Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Vajrabhairava, also known as Yamantaka, is a wrathful, buffalo-headed meditational deity (Tib: yi-dam) of the Highest Yoga Tantra class and a dharma protector. Vajrabhairava is one of the principal three meditational deities of the Gelug school (Tib: gsang bde "jigs gsum") the others are Chakrasamvara and Guhyasamaja. He is also one of the main yidams in the Sakya School where he comes in a variety of appearances with different mandalas. In both schools Vajrabhairava is seen as the wrathful manifestation of Manjushri, the Bodhisatwa of wisdom. In the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism Yamantaka seems to be mostly revered as a protector. The (mostly secret and arcane) practices there involve different activities for various purposes.
In Sanskrit "Vajrabhairava" stands for 'Adamantine Terrifier'. Regardless which manifestation of Vajrabhairava you are looking at it he is always depicted as fear-inducing, scary, and intimidating. Not only is he terrifying to look at but - according to the Vajrabhairava Tantra - he also has conquered all evil spirits, including the Lord of Death, Yama. That's why he is also called "Yamantaka", the Slayer of Death. Depending on which manifestation of Yamantaka the Tibetans call him either "gSin-rje-gesed" or in the buffalo-faced aspect of Vajrabhairava "rdo-rje 'jigs-byed". It seems that the term "Yamantaka" (and "Yamari") is used in a more general way than "Vajrabhairava" which is restricted to the buffalo-headed yidam of the Gelug and Sakya schools. Sometimes the protector Kalarupa is called "Yamaraja" and comes as Outer, Inner, and Secret Yama- or Dharmaraja. In the Gelug school Yama or Dharmaraj is part of the Vajrabhairava practice.

Multiple Forms of Vajrabhairava/Yamantaka

The Ngor Mandala collection of the Sakya tradition alone lists 8 different forms/lineages of the blue/black buffalo-faced Vajrabhairava (which include the two Gelug ones) and 4 of red Rakta- or blue Krishna-Yamari (all without the buffalo head). Yamaraja is always blue/black. In the context of this website we are focusing on the two main forms practiced as meditational deities in the Gelug school.

Vajrabhairava comes in two forms: as Solitary Hero (Ekavira, left sketch visit More sketch), and (2) in union with his consort Vajra-betali, called the "13-Deity Yamantaka" (because of the twelve more deities in his mandala). The attributes of the main deity are the same in both forms.
EkaVira :The basic two-armed (sahaja) form of Vajrabhairava is blue-black in color, with the face of an extremely enraged buffalo; two sharp horns, with the flames coming from their tips. He has three red, blood-shot eyes; his breath swirls from the anger-creased nose in black clouds; his jaws wide agape with the four sharp fangs bared; the tongue flickering like lightning; the orange hair, eyebrows, and moustache bristling upward like the fire. The feet and palms of the hands are red, and the nails are like iron hooks. The two hands hold a curved knife above and a skull-cup below at the heart.

The full form of Vajrabhairava(right picture): has nine heads, the central one being that of a buffalo, and the top-most being that yellow Manjushri with a slightly wrathful expression. The three right faces are yellow, blue and red and the three left are black, white and smoky. Each face has three large round eyes, bared fangs and frightful expressions; brown hair flows upward like flames. He has thirty-four hands and sixteen legs. The first pair of hands hold a curved knife and skull cup to the heart. The remaining hands hold a multitude of weapons with the second and last set holding in addition the fresh outstretched hide of an elephant. He is adorned with bracelets, necklaces and a girdle all formed of interlaced bone ornaments, a necklace of snakes and a long necklace of fifty human heads. The right legs are bent pressing down on a man, animals and various gods. The left legs are extended straight and press upon eight birds and various gods; standing above a sun disc and multi-colored lotus completely surrounded by the orange flames of pristine awareness.
When in union with his consort Vajra-betali (see first picture above ) (Skt. Vajra-betali means 'Adamantine Goul'; Tib: rDor-rje ro-lans-ma) she has one face and two hands, is blue in color with orange hair pressed against the back, and holds a skull cup in her left hand.



Liudmila said...

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Tibeat Arts said...

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