Note on Vajrapani-Indra

p. 311 Those who take an interest in Buddhist art are well acquainted with the constant companion of the Buddha, who is pictured in various ways and without any constant type, but who is nevertheless easily recognized by means of his attribute, the vajra or thunderbolt, wherefore it has become customary to speak of him under the name of Vajrapani, "he in whose hand is the vajra." The figure has been explained in various ways. After Cunningham he was usually identified with Devadatta, the Buddha's cousin, because his attitude sometimes seemed to indicate animosity towards the Buddha. Professor Grunwedel(1) justly objected to this explanation, because the figure occurs in scenes where there cannot be any question of Devadatta. He agreed with Burgers,(2) that the thunderbolt-carrier was originally Indra, but thought that he was subsequently in many cases identified with Mara, of whom we read in the Nidanakatha that he approached the Bodhisattva when he left the palace and thence "followed after him, like an ever-present shadow, ever on the watch for some slip." The vajra is, he says, simply the old attribute of Indian gods. The ensuing uncertainty resulted in a now ncutral, denomination, Vajrapani, perhaps taken from some stotra, which led to the conception of a separate being, who later on came to play a considerable role especially in Mahayana. _______________________ 1. Buddhistische Kunst in Indien. 2. ed. Berlin 1900, pp. 84ff. The first edition is not accessible in Oslo. 2. Journal of Indian Art and Industry, No. 62-63, 1898, p.30; not accessible to me. p. 312 M. Foucher, who was at first inclined to accept Professor Grunwedel's explanation, later on(1) identified the figure with Vajrapani, the guhyaka or yaksa chief mentioned in the Lalitavistara,(2) and this same identification was also proposed by M.

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Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin 1888.' not an indefinite yakkha he should be understood to be Sakka.ntu. with a flaming ayokuta in his hand. "he is called Vajirapani. 1909.g. Foucher and Senart is right. Senart(1) and M. 497ff. and frightens the proud Ambattha: vajiram panimhi assati Vajirapani. L'art greco-bouddhique du Gandhara. 313 M. 3. JRAS. and. Vajrapani is an epithet of Indra. and in the Mahamayuri(6) we read that he resided on the Grdhrakuta in Rajagrha. the designation vajrapani being met with for the first time in the Sadvimsabrahmana. hitherto been noticed. 9. 48ff. 66. the Mahamayuri v. IX. cf. I.(7) In Indian mythology. pp. Digha Nikaya III. Actes du XIV Congres international des orientalistes Alger 1905. p. Lefmann. 6. About the existence of a yaksa called Vajrapani in Buddhist tradition there cannot be any doubt. the king of the gods. Cf. Elizabeth Colton Spooner(5) tried to prove that the underlying idea was that of the Avestan fravashi. Zwei vedische Texte uber Omina und Portonta. vajrahasta. 4. in the Rgveda. II." Here it is evident that to Buddhaghosa Vajrapani was Indra. Vajrapani sculptures du Gandhara.121ff. v. Bulletin de l'Ecole francaise d'Extreme Orient. 29: Indra's cEndrapure. i. p. ______________________ 1. I think that the explanation of Messrs. p. 7. the yaksa 2 de 6 08/12/2010 16:43 . yakkho ti. 1916. I am not going to add a new theory to those advocated by these scholars. 523ff. Mrs. as to 'yakkha. 5. p. e.(3) dans les A new explanation was given by Professor Vogel. na yo va so va yakkho. who is characterized as vajrabahu.Note on Vajrapani-Indra http://ccbs. p. Sakko devarajati veditabbo. 316. 1915. pp. As pointed out by the two French savants. pp. however. he is mentioned in the Lalitavistara and elsewhere.e. PP. 204. and we may therefore reasonably put the question whether the Vajrapani of Gandhara art is not simply a duplicate of Indra. 19ff.(8) In Buddhist literature(9) Indra is repeatedly mentioned as a yaksa. XI. finally. so far as I know. Sylvain Levi.3 Vajrapani Rajagrhe Grdhrakute krtalayah. Cf. ed. Foucher(2) draw attention to the explanation given by Buddhoghosa(3) on the passage in the Ambattha Sutta(4) where we read how the yakkha Vajirapani appears in the air.htm Senart in his important paper. p. and my object in writing these lines is mainly to draw attention to an indication contained in a Mahayana sutra which has not. (4) who explained the figure as a representation of the Buddhist dharma. 8. cf. v. JA. I. Le catalogue geographique des Yaksa dans la Mahamayuri.358. because the vajira is in his hand. Abhandlungen der Kgl. 2. 219.

