Vajrasattva Statues Embody “Sambhogakaya”
The Buddha is believed to have three bodies which he can use to present himself. These three bodies are called the “Trikaya”. In Sanskrit, the word “Trikaya” literally translates as “three bodies”. These three bodies are:
- Dharmakaya – This is known as the “truth” body and it is the embodiment of enlightenment. It knows no limits or boundaries.
- Sambhogakaya – This is described as a “clear light manifestation” or a “subtle body of limitless form”.
- Nirmanakaya – This is the physical human body of the Buddha as he would appear as a regular person.
What Does Sambhogakaya Look Like?
Vajrasattva is a manifestation of one aspect of the Trikaya called Sambhogakaya. Therefore, the true nature of Vajrasattva might be difficult to conceptualize at first because of this esoteric description. If you could visualize a “body of bliss” or a “subtle body of limitless form” then you could see him. Perhaps this may look like a rainbow to an unenlightened sentient being?
Furthermore, only Buddhas and high level bodhisattvas can take the form of Sambhogakaya. Again, try to picture a “body of bliss” or a “clear light manifestation”.
Buddhas and high level bodhisattvas take this form in their own pure lands to teach bodhisattvas by using visionary experiences.
The Buddha or bodhisattva who has taken the form of Sambhogakaya has transformed into a concept and no longer has a physical body. This is because there is no need to take human form.
Visualization can be enhanced by understanding the Vajrasattva meaning. In Sanskrit, Vajra means both “diamond” or “thunderbolt”. Additionally, sattva in Sanskrit is an element of energy that is pure, wholesome and virtuous. When combined, the meaning of the deity would be translated as a diamond of indestructible virtue. Or character of unshakable virtue.
Gautama Buddha – “Whoever Sees The Dharma Sees Me”
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 may not use human form to personify a virtue. This is because it is not necessary to use human form to reach advanced practitioners. An advanced practitioner such as a bodhisattva does not need to see a human body to perceive Buddhist virtue.
The Buddha or bodhisattva who appears in this manner is using a manifestation that their audience will best understand. If a Buddha is trying to communicate with a small child, then they may appear as a small child. If they are teaching bodhisattvas then they can effectively appear as “bliss” or “clear light”.
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 kind of embodiment, including wrathful Vajrapani.
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”.