Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Protector: Begtse Chen Main Page

Begtse Chen Main Page | Protector Deities Main Page

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Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Begtse Chen Definition (below)
- Retinue Figures
- Begtse Chen Outline Page
- Begtse Chen: Narrative & Myth
- Begtse Coral Dance Mask
- Offering Paintings: #77178, #99184
- Masterworks
- Confusions & Disputes
- Others...

Deity Figures:
1. Begtse Chen
2. Mistress of Life (consort)
3. Lord of Life (son)
4. Eight Butchers (inner retinue)
5. Twenty-one Butchers (outer retinue)
(Twenty-nine Butchers in total)

The protector deity Begtse Chen, also known as Chamsing (English: the Great Coat of Mail. Sanskrit name: Prana Atma), was popularized within the Sarma (new) Schools of Tibetan Buddhism by Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1096) and Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), the respective founders of the Marpa Kagyu and Sakya Traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Colloquially Begtse is known as red Mahakala and ranks relatively high in the Sakya protector pantheon of Wisdom Deities. However, in the various Kagyu Traditions it is now rare to even find Begtse Chen. The protector was later adopted and incorporated into the Gelug School of Tsongkapa and subsequently became popular in Mongolia - predominantly following the Gelug tradition since the 17th century. The majority of the art objects in the gallery below were created within a Gelug context and many of them are of Mongolian origin.

There is a rare form of Begtse known as Chamsing 'Secret Accomplishment'. This form is also associated with Lha Chenpo a Nyingma form of the god Shiva incorporated into Buddhism as a wealth and power deity.

Begtse Chen is the main protector associated with the Hayagriva cycle of Tantric Deity meditation practice. For over one hundred years Western scholars have published the history of Begtse erroneously as beginning with the 3rd Dalai Lama and the subjugation of a Mongolian war god - referring to the protector deity Begtse. A common source given for the Western account of the story, based on Mongolian oral history, is Albert Grunwedel (1856-1935). In Tibetan Buddhism Begtse is believed to have originated in India. The practice entered Tibet with Nyen Lotsawa in the 11th century.

Tibetan: Begtse Chen

Lineage from India: Vajradhara, Mahadeva, Nyi Od Dragpa, Dawa Nagpo, Shridhara Krashu, Nyen Lotsawa Dharma Drag, Khau Chokyi Gyaltsen, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc.

Jeff Watt 5-98 [updated 5-2017]