Himalayan Art Resources

Tibetan Deity: Five Personal/Foremost Gods Main Page

Five Personal Gods Masterworks

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Video: The Five Foremost Gods

In the Bon Religion they are the Five Gods of the Head
(top of the head, right, left, front & back)
pa lha - god of the father
ma lha - god of the mother
sog lha - god of life
shang lha - god of the uncle
dra lha - god who protects one from enemies

In Tibetan Buddhism the arrangement of the gods are different:
mo lha - Female God, located at the left armpit of an individual.
srog lha - Life God, located in the heart of an individual.
pho lha - Male God, located at the right armpit.
yul lha - Regional God, located at the crown of the head of an individual.
dra la - Enemy God, located at the right shoulder.

According to the Bon religion these are the Five Gods of the Head (Tibetan: go wai lha nga) and born with each and every human being. They are located on the four sides of the head and above. It is believed that the Five Gods are born with and accompany each individual human on their life journey. They function as private Gods governing health, wealth, luck and good fortune for each person. This belief system is indigenous to Tibet, Mongolia and Central Asia and the Five Gods are tolerated in Buddhism and some small ritual offering texts can be found. The Bon religion presents a richer understanding of the Five Gods along with marriage ceremonies incorporating the Five as necessary elements.

According to the 5th Dalai Lama it was Traba Ngonshe (1012-1090) and Guru Chowang (1212-1270) who first introduced the Five Personal Gods into a Buddhist context. In modern times it was the 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682) who wrote a ritual text and further popularized the practice. The 4th Panchen Lama, Lobzang Tenapi Nyima (1782-1853), also wrote a liturgical text for the Five Personal Gods. The first known Sakya text was written by Dagchen Kunga Lodro (1729-1783) who clearly states that his writings are based on the text of the 5th Dalai Lama. He also mentions very clearly in the first few lines that the group of protection gods belong both to the Bon religion and then the Buddhist religion.

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Jeff Watt, 4-2002 [updated 9-2012, 4-2017, 1-2020]


Brandon Dotson: On " personal protective deities " ('go ba'i lha) and the Old Tibetan verb 'go. 2017, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies.

5th Dalai Lama text: lha lnga'i gsol mchod bsod nams dpal bskyed/
Volume 14 Pages 476-481 (gsung 'bum). tA la'i bla ma 05 ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho birth 1617 death 1682.

Dagchen Kunga Lodro text: 'go ba'i lha lnga gsol mchod 'jig rten bde 'byung
gsung 'bum/kun dga' blo gros/ Volume 5 Pages 1155-1162. (1729-1783).

Lobzang Chokyi nyima text: 'go ba'i lha lnga'i gsol mchod phan bde'i 'dod 'jo gsung 'bum/blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma (zhol par ma) Volume 5 Pages 797-806. thu'u bkwan 03 blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma/ sku 'bum khri 35 blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma birth 1737, death 1802.

4th Panchen Lama text: 'go ba'i lha lnga'i gsol mchod kyi rim pa bya tshul ('go lha) gsung 'bum/_bstan pa'i nyi ma Volume 9 Pages 817-832. Panchen 04 bstan pa'i nyi ma or Panchen 07 bstan pa'i nyi ma (bkra shis lhun po) Birth 1782, death 1853.

Sogpo Lozang Tamdrin text: 'go ba'i lha lnga la brten pa'i gter bum sgrub pa'i cho ga sde bzhi'i dpal bskyed/gsung 'bum/_blo bzang rta mgrin Volume 12 Pages 527-544. sog po blo bzang rta mgrin birth 1867 death 1937.

Myths and Rituals, Samten G. Karmay, pages 160-163. Bon The Magic Word, the Indigenous Religon of Tibet. Samten G. Karmay and Jeff Watt, editors. Rubin Museum of Art, 2007.