Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Worldly Protector: Vaishravana Riding a Lion

Vaishravana Masterworks

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Iconography
- Early Paintings
- Vaishravana Main Page
- Confusions: Tibetan Kings, Jambhala, Machen Pomra, Kubera, Yaksha Generals
- Others...

- Vaishravana Riding a Lion, Early Paintings
- Vaishravana: Study Topics
- Vaishravana, King of the North
- Kubera, Who Am I?
- Kings in Himalayan Art: Part 1
- Kings in Himalayan Art: Part 2

Vaishravana Riding a Lion, also known as Vaishravana and the Eight Horsemen, is a worldly Buddhist protector. There are a number of different forms of Vaishravana seated atop a lion. With this particular iconographic form it is Vaishravana and the Eight Horsemen that is referred to here. This image with the Eight Horsemen is the most common form found in art after the earliest Vaishravana form. The earliest form of Vaishravana has no lion. He is either a seated or standing figure found at the entrance way to temples or monasteries, and included in images, both painted and sculpture, of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Sixteen Arhats.

Vaishravana, leader of the Yaksha race, is a worldly guardian worshipped as both a protector and benefactor. He, with his wife - a naga princess, lives on the north side of the lower slopes of mount Meru in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings in a sumptuous palace bathed in green emerald light. As the leader of the Four Direction Guardians, he at the head of the others, swore an oath of protection before the Buddha Shakyamuni. The stories and iconography of the Four Guardians arise primarily from the Mahayana sutras and are common to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Lord Atisha, amongst others, popularized the meditation practice of Vaishravana Riding a Lion in the 11th century.

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Jeff Watt 7-2003 [updated 5-2017, 1-2020]

84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha: Nilamabara Vajrapani Tantra. Chapter 3. Vaishravana & the Eight Horsemen (Bhagavannīlāmbara­dhara­vajra­pāṇi­tantra, bcom ldan ’das phyag na rdo rje gos sngon po can gyi rgyud ces bya ba)