Mahakala: The Protector of Buddhism Monasteries

Mahakala: The Great Black One

Mahakala, also referred to as the Great Black, God of Time, is Buddhism's ultimate 'Protector of Dharma.' He plays a significant role in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. In Buddhism, he is the wrathful form of deity of compassion, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.

He is highly revered in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In contrast, he is considered the manifestation of Lord Shiva, the universe's creator and destroyer, and consort of Mahakali in Buddhism. He is a wrathful form that takes on a variety of faces and names from many cultures. He is acknowledged as one of the eight protecting deities. In Sikhism, he is associated with "Hukam" (The Supreme Command.

History of Mahakala

The Noble Avalokitesvara, the Lord of Great Compassion, attained Enlightenment throughout countless eons; his merit was then amassed. He obtained the unique Great Light empowerment after advancing through the bodhisattva levels. Then, as he joined the Buddha's Noble Sons group, he made the following commitment.

"Throughout the samsaric world realms in the limitless space of the ten directions. I will benefit beings. I must liberate all beings from samsara. Not until all beings are established on the level of Buddhahood, not even one left behind in samsara, will I myself enter Buddhahood. Only when all beings, without exception, have been guided to Buddhahood will it be well for me to achieve it. Until then, I will remain in samsara for the benefit of all beings. And to ensure it, may my body be shattered into a thousand pieces if I should ever break this vow."

Avalokitesvara moved to Potala Mountain and has stayed there ever since. He succeeded in developing and liberation countless sentient creatures through his endless emanations. And in this way, he lived for an infinite amount of kalpas.

Then, at one point, he considered the idea that he had now freed all beings from samsara. He peered with his omniscient vision and noticed that the domains of sentient beings had not grown or shrunk. The sentient beings around had increased in number and were now living in the Age of Darkness, making them much more challenging to manage.

Avalokiteshvara then broke the pledge he had made, declaring, "Now, I cannot help even one sentient person," and his body shattered into a thousand pieces.

The Noble World protector, who has attained Enlightenment and transcendence and is known as the Buddha Amitabha, manifested powerfully and spoke:

"son of my family, it is not well that you have thus broken your vow. Now you must replenish your broken vow and make an even greater resolution to benefit beings."

He, therefore, believed that he could control the depraved creatures of this Age of Darkness by taking on a wrathful appearance. Additionally, he thought that by taking on a wrathful appearance, he could shield other creatures from the Bardo after observing how many Dharma practitioners were stuck in those regions. Finally, he believed that because people in this Dark Age were poor and in need and filled with only experienced sorrow, he could alleviate their suffering by taking on a wrathful aspect and granting them what they needed merely by wishing for it.

With tremendous effort, his promise became even more than before. The Instantaneous Protector of Wisdom appeared as a dark blue HUNG letter from the great Noble Avalokiteshvara. Six different earthquake types caused the ground to tremble throughout the Pure Lands. The One of Immeasurable Light, the Conquering and Transcending One, and all the other Tathagatas of the ten directions cried out in unison:

Mahakala has served as the Buddha fields' Doctrine Protector ever since.

Iconography of Mahakala

The 5 skulls on Mahakala's head, which represent the transformation of the 5 kleśās (negative afflictions) into the five pearls of wisdom, are a common feature of his representations. The number of limbs is the most apparent difference between Mahakala's manifestations and portrayals; however, other elements can also change. For instance, in certain cases, Mahakala is depicted in white, with several heads and no genitalia, standing on various objects, carrying multiple tools, and wearing various ornaments.

Mahakala Symbolismmahakala thangka depiction

Mahakala is frequently portrayed as being all-black. As all the colors dissolve into black paint, likewise, all the names and forms of the deity are said to melt into those of Mahakala. This represents the deity's engulfing and welcoming nature. The absolute or ultimate reality and the essence of Mahakala are also represented by the color black. In this instance, black also means the complete absence of color and denotes the importance of Mahakala as the ultimate or absolute reality. This idea, "nirguna," which is beyond all quality and form, is exemplified by both interpretations and is known in Sanskrit.

  • His three eyes vividly display the Buddha's three bodies and his profound understanding of the three periods.
  • The tigug knife symbolizes the cutting of ego-attachment. The blood-filled skull bowl represents the taming of demonic forces.
  • The rosary represents his ongoing work for the good of all beings.
  • His control over the dakinis is symbolized by the damaru hand drum.
  • His trident stands for his authority over the three domains of form, desire, and the formless.
  • It also represents his behavior of persuading individuals who violate their promises.
  • His two feet stand for ability and knowledge. The fact that his right leg is bent and his left leg is straight represents his success in achieving benefits for himself and others.
  • To represent his annihilation and dispersal of formidable impediments, he tramples on the Vinayaka.
  • The sun that he is standing on represents his illuminating ignorance night.
  • The lotus seat represents purity that is untarnished by samsara.
  • The raging fire represents his effort to extinguish anxious mental conditions.
  • He wears tiger skin to represent desire's purification via an elephant's skin.
  • The snake, which purifies wrath, purifies pride. All of his other trinkets serve as a reminder that he possesses all of the Buddha's virtues.

