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The Nature and Power of the Dorje

Updated: May 17

At some point in one’s life, a sense of urgency arises to make a change or move in a particular direction, and it was out of this necessity that Dorje Yoga emerged. Seeing what had widely become recognized as yoga in various settings and the students’ minds in these places struck me with the resolve to lead workshops and teachings that might illuminate some of the lesser-known practices associated with yoga in America. It wasn’t just what was being taught that motivated me, but what was unsaid and virtually unknown, such as the goal of practice and the meaning of the word yoga (whether spelled with a capital or lowercase ‘y’). But why did we call the school ‘Dorje Yoga?’ The answer to that question is the topic of this piece.

Dorje is a Tibetan word that represents the 'thunderbolt of enlightenment,' a shift toward the awakened consciousness. Once awakened, the individual detaches from material existence. Happiness then comes from inside, and the individual merges with Cosmic Consciousness. "Then, like a bull who has heard the crash of a thunderbolt close by, the Great Soul, whose mind had been purified by the merit of karma accumulated from eons of virtuous actions, was deeply agitated at this news of old age." (Aśvaghoṣa, Acts of the Buddha, Book III: 34). The first of the four sights of the Buddha was the man crippled by old age. Upon witnessing this sight, he was struck as if by a thunderbolt; this image represents the realization of urgency. The thunderbolt stands for motivation, the impetus toward accomplishment.

The Sanskṛt equivalent to dorje is vajra, which may be more familiar to yoga practitioners through practices such as vajramudrā or vajrāsana. Still, less known among this community is that the dorje is inseparable from its bell, drilbu in Tibetan and ghaṇṭā in Sanskr̥t. The bell and dorje are always together in ritual and iconography, common to Buddhism. The bell represents feminine nature and wisdom, whereas the dorje represents male nature and method. Together, they embody the union of wisdom and skillful means for attaining an awakened consciousness. This awakened consciousness is referenced as enlightenment, which in Buddhism (broadly speaking, as there are many traditions with variations on the notion of enlightenment) is overcoming the three poisons: greed, hatred, and delusion.

The motivation for change is almost always driven by a pain that emerges within oneself. The urgency to overcome the source of suffering is the thunderbolt of transformation. Being struck is just the beginning of the transformative process; then, the hard work begins. The path is strenuous but worthwhile. The creation of Dorje Yoga was one thing, but developing a community through skillful means (dorje) and wisdom (bell) took years and continues to develop many years later. The word dorje also denotes strength like a diamond, created through incredible pressure and able to resist destruction; a diamond cuts but cannot be cut. Thus, adamantine strength is the force of the dorje and the potency of Dorje Yoga.

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