Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Yama Dharmaraja (Buddhist Protector) - Outer

གཤིན་རྗེ་ཆོས་རྒྱལ། 阎罗法王
(item no. 2158)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug and Buddhist
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Private
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Animal-Feature

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Yama Dharmaraja, Outer (Tibetan: shin je cho gyal. English: Lord of Death, King of the Law): the special protector deity for the Vajrabhairava Tantra and meditation practices. (See the Yama Dharmaraja Main Page and Outline Page).

Yama Dharmaraja, an emanation of Manjushri, is a Tantric Buddhist deity, and specifically a protector deity. The name means 'Lord of Death, King of the Law.' In this circumstance the word 'dharma' does not refer to all of the teachings of Buddhism, or the truth of reality, but rather to the law of cause and effect (karma). Karma is often referred to as a fundamental law of Buddhism.

There are three principal forms of Dharmaraja which are known as the 'Outer, Inner and Secret.' A basic Tibetan description of 'Outer' Yama Dharmaraja and his female consort Chamundi is as follows: "...above a buffalo...is the Lord of Death, Yama Dharmaraja, with a body black in colour, having a very fierce buffalo face. The right hand holds a skull stick and the left a lasso. [He is] adorned with charnel ground ornaments. The red linga is pointing upwards [and he] stands in a manner with the left leg extended. On the left side is the Mistress of Death, Chamundi, with a body black in colour, one face, and two arms. The right [hand] holds a trident and the left a blood filled skullcup. The breasts are pendant and the stomach distended. [She is] wearing a buffalo hide and adorned with a garland of bones." (Konchog Lhundrub, 1497-1557. Sgrub thabs kun btus, vol.9, fol.638-639).

Surrounding Yama Dharmaraja and descending on the viewer's left side of the composition are the eight male attendant deities of Yama Dharmaraja. They are wrathful in appearance, in a variety of colours: blue, blue, white, red, light blue, red, yellow, and white. Descending on the viewer's right side are the eight female attendant deities. Each of these are dark blue in colour. Both the male and female figures are holding various weapons. Some of the attendants are mounted on animals and mythical creatures and others are standing in a variety of dynamic poses.

The Basic Profile of Yama Dharmaraja:
Identity: Manjushri emanation
Tantra Class: Anuttarayoga, Method Tantra
Source Text: Shri Vajramahabhairava Nama Tantra [Toh 468]
Function/activity: Protector Deity
Metaphor: Death

The special iconographic characteristics of 'Outer' Yama Dharmaraja are as follows:
Appearance: Wrathful with a Buffalo head
Colour: Black/dark blue
Attributes: bone stick & lasso
Consort: Chamundi
Mount: Buffalo

Lineage of Teachers: Vajradhara, Shri Vajrabhairava, Jnana Dakini, Lalitavajra, Vajrasana, Amoghavajra, Jnana Sambhava Bepa, Padmavajra, Dipamkara Shrijnana, Bharo Chag Dum, Rwa Lotsawa Dorje Drag, etc.

At the top center is the meditational deity Vajrabhairava with the consort Vajra Vetali. At the lower left is Shadbhuja Mahakala with six hands. At the loer right is Rakta Danda Mahakala, maroon in colour. At the upper right is orange Manjushri holding upraised a sword. Directly below is the teacher Lama Umapa Pawo Dorje. At the upper right side is Lama Tsongkapa with the student Kedrub Geleg Pal Zangpo seated below.

On the back of the painting there is a lengthy inscription which includes prayers and well-wishes for all living beings. According to the text on the back the two hand prints to each side of the inscription belong to the 7th Dalai Lama Kalzang Gyatso (1708-1757).



"This is naturally blessed by the auspicious hand prints of omniscient Lobzang Kalzang Gyatso."

དཔལ་ལྡན་སྟོབས་བཅུ་བདག་ཉིད་གཤིན་རྗེ་གཤེད། སྐྱེ་འགྲོའི་ལས་ལ་དབང་བསྒྱུར་ཆོས་ཀྱི་རྒྱལ། འདོད་དགུའི་དཔལ་སྟེར་ཡེ་ཤེས་བེང་དམར་སོགས། འཁོར་བཅས་ཆོས་སྐུའི་ངང་ལས་རབ་བཞེངས་ནས།

"Master of the ten powers, glorious Yamari. Dharmaraja judge of the actions of all beings, provider of all wishes wisdom deity [Mahakala] Bengmar and the like, along with a multitude of attendants emerging from the dharmakaya."

འདིར་སྦྱོན་བྲིས་རྟེན་འདི་ལ་རྟག་བཞུགས་སྟེ། དཔལ་ལྡན་བཞི་སྡེའི་ཁྲིམས་ལྡན་འདུས་ཚོགས་ཀྱི། བསླབ་གསུམ་ཐོས་བསམ་སྒོམ་པའི་བྱ་བ་དང་། བཤད་སྒྲུབ་དཔལ་འབྱོར་སྙན་གྲགས་འདོད་དགུའི་ཚོགས།

"[Please] come and remain forever in this worship [object] painting, [upon] this disciplined monastic group at glorious Zhide monastery [Lhasa], [favour] the activities of hearing, learning, study and the three trainings, and a gathering of all desires such as teaching, practice, prosperity and fame."

འཛད་མེད་ནམ་མཁའ་མཛོད་ཀྱི་སྒོ་ཕྱེ་ནས། ཕན་བདེའི་དཔལ་ལ་སྤྱོད་པའི་འཕྲིན་ལས་མཛོད། ཁྱད་པར་བློ་བཟང་ལུང་རིག་གུས་སྦྱོར་གྱིས། ཕུལ་བྱུང་སྣང་བརྙན་དམ་པ་འདི་བཞེངས་ཞིང་།

"Opening the rich door of the sky treasury, doing activities for the benefit and well-being [of others], especially with respect to the long tradition of Lobsang, in creating this excellent and pure image;"

བཞི་སྡེའི་འདུས་པའི་ཚོགས་ལ་ཕུལ་བའི་མཐུས། སྤྱི་དང་བྱེ་བྲག་ཕ་མས་གཙོ་བྱས་པའི་། གནས་སྐབས་འགལ་རྐྱེན་ཀུན་ཞི་བསམ་དོན་རྣམས། འབད་མེད་ལྷུན་གྱིས་འགྲུབ་པའི་འཕྲིན་ལས་མཛོད།

"by the power of offering [this worship object] to the Zhide monastic group, [I pray] pacify all the temporary difficulties, mainly for [my] parents, individuals and all [beings]. Without difficulties [may all] wishes be fulfilled."

བཀྲ་ཤིས་དཔལ་འབར་འཛམ་གླིང་རྒྱན་འགྲུབ་ཤོག། མངྒ་ལཾ། ཤུ་བྷམསྟུ་ཛ་ག་ཏཾ།

"May [all] accomplish the ornament of the world, shine bright, and be auspicious. Mangalam."

Jeff Watt & Karma Gellek 12-2016

Reverse of Painting
Special Features: (Printed script (Uchen), Ranjana script (Ornamental Sanskrit), is black, handprints, includes "Om Ah Hum" inscription)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Collection: Jongen-Schleiper (Essay)
Collection: Jongen-Schleiper (Paintings)
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja Main Page
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja, Outer
Collection: Bonhams London (Highlights)
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja 'Outer' (Painting Masterworks)
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja (All Forms Masterworks)
Collection: Bonhams London (Inscriptions)
Collection: Bonhams London (Protector Deities)