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Yamāntaka (Sanskrit: यमान्तक Yamāntaka; Tibetan: Shinjeshe, གཤིན་རྗེ་གཤེད་, རྡོ་རྗེ་འཇིགས་བྱེད།; Wylie: Gshin-rje-gshed, Japanese: 大威徳明王, Daïitokumyouou (abbreviated as Daïitoku); Chinese: 大威德金剛; ||pinyin]]: Dà wēidé jīngāng; Mongolian: Эрльг-зии-Жарґагчи Erlig-jin Jarghagchi) is a Mahāyāna Buddhist iṣṭadevatā (tib. yidam) of the Highest Yoga Tantra class in Vajrayana, popular within the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. Yamāntaka is seen as a wrathful manifestation of Mañjuśrī, the buddha of wisdom, and in other contexts functions as a dharmapala.
Yamāntaka is a Sanskrit name that can be broken down into two primary elements: Yama, the name of the god of death; and antaka, or "terminator". Thus, Yamāntaka's name literally means "the terminator of death".
Within Buddhism, "terminating death" is actually a quality of all buddhas as they have stopped the cycle of rebirth, samsara. In this context, Yamantaka represents the goal of the Mahayana practitioner's journey to enlightenment, or the journey itself: in awakening, one adopts the practice of Yamāntaka – the practice of terminating death.
"Yamantaka" or "Shri Bhagavan Yamantaka" (श्री भगवान् यमान्तक; Glorious Lord Making an End of Yama*) is another name for [Shri] Vajra[maha]bhairava, who is the highest emanation of Bodhisattva Manjushri. Bodhisattva Manjushri, Shri Vajrabhairava and Shri Bhagavan Yamantaka together represent the [Buddha]dharmakaya (Body of [Enlightened] Doctrine) which is also called Vajradhara (Holder of the Thunderbolt) because it holds to the pledge of the thunderbolt (vajrasamaya) which is the pledge to carry out the action of the Buddha.
* Yama is the name of the warden of hell.
How does Yamāntaka terminate death?
This question depends upon the meaning ascribed to the term death – but one way in which this ability can be identified is through the enlightening activity of wisdom. The wisdom mind is able to perceive that death has no intrinsic, concrete existence: our understanding of death emerges solely from the conventions of the world. Also, when we achieve the same realisation of Yamantaka - who is a Buddha - then we have transcended death.
There are three types of death spoken of in the Yamāntaka Tantra : Outer death is the regular end of life, which is embodied by Yama, Lord of Death, who resides in the south, seven stories under the earth. The inner death is ignorance of the true nature of non-dual reality. Instinctive habitual grasping and aversion to objectively "real" objects and subjects arises from this ignorance. The secret death is dualistic appearance on the subtlest level of clear light mind and illusory body. With the practice of Yamāntaka one overcomes those types of death and gains immortality as a Buddha.
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- Wrathful Guardians of Buddhism - Aesthetics and Mythology