Vishvavajra as a talisman of stability and ‘grounded, lightning-clear awareness’


Who are the people, and what are the practices, that give you stability and clarity? I’ve been reflecting a lot about this lately, and perhaps as a result, I’ve been seeking out talismans that represent strength, stability, clarity, harmony. One beautiful traditional image I’ve been drawn to is that of the double vajra. (Apparently, vajra is the Sanskrit term and dorje is the Tibetan term.)

For my second wedding anniversary last week, my husband inspired the gorgeous pendant pictured above to come into my life. And for my birthday, my sisters gifted me with these two stunning handmade vishvavajra pieces:


I first found out about the double vajra in an Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor newsletter item:


doublevajraThe image above is a vishvavajra or double-vajra. I put one in the window at the shala to introduce this image to those who are learning the intermediate series postures named for it – laghu vajrasana (petite thunderbolt) and supta vajrasana (sleeping thunderbolt). The vajra image shows up all over the yoga tradition, and the crossed version is most often found in tantric Buddhism. In Tibet, it’s stamped at the base of statues of ecstatic deities, perhaps to moor them here in the immanent, physical world. This is because the vishvavajra connotes grounded, lightning-clear awareness, and the stability of the physical world. It’s also a kind of amulet warding off delusion and self-deception.

Lightning-clarity can manifest as sudden realization, especially symbolized by the single vajra – a scepter-like image you’ll find on the cover of the most important east-west spiritual book of the last generation, Chogyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Awesomely, the single vajra is said to have this quality of cutting through – cutting through illusion, cutting through the BS stories we tell ourselves about who we are, cutting through the internal chatter that traps us in self-delusion until the coup by which we slice ourselves free. But the double vajra is said to summon harmony along with insight. I see it as an amulet for scintillating clarity combined with compassion in action. That’s not necessarily us, but it could be.

I have felt more clarity, harmony and stability in the past year than I ever remember experiencing as an adult — despite some challenges like my miscarriage — and I credit a rope of practices and people for this. Individually, the fibers of the rope are pretty numerous. But they might roughly be unwoven into the following four main threads:

  • ashtanga yoga (complemented by the other Indian wellness science of Ayurveda)
  • meditation
  • teachers
  • family and friends

While I have felt so much abundance with all of these stability points — how lucky am I with the intensity of love I have from family and friends? — I haven’t even begun to experience the full intensity of what can come from meditation. I’m fixing that tomorrow, as I head to the orientation of my first-ever weeklong meditation retreat.

What helps shape your vishvavajra?

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Out of the frying pan into the . . . void?

I am writing this as my husband drives. Our check-in suitcases for our weeklong meditation retreat with Shinzen Young are in the back seat and of course mine is a mess because as of 2 a.m. last night I still hadn’t finished packing.

The week heading into trips like this always feel like some sort of sprint-marathon. So much to finish at work, so much feels undone as the plane starts to taxi. “Out of the frying pan into the –” I started to say yesterday to my husband. “The void?” he helpfully offered.

I have some idea of what to expect and no idea of what to expect either on my first meditation retreat. Finding a consistent sitting practice has helped mitigate the aversion I used to have to trying to watch the mind; I used to very much identify with what Anne Lamott once said:

My mind remains a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.

I have come to savor what watching the mind has to offer. It’s not always pleasant, but overall, the practice feels grounding and cathartic. And necessary, as necessary as my Ashtanga practice feels.

We are seated in the cabin now, about to take off for a 1,973-mile flight. Not our longest trip,” I just said to my husband as we were waiting to board. “But maybe our longest trip.”