Vajrapani mantra

Om Vajrapani Hum

Vajrapani doesn’t, to many newcomers to Buddhism, look very Buddhist at all. He is a Bodhisattva who represents the energy of the enlightened mind, and his mantra also symbolizes that quality.

Vajrapani is pictured dancing wildly within a halo of flames, which represent transformation.

He holds a vajra (thunderbolt) in his right hand, which emphasizes the power to cut through the darkness of delusion. Vajrapani looks wrathful, but as a representation of the enlightened mind, he’s completely free from hatred.


Vajrapani’s mantra is simply his name, which means “wielder of the thunderbolt”, framed between the mystical syllables Om and H?m. This mantra helps us to gain access to the irrepressible energy that Vajrapani symbolizes. A familiarity with Vajrapani does, of course, help here, although the sound of the mantra is itself rather energetic.

Click below to listen to an MP3 version:

Pronunciation notes:

  • a is pronounced as u in cut
  • ā is like a in father
  • j is hard, like j in judge
  • uu is long, like oo in book
  • m in hum is pronounced ng, as in long

The Bodhisattva Vajrapāni (alternative spelling: Vajrapani)

Vajrapani is a member, along with Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri, of the trinity of Bodhisattvas known as the Three Family Protectors. The Buddha family of which Vajrapani is the protector is the Vajra (thunderbolt) family, which includes Akshobya (the lord of the Vajra family) and Yamantaka.

Vajrapani (Holder of the Thunderbolt) represents the energy of the enlightened mind, and energy that breaks through delusion. He dances wildly within a halo of flames, which represent the transformative power of Awakening. He holds a vajra (thunderbolt) in his right hand, which emphasizes the power to cut through the darkness of delusion.


Non-Buddhists (and Theravadin Buddhists) seeing Vajrapani for the first time may wonder how such a wrathful-looking figure could possibly fit with the peaceful associations they have with the Buddhist tradition, although such figures are actually very common in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Of course it’s not really possible adequately to represent the qualities of Enlightenment in any image, and so even the peaceful forms of Buddhas and bodhisattvas are to some extent misleading.

Enlightened beings do not, in reality, sit around all day on lotuses smiling serenely. The Buddha himself was fearlessly active in engaging with the other religious figures and philosophers of his day. His fearless approach to life is perhaps characterized mostly clearly by his encounter with Angulimala, who was an infamous bandit who killed his victims and added a finger from each to the garland he wore around his neck (his name means “Garland of Fingers”). Although warned to stay away from this dangerous figure, the Buddha insisted on going into the forest to confront Angulimala, who converted to Buddhism, became a monk, and eventually became Enlightened.

Therefore, it’s just as appropriate to represent an Enlightened being as dancing wildly, naked and fearless.

Another way of looking at the apparent fierceness of Vajrapani and other “wrathful” figures is to consider what a Buddha looks like from the point of view of that part of ourselves that doesn’t want to change. We may, at some level, want to meditate, to live ethically, and so on, but other parts of us are profoundly threatened by the possibility of change.

Our habits can form a kind of “sub-personality” that can try to hijack our lives. After all, habits of denial, craving, and aversion face extinction if we continue to practice the path of mindfulness and compassion, so it’s not surprising that they sometimes put up a protest. From the point of view of those powerful and yet primitive parts of ourselves, Enlightenment, rather than looking attractive, seems to be threatening and demonic.

Because of this dual nature, Vajrapani has his peaceful forms as well, and early depictions of him, while muscular and athletic, are nothing like the wild figure depicted above.

Vajrapani’s origins

Vajrapani has his origins in the Pali canon, as a Yaksha, or nature spirit. In this story, in the Digha Nikaya, a Brahmin (priestly) youth named Ambattha, is first of all rude to the Buddha, believing him to be of a lower social caste, and then refuses to answer a question the Buddha — who is unfailingly polite in the encounter — puts to him about his ancestry.

After Ambattha refuses to answer the question twice, the Buddha reminds him that there is a traditional belief that if you refuse to answer the question of an enlightened one three times, your head will split in seven pieces. Of course this never happens, but “Vajirapani” (the Pali form of his name) appears, ready to make good on the ancient prophecy. Ambattha is of course terrified and promptly answers the Buddha’s question.

Vajrapani also has his mythic roots in Indra, the Indian thunder god. He’s thus connected to Zeus and Jupiter, who, along with Indra, are all variants of the same thunderbolt-wielding sky-deity. (“Dyaus” is Sanskrit for “sky,” and Indra is also known as “Indra Dyaus.” “Zeus” is the Greek form of Dyaus. Jupiter is “Dyaus-piter” or “sky father.”)


