Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in the world with the sole purpose of helping all sentient beings. Lord Buddha revealed many different means/paths to enlightenment out of great compassion and set forth three wheels of law to suit varying degrees of intelligence and receptivities.
It is said that Shakyamuni Buddha himself was in the form of Vajradhara while he was teaching the Tantric path to his gifted disciples. Vajradhara is depicted holding a Vajra and a bell in his left hand. Vajradhara arms are kept crossed in front of him expressing complete integration of prajna and Upaya. He is usually depicted in blue colour in Vajraparyanka posture. He has a crown, an Urna and an Ushnisha as of a Sambhogakaya Buddha.
Vajradhara is also depicted in the father-mother aspect. Then he holds his usual symbols while his arms are crossed at the back of his consort. The consort is non-other than Prajnaparamita in deified form. The Kargyudpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism begins with the Buddha Vajradhara. The individual in this tradition is allowed to visualize his root Guru as Buddha Vajradhara. Guru Tilopa is said to have received Mahamudra Instruction directly from Buddha Vajradhara through visions and other extraordinary means.
In Nispannayogavali, Vajradhara is the main deity in Vajraattvamandala. He is three-faced, six-armed and reddish-white. His right arm holds a Vajra, a sword and a Kapala and his left hand hold a bell, an Ankush and a noose. He stands in the Ardhaparyanka posture and dances in Tandava style.
Vajrasattva is also regarded as Adi-Buddha by Nepalese Vajracharyas who follows Vajrayana tradition according to the text Shakyamuni Buddha Vajrasattvakaya. His body is white with one face and two hands. His right-hand holds a five prolonged golden Vajra at his heart. His left-hand holds a silver bell at his side. He sits in the Vajraparyanka posture earing precious silks and ornaments with jewel diadem. His body is adorned with 32 major and 80 minor marks of a Sambhogakaya and emits a clear limitless light. It appears to lack all notion of substantiality, like the reflection of the moon in the water.
Vajrasattva has a father-mother aspect too. Generally, this form is not exhibited in open. It is shown only to those who are initiated in the highest yoga tantra. His form is the same as in the single one but his consort carries a kartri in her right hand and a kapala in her left hand.
Vajrasattva is said to have been originated from seed syllable hum and is generally invoked from the removal of obscuration of Kleshavarana and Jneyavarana. His hundred syllable mantra is very efficacious in purifying our defilements through confession practice. It is said if confession is done with the four opponent powers, then non-virtuous actions or obscurations will be purified. The first opponent power is the force of reliance. This means looking upon the visualised image of Vajrasattva as the embodiment of one’s refuge. The second opponent power is the sincere regret for the non-virtuous action done by oneself. The third opponent power is desisting from evil deeds. The fourth opponent power is to apply the power of good deeds and especially regarding this case practising the meditation and recitation of Vajrasattva without parting from Bodhicitta while remaining in the state of emptiness. Vajrasattva is a very popular guardian deity for Nepalese Vajracharyas. He is worshipped very often by Nepalese Buddhist through the Gurumandala ritual.
Vairocana Buddha is one of the Five Tathagatas symbolizing all-pervasive wisdom (Skt. Suvisuddha Dharma dhatu jnana) i.e. knowledge free from all kind of Obscuration. He is placed generally in the sanctum of the Stupa. Sometimes he is placed between Akshobhya and Ratna Sambhava in the stupa. He resides always in the Akanistha Heaven.
He is white and his hands are held against the chest with the tips of the thumb and forefinger of each hand joined displaying Bodhyanga Mudra. His vehicle is a pair of lions symbolizing the lion's roar of dharmadhatujnana which terrifies all wrong views.
Vairocana Buddha originates from the seed syllable OM placed on the orb of the moon. He also represents Rupa (form) of five aggregates. He is not a historical Buddha-like Shakyamuni Buddha. According to the Dharmalakshana sect of Mahayana Buddhism. He is considered to be Svabhavika-Kaya of Shakyamuni Buddha. In some esoteric sect of japan, he is said to be the supreme lord of secret vehicle. I.e Mahavairocana.
When Vairocana Buddha is four-faced and eight-armed. He is addressed as Vajradhatu Buddha. According to Vajradhatumandala of Nispannayogavali, Vairocana is seated in Vajraparyanka and white. His four faces are of white, yellow, red, and green colour. He is eight-armed with his hands holding a vajra and displaying dharma chakra mudra, the second pair shows dhyana mudra, the third holds a rosary and an arrow and the last pair holds a discus and a bow.
