Buddhist mythology operates within the Buddhist belief system. It is a relatively broad mythology, as it was adopted and influenced by several diverse cultures.[1] As such, it includes many aspects taken from other mythologies of those cultures (for instance, Japanese kami[1] are considered to be local bodhisattvas by many Japanese Buddhists).

Wrathful deities

One notable feature of Tibetan Buddhism and other Vajrayana traditions in particular is the use of Wrathful deities.[2] While the deities have a hideous and ferocious appearance,[3] they are not personifications of evil or demonic forces.[2] The ferocious appearance of these deities is used to instill fear in evil spirits which threaten the Dharma.[3]

Wrathful deities are used in worship and devotion[2] with the practice dateing to the 8th century[2] having been instituted by Padmasambhava.[2] The origin of these deities comes from mythology in Hinduism, Bon, or other folk deities.[2]


The Yaksha are a broad class of nature-spirits, usually benevolent, who are caretakers of the natural treasures hidden in the earth and tree roots.[4] Having been worshiped in India since before the Vedic period,[5] their worship was adopted by both Buddhism and Jainism.[5]

In Buddhism, it is believed that they reside deep within the Earth under the Himalayas[5] where they guard the wealth of the Earth.[5] The Yaksha are ruled over by Kubera, the Lord of wealth.[5]


The Yidam, or Ishta-devata, is a personal meditation deity. The Sanskrit word iṣṭadevatā or iṣṭadevaḥ is defined by V. S. Apte as "a favorite god, one's tutelary deity."[6] Though this term is used in many popular books on Buddhist Tantra, the term işţadevatā has not been attested in any Buddhist tantric text in Sanskrit. The unrelated Tibetan version of the term, possibly of entirely native origin, is yi-dam[7] is said to be a contraction of Tib. yid-kyi-dam-tshig,[8] meaning "samaya of mind"- in other words, the state of being indestructibly bonded with the inherently pure and liberated nature of mind.

The Ishta-devata of Hinduism is an aspect of God for personal worship.[9] In Buddhism, a Yidam is a manifestation of enlightenment[10] and make take the form of Sambhogakāya Buddhas, tantric deities, bodhisattvas, Dharma protectors or other historical figures.[10]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Buddhism and Mythology
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Wrathful Deities
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wrathful Guardians of Buddhism - Aesthetics and Mythology
  4. "yaksha". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Yakshas Hindu Gods of Wealth
  6. V. S. Apte, A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary, p. 250.
  7. ""The function of the Yidam is one of the profound mysteries of the Vajrayana... Especially during the first years of practice the Yidam is of immense importance. Yidam is the Tibetan rendering of the Sanskrit word Istadeva-the indwelling deity; but, where the Hindus take the Istadeva for an actual deity who has been invited to dwell in the devotee's heart, the Yidams of Tantric Buddhism are in fact the emanations of the adepts own mind. "The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet: A Practical Guide to the Theory, Purpose, and Techniques of Tantric Meditation by John Blofeld. Penguin:1992
  8. Harding, Sarah. "The Dharma Dictionary." Buddhadharma Magazine, Spring 2005.Dharma Dictionary: Yidam
  9. Ishta Devata or Personal God
  10. 10.0 10.1 Yidam

Further reading

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