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Subject: Protectors (Wisdom) as Ishtadevata (Meditational Deities)

Protectors as Ishtadevata | Protector Deities Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Protectors as Ishtadevata Description (below)
- Chaturbhuja Mahakala
- Chaturmukha Mahakala
- Panjarnata Mahakala
- Sipai Gyalmo
- Confusions
- Others...

Generally it is true that wisdom protector deities only function as guardians and protectors, however some important enlightened protectors such as the Mahakala class in Tantric Buddhism and the deity Sipai Gyalmo in the Bon Religion also function as meditational deities. In Sanskrit a meditational deity is known as an ishtadevata and in Tibetan language a yidam (yi dam).

In the Buddhist Tantra of the Sarma Tradition the Panjarnata, Chaturmukha and Chaturbhuja Mahakala forms - as taught in the Anuttarayoga Tantras - can all be used as ishtadevata with Generation and Perfection Stage Yogas. The Shangpa Kagyu Tradition, based on later commentaries, also has a form of Shadbhuja Mahakala that is considered an ishtadevata.

When these deities are practiced as ishtadevata then they are no longer looked upon or considered Dharmapala (wisdom protectors). The function of ishtadevata is much higher than that of protector.

Jeff Watt 5-2008 [updated 9-2017]