He is also one of the five Tathagatas symbolizing Mirror-like Wisdom (Skt. Adarsa Jnana) which means wisdom like space, all-pervasive, without periphery and characteristics. He is the essence of a purified form of hatred. As in a mirror, every visible object reflects so the knowledge of dharmakaya reflects in our mind. The image of Akshobhya Buddha is generally placed in the east in the stupa. It is blue. He exhibits an earth-touching gesture (Bhumisparsa mudra). He rides on the throne of an elephant symbolizing the steadfast nature of his bodhisattva vows. In the past when Akshobhaya Buddha was a bodhisattva he made strong vows in front of Buddha Mahacakshu.
a) I now engender supreme bodhicitta. If I bear malice against sentient beings from now until attainment of supreme enlightenment I will be disobeying all the Buddhas.
b) Now I have resolved to pursue all-knowing wisdom and firmly dedicated to this goal. If I generate any doubt, intention to kill or steal, my wrong view or impure deed or if I am prone to lying, duplicity or harsh language or if I hurt other ways from now on until I attain supreme enlightenment, I will be deceiving Buddhas.
When he thus first brought forth bodhicitta, this bodhisattva-mahaattva clad the armour of vigour, and never moved by hatred or the like toward any sentient being. Since then, because of his thought Bodhisattva was called Akshobhaya, the immovable of the land of Abhirati.
In other words, Akshobhaya attained Buddhahood under the tree of even jewels in the land of Abhirati I.e wonderful joy in the east. Because of the power of the vows, there is no lower realm in his buddha land. Every sentient being, in his buddha land, deed virtuous deeds and restrain from angry behaviours. According to the Ratnakuta sutra, if one determines to practice the bodhisattva way of life as he vows he will be reborn in that Abhirati Buddhaland. It is said that the famous Upasaka Vimalakirti is the person transformed from the land of Abhirati Buddhaland.
Ratna Sambhava Buddha is one of five Tathagata symbolizing wisdom of equality (Skt. Samatajnana). According to the commentary of Namasangiti, the author Ravisri says;
"All the phenomena are devoid of essence, lacks true inherent existence and hence is a dream-like or illusion or is empty”. Thus the knowledge of the essencelessness of a person and the phenomena is the wisdom of equality. Buddha Ratna sambhava is the personification of this wisdom is Vajrayana Buddhism.
In the extant literature, he is rarely described his vows, aspirations and activity. He is usually called the Buddha born from a jewel. He is yellow, belongs to the Buddha family of a jewel, placed in the stupa facing to the south. He shows varada mudra with his right hand and holds cintamani jewel in his left hand kept on his lap. He also represents the purified form of the defilement pride, rides on the horse throne symbolising that he ferries over the suffering sentient being with full vigour. He resides in the pure abode of Ratnavati heaven (Buddha-field).
It is said that when Ratna Sambhava Buddha attained enlightenment golden coloured rays emitted from his crown and manifested limitless golden coloured bodhisattvas each one of them carrying a jewelled sceptre emitting light shinning on the southern world which were numerous as the sands of the Ganges.
It is said that the sentient beings’ wish would be fulfilled when one sees the golden coloured light. It is also said that by meditating on Ratna Sambhava Buddha’s body, one’s desire would be fulfilled.
Amitabha Buddha is also one of the five tathagata representing the wisdom of discriminating awareness. When discriminating wisdom dawns on us we realise non-production or non-origination of all things. He also represents a purified form of desire. Amitabha Buddha is red and represented in the stupa facing to the west. He rides on a peacock symbolizing that he can take away the suffering of others just as the peacock eats poisonous plants and yet his tail shines forth.
When Amitabha Buddha was a bodhisattva he was called Bhikshu Dharmakara. He made 48 vows to establish an adorned land of unlimited bliss to ferry over those living beings who recite his name. Based on those vows, any living being who has faith, makes vows and practices diligently will be received by this Buddha and reborn in the pure land of unlimited bliss.
Amitabha Buddha presides over the Bhadrakalpa i.e fortunate aeon. He always exhibits Dhyani Mudra. He belongs to the lotus family and originated from the seed syllable Hash. He can be recognised through the symbol of the lotus. This buddha has ferried over innumerable sentient beings with his extensive vows and great compassion. Devotees recite very often the prayer to be reborn in the land of Amitabha Buddha in China, Japan, and Tibet too.
