The Mundane Practice
How the Dharmapalas Appear
"Through the power of compassion, this deity liberates sentient beings and removes all enemies and obstacles of the [eightfold] path."
The Wrathful Inclinations
Generators of Enlightenment
They are embodiments of enlightened activities and are actually regarded as generators of enlightenment. Compassion is not true compassion unless it is active. The energy and power of these fierce aspects take into action the Buddhas' limitless compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings.
8 Principles of Dharmapala
The Dharmapalas are also known as the defenders of the law (Dharma). There are 8 principles of Dharmapala in Tibet,
Mahakala [Tib: Nagpo Chenpo]
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The wrathful manifestation of the compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is known as Mahakala. Although he often appears in different hues, he is typically represented in black in Tibetan iconography. He has two to six arms, flames for eyebrows on his three protruding eyes, and a hook beard. He has a six-skull crown.
He is the guardian of the tents of nomadic Tibetans, monasteries, and all Tibetan Buddhism. He is tasked with eliminating barriers, enhancing life, morality, and knowledge, bringing people to Buddhism, and eradicating misunderstanding and ignorance.
Yama [Tib: Shinje]
In Tibet, Yama (Tibetan gshin.rje) was regarded with horror as the prime mover of saṃsāra and revered as a guardian of spiritual practice. In the popular mandala of the Bhavacakra, all the realms of life are depicted between the jaws or in the arms of a monstrous Yama. Yama is sometimes shown with a consort, Yami.
According to folklore, Yama was a holy man engaged in meditation when bandits carrying a stolen bull entered the cave and severed the bull's head. The thieves also chopped off the head of the holy man when they discovered he had witnessed them. The holy man took the horrible shape of Yama by donning the bull's head. H he slaughtered the robbers and drank their blood, then threatened the entirety of Tibet. The Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri, then appeared as Yamantaka and vanquished Yama. Yama developed into a defender of Buddhism. Yama is most frequently shown in art as the figure with the Bhava Chakra in his claws.
Yamantaka [Tib: Shinje Shed]
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Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, manifests in wrathful form as Yamantaka. As Yamantaka, Manjushri subdued the raging Yama and turned him into a defender of the Dharma. According to numerous myths, Manjushri's transformation into Yamantaka resembled Yama but had extra heads, legs, and limbs. Yama saw infinite copies of himself as he gazed at Yamantaka. Yamantaka stands for something more substantial than death because Yama symbolizes death. Yamantaka is frequently depicted standing or riding a bull stomping Yama in works of art.
Hayagriva [Tib: Tamdrin]
Hayagriva is one of the wrathful forms of Bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara. He can heal illnesses, particularly those of the skin, and he guards the horses. There are thought to be 108 different forms of Hayagriva. Hayagriva is claimed to have been worshipped by Tibetan horse traders because he scares demons by neighing like a horse while sporting a horse's head on his hat.
One of the significant Tibetan emblems is the horse. On the prayer flags displayed all over the Tibetan cultural landscape and festoon gompas, temples, homes, even trees, and rocks so that the wind may spread the prayers across the globe, the lungta, or wind-horse, appears with printed prayers. Demons flee when Hayagriva's neighing is heard.
Vaisravana [Tib: Kubera]
The Hindu God of Wealth, Kubera, is adapted as Vaisravana. According to Vajrayana Buddhism, Vaisravana bestows affluence, allowing individuals the freedom to follow their spiritual aspirations. In works of art, he is frequently rotund and jeweled. He is a protector of the north and has a lemon and a mongoose as emblems.
He is often portrayed as having a yellow face in art. He carries a parasol or umbrella as a sign of his authority. He is occasionally pictured with a mongoose that is frequently seen spewing forth gems. The snake's adversary, the mongoose, represents enmity or greed; the throwing of gems denotes charity.
Shri Devi [Tib: Palden Lhamo]
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The only female Dharmapala, Palden Lhamo, guards all Buddhist regimes, including the exiled Tibetan authority in Lhasa, India. She is also Mahakala's consort. She is named Shri Devi in Sanskrit.
She is the only female Dharmapala, and, like the Hindu deity Kali/Durga, she is as fierce in appearance as any of them. She is shown as being on top of a mule with its hind end covered with deadly snakes for reins. She fulfilled her promise to kill her son if she couldn't convert her whole population to Buddhism by killing her kid.
Changpa [Tib: Tshangspa Dkarpo]
The Buddhist conception of Brahma is Changpa Karpo (White Brahma). Also known as Tshangspa, Brahma, one of the most significant deities in the Hindu pantheon, has a secondary position in Tibetan Buddhism. His Tibetan name is Tshangs pa, which refers to the traditional four-headed and two-handed form of Brahma, as shown in Indian iconography. However, the depiction of a white, one-headed, and two-handed divinity known as Tshangs pa dkar po, or "the white Tshangs pa," appears more commonly in Tibetan religious art. The Sadhanas identify this god as being similar to Brahma. He is frequently shown riding a white horse while sitting, wielding a sword, and holding a flag. He is a warrior deity, but not in a fierce way.
The most recent Dharmapala is the war deity Begtse, who appeared in the 16th century. His mythology and Tibetan history are intertwined. Sonam Gyatso, the Third Dalai Lama, was summoned from Tibet to Mongolia to convert warlord Altan Khan to Buddhism. To halt the Dalai Lama, Begtse challenged him. But the Dalai Lama changed into Avalokiteshvara. Begtse became a Buddhist and a defender of the Dharma after seeing this miracle. Begtse is seen with armor and Mongolian boots in Tibetan art. He frequently holds a sword in one hand and an adversary's heart in the other.