajra symbol often depends on the number of prongs on each set of vajra. Additionally, the meaning of the vajra symbol also depends on the deity holding the vajra.

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