In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, Vajrapani is one of the eight heart-sons of Shakyamuni Buddha, portrayed in a peaceful appearance. In the Vajrayana tradition, however, Vajrapani is more typically shown in a wrathful form and known as Guhyapati - 'the Lord of Secrets.' He is said to be the main recipient, holder, and protector of all the Tantra texts, literature, and teachings received from Shakyamuni Buddha.
From the model of the Lower Tantras, Vajrapani symbolizes the body of all Buddhas of the ten directions and represents enlightened activity. Vajrapani is a meditational deity, and considered a Buddha, with numerous forms found in all of the four levels of Tantra classification and popular in all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism - new and old.
For two closely related Yongle gilt-bronze figures of Vajrapani of the same size in the collection of the Potala Palace, Lhasa, see Ulrich von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Hong Kong, 2001, vol. II, p. 1256-7, pl. 346A-C. Other examples include one from the Berti Aschmann Collection in the Museum Rietberg, illustrated in Helmut Uhlig, On the Path to Enlightenment: The Berti Aschmann Foundation of Tibetan Art at the Museum Rietberg, Zurich, 1995, pp. 106-107, pl. 59 (fig. 1), and another illustrated in Buddhist Images in Gilt Metal, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1993, cat. no. 65.
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