Definition - What does Vajrapani mean?

In Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrapani is one of three main protective bodhisattvas (buddha-to-be, or one who seeks enlightenment for the benefit of all). The name comes from the Sanskrit, vajra, meaning “thunderbolt,” and pani, meaning "in the hand." The protector of the Buddha, Vajrapani is frequently depicted dancing among flames and holding a lightning bolt in his right hand.

Vajrapani is recognized as a deity in other schools of Buddhism including Theravada, Tibetan and Pure Land. He is also known as Phyag-na-rdo-rje, Kin-kang and Kongo.

Yogapedia explains Vajrapani

Vajrapani is the protector of the human-serpent deities called the nagas. He is believed to be a manifestation of the Buddha Aksobhya and is often associated with Indra, the Hindu god of rain and war who is also depicted holding a lightning bolt.

As a protector of Buddha, Vajrapani symbolizes the power of buddhahood and all buddhas. The other protectors are:

  • Manjusri, who represents the wisdom of the buddhas; and
  • Avalokitesvara, who symbolizes the compassion of the buddhas.

As remover of obstacles, Vajrapani accepts prayers for healing and strength to handle difficulties.

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