bzin gsegs. po." Here accordingly Brgya-byin. bcuhi. and forthwith. Satakratu. swept out of the town what dust and sweepings and sand there was in the great town of Rajagrha. bar.(5) Fol. Brgya. nil. bskrag. rol. bco. and which was evidently very popular with the Buddhists of Chinese Turkestan. byin. who acted in this way. dan | de. 346ff. phab | " at that time the ruler of the gods. the ruler of the gods. i. ba. Mdo na fol. chuhi char rab. who had gathered in the hope of defeating him in argument. dehi. ba. rje. gyis. hkhrugs. Satakratu or Indra. khyer. crying. the king of the gods. kyan. as also Buddhaghosa's remark quoted above. brgyad. P. gyi. gyis. at that time. dban. shed tears. thag . po. plays exactly the same role as the yakkha Vajirapani in the Digha Nikaya. p. hjig. But to the author of the sutra it was Indra. flourished the thunderbolt. na. nu. p. gyi. rdo. 3. tumultuously rising from the four quarters. pahi. who accompanies the Buddha. Satakratu. pa. mi. po. 264. nas rlun. 123. chen. de. nam. gsegs. khyer. kyi. 314 Again on fol. gan. snan. rdo. and in the regions of the four quarters perfumed water rained down. rten. rnams. gsor. mdzad. II. dban. pos. rje. Digha Nikaya I. 95. dan | phyag. bzi.htm A similar state of affairs must be inferred from the Samghatasutra. dnans. nas | phyogs. ma. There are two passages in the Samghatasutra which would seem to be of interest in the present connexion. 4.ntu. ______________________ 1. Now it might be urged that these passages in the Samghatasutra. We hear how the town was agitated how divine sandal-dust and divine flowers fell down from the air as rain. dan | de. bzi. tu. four wind-kings. zag. ba. khams. lans. sku. we read about an encounter between the Buddha and numerous nirgranthas. lhahi. sometimes terrifying his adversaries. 357ff. gron. and the Tathagata made his body invisible. nas. do | " at that time. gsor. nal. rnams. lhahi. at that epoch. Sumangala Vilasini I. dus. dar dan | bye. dag. snar.Note on Vajrapani-Indra http://ccbs. de bzin. ste." We are involuntarily reminded of the Vajrapani of the sculptures. su. bear witness to the conception originally 3 de 6 08/12/2010 16:43 . Then we read: dehi. gron. ma. dan | de. and forthwith the eighteen ten-million nirgranthas. and further: dehi. phi. pohi. p. spyan. in fear and terror. spos. bor. rgyal. pa bye. tshe. bu.e. pohi khab. de. nas. sdug. po. Rgyal. but they only get angry. where the Buddha is going to preach the law. nas. I quote from the Kanjur. tu. sometimes serving him in other ways. a Mahayana text which is found in Chinese and Tibetan translations. 52. The Buddha rebukes them. where several fragments of a Saka version have been found. bsnal. te. tormented with great misery. phrag. Brgya. mchi. tshe. 2. 5. chen. flourished the thunderbolt before the Tathagata. 382 we read how various beings come together in Rajagrha. gi. nas. byin. phyogs. tshe. pas.

