Who was Vajrasattva?
The deity is an esoteric embodiment of one aspect of the Trikaya called Sambhogakaya. Therefore, the true nature of Vajrasattva is difficult to conceptualize because of his ambiguous description. If you could visualize an “enjoyment body” or a “subtle body of limitless form” then you could see him. As a result of this esoteric nature, the deity is better appreciated by advanced practitioners.
Furthermore, only Buddhas and high level bodhisattvas can take the form of Sambhogakaya which is a “body of bliss or a clear light manifestation”. They take this form in their own pure lands to teach bodhisattvas by using visionary experiences. As the Sambhogakaya Buddha, he is believed to be the ruler of all the Buddha families and mandalas.
The Buddha or bodhisattva who has taken the form of Sambhogakaya has transformed into a concept and no longer has a physical body. Therefore, they have become “bliss” or a “clear light manifestation”. As a result, there is no need to take human form.
Visualization can be enhanced by understanding the Vajrasattva meaning. In Sanskrit, Vajra means both “diamond” and “thunderbolt”. Additionally, sattva in Sanskrit is an element of energy that is pure, wholesome and virtuous. Therefore, when combined the meaning of the deity would be translated as a diamond of indestructible virtue. Or character of unshakable virtue.
Furthermore, in the Pali Canon the Buddha taught his disciples that whoever sees the Dharma sees him. This implies that using the human body to represent Buddhist values has become redundant for advanced practitioners. Therefore, a Buddha or high level bodhisattva no longer personifies “bliss” in human form because they have become it. An advanced practitioner such as a bodhisattva does not need to see the a human body to see Buddhist virtues. Try and visualize a manifestation of clear light and you will see Vajrasattva.
There is a 100 syllable mantra and a 6 syllable mantra. The Vajrasattva short mantra is simple and easy to remember. All you need to say is “Om Vajrasattva Hum”. Since the shorter mantra includes the essential spiritual elements it is equally beneficial. At least that is what some lamas teach their followers. However, the longer mantra clearly takes much more effort and dedication.
As a bodhisattva on the path to enlightenment Vajrasattva declared his intense desire to assist sentient beings. However, the main objective was to assist those who had committed serious crimes or those who had broken their samaya vows. The Vajrasattva mantra benefits those who recite his mantra, hear his name or think of him. If so, their karma will be purified. Furthermore, he declared that he would not accept enlightenment until he could effectively purify karma.
Is Vajrasattva also Vajrapani?
Although Vajrasattva is a peaceful manifestation, he can take the form of the wrathful Vajrapani (Vajrapani can appear as peaceful, semi-wrathful or wrathful). However, Vajrapani is the embodiment of the Buddha’s power and he acts as the guide and protector of the Buddha. Therefore, he is a completely different deity. Additionally, Vajrapani is often depicted alongside Avalokitesvara (Buddha’s compassion) and Manjushri (Buddha’s wisdom). Vajrapani is therefore unique and has his own identity. Although as a “subtle body of limitless form” Vajrasattva has the power to take any embodiment that is necessary.
Furthermore, in the Pali Canon it states that bodhisattvas can take any form necessary to relieve the suffering of sentient beings. Certainly, Buddhas would also have these transformative abilities. It should be pointed out that wrathful deities are not meant to inspire violence. They take frightening forms in order instill “fear in the individual to loosen up their dogmatism”.