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Buddhist Deity: Yamari, Krishna

Krishna Yamari | Yamari Main Page

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Yamari (gshin rje gshed) is a male wrathful meditational deity (yidam, ishtadevata) of the Anuttayoga Class of Tantric literature. There are three divisions or sections of literature and deity forms: Rakta (red) Yamari, Krishna (black) Yamari and Vajrabhairava (terrifying). The Krishna Yamari can be divided first into two main types: New Tantras (Sarma) and Old Tantras (Nyingma). Both of these traditions have numerous forms and appearances of the deity as well as numerous lineages of practice descending from those forms. In the Nyingma Tradition the two terms 'Yamari' (gshin rje gshed) and 'Yamantaka' (gshin rje thar byed) are often used interchangeably and the majority, if not all, of the different forms of Krishna Yamari arise from the 'Revealed Treasure' Tradition (Terma) rather than the Oral Tradition (Kama). For the Sarma Traditions of Sakya, Kagyu, Jonang, etc., the Krishna Yamari lineages of practice arise from the Tantric literature of India, namely the Krishna Yamari Tantra [Toh 467].

According to the Sarma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism there are three principal forms of Krishna Yamari. The descriptions for the three found below are composed by Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub (1497-1557) based on the Bari Gyatsa of Bari Lotsawa Rinchen Drag.

[14] "Krishna Yamari, [six faces, six hands].
Yamari has a body black in colour, six faces and six hands. The main face and one above it are black. The right face and one above it are white. The left face and one above it are red. The first two hands hold a vajra and bell crossed at the heart. The middle two hold a skullcup and lasso. The last two hold a sword and staff. Standing with the front two legs in the vajrasana [posture], the middle two have the right bent and the left straight [and] the last two have the left bent and the right straight. The hair, eyebrows and beard are orange and flowing upwards, with a crown of five dry skulls and a necklace of fifty fresh [skulls]. Adorned with snake and jewel ornaments. Having a tiger skin as a lower garment."

[15] "Krishna Yamari, [one face, two hands].
Krishna Yamari has one face and two hands. The right holds aloft a blue stick marked with a vajra and the left, a wrathful [gesture] together with a lasso held to the heart, with the same ornaments and appearance as before. Standing above a red buffalo in a manner with the left leg extended."

[16] "Krishna Yamari, [three faces, six hands].
He is the same as all the other [previous Yamaris], with three faces and six hands, the body and main face are blue, the right white and the left red. With six hands, the three right hold, a wheel, sword and staff, the three left, a body impaled on a strong vetali tree, vajra and noose."

The text below which describes the role of Yama Dharmaraja in the Yamari literature also gives a clear and succinct description of the subject of Yamari. "In the special, noble, Vajra Vehicle [Vajrayana], among the numerous four tantras [kriya, charya, yoga and anuttara] this protector is of the Anuttarayoga. Of those, from the three [classes], Method, Wisdom and Non-dual, this is Method Tantra. From the three famous Father Tantras of the Yamari Cycle, Rakta [Red], Krishna [Black], and Bhairava [Terrifying], this is the uncommon protector of the Vajrabhairava." (Ngor Ponlop Ngagwang Legdrup, 19th century).

The Three Yamari Lineages, the Three Mahamandalas, Abhisheka, Sadhana, together with the Branches: Vajradhara, Jnana Dakini, Acharya Lalitavajra, Amoghavajra, Yeshe Jungne Bepa, Padmavajra, Dipamkara Rakshita, Lama Rwa Dorje Drag, Rwa Lotsawa Chorab, Rwa Yeshe Sengge, Rwa Bum Seng, Lama Lokkyapa Wangchug Dragpa, Lama Ngong, Lama Chokyi Gyalpo (Chogyal Pagpa 1235-1280).

Jeff Watt 4-2007 [updated 1-2013, 5-2017, 1-2019]