Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Types of Beings in Himalayan Art (Buddhist)

Wheel of Life Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Enlightened Beings
- Worldly Beings
- Wheel of Life
- Confusions
- Others...

Video: Types of Beings Represented in Art

- Enlightened Beings
--- Buddhas
--- Meditational Deities
--- Bodhisattvas (8th Level)

- Worldly Beings
--- Gods
--- Asuras
--- Humans
--- Animals
--- Ghosts
--- Hell Beings

Buddhists generally divide all living beings into five or six categories along with corresponding realms of existence. There are three types of gods which inhabit three different levels of existence, the desire, form and formless realms. Asuras belong to the desire realm of the gods. They are rarely depicted in art outside of the Wheel of Life paintings. Because of the inter-play of the various types of beings it is sometimes easier to imagine all of the different beings with the gods realm above, the human and animal realm in the middle, and the hell and ghost realms below.

Humans have their own realm which they share with animals and ghosts. The majority of ghosts live in their own realm separate from all of the other types of beings. Animals can live in the human, ghost or god realms. Animals can also be easily divided into real and mythical. The hell realm is only occupied by hell beings. Yama, the judge of beings entering hell, is a ghost (preta) as are his attendants.

Buddhist Worldly Protectors belong to either the Desire Realm gods or to the ghost realm. The Four Guardian Kings along with the major Hindu gods are the principle examples of Desire Realm gods. Dakas and dakinis are basically witches and can belong to either the human or ghost realms. They should not be confused with the meditational deities that take on the appearance of dakas and dakinis.

Other types of beings: kumbhanda, yaksha, raksha, naga, kinnara, gandharva.

The most common Indiam gods found in Buddhist Tantric mandalas are Brahma, Indra, Agni, Yama, Raksha, Varuna, Vayu Deva, Yaksha, Ishana and Bhudevi.

Ten Gods of the Medicine Buddha Mandala:
26 (1). Eastern direction, Brahma, yellow, holding a wheel, riding a goose.
27 (2). Indra, white, holding a vajra, riding an elephant.
28 (3). Agni, red, holding a fire pot, riding a goat.
29 (4). Southern direction, Yama, blue, holding a stick, riding a buffalo.
30 (5). South-west, Raksha, black-maroon, holding a sword, riding a zombie.
31 (6). West, Varuna, white, holding a snake lasso, riding a makara.
32 (7). North-west, Vayu Deva, smoky-coloured, holding a banner, riding a deer.
33 (8). North, Yaksha, yellow, holding a mongoose, riding a horse.
34 (9). North-east, Ishana (Shiva), white, holding a trident, riding a buffalo.
35 (10). West, Bhudevi, yellow, holding a vase, riding a sow.

Jeff Watt 4-2021

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