Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Yama Dharmaraja (Buddhist Protector) - Inner

གཤིན་རྗེ་ཆོས་རྒྱལ། 阎罗法王
(item no. 13447)
Origin Location China
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Wrathful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Inner Yama Dharmaraja, (Tibetan: shin je cho gyal nang wa. English: Inner Lord of Death, King of the Law). Dharmaraja is the special protector for the Vajrabhairava cycle of Tantric practices and is especially associated with the Rwa Lotsawa Tradition.

At the top center is Heruka Vajrabhairava with one face and two hands. To the left is red 'Powerful Activity' Yamaraja holding a wishing jewel and a skullcup to the heart. To the right side is blue-black 'Wrathful Activity' Yamaraja holding a bone stick and a lasso. At the bottom center is white 'Peaceful Activity' Yamaraja with two hands, holding a damaru drum and a divination arrow with the left. To the left is yellow 'Increasing Activity' Yamaraja holding a sword and banner. Each of the Yamas has a buffalo head, adorned with various wrathful ornaments and stands upon a buffalo of similar colour, above a corpse, sun disc and lotus surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness.

Indian Lineage: Vajradhara, Shri Vajrabhairava, Jnana Dakini, Lalitavajra, Vajrasana, Amoghavajra, Jnana Sambhava Bepa, Padmavajra, Dipamkara Shrijnana, (the Nepali) Bharo Chag Dum, (the Tibetan) Ra Lotsawa Dorje Drag, etc.

"In the special, noble, Vajra Vehicle, among the numerous four tantras [kriya, charya, yoga and anuttara] this protector is of the Anuttarayoga. Of those, from the three [classes], Method, Wisdom and Non-dual, this is Method Tantra. From the three famous Father Tantras of the Yamari Cycle, Rakta [Red], Krishna [Black], and Bhairava [Terrifying], this is the uncommon protector of the Vajrabhairava." (Ngor Ponlop Ngagwang Legdrub, 19th century).

The words Yama, Yamantaka and Bhairava appear frequently in all four classes of tantra as attendant deities, protectors or as worldly gods (specifically Shiva) beneath the feet of meditational deities (ishtadevata) such as Vajrayogini and in this instance represent the various negative emotions to be conquered through meditation. It is important not to confuse all of these various models and to understand each in its own place.

Jeff Watt 9-2017

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja Art History
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja Main Page
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja, Inner
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja (All Forms Masterworks)
Painting Style: Qianlong Period Painting Style
Collection: Sotheby's Hong Kong (Painting & Sculpture. October, 2017)
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja ('Inner' Masterworks)