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Rituals and Worship

Sacred Time

The Vajrayana does not hold a consistent idea of sacred time. Buddhas and bodhisattvas are always present and active in the world, and thus in a sense all time could be understood to be sacred. Through various ritual activities one can interact with these beings.

Sacred Space

Vajrayana temples can be understood as a kind of sacred space. Mandalas, elaborate diagrams used in meditation, are another kind of sacred space. Practitioners can inhabit the spaces that they represent through various meditation practices and, in the process, interact with buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Rites and Ceremonies

Vajrayana Buddhists engage in a tremendous range and variety of rituals and ceremonies: complex meditation practices, ritual devotion to buddhas and bodhisattvas, visualizations, pilgrimage, and mantra recitation.

Worship and Devotion in Daily Life

Vajrayana Buddhists worship a wide range of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and semi-divine beings, including Avalokiteshvara, Maitreya, Vajrapani, Vajradhara, and Tara, as well as a range of lamas. Particular to the Vajrayana are fierce, wrathful beings who protect their devotees.


There are many important symbols in the Vajrayana: the vajra itself (diamond or thunderbolt), the lotus, colors, certain mudras (hand gestures), and postures. Some forms of Vajrayana Buddhism also employ sexual symbolism as a means of overcoming attachments and delusion.