There is a group of eight Dharmapalas. Dharmapalas are divinities with the rank of Bodhisattva who wage war without any mercy against the demons and enemies of Buddhism.
Mahakala is one of the eight dharmapala of the Buddhist pantheon. Mahakala's name translates as the "Great Black," one, or "Great time." The latter is a reference to the deity's ability to transcend all time. In Tibet we can found more then seventy five manifestations of Mahakala. As dharma protector, images of the wrathful deities are given a good position at the entrance doors of home and Buddhist Shrines.
Mahakala is one of the most popular terrific protectors in Tibetan Buddhism. Mahakala is worship in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He frequently appears at the inner entrance of a temple or is afforded a special shrine. His myth speaks of his having been tamed by Avalokiteshvara. He is sometimes even considered to be a fierce form of that Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Origin of Mahakala
The Buddha Amitabha manifested as Avalokiteshvara who took a vow to forgo his own enlightenment until all the realms of samsara had been emptied. ( read full STORY OF 1,000 ARMS AVLOKITESHWOR)This vow required a renewal of determination, and so with Amitabha's blessing, Avalokiteshvara next assumed a form with eleven heads and a thousand arms. Still he had been unable to benefit even a few beings.
Therefore after reflecting for one whole week, he determined that by assuming a wrathful form he would be able "to subdue the degenerate beings of this Age of Darkness." Also he saw that even beings who practiced Dharma were unable to escape from the Bardo realms (time between rebirths where beings may face great anxiety and terrifying experiences) and he thought that in wrathful form he could also protect them in that way. And lastly, he thought that the beings in this Dark Age were poor and needy, experiencing only suffering after suffering, and that in wrathful form he could provide them an antidote to that suffering so that by simply making the wish (for protection) their needs could be met.
These three motives made his determination even greater than before and so from the heart of Noble Avalokiteshvara emerged a dark blue HUNG syllable that immediately became the Instantaneous Protector of Wisdom, Mahakala. (resource: www.khandro.net)
However, he is depicted in a number of variations, he is almost always depicted with a crown of five skulls, which represent the transmutation of the five kleshas (negative afflictions) into the five wisdoms.
The most notable variation in Mahakala's manifestations and depictions is in the number of arms, but other details can vary as well. For instance, in some cases there are Mahakalas in white, with multiple heads, without genitals, standing on varying numbers of various things, holding various implements, with alternative adornments, and so on.
Some of the different manifestations of the Mahakala
Six arms Mahakala or Vighantaka:- This form is most favored by the Gelukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism, and in this manifestation Mahakala is considered to be the fierce and powerful emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
The Six-armed Mahakala's left leg is outstretched while the right is bent at the knee. The former symbolizes his accomplishments for the benefit of others and the later those for himself. An elephant-headed entity lying crushed under his legs (misunderstood as Lord Ganesha) represents our instinctive, primary animal force and urge, which when unleashed can prove to be extremely destructive. These cravings however, can also be extremely useful to our self-development and -realization when we master them and bring them under our moderation. Indeed, it is warned that dreaming about a herd of elephants is a sign that instinctive and irrepressible forces that may have been suppressed for too long are about to be unleashed.
Four Arms Mahakala
The four arms of this manifestation of Mahakala perform one of the following four positive karmas or actions, which are said to be his specific boon to his worshippers:
A). Pacify sickness, hindrances, and troubles.
b). Increase life, good qualities and wisdom.
c). Attract whatever Dharma practitioners need and bring people to the Dharma.
d). Destroy confusion, doubt, and ignorance.
This is the wealth aspect of Mahakala which specifically supports the comfort and economic well-being of tantric practitioners. The following description is according to his sadhana:
"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 White Mahakala is known as mGon po yid bzhin nor bu in Tibetan with the last four meaning 'Wish-Granting Gem,' and he is the special protector of Mongolian Buddhists. His iconography is rich in symbols delineating his 'wealth-deity' status. For example his skull bowl, rather than contain the mortal remains of his victims, is full of various jewels, and his crown is made up of five jewels instead of the trademark five skulls.
Panjaranatha Mahakala is one of the most important Dharma protectors in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He is a benefactor and protector of the monastic tradition, and is also the physical representation of the Mother Tantras of Chakrasamvara and Hevajra. Although typically dark blue, Mahakala and his entourage are gold in color, signifying the radiant gold light emitted by attained beings. This Statues shows Panjaranatha with his typical implements of flaying knife, skull cup, and staff, and he is surrounded by his messengers and attendants.
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