The earliest depictions of Vajrapani, as we noted above, are not particularly wrathful. In this image, from the second century, both the Buddha (seated) and Vajrapani (standing) are sculpted in classic Greek style. Vajrapani here is shown as a powerful muscular figure protecting the Buddha, and his iconography is essentially that of Herakles (Hercules). The characteristics he shares with the later form are the vajra (thunderbolt), his powerful frame, and his semi-nakedness, which is typical of a Greek athlete.

In later forms, as Vajrapani becomes more other-worldly, he is shown as being dark blue in color. He perhaps borrows this color from Akshobhya, the head of the Vajra Family. But this is also the color of a thunder cloud.

He represents the power, energy, and fearlessness of the Buddhas. He stands in (or rather is caught in) the warrior pose that will be familiar to those who practice Hatha Yoga. In his outstretched right hand he wields a vajra, and his left hand holds a lasso with which to bind demons.

Vajrapani wears a loin-cloth around his hips. The cloth is made from the skin of a tiger. He is adorned with the five-pointed Bodhisattva crown, but the crown bears five skulls. He has necklace hanging to his belly, but he also has a snake around his neck. Snakes and dragons are associated with clouds and rain, fitting in with Vajrapani’s origins as a god of thunder.

Vajrapani has a bulging third eye in the center of his forehead. Just as Ambattha’s hairs stood on end when he encountered Vajirapani, so the bodhisattva’s hair flies wildly in the air.

Although Vajrapani and other similar figures are often described as “wrathful” it’s important to realize that they do not represent ordinary anger, but simply the power and fearlessness of the awakened mind. There is no place in Buddhist practice for “righteous anger,” and despite his appearance Vajrapani is a profoundly compassionate figure.

87 Comments. Leave new

  • PemaDonYodTomarepa
    April 22, 2021 12:12 am

    Very well written.
    Anger is just can actually be used as far as some comments i of the biggest misconceptions is that one needs empowerment from a who received the first empowerment?was it Garab Dorje?so who was his Guru?it is Mind is not neccessary to get permission from anyone when one is ones own guru in the first who empowered Buddha?
    Its really all about getting Dana.thennyou can get into Buddha Heaven.Right?
    Pema DonYod Tomerepa the Nyongpa
    Heart son of Rechungpa

  • I just wanted to leave some gratitude here for your work. I love your audiobook, Sacred Sound. Since listening I’ve found myself inextricably drawn to Vajrapani. This is a wonderful exposition on his essence, and I especially appreciate the bit of comparative mythology you offered—it enriches my western astrology studies to see connections between Tibetan deities and their Roman counterparts!

  • Chenzal Kraznay
    April 21, 2014 9:30 am

    Is it OK to recite Vajrapani mantra without an empowerment or formal teaching and initiation?

    • Yes, that’s fine. Vajrapani was originally practiced in the non-Tantric Mahayana tradition. Since merely reciting the mantra, or even visualizing the figure of Vajrapani, is not in itself a Tantric practice you don’t need any formal initiation.

  • I would be happy if you could kindly provide me some Buddhist texts on Vajrapani recitation. Because I could not find the text unlike other texts

  • Bhikkhu Trinley (Gelong)
    October 18, 2012 3:58 pm

    The correct pronunciation of Phat is P’at!
    While P’a represents accumulation, ‘at represents the cutting off.
    So, it abbreviates the Buddhist path of accumulation of wisdom and merit and then the giving away of all of it (creation/completion). This structure can be found in all practices be it ‘Hinayana’ or other. Even in Hinayana you have to grasp the Dhamma before you can let go, because letting go must be based on awakened wisdom.
    All the best
    Bhikkhu Trinley

  • Bhikkhu Trinley (Gelong)
    October 18, 2012 3:38 pm

    Hi! I just want to explain that
    1. The Tibetan mantras are not mangled! The Tibetan scholars devised a system of transliteration to write Sanskrit with Tibetan letters as *Mantras cannot be translated*!. The Consonants are written under each other until a vowel then another stack is beginning until the next vowel etc. Only if Tibetans read this like ordinary Tibetan then it becomes mangled. Also they used a ba to write va and a dza to write ja (va jra -> ba – n – dzra; ra ja -> ra – dza). Now, some people claim that this was the actual pronunciation as the Tibetans did *hear* it! So, Bandzra *might* be the correct way and not Vajra. We have similar changes in other languages as Beta in old Greek becomes Veeta in modern Greek. But I am not a linguist! ;)
    2. Mantras only need correct pronunciation to work – no faith necessary! But in the Tibetan system empowerment is necessary and the Mantra should be pronounced as during the empowerment.
    All the best
    Bhikkhu Trinley

