Dorje also known as Vajra
In the tantric traditions of Buddhism, the vajra is a symbol for the nature of reality, or sunyata, indicating endless creativity, potency, and skillful activity
Dorje is the Tibetan word for Vajra or thunderbolt. It is a ritual and symbolic instrument or sceptre in Tibetan Buddhism, used along with the Bell. It is usually about the size for holding in the hand, though this varies.
The Dorje represents that lightning blast moment of totally clear awareness, that thunderbolt awakening. It is also the symbol of a weapon, one that we use on our lower nature. Earlier Dorjes had the arms opened and spiked as they would actually have functioned as a weapon, but it is said that Padmasambhava held these sharp ends and closed them to make the Dorje a symbol of peace.
The Dorje can be traced right back to its earliest manifestation as the lightning bolt of Indra, used to kill ”’sinners”. In fact look at how many gods had sceptres and tridents and lightning bolts (Zeus, Jupiter, Indra, Thor)…it was a very common symbol.
It symbolises enlightenment, emptiness. The Dorje is representative of the male ( a phallic symbol therefore), and the Bell of the female (yoni, receptive). In this sense the Dorje represents the method or skillful means we employ to attain the Wisdom and Bliss (receptivity). It represents critical thought, elimination of what things are not to arrive back to their essential nature. Thus it represents the path.
The Dorje/Vajra also represents the indestructible instrument (the thunderbolt) we make of our selves through spiritual practice.
The Dorje is usually 2 limbed though it can have 4 limbs forming a cross. It starts in the middle with the sphere representing the Void. And then it blossoms outwards with lotuses and other symbols, either culminating in closed arms (peaceful) or left open as points (wrathful). The number of arms vary from 1, 3, 5 and 9. You can look up meanings of the numbers, etc.
Vajrayana Buddhism takes its name from the Vajra (Dorje)…meaning the Way of the Thunderbolt.
For a longer more complex description of the symbolism involved in the Dorje if you are interested.
“At the centre of the vajra is a flattened sphere representing the dharmata as the ‘sphere of actual reality’. This sphere is sealed within by the syllable HUM, whose three component sounds represent freedom fromkarma (Hetu), freedom from conceptual thought (Uha) and the groundlessness of all dharmas (M). On either side of the central hub are three rings [which] symbolise the spontaneous bliss of Buddha nature asemptiness, signlessness and effortlessness. Emerging from the three rings on either side are two eight-petalled lotuses. The sixteen petals represent the sixteen modes of emptiness. The upper lotus petals also represent the eight bodhisattvas, and the eight lower petals, the eight female consorts. Above the lotus bases are another series of three pearl-like rings, which collectively represents the six perfections of patience, generosity, discipline, effort, meditation and wisdom. A full moon disc crowns each of the lotuses, symbolising the full realisation of absolute and relative bodhicitta Emerging from the moon discs are five tapering prongs, forming a spherical cluster or cross. The four [outer] curved prongs curve inwards to the central prong, symbolising that the four aggregates of form, feeling, perception and motivation depend upon the fifth aggregate of consciousness. The five upper prongs of the vajra represent the Five Buddhas (Akshobhya, Vairochana, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha and Amogasiddhi), and the unity of their five wisdoms, attributes and qualities. The five lower prongs represent the female consorts of the Five Buddhas (Mamaki, Lochana, Vajradhatvishvari, Pandara and Tara) and the unity of their qualities and attributes. The Five Buddhas and their consorts symbolise the elimination of the five aggregates of personality. The ten prongs together symbolise the ten perfections (the six mentioned above plus skilful means, aspiration, inner strength, and pure awareness); the ‘ten grounds’ or progressive levels of realisation of a bodhisattva; and the ten directions. Each of the outer prongs arise from the heads of Makaras (sea monster). The four Makaras symbolise the four immeasurables (compassion, love, sympathetic joy and equanimity); the four doors of liberation (emptiness, signlessness, wishlessness and lack of composition); the conquest of the four Maras (emotional defilements, passion, death, divine pride and lust); the four activities or karmas; the four purified elements (air, fire, water, earth); and the four joys (joy, supreme joy, the joy of cessation and innate joy).
The tips at the end of the central prong may be shaped like a tapering pyramid or four-faceted jewel, which represents Mount Meru as the axial centre of both the outer macrocosm and inner microcosm. The twin faces of the symmetrical vajra represent the unity of relative and absolute truth.”
“The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs” by Robert Beer.