Hevajra, who is the principal deity of Hevajra Tantra, is the essence of Vajradhara, the Supreme Non-Duality. He is sunyata in visual form. He belongs to the Vajra family. Hevajra is none other than Heruka who iconographically resembles Lord Shiva
. When Heruka is in union with his prajna he is known as Hevajra. There are four different forms of Hevajra which are distinguishable by the number of hands and faces and the names of the accompanying prajna.
The two-armed form of Hevajra called Trailokyasepa is in union with his prajna, Nairatmya. He is dark blue in colour with hibiscus red eyes and yellow hair coiled and knotted on the top of his head. He is adorned with the five symbolic ornaments the circlet, the ear rings, the necklace, the bracelets and the girdle. His gaze is wrathful, he wears a tiger skin and in appearance he is sixteen years old. He holds a Vajra skull in his left hand and a khatavanga rests in the crook of his left shoulder. He holds a black vajra in his right hand. He is the manifestation of the seed-syllable `hum`. An analysis of the Mahayanic concepts hidden in them: the dark blue colour of the deity represents dharmadhatu, the hibiscus red eyes compassion, the coiled hair is symbolic of the ascending merit, the five symbolic ornaments the five Buddhas; the wrathful gaze the purification of wrath; the vajra skull the severing of misconceptions regarding existence and non-existence; khatvanga voidness; the black vajra represents the adamantine nature and vajra when used along with ghanta, vajra stands for compassion.
The four armed Hevajra is similar to the two-armed one, and is embarrassing Vajravarahi. The four armed Hevajra symbolises the defeat of the four Maras. In his first left hand he holds a human skull filled with the blood of the gods and the titans and in his first right hand he holds a vajra. With the remaining two hands he embraces his prajna, Vajravarahi. The human skull filled with blood of the gods and the titans is the symbol of supreme beatitude. The union with the goddess symbolises the union of prajna and the upaya, the two coefficients of liberation.
The six-armed Hevajra has three faces, carries additional symbols and is in union with his prajna, Vajrasrinkhala. Of the three faces of Hevajra, the face on the left side is red, the face on the right side is the luminous colour of the moon and the middle face is blue-black in colour. The deity is represented in a naked form. The six arms represent the six perfections. In his first left hand he holds a trident in his first right hand a vajra is held; in his second left hand he holds a bell and in his second right hand a knife is placed. With his other two hands he embraces Vajrasrinkhala. He is standing on a corpse which represents the three realms. The three faces in this form of Hevajra refer to the following three dhyani Buddhas: The face on the left which is red in colour represents Amitabha
, is the sambhogakaya as well as Speech. The face on the right which is luminous as the moon represents Vairocana who is nirmanakaya as well as Body. The middle face, which is blue-black in colour, is Aksobhya who is dharmakaya as well as Mind. Thus this form of Hevajra presents the unity of the three kayas as well as the unity of the Body, Speech and Mind of all the Buddhas. The six arms symbolise the Six Paramitas of the Mahayana tradition. The deity holds various symbolic elements in each of his hands. The trident in the first left hand signifies victory over greed, wrath and mental perturbation; the vajra in the first right hand signifies compassion, the bell in the second left hand represents prajna; the knife in the second right hand signifies severing of the six defects.
The fourth form of Hevajra is the sixteen-armed form of Hevajra who is in union with his Wisdom, Nairatmya. In this form of Hevajra he is presented with eight faces and four legs. With his four legs he is seen standing on the four Maras but in the earlier forms he stands on a corpse. He has a terrifying appearance, adorned with a necklace made of human heads and he goes on dancing wildly. He wears a crossed-vajra on his head and is black in complexion. His body is smeared in ash. He is in erotic union with Nairatmya and is full of tranquility and bliss. The face in the front is deep black, that on the right is white like jasmine, that on the left is terrifying red that on the top is distorted and the other faces are of the colour of bees and has twenty-four eyes.
The sixteen arms signify the sixteen voids. The eight faces are the eight vimosksas. The deformed face signifies the denial of all theories. The four feet are the four methods of conversion. The wild dance is active compassion. The wrathful appearance signifies the subduing of the wicked. The garland of human heads symbolises the possession of the five wisdoms. The crossed-vajra indicates the adamantine nature of gnosis and the intangibility of the divine essence. The black body of the deity signifies the attitude of friendliness. The three eyes on each face show that his wisdom discovers everything in all three times and in the triple space.
The depiction of Hevajra in four different forms shows that in Vajryana, iconography is at the service of philosophy.