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Buddhist Deities

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Buddhist Deities 2

Jambala (Tibetan: Dzambhala) is the God of wealth and appropriately a member of the Jewel family. His fat belly shows his prosperity and has a mongoose on his left thigh that vomits jewels as he squeezes it. In his right hand he holds a flaming wish-fulfilling jewel which is symbolic for the riches one attains with the wealth of spirituality. He is primarily black in color and has the stunted, thick form of a dwarf with a potbelly. He is seated sideways on a dragon with his right foot down and his knee up. In his white form, he is holding a trident and a scepter.

Je Tsongkhapa is the founder of the Gelukpa school and is the central figure in their Refuge Tree. He is dressed as a monk and wears the yellow pandita hat this lineage has become associated with. After studying with a reported forty five masters, he founded the Gelukpa school in 1409 that emphasized monastic discipline. One of his students, Gedundrup was retrospectively recognized as the first Dalai Lama, an emanation of Avalokitesvara. The fifth Dalai Lama consolidated Tibet politically and spiritually and became its leader. He is an emanation of Manjusri and he is often depicted with Shakyamuni Buddha in his heart. The Gelukpa Order has the greatest number of adherents of any of the lineages.

Kalachakra (Tibetan: Dukyi Khorlo or Dukhor) The Wheel of Time
Kalachakra is a yidam of the Highest Tantra. In the hidden kingdom of Shamballa, it is said the inhabitants practice Tantric Buddhism based on the Kalachakra system. He fuses time and timelessness into a non-dualistic view of absolute reality. This Tantric practice is most important to the Gelukpa sect with whom it is most closely associated. He embraces his consort Visvamata who is yellow in color with four faces and eight arms.

   

Kurukulla (Tibetan: Rikjema) She is an aspect of Tara. She represents the perception of enlightened power overwhelming and overpowering all dualistic perception. This binds and resolves it into the unity of pure enlightened perception and experience. She causes negative action to become powerless and re-patterned into wholesome, virtuous activity. She is red in color and her primary symbol is a drawn bow and arrow that causes ordinary perception to be gathered and to pierce the experience of the unity of primordial pure nature. In the teaching of Mahakala, along with Ganapati and Kamarja, Kurukulla is one of the Three Great Red Deities that are part of the Thirteen Golden Doctrines central to the lineage of the Sakya tradition.

Machig Labdron is considered to be an incarnation of Yeshe Tsogyal, the Wisdom Consort and primary disciple of Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambava). She was a learned Tibetan who was known for the clarity and beauty by which she read scriptures aloud to patrons. Through her experience she gained merit and insight into the Prajnaparamita, the teachings upon the Perfection of Wisdom, Shuyata. In a Pure Vision of Tara, she was bestowed the teachings of the Chod Rite or Severance, a practice which cuts or severs the ego at the root. She became so famous due to the profundity of her realization and teachings, her tradition of practice spread throughout all Tibet and lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, Nepal and India. She is the only Tibetan teacher whose teachings were spread back into India, the motherland of the Dharma. She is white in color, depicted in the dancing posture on her left foot, with her right foot raised up and the ball of her right foot suppressing the corpse of ego. She holds a chod drum (damaru) in her right hand and rings a bell in her left.

Mahakala is the wrathful deity that destroys mind chatter and brings our minds back into attentive focus. There are many different colors and forms of Mahakala, but he is recognized universally as one of the great protectors of the Dharma.

 

Maitreya (Tibetan: Jampa) is the future Buddha within and without everyone, who is expected to come to earth from Tushita Heaven. He is a Bodhisattva whose devotion spans both Theravedic (Hinayana) and Mahayana countries. He is supposed to reappear on earth in human form, for the deliverance of all sentient beings to enlightenment by revealing that which time and ignorance have covered. He will be the last of the five Buddhas to gain supreme enlightenment in this aeon. He holds the stock of a lotus in his right hand and may be represented either standing or sitting.

   

Manjusri, the Prince of Wisdom confers mastery of the Dharma—retentive memory, mental perfection and eloquence. He is a form of the Bodhisattva and along with Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani, he is one of the three family protectors, that of Variochana’s Tathagata family. In his right hand he holds the sword of truth upward to cut through ignorance. His left hand is held in a teaching gesture with the arm extending straight out from the elbow and palm facing forward.

   

Marpa was one of Naropa’s main disciples, an ordinary farmer who traveled back and forth across the Himalayas from Tibet to India, bringing back teachings on each of his journeys. He was a great Tantric teacher and a link in one of the most famous teaching lineages from Tilopa to Naropa to Marpa to Milarepa to Gampopa to Dusum Khyempa, the first Karmapa who founded the Karma Kagyu sect.

Mayadevi is the mother of Siddhartha Gautama who became the Buddha, and the wife of King Suddhohana. Later in her life, she became a student and follower of her son.

       

Milarepa was a monk and a poet who lived in the twelfth century and arguable Tibet’s most famous spiritual figure. His life started as a disaster, with him having destroyed others. He then became a disciple of Marpa who put him through tremendous physical challenges to help him purify his karma. He finally was given initiation and became an aesthetic, surviving on nettles for many years. He is usually depicted as green (from the nettles), in a cave with long black hair. He converted nomadic Tibetans to Buddhism through his 100,000 songs. He holds his right hand with the fingers extended to hear the voice of the Dharma and the palm turned outward behind his right ear. His left hand holds a beggars bowl.

Naropa resided at the finest Buddhist University of Nalanda and was one of the greatest scholars of his time. An old woman appeared one day and showed him how his knowledge was great but his wisdom from direct experience was lacking. He sought out and found Tilopa who taught him the Tantric path of direct experience over the twelve years he spent with him.

Padmasambava (Guru Rimpoche in Tibetan) was a renown and highly learned tantric saint of Northern India who brought Buddhism to Tibet. He was invited by the Tibetan King Trisong Detsen to bring his knowledge to Tibet and he stayed 50 years founding monasteries and teaching tantric doctrine. He has many forms including an important set of eight that are depicted in Tantric art. He is seated on a lotus with a red cap, the legs crossed, the right hand holding a dorje (vajra) and the left resting in his lap.

Palden Lhamo (Sanskrit: Shridevi) is the female companion of Mahakala and is his equal in power. She is depicted in a peaceful form as Machig Palden Lhamo, sitting on a lotus, wearing a crown of jewels, holding a bowl of jewels in her left hand and holding a standard of rainbow colors in her right. In her wrathful form, she rides a mule, has flaming red hair, three red eyes and sharp fangs.

Ratnasambhava (Tibetan: Gyalwa Rinjun) is the third of the five Transcendental Buddhas. He is yellow and his wisdom is associated with experience and known as representing the "primordial wisdom of equality. He is associated with the human realm on the wheel of life. He is known for his equanimity reminding us that all human beings are precious. He faces the south in with his consort Mamaki.

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