Himalayan Art Resources

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

རྡོ་རྗེ་འཇིགས་འབྱེད། 金刚大威德(佛教本尊)
(item no. 84)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Gelug
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.6.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Animal-Feature

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Ekavira Vajrabhairava (Tibetan: dor je jig je pa wo chig pa. English: The Solitary Hero Vajra Terror) a wrathful form of Manjushri.

Bhairava, dark blue in colour, has 9 faces, 34 hands and 16 legs. The main face is that of a buffalo, with a red face above and the slightly angry yellow face of Manjushri placed on top. Flames shoot from the tips of the horns. The three right faces are yellow, blue and red and the three left are black, white and smoky. Each face has three large round eyes, bared fangs and frightful expressions; brown hair flows upward like flames. The first pair of hands hold a curved knife and skullcup to the heart. The remaining hands hold a multitude of weapons with the 2nd and last set holding in addition the fresh outstretched hide of an elephant. He is adorned with bracelets, necklaces and a girdle all formed of interlaced bone ornaments, a necklace of snakes and a long necklace of fifty heads. The right legs are bent pressing down on a man, animals and various gods. The left legs are extended straight and press upon eight birds and various gods; standing above a sun disc and multi-coloured lotus completely surrounded by the orange flames of pristine awareness. To each side of the lotus throne skullcups are filled with various offerings.

At the top center is a Gelugpa lama, seated on a cushion, wearing monastic robes and a yellow pandita hat. With the right hand he holds to the heart the stem of a lotus blossoming at the right ear supporting a book. The left hand cradles a monk?s begging bowl in the lap.

At the bottom center is Shadbhuja Mahakala (the Great Black One with Six Hands), an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, dark blue in colour, very wrathful and surrounded by flames. To the left is the special protector of the Vajrabhairava Tantras, with Yama Dharmaraja, blue, with the head of a buffalo, holding a bone stick and lasso. Embraced by the consort Chamundi, he rides on the back of a blue buffalo; surrounded by flame. To the right is the guardian of the northern direction, Vaishravana, yellow in colour with one face and two hands holding a banner and mongoose; riding a white snow lion with green hair. These three were the special protectors of Tsongkapa and so became the main protectors for the Gelugpa School. Precious wish-fulfilling jewels and objects of wealth adorn the foreground.

As a tutelary deity Vajrabhairava, also known as Yamantaka, belongs to the Bhairava and Yamari class of tantras and specifically arises from the Vajra Bhairava Root Tantra (Tibetan: 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 Gelugpa. Among the Sakya it is counted as one of the four main tantric deities. There are numerous forms and styles of practice from the very complex with numerous deities to the very concise with a single Heruka form. The main lineages to enter Tibet were those of Jowo Atisha, Rwa Lotsawa, Mal Lotsawa and the like.

This form of Bhairava with the central faces placed 3 vertically and 3 faces to each side arranged horizontally is unique to the Gelugpa School and true to a visionary experience of Lord Tsongkapa the founder.

Lineage: Shri Vajrabhairava, Jnana Dakini, Mahasiddha Lalitavajra, Amoghavajra, Yeshe Jungne Bepa, Mahasiddha Padmavajra, Marmedze Srungwa, Rwa Lotsawa Dorje Drag, Rwa Chorab, Rwa Yeshe Sengge, Rwa Bum Seng, Rongpa Gwalo Namgyal Dorje, Rongpa Sherab Sengge, Lamdrepa Yeshe Palwa, Je Sonam Lhundrup, Choje Dondrup Rinchen, Je Tsongkapa Lozang Trakpa (1357-1419), etc.

Jeff Watt 7-98


Sadhana Description:
??Sri Vajra-mahabhairava (dpal rDo-rje? jigs-byed chen-po), dark blue, with nine faces, thirty-four arms and sixteen legs, abiding in pratyalidha posture (right legs bent). Capable of devouring the three worlds, he is shouting ?Haha? and has rolled-up tongue, bared fangs and a frown. Beside the frown, his eyebrows and eyes blaze like the fire at the time of destruction. His pale yellow hair streams upwards. Threatening the worldly and supermundane gods, he terrifies even the terrible, roaring like thunder the great sound of PHEM and eating human blood, grease, marrow and fat. He is crowned with five frightful dry skulls and adorned with a skull garland of fifty fresh heads, a black snake as scared thread, a circlet of human bone, and earrings and the other ornaments of bone. He is naked of body, with huge belly. His sex stands erect. His eyebrows, eyelashes, beard and body hairs blaze like the fire at the end of time.

His principle face is a buffalo?s, black, extremely wrathful and with sharp horns. Above this, midway between the two horns, is a red face, most frightful, with blood dripping from its mouth. Above this is the yellow face of Manjushri, just a little wrathful, adorned with the ornaments of a young man, with five locks on the crown of his head. The main face under the right horn is blue, that to its right red, and that to its left yellow. The main face under the left horn is white, that to its right smoke-colored, and that to its left black. These faces are extremely wrathful. All nine faces are three-eyed.

The first pair of arms hold a fresh elephant-skin, stretched out with its head on the right and hands and feet on the left, showing the hairs outside. The remaining right hands hold 1. a knife, 2. a dart (bhindipala), 3. a wooden pestle, 4. a knife with a wavy blade, 5. a harpoon, 6. An axe, 7. a spear, 8. an arrow, 9. a hook. 10. a club, 11.a khatvanga, 12. a wheel, 13. a five-pointed vajra, 14. a vajra hammer, 15. a sword and 16.a damaru. The left hold 1. a blood-filled skull, 2. a Brahma?s head, 3. a shield, 4. a foot, 5. a noose, 6. a bow, 7. entrails, 9. a hand, 10. a shroud, 11. a man impaled on a stake, 12. a brazier, 13. a piece of a skull, 14. a threatening, forefinger, 15. a triple banderole and 16. a fan (rlun ? ras, also ?prayer-flg?).

His feet tread on 1. a human being, 2. a buffalo, 3. an ox, 4. an ass, 5. a camel, 6. a dog, 7. a sheep and 8. a fox (or jackal) his left feet on 1. a vulture, 2. an owl, 3. a ravan, 4. a parrot, 5. a hawk, 6. a garuda, 7. a domestic fowl and 8. a swan. He also tramples beneath his feet Brahma, Indra, Visnu, Rudra, Six-faced Kumara (= Karttikeya), Vinyaka (Ganesa), Candra and Surya, lying face down. In this manner he abides amid an intensely blazing mass of fire.?

From Deities of Tibetan Buddhism, Wisdom Publications, 2000. Translated by Martin Willson from the sadhana text of Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpo (1878-1941): biographical reference.

Reverse of Painting
Special Features: (includes "Om Ah Hum" inscription)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Tradition: Gelug Deity Paintings
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery II
Buddhist Deity: Vajrabhairava Main Page
Subject: Meditational Deities (ishtadevata, yi dam)
Subject: Universal Deities (Appearance)
Subject: Eight Wrathful Ones of the Gelug School
Tradition: Gelug Tradition Main Page
Subject: Protectors - Wrathful Deities that are not Protectors
Subject: Wrathful Appearance Page