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vajrācārya (T. rdo rje slob dpon; C. jingang asheli/jingangshi 金剛阿闍梨/金剛師), or "vajra master," refers to a tantric master who has received the appropriate initiations, is adept in the rituals and meaning of Vajrayana, and is qualified to confer initiations and dispense tantric teachings.[1][2]

Generally speaking (for example in Tibetan Buddhism), one becomes a vajra master through appropriate initiations and training. However, in the Newar Buddhist tradition of Nepal, a vajrācārya is also a hereditary position.

Tibetan Buddhism

The role of the vajrācārya is central to the Vajrayana tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo states:

First of all is to purify your mind and being.
The vajra master, the root of the path,
Is someone who has the pure conduct of samaya and vows.
He is fully adorned with learning,
has discerned it through reflection,
And through meditation he possesses the qualities and signs of experience and realization.
With his compassionate action he accepts disciples.
Serve a master endowed with these characteristics . . .[3]

The Light of Wisdom (Vol 1) states:

Since immature beings are unable to journey even in the direction of the correct path through their own mental power, it is necessary from the very first to examine properly and then follow a qualified vajra master, who is the root of all the teachings of the buddhas, in general, and of correctly entering and fully traversing the path, in particular. A master is indispensable, like a well-informed guide when you embark upon an unknown path, a powerful escort when you travel through a dangerous area, or like a ferryman when you cross to the other side of a river. Although all the sutras, tantras, and instructions have extensively discussed the characteristics of a master, they are in short as follows.
His being is perfectly pure, and he has abandoned wrongdoing, because he is untainted by flaws or downfalls in the conduct of whatever samaya or vow he has taken among the three sets of precepts, which are the foundation of all good qualities.204
He is beautified by not being ignorant about anything and by his life-style, which is free from falling into extremes due to his great learning in the Sutra system and in the tantras, statements, and instructions of Mantrayana. By having resolved the meaning of what he learned through reflection, he can distinguish the differences of the six limits and four modes. By taking this meaning to heart through meditation training, his qualities of experience and realization have grown like the waxing moon, and he is endowed with the signs of progress of having advanced through the paths and bhumis. Thus he has perfected the benefit of self by means of learning, reflection, and meditation.205
Through his fully bloomed power of immaculate knowledge resulting therefrom, he possesses the kindness of accepting destined disciples with his compassionate action, which is not conceptual and not aimed at gain, honor, or reputation.
Moreover, he is able to cut through misconceptions with his oral instructions; he can make realization arise by pointing out the meaning; he can halt impure perception through the power of blessings; and he can clear away hindrances to experience and bring forth enhancement of realization. In short, he is endowed with all the characteristics of spontaneously accomplishing the welfare of others by means of his knowledge, compassion, and ability.[3]

Newar Buddhism

In the Newar Buddhism of Nepal, the term vajrācārya (a.k.a "bajracara") also refers to the hereditary caste of lay "priests" who "perform a wide variety of rituals for the Buddhist community, including life-cycle rites, fire rituals, temple rituals, protective rites."[1]

The role of the vajrācārya in this system is traditionally limited to male members of the vajrācārya caste, who must undergo the appropriate initiations and training in order to assume the role of "vajra master."


  1. 1.0 1.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. vajrācārya.
  2. Rangjung a-circle30px.jpg rdo_rje_slob_dpon, Rangjung Yeshe Wiki
  3. 3.0 3.1 Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrül 1999, Chapter 9.


Further reading