Wrathful deities

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Yamantaka Vajrabhairava - a Dharmapala as well as a heruka British Museum.

In Buddhism, wrathful deities are enlightened beings who take on wrathful forms in order to lead sentient beings to enlightenment.[citation needed] They are a notable feature of the iconography of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. A wrathful deity is often an alternative manifestation of a bodhisattva or other normally peaceful figure, making the representations of all human vices and atrocities. In Tibetan art, wrathful deities are presented as fearsome, demonic beings adorned with human skulls and other bone ornaments (Sanskrit aṣṭhiamudrā).

Wrathful deities are representations of negative karmas, in the same way as peaceful deities are representations of positive karmas. The symbol of the wrathful ones is the kapala, a half skull filled with blood.


Herukas and Dakinis[edit]

Wrathful deities can be divided into several categories:[1]

Wisdom Kings or Vidyaraja[edit]

The Protectors[edit]

  • The Protectors (Sanskrit pāla) or Dharmapāla, are often subdivided into three categories:
    • Lokapālas or "Protectors of the World" are the guardians of the four cardinal directions;
    • Kṣetrapālas or "Protectors of the Region"; and
    • Dharmapāla or "Protectors of the Law". These vary in the level of realization attributed to them. This can be anything from fully enlightened to an oath-bound worldly spirit. Most of the major Dharmapalas are said to be enlightened.

Eight Dharmapalas[edit]

Among the Dharmapāla, one of the most common categories are 'The Eight Dharmapalas' (Tibetan: དྲག་གཤེདWylie: drag gshed), who are understood to be the defenders of Buddhism. They are supernatural beings with the rank of bodhisattva who "are supposed to wage war without any mercy against the demons and enemies of Buddhism".[2] The Eight Dharmapala are:

See also[edit]


External links[edit]