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Mahākāla is a Sanskrit bahuvrihi of mahā (महत्; "great") and kāla (कल; "Time"). The literal Tibetan translation is "Nagpo Chenpo" (Wylie: gnag po chen po) though, when referring to this deity, Tibetans usually use the word "Gonpo" (mgon po) [the translation of the Sanskrit word Nāth meaning "lord" or "protector"] instead.
Mahakala(a form of Lord Shiva), as in Tantras ,is the almighty that runs the universe with his consort, Kali.According to KaliTantra He is the one who is believed to control the Kala or time. He at last swallows the whole creation in the Universe and himself ultimately gets devourest in Kali. Mahakala is relied upon in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. However, he is depicted in a number of variations, each with distinctly different qualities and aspects. He is also regarded as the emanation of different beings in different cases, namely Avalokiteshvara (Tib: Chenrezig) or Chakrasamvara (Tib: Korlo Demchog, Wylie: ’khor-lo bde-mchog).
Mahakala is typically black in color. Just as all colors are absorbed and dissolved into black, all names and forms are said to melt into those of Mahakala, symbolizing his all-embracing, comprehensive nature. Black can also represent the total absence of color, and again in this case it signifies the nature of Mahakala as ultimate or absolute reality. This principle is known in Sanskrit as "nirguna", beyond all quality and form, and it is typified by both interpretations.
The most notable variation in Mahakala's manifestations and depictions is in the number of arms, but other details can vary as well. For instance, in some cases there are Mahakalas in white, with multiple heads, without genitals, standing on varying numbers of various things, holding various implements, with alternative adornments, and so on.
A Six-Armed Mahakala (Skt: Shad-bhuja Mahakala, Wylie: mGon po phyag drug pa) called Nyingshuk is favored by the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism, and in this manifestation is considered to be a fierce and powerful emanation of Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
He is adorned with the following symbolic attributes:
- The Six Arms signify the successful completion of the six perfections (shad-paramita), which are practiced and brought to perfection by bodhisattvas during the course of their training.
- various implements in each hand
- 5 Skull Crown on his head
Nyingshuk came from Khyungpo Naljor, the founder of the Shangpa Kagyu, and spread to all the lineages--Sakya, Nyingma, and Geluk, as well as various Kagyu lineages. There are also Terma lineages of various forms of Six Armed Mahakala. Nyinghsuk, though derived from the Shangpa, is not the major Shangpa one--it's in a dancing posture, rather than standing straight up, and is a very advanced Mahakala practice.
There is also a White Six-Armed Mahakala (Skt: Shad-bhuja Sita Mahakala; Tib. Wylie: mGon po yid bzhin nor bu) popular among Mongolian Gelugpas. In this case, he is a "wealth deity", specifically supporting the comfort and economic well-being of tantric practitioners. As such, his iconography differs in form and symbolism, with his skull bowl containing various jewels rather than the typical mortal remains of his victims, and a crown of jewels instead of skulls. The following description is found in his sadhana: "His body is white. His face is wrathful and he has three eyes. He has six arms. His main right hand holds a wish-fulfilling jewel (cintamani) mounted on a jewel-tipped handle, in front of his chest."
Various Four-armed Mahakalas (Skt. Chatur-bhuja Mahakala, Tib. Wylie: mGon po phyag bzhi pa) are the primary protectors of the Karma Kagyu, Drikung Kagyu and the Drukpa Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. A four-armed Mahakala is also found in the Nyingma school, although the primary protector of the Great Perfection (Skt: Mahasandhi, Tib. Dzogchen) teachings which are the pinnacle of the Nyingma system is Ekajati.
The four arms of this manifestation of Mahakala perform one of the following four positive karmas or actions, which are said to be his specific boon to his worshippers:
- Pacify sickness, hindrances, and troubles.
- Increase life, good qualities and wisdom.
- Attract whatever Dharma practitioners need and bring people to the Dharma.
- Destroy confusion, doubt, and ignorance.
The two-armed Mahakala called Bernakchen (Black Coat) is a protector of the Karma Kagyu school, although he derives from Nyingma terma and was adopted by the Karma Kagyu during the time of 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi. He is often depicted with his consort Rangjung Gyalmo. (He is often thought to be the primary protector, but he is actually the main protector of the Karmapas specifically. Mahakala Chakshipa, a four-armed mahakala, is technically the primary protector. Chakdrupa, a six-armed mahakala, is also common in the Kagyu.)
Panjaranatha Mahakala, 'Lord of Charms" or "Lord of the Pavilion", an emanation of Manjushri is a protector of the Sakya order.
- Ladrang Kalsang (author), Pema Thinley (trans.) The Guardian Deities of Tibet. Delhi: 1996 reprinted 2003, Winsome Books India, ISBN 8188043044
- Linrothe, Rob (1999) Ruthless Compassion: Wrathful Deities in Early Indo-Tibetan Esoteric Buddhist Art London: Serindia Publications. ISBN 0906026512
- De Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Rene. (1956) Oracles and Demons of Tibet. Oxford University Press. Reprint Delhi: Books Faith, 1996 - ISBN 8173030391. Reprint Delhi: Paljor Publications, 2002 - ISBN 8186230122
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Mahakala|
- Outline of Mahakala Iconography - at HimalayanArt.org
- Buddhist Protector: Mahakala (All Forms) - at HimalayanArt.org
- Khandro.net: Mahakala
- Mahakala: Lord of the Tent
- Dharmapala Thangka Centre: Mahakala
- Dharma Focus: Mahakala
- Category » Thangka-Thanka Arts » Mahakala Thangka Paintings NepalsCraftbo:མ་ཧཱ་གཱ་ལ།