Entries Tagged as Mahakala
Panjarnata Mahakala is the special protector for the Shri Hevajra cycle of Tantras. The iconography and rituals are found in the 18th chapter of the Vajra Panjara Tantra (canopy, or pavilion) a Sanskrit language text from India, and an exclusive 'explanatory tantra' to the Hevajra Tantra itself. It is from the name of this Tantra that the specific form of Mahakala is known. 'Vajra Panjara' means the vajra enclosure, egg shaped, created from vajra scepters large and small - all sizes, completely surrounding a Tantric Buddhist mandala. The name of the Tantra is Vajra Panjara and the name of the form of Mahakala taught in this Tantra is also Vajra Panjara. The full name for the protector is Vajra Panjara Nata Mahakala (Vajra Pavilion Lord Great Black One). (See the Panjarnata Mahakala Main Page, Outline Page and Panjarnata Masterworks).
Read the full article about Panjarnata.
additions · Mahakala · Sculpture
The Mahakala Main Page has been updated and the organization improved with more links and more navigation choices.
Mahakala is a category of Tantric Buddhist deity. His primary function is as a protector (Dharmapala) and specifically the primary Wisdom Protector of Himalayan and Tibetan Buddhism. There are dozens of different variations and forms of Mahakala. He is typically in wrathful appearance following the Indian model of a Raksha demon. In most occurrences and uses of Mahakala, he is paired with a meditational deity such as Panjarnata Mahakala and Shri Hevajra, Chaturbhuja Mahakala and Chakrasamvara, Chaturmukha Mahakala and Guhyasamaja. In most cases Mahakala is an emanation, or wrathful aspect, of the principal meditational deity that he is associated with. For instance Panjarnata Mahakala is the most wrathful emanation, or form, of Hevajra. In other situations Mahakala might be a wrathful emanation of Vajradhara or Akshobhya Buddha. Aside from the individual Anuttarayoga Tantras that teach various forms of Mahakala, the principal texts are the Twenty-five and Fifty Chapter Mahakala Tantras.
In one specific case, Shadbhuja Mahakala, Avalokiteshvara takes on the form of Mahakala. Therefore, it can be said that the Shadbhuja form, with one face and six hands, arising from the Eight Chapter Mahakala Tantra, is a wrathful Avalokiteshvara.
Types of Mahakala:
1. Bernagchen (Black Cloak)
2. Brahmarupa (Bramhmin Form)
3. Chaturbhuja (Four-hands)
4. Chaturmukha (Four-faces)
5. Danda (Stick)
6. Kakamukha (Raven-faced)
7. Kartaridhara (Knife Holder)
8. Legden (Excellent One)
9. Maning (Genderless)
10. Panjarnata (Two-hands)
11. Raudrantika (Killer of Rudra)
12. Shadbhuja (Six-hands)
13. Shanglon (Minister, from the Yutog Nyingtig)
14. Vyaghra-vahana (Riding a Tiger)
art · Mahakala · updates
In Tibetan paintings Brahmarupa Mahakala, depicted as a central or secondary figure, has quite often been confused for an Indian teacher or mahasiddha, and actually, this has been done on purpose. The appearance of Brahmarupa as commonly found in Tibetan art is merely a place card holder for the Mahakala known as 'four faced' - Chaturmukha - associated with the Guhyasamaja Tantra.
In the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism it was traditionally not permitted to show publicly the image of Chaturmukha to anyone that had not received the initiation into the secret practices and rituals. The form of Brahmarupa was used as an image that could appear on publicly accessible paintings without breaking any of the strict restrictions. This strict practice is still current within the Sakya Tradition today. However, the Gelug Tradition was not as strict and over the course of time many paintings depicting Chaturmukha were created.
Paintings of both the Brahmarupa and Chaturmukha depictions have now made their way into museum and private collections in Asia, Europe and North America. So, for the purposes of correctly identifying these subjects this topic has been discussed and the Brahmarupa Outline Page created.
Mahakala · outlines
Panjaranata Mahakala is the protector for the Shri Hevajra cycle of Tantras. The iconography and rituals are found in the 18th chapter of the Vajra Panjara Tantra (canopy, or pavilion), a Sanskrit language text from India, and an exclusive 'explanatory tantra' to the Hevajra Tantra itself. It is from the name of this tantra that this specific form of Mahakala is known. 'Vajra Panjara' means the vajra enclosure, egg shaped, created from vajra scepters large and small - all sizes, completely surrounding a Tantric Buddhist mandala. The name of the Tantra is Vajra Panjara and the name of the form of Mahakala taught in this Tantra is also Vajra Panjara. The full name for the protector is Vajra Panjara Nata Mahakala.
Western scholars, such as Laurence Austine Waddell and Albert Grunwedel, in the 19th and early 20th century believed that the meaning of the name was 'tent' and that this Mahakala was a special protector of the Tibetan and Mongolian nomads who lived in tents. They even went so far as to say that the wooden staff held across the forearms of Panjarnata was a tent pole. The confusion for Western scholars arises from the fact that the early Tibetans translated the Sanskrit word 'panjara' with the Tibetan word 'gur'. The word 'gur' in Tibetan can mean tent, canopy, enclosure, dome, etc. This academically erroneous belief that Mahakala was 'of the tent' was however supported by Mongolian folk belief where they believed that Panjara Mahakala, originally introduced to Mongolia by Chogyal Pagpa in the 13th century, was indeed special for them based on the Chogyal Pagpa and Kublai Khan relationship. Panjara Mahakala was also popular for the Mongolian nobility and used as a war standard during the time of Kublai Khan.
The 'Vajra Pavilion' when represented in mandala paintings or for three-dimensional mandalas is known as the 'Vajra Circle' (Sanskrit: vajravali): inside of the outer ring of a two-dimensional mandala, painting or textile, is a circle of fire and then a vajra circle. This vajra circle is often difficult to see and easy to dismiss as simply decorative. The circle is a series of gold or yellow vajras, painted against a dark blue or black background, lined up end to end and circling around the entire mandala, deity and palace. The vajra circle is not envisioned as flat or horizontal like the lotus circle. The vajras are seen as a three dimensional pavilion, without doors or windows, completely enclosing the mandala. It is made entirely of vajras, small and large with all of the openings filled with ever smaller vajras. It is a three-dimensional structure and impenetrable. Envisioned as a three-dimensional object it is called the Vajra Pavilion and according to function it is called the Outer Protection Chakra.
Translating the Sanskrit word 'Panjara' as 'tent' is neither descriptive for Panjarnata Mahakala, accurate of the intended meaning, nor helpful in any way to understand this very important subject well represented in major art collections around the world. For more on this subject see the publication Demonic Divine by Rob Linrothe and Jeff Watt, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2004.
Mahakala · updates
The Mahakala Resource Page
is a work in progress. There are just quite simply a lot more types of Mahakala than there are of Shri Devi. Like Shri Devi, Mahakala is a class of deities. Always wrathful, always protectors and sometimes meditational deities of the Anuttarayoga classification. The Mahakala types are aligned much more closely with specific Tantras and major deities such as Hevajra, Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja and in the case of Shadbhuja Mahakala with Hayagriva and Avalokiteshvara. It is not a matter of just uploading all the Mahakala information. It is a matter of how to frame it, contextualize it, and present the information in a way that makes sense and includes Mahakala in the greater realm of Himalayan and Tibetan art, literature, religion and culture. We will let you know how it works out.
iconography · Mahakala