Manifestation of Mahakala

2 Armed Mahakalatwo-arm-mahakala-statue-and-thangka

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Although he is descended from the Nyingma terma and was adopted by the Karma Kagyu during the reign of the second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, the two-armed Mahakala known as Bernakchen (Black Coat) is a guardian of the Karma Kagyu school. He is frequently shown alongside his consort Rangjung Gyalmo.

4 Armed Mahakala4 arm mahakala gold plated statue

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The four-armed Mahakala is the primary defender of the Karma Kagyu, Drikung Kagyu, and Drukpa Lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. Although Ekajati is the leading defender of the Great Perfection teachings (Skt: Mahasandhi, Tib. Dzogchen), which are the pinnacle of the Nyingma system, a four-armed Mahakala is also revered at present in the Nyingma school. The four arms of this Mahakala manifestation each carry out one of the four good deeds, or karmas, that are thought to be his particular blessing to his practitioners:

  • Soothe illness, obstacles, and problems.
  • Increase one's life, virtues, and wisdom.
  • Bring people to the Dharma by enticing whatever practitioners of the Dharma require.
  • Destroy ignorance, skepticism, and confusion.

6 Armed Mahakala6-arm-mahakala-statue-and-thangka

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The Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism favors a Six-Armed Mahakala, also known as Nyingshuk. The accomplishment of the six perfections (shad-paramita), which bodhisattvas cultivate and bring to perfection throughout their training, is symbolized by the Six Arms. The six perfections are,

The perfection of generosity (dana-paramita)

  • Morality (shila-paramita)
  • Peace (shanti-paramita)
  • Vigor (virya-paramita)
  • Meditation (dhyana-paramita)
  • Insightful Wisdom (prajna-paramita)

There are different elements in each arm having a significant meaning, and a crown of 5 skulls on the head. A crown made of 5 skulls, worn by all Mahakala incarnations, symbolizes the transformation of the five vices inherent in human nature into beneficial traits. This includes,

  • Ignorance becomes a reality's wisdom.
  • Pride turns into the understanding of similarity.
  • Attachment turns into discernment's wisdom.
  • Jealousy turns into the understanding of success.
  • Anger transforms into mirror-like knowledge.

Khyungpo Naljor, the founder of the Shangpa Kagyu, is credited with creating Nyingshuk, which spread to all lineages, including the Sakya, Nyingma, and Geluk, as well as numerous Kagyu lineages. Additionally, there are Terma lineages of several Six-Armed Mahakala varieties. Nyinghsuk is a very sophisticated Mahakala practice, albeit it is descended from the Shangpa. Rather than standing straight up, it is in a dance stance.

White MahakalaWhite-Mahakala-Thangka

Source: Enlightenment Thangka

The white Mahakala is the wealth-related aspect that supports tantric practitioners' convenience and financial security. According to his sadhana, the following description is accurate.

"His body is white. His face is wrathful, and he has three eyes. He has six arms. His main right hand holds a wish-fulfilling jewel (Chintamani) mounted on a jewel-tipped handle in front of his chest."

The Tibetan name for the White Mahakala, with the last four letters meaning "Wish-Granting Gem," is mGon po yid bzhin nor bu. He is a special protector of Mongolian Buddhists. His iconography is full of images that mark him as a "wealth-deity." For instance, his skull dish is filled with numerous jewels instead of his victims' dead bones.

Mahakala Mantra

“Om Shri Mahakala hum hum Phat Svaha” 

Mahakala Mantra Benefits

Repeating Mahakala mantra may eliminate all barriers to prosperity, confusion, doubts, and ignorance. He can destroy all encroachments from the adversary, demons, evil and dark magic. As a result, his technique has been developed by numerous individuals in Tibet.

He is Tibet's foremost guardian of the wisdom dharma. The blessings of Mahakala are notably well recognized for removing barriers and challenges brought on by sadness and rage.

Additionally, chanting this mantra reduces uncertainty, doubts, and ignorance and removes all obstacles to money flow. He can destroy all encroachments from enemies, demons, evil, and dark magic. As a result, his technique has been developed by numerous individuals in Tibet.

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