  • Many thanks for all the comments Bodhipaksa and all, i really appreciate the work you do, I´m a mexican guy who has been in some retreats, and expects sometimes too much from life, just want to tell that yes sometimes we would like others to see “reality” as we see it, and I have very hard tried it with my own family and friends, i had to give up and appreciate what there is, not fearing our weaknesses and looking through a more, how to say open-hearted view of things… Now I think we see sometimes the Path with our limited old way of perceiving and need fresh look to all, sometimes at least, I know some of Sangharaksitas work and it has been very helpful to me to know about his voice and applie it to life, as a guide in the climbing my own hughe ( enormous) mountain… I congratulate all of you. I met once Buddhapalita as I remember his name when I went to Gujyaloka some greetings to him…
    keep up the good work I trust the Vajra and its symbolism and all This Mantras… In a way today I was doing some puja and met this page in the web…

  • Please let me apologize for going off on tangents. Like I said, ‘Nice to know what Alexandra said about Phat. The pronounciation I’ve heard from my Guru and his Guru sounded to me as ‘Hut. Reflecting into my ‘this life’ past, I recall distinctly when an officer came into the barracks in the Marine Corps the first person to see him would exclaim, “Ten-Hut!” That HUT sound is also used frequently in American football as the signal to snap the ball. Hut just seems unique to me besides it being how I heard it from my Master. But, you might consider that although were ‘hear sounds’ chances are many people hearing the same enunciation can hear it differently. Indeed I have talked with some of Master’s other disciples here in Chengdu and they do hear it differently although some hear it just as I do.
    Hate to use the word ‘I’ but sometimes we have to go with what we’ve got, or what’s got us.

  • To Bodhipaksa/mondo:
    The fellow has only asked about the pronounciation. He didn’t say he was willing to take whatever answer he gets on the net over his guru’s instructions. You guys got way ahead with assumptions attributed to me, which I have not made.
    A while ago mondo also replied to him regarding what he heard as far as the Phat pronounciation. I know one should listen to one’s guru; about that pronounciation I also dared to give a quote – not from a sacred text, from the first Westerner who got there and witnessed quite a bit. It was probably just a bit more than the “I heard that” level. You don’t have to shoot me. It was at this level only – discussion… over the internet. That was all. I didn’t suggest to take this over his guru’s. Peace and be good.

    • Sorry. I didn’t mean to sound like I was jumping on you. The original poster used a Tibetan name, so I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that he/she was practicing in a Tibetan lineage. Still, while David-Néel’s observation is interesting, it would be better to consult a Tibetan teacher about the pronunciation.

  • Right On Bodhipaksa! Emptiness is where all of ‘This’ is coming from. Even ‘The Buddha’ is Emptiness. You’re Emptiness, I’m Emptiness and all else. From the universe to the smallest atom, all is emptiness and and emptiness is all…vajra. In ‘looking for one’s mind’ emptiness is all that can be found. Except for this ‘looking’. Hence Awareness. Emptiness is Aware. Yet we seem to be aware of ‘our life. This is the initiation of metaphore…or ‘Selfishness’. Next step ‘down’ is the evolution of ‘I-ness’ mine-ness and ‘others’. All illusions, dreams, etc.. And true, tathagata garbha is easily seen as ‘something’ which it is not. It is just a metaphore for Emptiness. Now, when was any Emptiness born? Not. When does any Emptiness get born? Not. Emptiness simply is and always has been and will be although of course time is emptiness too. Looking at time: the past is gone…emptiness. The future hasn’t arrived yet… emptiness. And even now is totally impermanent…emptiness. I really like the metaphore of Space. Sace simply is and all that we think is as objects in this Space is moving IN space. Space is perflectly still and it is Emptiness. Of course it is a concept which is why The Diamond Sutra is so well akin to The Heart Sutra … our words are only what this illusion of our ‘self’ can use to speak with and they are all at source Empty yet with a touch of Awareness although oftentimes confused.
    When Vajrapani comes down to the mountain top where the sages are there to greet him, such as we’ve been chatting about are touches of the Dharma teachings he gave the sages. Why is Vajrapani dancing in flames with a vajra in his hand? The energy of Emptiness: Vajra. It is from Emptiness where the power of Vajrapani’s Mantra originates. It resonates with our ‘own’ emptiness and empowers ‘our’ awareness of which none is ‘our’s’. Vajra-pani: emptiness energy; Vajra-sattva: emptiness being and Vajra-dhara: emptiness awareness; the three vajra-brothers. Great metaphors.