Amogh Siddhi Buddha
Amogh Siddhi Buddha is the last among the five Buddhas. He represents all accomplishing Wisdom and purified form of jealousy. When one realises all accomplishing wisdom one can perform all the Buddha Activity without pre-meditation. This happens spontaneously. Amoghsiddhi Buddha is green in colour, represented in the stupa facing to the north. He rides on Garuda symbolising that he can detect the presence of serpent-like delusion from a distance and a serpent with seven hoods and an umbrella is depicted in the background. He exhibits abhayamudra showing that following the bodhisattva path is gained.
The vows, activity and deed of Amogh Siddhi Buddha are not extant in Mahayana Buddhist literature like Ratna Sambhava Buddha. It is however said that cultivators relying on this Buddha’s protection will achieve accomplishments in Buddhist affairs and worldly matters and will perfect the work benefiting the sentient beings.
Amogh Siddhi Buddha alone has a canopy of snakes over his head and sometimes resembles Shakyamuni Buddha with nine-headed Naga King Mucalinda in paintings. According to tantric text, this Buddha is said to be originated from the seed syllable green kham. He is also said to be the embodiment of volition (Skt. Sanskara) and Air element.
Bhaisajyaguru Vaiduryaprbha Tathagata (Medicine Buddha)
Bhaisajyaguru Vaiduryaprbha Tathagata is also called Healing Buddha or Medicine Buddha. He can cure the sickness of birth and death. His body is bright like lapislazuli. He resides in the eastern world of purified lapislazuli and assisted by two bodhisattvas called Suryaprabha and Candraprabha, to transform and teach living beings in that land.
The usual colour Bhaisajyaguru Vaiduryaprbha Tathagata was blue or lapislazuli in colour. But he had also a golden colour. His right hand held a branch of the myrobalan in varadamudra gesture. His left hand is in the lap holding a pindapatra (alms bowl).
The blue or lapislazuli colour of this body symbolises that he takes all the disease and sickness of the suffering beings unto himself. The palm myrobalan signifies the medicine which heals all the sickness of sentient beings.
According to the Bhaisajyaguru Buddha sutra, he made 12 great vows before he attained Buddhahood. The important vows are as follows: to eliminate sickness from all living beings and make them feel easy and happy to attain Buddhahood and to liberate beings from disasters and calamities. It is said that the land of Bhaisajya Buddha is genuinely pure. In that land, the ground is paved with purified lapislazuli. The cities, buildings and palaces are made of seven jewels. In that land the sentient beings do not commit any evil deeds hence there is no lower realm. It can well be compared with Sukhavati Heaven of Buddha Amitabha.
In Tibetan medical tradition Bhaisajya Buddha is said to be the source of all medical treatises. This Buddha is invoked for eliminating disasters and sickness of all varieties.
Amitayus or Buddha Aparimita
Amitayus (Buddha Aparimita) is very popular is bestowing long life upon the devotees. He is red. His two hands are in dhyana mudra and hold an ambrosia vase (Skt. Amrit Kalasha). He usually wears all the ornaments of a different kind peculiar to a Sambhogakaya Buddha. He is never depicted with any consort. He wears a crown and has Ushnisha and Urnakosh in his body.
Buddha Aparimita is invoked or worshipped for lengthening the life span or fast relief from dreadful diseases or mortal danger. In the Nepalese Mahayana tradition, the dharani of Amitayus or Buddha Aparimita is often recited by the devotees in the presence of dying patients. The recitation of this dharani is said to be efficacious when carried out in utter sincerity. It is said that the famous Madhayamika Buddhist philosopher Arya Nagarjuna had escaped his early death after the recitation of this dharani one complete day and night.
Buddha Shakyamuni when he entered into a special type of samadhi called Sarvadurgatiparisodhana i.e. elimination of all evil destinies, is called Buddha Durgatiparisodhanaraja. There are many paintings of this deity in Nepal although this sculpture is very rare.
Buddha Durgatiparisodhanaraja is yellow, exhibits Dharmacakramudra and has one face and two arms only. Buddha Durgatiparisodhanaraja is described in the Durgatisodhana mandala of Nispannayogavail. His dharani is very popular among Nepalese Buddhists and is very often recited in front of a dead body or funeral ceremonies. Durgatiparisodhanaraja can liberate beings from the hell. Devaraja Indra requested Buddha Shakyamuni to liberate deva Vimalamaniprabha who was reborn in Avici Hell. Buddha Shakyamuni delivered the dharani of Durgatiparisodhanaraja out of compassion and he was liberated.