Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Protector: Begtse Chen Religious Context

Begtse Chen Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Religious Context (below)
- Outline Page
- Narrative & Myth
- Begtse Coral Dance Mask
- Hayagriva 'Very Secret' Padma Ishvara
- Protector Deities Main Page
- Confusions & Controversy:
- Others...

Video: Begtse Chen

The protector deity Begtse Chen, also known as Chamsing (English: the Great Coat of Mail. Sanskrit name: Prana Atma). Colloquially Begtse is known as red Mahakala and ranks relatively high in the Sakya protector pantheon of Wisdom Deities. The protector was later adopted and incorporated into the Gelug School of Tsongkapa and subsequently became popular in Mongolia - predominantly following the Gelug tradition since the 17th century. There are a few Gelug traditions and regional monastic centers that hold Begtse to be a worldly protector deity. The majority of the art objects in the gallery below were created within a Gelug context and many of them are of Mongolian origin.

There is a rare form of Begtse known as Chamsing 'Secret Accomplishment'. This form is also associated with Lha Chenpo a Nyingma form of the god Shiva incorporated into Buddhism as a wealth and power deity.

Begtse Chen is the main protector associated with the Hayagriva 'Very Secret' Padma Ishvara cycle of Tantric Deity meditation practice. For over one hundred years Western scholars have published the history of Begtse erroneously as beginning with the 3rd Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso (1543-1588), and the subjugation of a Mongolian war god - referring to the protector deity Begtse. A common source given for the Western account of the story, based on Mongolian oral history, is Albert Grunwedel (1856-1935). In Tibetan Buddhism Begtse is believed to have originated in India. The lineage for Begtse below suggests that the practice originated in Tibet, attributed to Padmasambhava, and very possibly belonging to the Nyingma 'Revealed Treasure' tradition.

Tibetan: Begtse Chen

Hayagriva 'Very Secret' Lineage from India: Vajradhara, Mahadeva, Nyi Od Dragpa, Dawa Nagpo, Shridhara Krashu, Nyen Lotsawa Dharma Drag, Khau Chokyi Gyaltsen, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), etc.

Begtse Lineage: Dharmakaya Amitabha, Sambhogakaya Hayagriva, Nirmanakaya Padmasambhava, Mahasiddha Darchar, Bodongpa Tsundru Dorje, Nyenchen Sonam Tenpa, Khenchen Chogyal Pal Zangpo, Kunkhyen Palden Sengge, Dragram Kashi Chenmo, Tsarchen Dorjechang Losal Gyatso (1502-1566), Jamyang Khyentse Wangchug (1524-1568), [etc.].

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Jeff Watt 5-98 [updated 5-2017, 10-2020]