  • The Heart Sutra is an early favorite of mine as well, although it was 1982 before I encountered it. At the Buddhist center I was attending it was frequently chanted, and so I have it memorized. In fact the first Dharma talk I ever gave was about the Heart Sutra…

    Both body and mind are empty! The sutra runs through the five skandhas, of form, feeling, apperception, habitual formations, and consciousness, and states that each one is empty. Empty of what? Empty of a self, or anything that could be the basis of a self. Empty of permanence. Empty of separateness.

    Emptiness, here, is a restatement of the Buddha’s recurring observation about the skandhas: “This is not me; this is not mine; I am not this.” He encouraged us to become aware of anything and everything that we might identify as a permanent and separate self, or as the basis of a permanent and separate self, and to cultivate that reflection in order to cease clinging to the notion of a self. It’s a radical approach, and one that was too much for some Buddhists, which is why we’ve ended up with the Vedic/Buddhist hybrid that we call Tathagatagarbha.

    Oy, oy, oy!

  • Sorry about the speculations, but my degree is in philosophy and speculating is a habit. For me, my first reading of The Heart Sutra was way back in ’69. Something about it left me with a feeling it was so deep. The ‘Form’ and ‘Emptiness’ interplay of course got to me at first. What the heck was Avalokitesvara trying to tell us. Since that time…many years later I dwelled on the next line where he goes into ‘no this’s and that’s’; particularly the ‘no birth and no death’ feature. And also I see where ‘Form’ can mean ‘Body’ and ‘Emptiness’ cam be translated as ‘Mind’. That’s where I’m coming from. Plus a favorite of yours and mine, Manjusri explains in Saptasatika translated by Conze that if he were to take someone out of samsara, then no one would be taken out of samsara. Deep Manjusri is indeed. To me at first glance he seems to be saying something about the oneness of Samsara and Nirvana. So I can see you and for that matter, everyone seeing this life as The Life in that we are here right now. The past is gone and the future ain’t yet. Meanwhile The Dharmakaya is…as The One. I don’t know, i’ll have to reread the Parinirvana Sutra over and over again. My first philosophical event occured reading Plato’s DIALOGUES OF SOCRATES and in it The Apology rang true for me and to find Buddha saying the same thing again rang true. Yes, in it those gathered around him were shocked when he spoke of just his body dying but he would live on. Then he explained how this teaching would be shown by the coming Buddha soon to follow. That next Buddha was Padmasambhava who has clarified the ‘Siddhi’ approach to Tathagata Gharbha. Oh well…still here and sometimes now.

  • I guess you agree with the Hinayana view that the Parinirvana Sutra is not a sutra. And with your view I suggest you never read The Parinirvana Sutra which parallels Socrates’ Apology almost verbatim. And Lord knows, stay away from anything by Maitraya. You need not even consider there is a buddha garbha within you which is The Real You. You must know the sravaka/ Hinayanist even go so far as to refute Nagarjuna and say his Prajnaparamita Sutras are not real sutras. In them if read carefully you’ll see Manjusri expaining about how we never die and it’s because we’ve never been born. The Heart Sutra says as much also despite the Hinayana putting this Sutra into the not real sutras class too. One life…one death…actually neither nor.

    Maybe this ‘One Shot’ is the last straw before conceptuality dissolves. Good luck with that.

    • You’re getting a bit carried away with your speculation about my views, Mondo.

      The Parinirvana Sutra, and the other Mahayana Sutras, are clearly sutras. They weren’t taught by the Buddha, but they’re inspired works that obviously come from a deep level of practice, and in many cases (particularly with regard to the teachings on shunyata, they take the teachings of the Buddha to new depths). Buddhism is a ongoing exploration of the path to Awakening, and it would be silly to dismiss the achievements and insights of later writings just because they weren’t written by the Buddha himself (and much of the Pali canon is not the teaching of the Buddha, either).

