Three Vajras

Three Vajras

The Three Vajras namely 'body', 'speech' and 'mind' are a formulation within Tibetan Buddhism which reflects the full experience of Buddha-nature and the attempt by the tantric practitioner to adopt it in all its forms as the path to enlightenment. In Japanese Buddhism they are known as the Three Mysteries (Japanese: "san-mitsu"). The Three Jewels imply purity of action, speech and thought and therefore in Tibetan Buddhism the Three Vajras are viewed in The Twilight Language as a form of the Three Jewels. The term is often mentioned in Vajrayana Buddhist discourse, particularly in relation to samaya, the vows undertaken between a practitioner and their guru during initiation. The term is also used during Anuttarayoga Tantra practice. The Three Vajras correspond to the Trikaya, or three bodies of a Buddha and therefore also have correspondences to the Three Roots and other refuge formulas of Tibetan Buddhism.

Nomenclature and etymology

The Three Vajras is an English rendering of "gsang ba gsum" (Tibetan); which has variously been rendered as: Three Secrets, Three Mysteries, Three Seats and Three Doors. Another Tibetan orthography that explicitly mentions Vajra (Tibetan: "rdo-rje") is: "rdo rje gsang ba gsum". The full Tibetan title may be rendered into English as 'the three secrets of the noble ones' (Tibetan: "phags pa'i gsang ba gsum") which are: body (Tibetan: "sku"); voice/speech (Tibetan: "gsung") and mind (Tibetan: "thugs"). Another full title: "sku gsung thugs mi zad pa rgyan gyi 'khor lo" may be rendered as "Inexhaustible adornment wheel of Body, Speech and Mind" where the term "'khor lo" is the Tibetan term for "chakra" (Sanskrit).

Vajra Body

The Vajra Body (Tibetan: "rdo rje'i lus"; "sku rdo rje"; ). In explicating the term "rdo rje'i lus", the [ Dharma Dictionary] states that it denotes: "The human body, the subtle channels of which resemble the structure of a vajra." [ [ Dharma Dictionary] (2007). Source: ['i_lus] (accessed: January 5, 2008)]

Vajra Voice

The Vajra Speech/Voice (Tibetan: "rdo rje'i gsung"; "gsung rdo rje"). In elucidating the term, the Dharma Dictionary states that it denotes: 'vajra speech', 'vajra words'. [ [ Dharma Dictionary] (2007). Source: [] (accessed: January 5, 2008)]

Vajra Mind

The Vajra Mind (Tibetan: "thugs rdo rje"; Sanskrit: "citta-vajra") is defined by the Dharma Dictionary as: mind vajra, vajra mind. [Source: [ Dharma Dictionary] (2007) [] (accessed: January 5, 2008)]


The Three Vajras are often employed in tantric sadhana at various stages during the visualization. For example the Three Vajras imagery may be used during the refuge tree, guru yoga and yidam, or meditational deity, processes. The concept of the Three Vajras serves in esoteric Twilight Language to convey polysemic meanings, aiding the practitioner to conflate and unify the mindstream of the meditational deity, the guru and the sadhaka in order for the practitioner to experience their own Buddha nature..

Speaking for the Tibetan Nyingma tradition, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche perceives an identity and relationship betwixt the Buddha Nature, "Dharmadhatu" (essence of all phenomena and the noumenon), the Dharmakaya, Rigpa (the "awakened state") and the Three Vajras, saying:

"Dharmadhatu is adorned with dharmakaya, which is endowed with dharmadhatu wisdom. This is a brief but very profound statement, because 'dharmadhatu' also refers to sugata-garbha or buddha nature. Buddha nature is all-encompassing ... This buddha nature is present just as the shining sun is present in the sky. It is indivisible from the three vajras [i.e. the Buddha's Body, Speech and Mind] of the awakened state, which do not perish or change." ["As It Is", Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Rangjung Yeshe Books, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 32]

Robert Beer (2003: p.186) states:

"The trinity of body, speech, and mind are known as the three gates, three receptacles or three vajras, and correspond to the western religious concept of righteous thought (mind), word (speech), and deed (body). The three vajras also correspond to the three kayas, with the aspect of body located at the crown ("nirmanakaya"), the aspect of speech at the throat ("sambhogakaya"), and the aspect of mind at the heart ("dharmakaya")." [Beer, Robert (2003). "The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols". Serindia Publications. ISBN 1932476032 Source: [,M1] (accessed: December 7, 2007)]

The seed syllables corresponding to the Three Vajras are: a white "om" (enlightened body), a red "ah" (enlightened speech) and a blue "hum" (enlightened mind). [cite book|last=Rinpoche|first=Pabongka|title=Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand: A Concise Discourse on the Path to Enlightenment|publisher=Wisdom Books|date=1997|pages=p.196]

Simmer-Brown (2001: p.334) asserts that:

When informed by tantric views of embodiment, the physical body is understood as a sacred maṇḍala (Wylie: "lus kyi dkyil"). [Simmer-Brown, Judith (2001). "Dakini's Warm Breath: the Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism". Boston, USA: Shambhala. ISBN 1-57062-720-7 (alk. paper). p.334]
This explicates the semiotic rationale for the nomenclature of the Himalayan somatic discipline Trul Khor: Trul Khor may be rendered in English as "Magical Wheel".

Kukkuraja's instruction to Garab Dorje

Kukkuraja's instruction to Garab Dorje entailed a teaching of the Three Vajras in relation to Vajrasattva, Atiyoga and "Kulayaraja Tantra":

"Everything without exception is the Divine Body-Speech-Mind," he had said. "The Divine Body-Speech-Mind is all-encompassing. Thus know your ultimate identity to be Vajrasattva, the Divine Body-Speech-Mind." As the Tibetan text of the Kulaya-raja Sutra (Kun.byed.rgyal.po'i .mdo) states: "When everything is seen as the Great Self-identity (bdag.nyid.chen.po), it is known as Atiyoga." [Dharma Fellowship (2005). "Biographies: Pramodavajra, Regent of the Divine". Source: [] (accessed: November 15, 2007)]

Five fundamental aspects of an enlightened being

The Three Vajras are subsumed within the 'Five fundamental aspects of an enlightened being'. Namkhai Norbu "et al." (2001: p.176) lists the English rendering with the associated Tibetan language term:

The body ("sku"), voice ("gsung"), mind ("thugs"), qualities ("yon tan") and activities ("phrin las") represent the five fundamental aspects of an enlightened being. [Norbu, Namkhai (author, compiler); Clemente, Adriano (translated from Tibetan into Italian, edited and annotated); Lukianowicz, Andy (translated from Italian into English) (1999, 2001). "The Precious Vase: Instructions on the Base of Santi Maha Sangha." Second revised edition. Shang Shung Edizioni.]

ee also




* Urgyen, Tulku (1999). "As It Is". Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Books. ISBN

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