Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Guru Dragtro (Treasure Tradition)

Treasure Tradition

Subject, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Initiation Cards (Dragtro)
- Guru Dragpo
- Rinchen Terdzo Master List
- Nine-headed Animals
- Healing Deities
- Confusions: Yutog Nyingtig, Dorje Gotrab
- Others...

Video: Guru Dragtro & Dorje Gotrab: Confusions

Guru Dragtro is male with one face and two hands, wrathful, blue in colour. He holds a vajra scepter in the right hand and skullcup in the left, standing atop a nine headed sow. There are three wrathful attendant deities, Krodha Vajrapani, Krodha Manjushri and Hayagriva. Each of these is accompanied by a garuda bird. Four additional garuda birds accompany Dragtro.

Dragtro appears to be based on the wrathful form of Padmasambhava known as Guru Dragpo. The principal mantra for Dragtro and for Guru Dragpo are essentially the same. The deity Dragtro belongs to the 'Treasure Tradition' of Rolpai Dorje a 17th century Terton (treasure revealer) from Eastern Tibet.

Aside from the multi-headed sow mentioned above, nine-headed animal mounts are common to the protector circle of deities of the Yutog Nyingtig cycle of practice and found within the retinue circle of Gyalpo Pehar. According to some illustrations four or seven of the eight retinue deities of the Yutog Mahakala ride nine-headed animal mounts.

The practice of Dragtro in the 20th century has become strongly associated with the Dorje Gotrab (vajra armour) practice of the 'Treasure Revealer' Tulku Dorje Lingpa (1346-1405). The original Dorje Gotrab practice of Dorje Lingpa does not include any deities or generation stage practice. The teaching was based on the mere recitation of a mantra formula without dependence on visualized forms.

It is stated in several texts that the Dorje Gotrab was first discovered by early teachers such as Nyangral (c.1124–1192), Ledrel Tsal (1291-1315), Sanggye Lingpa (1340–1396) and Dorje Lingpa. Later discoverers included Ju Mipham (1846–1912), Jigme Puntsog (1933-2004) and others.

There are no pre-20th century examples of an iconographic deity figure of Dorje Gotrab, sometimes known as Padma Shavari, two words included as part of the mantra. During the 20th century a number of paintings in an almost identical appearance to Dragtro are claimed to be depictions of Dorje Gotrab. The primary differences are the attribute in the left hand and the wings on the back. Dragtro holds a skullcup while the claimed Dorje Gotrab holds a peg (purba) in the new compositions. Dragtro unfurls a set of wings while Gotrab has no wings. A secondary difference is a lack of attendant figures for Gotrab as found in the original Dragtro text of Rolpai Dorje.

Some 20th century teachers have included a deity visualization to the Dorje Gotrab practice such as Dudjom Rinpoche Jigdral Yeshe Dorje (1904-1987) adding Krodha Vajrapani as a self-generation.

Guru Dragtro:
- Vajra & skullcup
- Wings
- 17th century
- HAR #89983, #53050793

Dorje Gotrab:
- Vajra & Peg
- No Wings
- 20th century
- HAR #67777

Jeff Watt 9-2016 [updated 3-2022]


yi dam gu ru drag khros kyi sgrub thabs byin rlabs nus rtsal myur ldan. Rolpai Dorje. Gu ru drag khros, Volume 13 (པ) / Pages 775-811 / Folios 1a1 to 19a6. ཡི་དམ་གུ་རུ་དྲག་ཁྲོས་ཀྱི་སྒྲུབ་ཐབས་བྱིན་རླབས་ནུས་རྩལ་མྱུར་ལྡན་. https://rtz.tsadra.org/index.php/Terdzo-PA-061

The Collected Works of the Great Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, vol.20, fol.500-501.

Dorje Gotrab - The Vajra Armor from a terma of Dorje Lingpa. Commentary by Namkai Norbu Rinpoche. Translated from Tibetan by Elio Guarisco. Oral teachings transcribed by Caroline Chuden Pirovano. English edited by Lauri Denyer. www.shangshungedizioni.it