Note on Vajrapani-Indra http://ccbs. and the yaksa is only a secondary development. his time coincides with the flourishing of Brahmanism and brahmanized literature under the Guptas. 315 Saka version are written in the upright form of Central Asian Gupta which cannot be older than the fourth or fifth century A. evidently borrowed from national Indian art. The work is further mentioned in the Mahavyutpatti 65. Senart and Foucher. p.). there are strong reasons for not identifying Vajrapani with Indra. belonging to a time when. These features are missing in the case of Vajrapani. the same trend of argument which was adduced by Professor Grunwedel. which make the identification of his figure certain. ZDMG. or rather. Foucher aptly remarks. it was completed in 538 A. 3. And it is quite possible that the author of the Samghatasutra had in his mind scenes which he knew from Buddhist art. evolved out of the multiform notions connected with him. p. Franke has been good enough to let me know that. as M. 4 de 6 08/12/2010 16:43 . 105.c. l. Buddhaghosa came to Ceylon during the reign of king Mahanama (458-480 A. but none of these sources points to a high age for the Samghatasutra. 125. Methodically. And. In other words. 2. Senart's conclusion:(3) "que nous ______________________ 1. 61. 52. i. as pointed out by Messrs.D.D. Indra was evidently well known to the artists of Gandhara. 62. even if we abstract from the fact that both are sometimes pictured side by side. and he is pictured with certain characteristic features. misinterpretation. according to Bunyiu Nanjio's Catalogue. however.ntu. The oldest is due to and Professor O. The fragments of the p. 655. which is not accessible to me.e. as will be seen. II. They are both too young.htm underlying the Gandhara representation of Vajrapani: we have to do with Indra. and his representation in Gandhara art shows so much variety that we must evidently accept p.D. but rather that they are due to the reaction of orthodox Brahmanism which is noticeable during and after the Gupta period: Buddhist traditions and Buddhist art were then liable to be interpreted in the light of Brahmanic lore.(2) the tradition about Vajrapani had been lost. 61. we here have before as a secondary interpretation. According to Professor Leumann(1) there are two Chinese translations of the text. and to the Brahmins the real Vajrapani could only be Indra. This is. And the Samghatasutra cannot be an old work. The probable explanation of the role played by Indra-Vajrapani in the Samghatasutra as well as of Buddhaghosa's remark about the yakkha Vajirapani of the Digha Nikaya is therefore that they are not the result of a vague recollection of the conceptions originally underlying the Vajrapani figure of Gandhara art. perhaps in consequence of the use of the term vajrapani about Indra. it would hardly be admissible to draw such far-reaching conclusions from the above texts.

Vol. as we have seen." the porr of Old Norse mythology." That does not imply that Vajrapani himself.htm p. And in art itself. and I think that most scholars hold a similar view. I feel convinced that exactly the opposite is just as often the case. 317 by Indra. and he was never quite absorbed ________________________ 1. cf. or even older than.ntu. the interesting monography by Ananda K.(1) It is even conceivable that the yaksa Vajrapani should be traced back to conceptions which are as old as. when we find long lists of thousand or more names of gods such as Siva. le personnage est de date recente. 33. in Hellas and Rome he was associated with Zeus-Juppiter. But a vague recollection of his original independence had left its impression on the religious mind of the Aryans. p. It seems to me that it is necessary to explain 5 de 6 08/12/2010 16:43 . Washington 1928. in my opinion. is not older than the art of Gandhara. On the contrary. M. in the case of Indra himself. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 159. e.g. Coomaraswamy. 6. With the Germanic tribes he became the "Thunderer. of yaksas. in the Atharvaveda Bhava and Sarva are asked to use their Vajra against evil-doers (IV. The vajra is the Indian representative of the thunderbolt. 3). we also find Rudra designated as vajrabahu (II. is inclined to adapt this explanation to our case. It has often been pointed out that new deities may develop out of some epithet of an older god.Note on Vajrapani-Indra http://ccbs. rose to the rank of supreme god. and Professor Grunwedel. It seems to me that Indra's association with the vajra is of a similar kind. Even in the and Soma smites with the vajra (VI. in a terrific an evident instance of this syncretism. as the guardian of Buddhist dharma. No. dans l'art au moins. and a comparison of corresponding ideas with other Indo-European peoples leads to the conclusion that even in the Indo-European period there was some idea of a vaguely personified independent wielder of the thunderbolt. in the Bhagavatapurana (X.. our chief document for the period when Indra. Senart is of opinion that the figure occupies an intermediate position between a pre-Gandhara yaksa chief and the Vajrapani of Mahayana. 20) Visnu wields the thunderbolt. In the pantheon of the Rgveda we have.6. and so forth. 2). Indra.28.80. the figure may be connected with older Indian representations. as separate from Indra. propre a 1'ecole du Gandhara. and in India he became Indra. 316 sommes en presence d'une creation nouvelle. who absorbed such vague representatives of force and power as Vrtrahan in the days when he became the supreme god of the Indian Aryans.6). &c. que.

ntu. and to assume that he had developed long before he was introduced into Buddhist art by the artists of the yaksa Vajrapani from such subconscious or semi-conscious reminiscences of an older 6 de 6 08/12/2010 16:43 . the Indian vajradhara xxs is secondary and due to the increasing influence which Brahmanic notions come to exercise in India. His association with Indra.Note on Vajrapani-Indra http://ccbs.