Subject: 'A' Letter (Buddhist) | Prajnaparamita Main Page
In the Tantric Buddhist religion the letter 'A' represents a number of different things depending on the Buddhist vehicle and the individual tradition. In Mahayana Buddhism, the letter 'A' relates to the shortest of all of the Prajnaparamita Sutras - the Prajnaparamita in a Single Letter (see below). Also in Tantra theory, the Prajnaparamita Sutras, as a group, can be personified as the female deity of the same name - Prajnaparamita, regarded as the Mother of all wisdom and the mother of all Buddhas.
As a deity represented in art, Prajnaparamita is relatively minor with only a few variations of iconographic form. With regard to the different religious traditions of Tantric Buddhism, it is the Cho (Severance) founded by Machig Labdron and the Drigung Kagyu founded by Jigten Sumgon that place a special emphasis on Prajnaparamita and subsequently depict the deity in their paintings and sculpture.
In general Tantric Buddhist theory the three letters om, a and hum represent the body, speech and mind of an individual. The three letters serve symbolically as a bridge between the individual and the Tantric practice of meditation on the form of a deity - Deity Yoga.
In the Nyingma Tradition the letter 'A' is highly symbolic and closely related to the teachings of the philosophical view known as Dzogchen. A physical yet still symbolic manifestation of the principal of the 'A' is a clear quartz crystal rock. During specific Nyingma initiation rituals an initiation card displaying the letter 'A' will be shown next to a length of clear quartz crystal, or drawn together on a single initiation card. The letter 'A' as an object of meditation can also be found in the Mahamudra traditions of the Sakya and Kagyu Schools but rarely depicted in art. The Bon religion, like the Buddhist Nyingma, place a great deal of emphasis on their form of the Dzogchen philosophy and the Tibetan letter 'A.'
Jeff Watt 8-2016