Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Protectors - Worldly Protectors Considered Wisdom Deities

Protector Deities Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Dorje Setrab
- Dorje Shugden
- Mamo Rigkyi
- Pehar Gyalpo
- Vaishravana
- Wisdom Protector Deities
- Worldly Protector Deities
- Confusions
- Others...

- Worldly Protectors Considered Wisdom Protectors
- Worldly Protectors
- Wisdom Protectors
- Protector Deities & Religious Traditions

Sometimes a deity or god figure will be considered worldly by the majority followers of a faith while a small minority for various reasons will consider it otherwise or purposely elevate a deity to a higher standing such as from a worldly deity to a wisdom deity. An example of this is Dragyab Monastery in the Chamdo region of Tibet. They have elevated their special protector Dorje Setrab from worldly to wisdom (enlightened) status. The same has been done by certain followers of the Gelug Tradition with reference to the deity Dorje Shugden.

In the Sakya Tradition a popular member of the classification of witches known as Bamo by the name of Mamo Rigkyi is also claimed to be in fact an emanation of Panjarnata Mahakala. Pehar is sometimes referred to as a Wisdom Deity by some traditions and a worldly deity by others.

In verse literature, prayers and praises offered to the worldly deities and gods - just as to the wisdom deities - are commonly lavished with hyperbole as if they were true wisdom (enlightened) deities. This Tibetan literary style and form of praise has contributed to causing confusion in deity classification.

A different type of example is Yama Dharmaraja the special protector deity of the Vajrabhairava cycle of Tantric practice. Dharmaraja is sometimes described as the worldly deity Yama, Judge of the Hell Realm, having been subjugated and transformed into a Buddhist protector deity. In fact Yama Dharmaraja is an emanation of Manjushri - as is Vajrabhairava. The narrative and metaphor of hell and death is borrowed and now used in the practice of Buddhist tantra.

Begtse Chen is another example of a protector deity generally accepted as a wisdom deity but believed by some elements within some traditions to be a worldly protector deity.

Jeff Watt 5-2008 [updated 1-2021]

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