The great Bodhisattva Vajrasattva is the esoteric aspect of another Bodhisattva, Samantabhadra. Student of Nagarjuna and seated right next to Buddha Akshobhya in the realm of the Tathagatas, He appears in both the Mahavairocana and Vajrashekhara sootras. The thangka that you see on this page depicts the seated Vajrasattva on a gold-petalled lotus. Like all seated bodhisattvas, His legs are in padmasana and He bears an almsbowl in the left hand. Note the glowing beauty of His fair face and the sharp contrast of His straight, blue tresses.
The name Vajrasattva stands for the essence (‘sattva’) of the thunderbolt or the diamond (‘vajra’ could mean both). Indeed, such a name suits the cosmic glamour of the Bodhisattva. It has been captured with a great deal of skill in this painting. It is a predominantly bitone number, the gracious tones of black and gold interspersed with the pale peach colour of His complexion and the inky blue of His hair. As such, this thangka would be a statement addition to the aesthetics of any home, office, or temple.
This composition bears every hallmark of the authentic traditional thangka. Firstly, the attire and adornment of the seated figure. The aureole behind His back and the layered halo that lights up His head. The gradient on the halo is an example of superb brushwork. Then there are the wisps of delicate, gold-coloured clouds and ashtamangala symbols in the background.
At the center of the artwork is Vajrasattva, seated in padmasana on a high, multi-pedestal floating lotus throne. Sattva means a 'sentient being,' and vajra of course is the quintessential symbol of Tibetan Buddhism, representing its indestructible power. His right hand holds a five-pronged vajra, which symbolizes the five Dhyani Buddhas. Here it is interesting to observe that Vajrasattva is considered by some to be the sixth Dhyani Buddha and the priest of the group. His left hand is placed on the corresponding thigh, holding a vajra-ghanta (bell). When paired with each other, these two ritual implements take on an added significance. The vajra represents the compassion of the Buddha, the masculine principle; and the bell symbolizes wisdom, the female principle. To achieve creative enlightenment, these two elements must be combined. The bell is visualized as the Buddha's body, the vajra as his mind. The sound of the bell is believed to be the Buddha's speech in teaching of the dharma.
During meditation on Vajrasattva, a vajra is placed on the chest of the practitioner, meaning that Vajrasattva is brought to the meditator, and they become one and inseparable. Ringing a bell then represents the sound of Buddha teaching the dharma and symbolizes the attainment of wisdom and the understanding of emptiness.
Vajrasattva's body is slender and lissom. His neck has three folds, which are derived from the auspicious conch shell blown at Buddhist ceremonies, and which signify the sweetness of his own speech. The sensitive and thin red lips lend a pleasant character to the facial expression, while the five-pronged crown and the numerous jewels adorning his from celebrate his pre-eminent status in the Buddhist pantheon, a fact which is reaffirmed by the rainbow aureole in the background.
Click Here to View the Thangka Painting along with its Brocade
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