Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Protectors, Wisdom Deities (Dharmapala)

Protector Deities Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Wisdom Deity Protectors Description (below)
- Buddhist Protectors Outline Page
- Worldly Deity Protectors
- Confusions
- Others...

- Protector Deity Video List Page
- Wisdom Protectors Introduction
- Protector Deity Publications: Introduction (Book Reviews)
- Oracles and Demons of Tibet (Book Review)
- Guardian Deities of Tibet (Book Review)

Principal Wisdom/Enlightened Protectors:
- Mahakala
- Ekajati
- Shri Devi
- Yama Dharmaraja
- Shri Shmashana Adhipati
- Begtse Chen
- Vajravega
- Ten Wrathful Ones
- Others.....

Enlightened Protector: a Buddhist term, the first and more important of the two types of Dharmapala: Enlightened and Worldly. The Enlightened Protectors are wrathful emanations of the buddhas, fully enlightened beings. Examples: Mahakala and Shri Devi).

There are two types of Protector Deity, 1. worldly and 2. beyond worldly. The latter is typically called wisdom or enlightened protector, meaning that they are beyond samsara or worldly existence. How this actually works is for example the Buddhist protector deity Mahakala - Mahakala is a wrathful form of the primordial Buddha Vajradhara. In various other forms Mahakala can be an emanation of Akshobhya Buddha or any number of other Buddhas. The three main Anuttarayoga Tantra deities of Hevajra, Chakrasamvara and Guhyasamaja each have a specific Mahakala associated with the particular tantra such as: Panjara Mahakala - Panjarnata Tantra (Hevajra), Chaturmukha Mahakala - Guhyasamaja Tantra and the Chaturbhuja Mahakala associated with the various Chakrasamvara Tantras.

There is a bias in Buddhism to treat all or almost all protectors coming from India to be wisdom protectors. The exception here are the Four Guardian Kings and what are considered the traditional Hindu Gods, often referred to in the Tantras as worldly gods, or protectors.

Jeff Watt 7-2007 [updated 9-2017]

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).