To receive the blessings and inspirations necessary for the successful practice of highest yoga tantra, the qualified disciple is instructed to visualize his or her spiritual master as inseparable from Vajradhara, Holder of the Diamond Scepter (Plate 16), as described in the following verses from the Six-Session Yoga:
In the sky before me, on a breath-taking throne of jewels,
On a mandala seat of a lotus, a sun and full moon,
Sits my root guru, the all-pervading Vajradhara,
With a blue-colored body, one face and two arms.
Holding vajra and bell, and embracing his duplicate consort;
He shines resplendent with all the marks of Buddha,
Adorned with many dazzling jeweled ornaments,
Draped with fine garments of enchanting, heavenly scarves.
Even the mere remembrance of him dispels all my tormet.
With a nature encompassing every supreme refuge,
He sits cross – legged in the vajra position
The three spots of his body marked with three letters.5
This description of Vajradhara contains succinct references to the most important features of Vajradhara practice in general and guru-yoga in particular. The opening phrase, “In the sky.” Indicates that nothing within the subsequent visualization has even one atom of concrete, inherent self-existence but arises instead from the unobstructed space of emptiness. Out of this space like emptiness if inherent existence appears the seat of lotus, sun and moon symbolizing the three principles upon which the Vajrayana practice is founded: renunciation, wisdom and the altruistic motivation of bidhichitta. And enthroned on this special seat is ones root guru – the spiritual guide who has directed one’s mind to the path – visualized not in his ordinary form but as indistinguishable from the Buddha of the tantras, the glorious Vajradhara himself.
Guru Vajradhara’s body is deep blue in color, indicating the profound and boundless nature of his omniscient mind. His two hands are in the embracing mudra to show that he has mastered the union of method and wisdom characteristic of the path leading to the full enlightenment of buddhahood. The powerful diamond scepter(Skt. Vajra; Tib. Dorje) in his right hand is the symbol for compassionate method – the supremely effective means Vajradhara employs to fulfill the wishes of others – while the bell in his left hand stands for his penetrative wisdom into the ultimate nature of reality.
The symbolism of the bell is sometimes explained as follows. When a bell is struck it produces a sound which, like all other phenomena appearing to our senses, seems to be inherently existent. In other words, to an unenlightened being this sound appears to exist solely from its own side, in its own right, as an independent something “out there” waiting to be perceived. But when we search to find such an independently existing sound, we cannot find it anywhere. We cannot locate it in the clapper, in the rim of the bell, in our ear or anywhere else. But although we cannot find it in this way, it still exists. As analysis reveals, sound is a phenomenon that arises totally in dependence upon the interaction of other phenomena, e.g. the striking of the clapper against the rim. It is a dependent- arising and , as such, lacks even one atom of inherent self-existence. Sound, therefore, serves as a clear example of a phenomenon that is totally empty of inherent existence, and the bell is used to remind us of the wisdom that directly perceives this emptiness and cuts through our imprisoning ignorance of the way things exist.
Vajradhara’s consort, who possesses the same enlightened attributes as himself, is Vajradhatu Ishvari: Powerful Goddess of the Diamond Sphere. They are shown sitting together in father-mother (Tib. Yab-yum) embrace. The ecstatic expressions on their faces symbolize profound absorption into the clear light nature of the mind, devoid of limitations and pervaded by inconceivable bliss. The brilliantly colored aura of rainbow light radiating from them both is a further expression of this blissful state of meditative absorption into ultimate reality.
Buddhas such as Vajradhara have fulfilled twp types of purpose through their attainment of two types of body (Skt. Kaya). They have fulfilled their own purpose through the attainment of a completely unobstructed mind – the so- called dharmakay, or truth-body – and they benefit others through their attainment of rupakaya, the innumerable form bodies through which the dharmakaya mind spontaneously manifests. For example, to some a Buddha may appear as a fully renounced monk and teach the graded paths of the sutra vehicle, while to others he may appear as glorious Vajradhara and reveal the lightning path of Vajradhara. To achieve a buddha’s enlightenment ourselves, we also have to attain these two kayas, and this is accomplished by the joint practice of wisdom and compassionate method, the former being the primary cause of a buddha’s truth body and the latter the cause of the various form bodies.