Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Vajrabhairava (Buddhist Deity) - Solitary (Ekavira)

རྡོ་རྗེ་འཇིགས་འབྱེད། 金刚大威德(佛教本尊)
(item no. 388)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1600 - 1699
Lineages Sakya and Jonang (Sakya)
Size 89.54x52.07cm (35.25x20.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.30.5
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Animal-Feature

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Vajrabhairava with Eight Vetali (Tibetan: dor je jig je ro lang gye. English: Vajra Terror with Eight Zombies); the bodhisattva Manjushri appearing as a tutelary deity in wrathful form.

Blue-black in colour with 9 faces, 34 hands and 8 legs, the main face is that of a buffalo. With a red face above and the slightly fierce face of Manjushri placed on top; flames swirl about the tips of the two horns. The three faces to the right and three faces to the left are stacked one above the other along each side. Each face has three large glaring eyes, bared fangs, orange hair flowing upward and a wrathful expression. In the first pair of hands are held a curved knife and skullcup to the heart. The remaining hands hold a variety of objects with the last pair located uppermost and holding the fresh outstretched hide of an elephant. Adorned with crowns of five skulls, earrings and various bone ornaments he wears a garland of fifty heads entwined on a long green snake. The right legs are bent and the left straight pressing down on various creatures and the 4 great gods. Atop a sun disc and blossoming multi-coloured lotus, with the red tipped phallus engorged, he stands in the middle of the orange flames of pristine awareness. At each side of the lotus are groups of four black wrathful figures, the 8 Zombies, with one face and two hands, naked, holding a curved knife upraised and a skullcup to the heart; standing in a wrathful posture. Above the zombies on the left is a small figure of the wrathful protector of the Kalachakra Tantra - Dorje Shug.

Along the top are the buddhas Vairochana, Vajradhara and Shakyamuni along with various deities, Indian and Tibetan lineage gurus. At the bottom center is the wrathful protector Panjarnata Mahakala with one face and two hands. To the left is Ekajati, to the right Mahakali, with one face and four hands riding a mule. Slightly above at each side are the Five Rakshasa attendants. At the left, below the two Rakshasa, are the four figures of the outer retinue of Mahakala. Directly above Panjarnata is the wrathful Vajrapani Bhutadamara, dark blue in colour, with one face and four hands. To the right and left of Vajrapani are the ten worldly gods each riding an animal mount.

At the bottom left corner is the wrathful protector Chaturmukha Mahakala (for the Brahmarupa aspect), blue-black, with four faces and four hands. Next is the worldly guardian of the Northern Direction, Vaishravana, with one face and two hands, richly attired and riding a snow lion. At the bottom right corner is the special protector for the Vajra Bhairava cycle of practice, Yama Dharmaraja with one buffalo face and two hands holding a stick and lasso. Riding on the back of a buffalo he is embraced by the consort Chamundi. To the left is a worldly protector, white with one face and two hands holding upraised a stick and clutching a bowl to the heart; riding on a brown deer.

As a tutelary deity Vajra Bhairava, sometimes referred to as Yamantaka, belongs to the Bhairava and Yamari class of tantras and specifically arises from the Vajra Bhairava Root Tantra (Tib.: jig je tsa gyu). All of those belong to the method (father) classification of Anuttaryoga Tantra. The practice of Bhairava is common to the three Sarma Schools: Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug. Among the Sakya it is counted as one of the four main tantric deities along with Hevajra, Guhyasamaja and Chakrasamvara (Tib.: gyu de shi). Amongst the various Kagyu Schools the Drikungpa are strong upholders of the practice. There are numerous forms and styles of practice from the very complex with numerous deities to the very concise with a single Heruka form. From amongst the many lineages to enter Tibet the main ones were those of Rwa Lotsawa and Mal Lotsawa.

Mal Lineage: the lord of Refuge Vajradhara, Arya Manjushri, Acharya Buddha Jnana, Dipamkara Zangpo, Brahmin Shridhara, the pandita and mahasiddha Naropa, Minyam Dorje Khol, the Nepali of Yerang - Bharo Chagdum, Mal Lotsawa Lodro Dragpa, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc.

Jeff Watt 1-99

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Buddhist Deity: Vajrabhairava Main Page