      As for the Tathagathagarbha doctrine, I’m afraid, yes, that’s not something I can swallow. I see it as a step back from the radicalness of the Buddha’s teaching on anatta, and in fact it’s remarkably similar to some fo the views that the Buddha argued against. The Buddha would not have agreed at all with the language of “the Real You.” I’ve seen through the illusion of my own self enough to know that there is no “real me.”

      The word “hinayana,” by the way, means “inferior vehicle,” and was a polemical term invented by the Mahayanists in order to denigrate other schools and to demonstrate their own superiority. It’s time the term was retired, I think.

      And the Buddha (according to the Pali canon) implicitly said that it was acceptable to believe that there was only this one life. Who am I to disagree with the Tathagata? :)

  • You, know, I think that’s one of these thing where the Buddha’s teaching on speculating thinking comes in. We need to concentrate on this life and on pulling out the poisoned arrow, not on speculating on what’s going to happen after we die.

    For the record, I’m a “this is your one shot, and even if you get enlightened you’re still going to die and that’s it” sort of a fella.

  • Nice to know the Alexandra David-Neal information, but your own personal Guru is the key. I’m wondering about the semantics of Phat. My meager understanding about the mantra is for one’s trip to the bardo afterlife and being helped there by your Guru to be led to a pure land. But I’m wondering…if you’re lucky enough to manage the Rainbow Body upon the sequence of dying events, then is going to a Pure Land even necessary? Which is to say…There’s essentially 5 Pure Lands: Amaghosiddhi’s, Akshobia’s, Ratnasambhaba’s, Amida’s and Vairocana’s with Vairocana’s also being Samantabadhra’s too; Akanista. Most Gurus say they want to take you to Amida’s pure land. Why not Akinista? Supposedly The Buddha is there. And from my limited viewpoint…it seems to me once this ‘Enlightenment’ ever happens…when you come out of it, you’re right here on Earth again yet with a different view; Earth as Pure Land. Perhaps I’m terribly confused…that would’nt supprise me at all. The mind can twist things around.

  • To Karma Tsering Lhamo regarding Phat pronounciation:

    If we are to consider a first hand account, Alexandra David-Neel would be a credible source. She speaks about it in her book “With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet” but in more detail also in her work in “Immortalite et reincarnation.” In the latter she details the pronounciation of Phat in the Bardo Thos Tol chapter as [phet!]. She insists numerous times that it is pronounced [phet!]. Also, she saw both ceremonies and people applying p’howa on themselves successfully. So perhaps it is safe at least to say that according to her phat pronounced [phet!] really works.
    That’s not to say the other versions are wrong, but personally I listen to Al David-Neel when it comes to tiny details like that that can make a difference.

    • If someone’s intension is to be faithful to the Tibetan tradition in which they’re training, they should follow the guidance of their guru, for that’s the Tibetan way. I wouldn’t advise taking David-Néel as an authority over one’s own teacher. She may have been wrong, or she may be talking about a specific dialect. Personally, I don’t think that the correct pronunciation makes any real difference, but as a matter of respect it’s best to follow one’s teacher. Of course if you think the teacher is wrong, take it up with them…

  • Yes you’re right Sanskrit or Ghandarvi was the language the Tibetans created their script off of, but again you’re right, they felt they had to ‘code’ it or ‘bastardize’ their script to get the sutras out of India at the time. It was politics. Yet Chinese phonemics seem to be their pronounciation mode. My Master has Mantra books with the Tibetan on the top lines while Chinese below for all of His Chinese disciples. The Chinese people can say or sing the mantras easily that way, but the Chinese semantics are not the Tibetan semantics. So it seems to me semantically the Tibetan follows the Ghandarvi although the script is quite different while phonemically the base seems to be Chinese. Historically Tibet has a history of looking towards India for its philosophical guidance while also having China as a deep influence. Kind of like whetre East meets West. Indeed on Tibetan King had two wives; one from China and one from Nepal.

  • Actually I’ve heard Phat also said rather simply or just spoken. Yet it still sounds like hut. Tibetan and Chinese have such incredible ways to put letters in a word that go unpronounced. I wonder why? I mean Hat could easily sound like hut in English. The English A has so many ways to be sounded. Ah, At and some renditions with Uh. Ususally in Chinese a P is a B. It’s crazy speech if you ask me.

    • It’s similar in American English, though. Americans could easily say MUN-duh-luh (close enough for maṇḍala), but they insist on man-DAH-lah. It’s hard to speak someone else’s language, since it tends to get filtered through the pronunciation rules of your native tongue, and with Chinese and Tibetan not even being from the same language group as Sanskrit, it’s even harder for them.


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