The arousal of both mental and physical forces is involved in the highest yoga tantra of enormous power. Their transformative effects are highly beneficial when channeled in the right way. However, they can lead to unfortunate events like disease, insanity. Or sometimes, it may also result in an untimely death, when performed with wrong motivation or without proper guidance. It is the practice of the pantheon of the wrathful deities, Dharmapala. The most prominent one of them is Mahakala.
Story of a Yamantaka Practitioner
There lived a practitioner of Yamantaka who was obsessed with the personal power that he achieved through his advanced tantric practice. His meditative concentration was strong and stable, but his motivation was without compassion. His sole interest was to gain worldly benefit for himself, and so he meditated single-pointedly upon himself in the form of Yamantaka. He developed his clear appearance. He had a divine pride of being a powerful, wrathful deity.
A realized tantric master was asked what had become of him after his death. The master said that he had not achieved any realizations at all due to his impure, selfish motivation he had not achieved any realizations at all. He had also been reborn as a preta in the lower, suffering realms. He was but a wandering, dissatisfied spirit. However, the preta had the outward form of Yamantaka as a result of his intense practice.
Hence, practicing wrathful deities with the wrong motivation can lead to such things or situations. There are two types of dangers included; external and internal.
The external forces interfere with the successful completion of our practices as they are the outside forces. Not only this, they also prevent us from accomplishing our worldly aims. Therefore, it is highly suggested to keep one's practice a secret. The practitioners are also advised to maintain a humble appearance to avoid any kinds of external hindrances.
"Exposing our practices to others and boasting about being a tantrika is like letting everyone know that we are carrying around precious jewelry. Sooner or later, we shall attract thieves’ intent on stealing our valuables."
Internal dangers arise from delusions and pride that obscure the essentially pure nature of our minds. It is too easy to be deluded by mistaken conceptions as long as we remain in the samsara. One often breaks vows for selfish intentions.
The external and internal interferences are something that the practitioners engaging in the highest yoga tantra need protection. Thus, there exists a pantheon of wrathful deities known as Dharmapala or Dharma protectors - one of the prominent figures is Mahakala.
The Six-Armed Form of Mahakala: Symbolic Representation
His body is painted dark blue or black, which symbolizes his changeless dharmakaya nature. His clear comprehension of past, present, and future is symbolized by his three eyes. His skull crown represents the five poisonous delusions. They are; anger, desire, ignorance, jealousy, and pride. They are transformed into the wisdom of the five buddha families.
Mahakala's six arms signify the completion of the six perfections, since he holds various implements to perform his protective functions. The first right hand holds a curved knife that cuts through our ego and attachment. The first left hand holds a skull cup filled with blood, that subjugates evil powers. Other right hands hold a rosary and a damaru; symbolizing his activity for benefits of benefits, and exerting control over all classes of Dakinis respectively.
The rest of the left hands hold a trident, signifying his power over the three spheres of existence, and a lasso that binds those who break their vows. Mahakala's left leg extends outwards and his right is bent, which symbolizes his accomplishments for the benefit of others and oneself.
He tramples on an elephant-headed deity, which represents his destruction and dispersal of great obstacles. The use of wealth for limited samsaric pleasures is also represented by the elephant. And Mahakala's domination shows the enlightened transformation of such worldly behavior. He stands upon a sun disc. It symbolizes his illumination of the darkness of ignorance, and the lotus symbolizes his undefiled purity. The fire blazes from all the pores of his body demonstrates his powerful activities in consuming all neurotic states of mind.
He is clad in tiger skin, adorned with snake necklace, and holding an elephant skin. Purification of desire, anger, and pride and represented by them. The complete qualities of a fully enlightened buddha are symbolized by his ornaments.
Mahakala in Sutra Path
Mahakala fulfills the four enlightened activities for the advanced tantric practitioners. These activities are pacifying interferences. They are increasing favorable circumstances and gaining control over situations. If all else fails, they destroy obstacles with wrathful force. Those wishing a Dharmapala practice should remember that the best protection of all is one's own development of a kind and loving heart. This is what His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said. We shall be safeguarded from outer and inner harm through our own generation of loving-kindness, just as Shakyamuni was protected from the Mara by his meditation. Dharma protectors such as Mahakala practice hold great importance for the serious practitioners.
The First Dalai Lama has paid homage to him through the following stanzas. He was himself an emanation of Avalokiteshvara.
“Homage to Mahakala, the Great Black One,
Wrathful emanation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Homage to Mahakala,
whose implements are the skull-cup of blissful wisdom
and the knife of penetrating methods severing negativity,
The Black Lord of ferocious appearance
Whose voice causes all on the earth to tremble.
O Mahakala, you appear in the form of a terrible demon
In order to overcome the endless hosts of demons.
Like the first day of the new moon,
You herald the destruction of the forces of darkness.
Protective lord, whose fangs are love, compassion, equanimity and joy,
Whose body blazes with fires of wisdom,
Your mantra is like the roar of a lion
Causing the jackals of evil to scatter.
Just as the angry yak catches its enemies on its horns
And then shakes the very life out of them,
Similarly, do you destroy the inner forces
By which we obstruct our own path to liberation!”