The Dharani of the Vajra Quintessence

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The Dharani of the Vajra Quintessence (Skt. Vajramaṇḍadhāraṇī; Tib.རྡོ་རྗེ་སྙིང་པོའི་གཟུངས་, Wyl. rdo rje snying po’i gzungs) is a text which belongs to the Buddhist genre called dharani or incantation. In the Dergé Kangyur most works of this class, usually short Mahayana sutras or tantric texts, are found in the corresponding General Sutra or Action Tantra sections, but are also duplicated in their own Compendium of Dharaṇis section of two hundred and sixty-four texts (Toh 846–1108).

The present text, however, is included only in the General Sutra section and is one of the few such sutras that, despite having the term dharani in their titles, are not duplicated in the compendium. This particular text is not a dharani in the sense in which that term is applied to a large number of scriptures containing a specific mantra-like formula recited in order to bring about a desired result. It contains no such formula at all, but rather presents a series of specific dharani that constitute spiritual qualities or forms of spiritual realization. First and foremost among these is the dharani of the vajra quintessence, which is presented as the ultimate mode of being or state of realization that eludes all conceptual appropriation while at the same time being immanent in all things.

The basic meaning of the Sanskrit dharana is to ‘hold’, ‘uphold’, or་‘maintain’, and the term is frequently used in reference to memory and learning. In the context of the present text, the terms dharani or dharani gates (dharanimukha) refer to teachings that are retained, the ways of putting them into practice, and the spiritual realizations that are attained as a result in a manner similar to the way meditative absorption (samadhi) or samadhi gates (samadhimukha) are presented in many other Mahayana sutras.

From the outset, the teaching is strikingly enigmatic. The Buddha begins ་by warning his audience, in a paradoxical tone that defines the entire discourse, that although there is neither awakening nor buddha qualities in this dharani—understood here as both a type of discourse and a type of non-dual realization—bodhisattvas nonetheless strive for Buddhahood.[1]


The Tibetan translation of this text can be found in the General Sutra section of the Tibetan Dergé Kangyur, Toh 139


  1. 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.