What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

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AkashicBrother
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What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by AkashicBrother » Mon May 13, 2019 4:48 pm

My intention is not to be offensive, is just that Im more familiar with general Mahayana and dont know much about Tibetan buddhism. But what is the difference between a Dharma protector like Yamantaka and a demon like Mara ? why does the physical aspect of Yamantaka look evil ? is he the same as yama in general Mahayana . In the case of yama his job is to take care that "souls" are properly punished in hell , right ?

Would it be more correct to call Yamantaka the tibetan version of Yama or is he like a demon who was "converted" to being good and helping others ? Of course the art of Tibetan buddhism is heavily influenced by the bon religion, so thats why yama would look different in tibetan buddhism in comparison to Mahayana ?
Last edited by AkashicBrother on Mon May 13, 2019 5:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Miroku
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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by Miroku » Mon May 13, 2019 4:53 pm

Compassion is the difference.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

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Lobsang Chojor
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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by Lobsang Chojor » Mon May 13, 2019 5:08 pm

Miroku wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:53 pm
Compassion is the difference.
:good:
AkashicBrother wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:48 pm
Would it be more correct to call Yamantaka the tibetan version of Yama or is he like a demon who was "converted" to being good and helping others ? Of course the art of Tibetan buddhism is heavily influenced by the bon religion, so thats why yama would look different in tibetan buddhism in comparison to Mahayana ?
Yamantaka and Yama are different. Yamantaka is a form of manjushri, with the practice coming from India to Tibet
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AkashicBrother
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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by AkashicBrother » Mon May 13, 2019 5:54 pm

It would be better more clear answers.

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Miroku
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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by Miroku » Mon May 13, 2019 6:00 pm

AkashicBrother wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 5:54 pm
It would be better more clear answers.
Well they are wrathful because they are like angry parents who fight for their child, or discipline their child. Their mind is full of compassion despite being wrathful on the outside. They look "evil" to be more effective. Sometimes enlightened beings appear among demons to subdue the demons and make them swear to not harm practitioners. It is really just a face of very active compassion.

Yamantaka is not Yama. He is his opossite. He overcomes Yama=death.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by Tlalok » Mon May 13, 2019 6:06 pm

The appearance of "evil" is largely a cultural perception. Many religious traditions use imagery that may appear violent and goulish to outsiders, but convey particular symbolic meanings. Look at the iconography of Christianity for example, it looks like its out of Hostel, but is used to convey ideas of redemption and grace. Snakes are "evil" in a lot of Judeo Christian traditions, but are venerated by both native American and Indian religious traditions.

The symbolism of the Vajrayana is used in a similar way. Deities trample dualistic fixations, and are wreathed in the fires of compassion and bodhichitta. Weapons are used to overcome internal and external obstacles.

Dharmapalas are either Englightened buddhas who protect the teachings of the dharma from internal and external obstacles, and therefore express forceful, or wrathful aspects. Or, they are bodhisattvas who are yet to become fully enlightened, but have been bound by their oaths to the bodhisattva path. They are again wrathful in appearance to protect and shelter practitioners.

Yamantaka is a form of Manjushri as already mentioned. He demonstrates the active, powerful, overcoming force of Manjushri's wisdom.

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AkashicBrother
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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by AkashicBrother » Mon May 13, 2019 6:49 pm

In terms of cosmology, if mara is a demon what would Yamantaka be?

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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by Miroku » Mon May 13, 2019 6:53 pm

AkashicBrother wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:49 pm
In terms of cosmology, if mara is a demon what would Yamantaka be?
Enlightened being. It is a meditation yidam and again an emanation of bodhisattva Manjushri.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by Miroku » Mon May 13, 2019 6:54 pm

AkashicBrother wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:49 pm
In terms of cosmology, if mara is a demon what would Yamantaka be?
From the outside it looks like a class of yama, which are demons looking like well .. Yamantaka does.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by Dorje Shedrub » Tue May 14, 2019 2:54 am

Yamantaka means "destroyer of Yama." Wrathfull deities are not necessarily angry; they represent movement and action. Dharma protectors also often take on the appearance of the specific beings that they tame, so although they may look "evil," this is just appearance .

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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by Simon E. » Tue May 14, 2019 9:55 am

It would be a mistake to dismiss the mythos of Vajrayana as having only a poetic or symbolic relevance.
It would also be a mistake to see it as a depiction of actual discrete entities.
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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by jmlee369 » Wed May 15, 2019 2:03 am

AkashicBrother wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:48 pm
My intention is not to be offensive, is just that Im more familiar with general Mahayana and dont know much about Tibetan buddhism. But what is the difference between a Dharma protector like Yamantaka and a demon like Mara ? why does the physical aspect of Yamantaka look evil ? is he the same as yama in general Mahayana . In the case of yama his job is to take care that "souls" are properly punished in hell , right ?

Would it be more correct to call Yamantaka the tibetan version of Yama or is he like a demon who was "converted" to being good and helping others ? Of course the art of Tibetan buddhism is heavily influenced by the bon religion, so thats why yama would look different in tibetan buddhism in comparison to Mahayana ?
If you are familiar with general Mahayana, you should also be familiar with 11 faced Avalokitesvara, right? You can see that some his faces are angry. Chinese Buddhism also regards this preta that threatened Ananda in a sutra to be Avalokitesvara as well. Why is it that the bodhisattva takes on such strange appearances? The Lotus Sutra says:
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a heavenly dragon, yaksha, gandharva, asura, garuda, kinnara, mahoraga, human or non-human, and so forth, he will manifest in such a body and speak Dharma for them.

If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Vajra-wielding Spirit, he will manifest in the body of a Vajra-wielding Spirit and speak Dharma for them.

Inexhaustible Intention! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has accomplished merit and virtue such as this and, in all manner of forms, roams throughout the land, saving and liberating living beings.
source

Thus, we can know from general Mahayana principles that enlightened beings can take on whatever form is necessary to benefit beings, even looking like a yaksha demon.

Now regarding Yamantaka, he is the enemy of Yama. If you understand what Yama is and what he looks like, then you will understand why Yamantaka looks the way he does. Yama represents death, he is death itself, and sometimes described also as the king of hell. It seems that there were different versions of Yama in India, one that was just a man riding a bull, and one that had a head of a bull. Anyway, in the lower tantras (Japanese lineages included), Yamantaka is also simply riding a bull. Still, he appears much more wrathfully, in order to subdue and overpower death itself.

In the more famous Vajrabhairava form, Yamantaka not only has the bull head to subdue bull-headed Yama, he is nine times more terrifying to signify victory over death. Enlightenment has often been described as the deathless state; here Yamantaka is merely the form taken by Manjushri bodhisattva to show that enlightened wisdom conquers death. Actually, if you understand the symbolism of all the aspects of Yamantaka's body, you will realise that each and every part of the image represents aspects of the path to Buddhahood like the 37 bodhipakṣa dharma.

To clarify, Yamantaka is not a dharma protector. He is an uncommon wrathful aspect of Manjushri bodhisattva, a fully enlightened Buddha. Yamantaka subded Yama, and converted Yama into a dharma protector.

Another point, all this imagery does not come from Tibet, it comes from India, as described in the tantras. It has nothing to do with Bon.

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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by Pema Rigdzin » Wed May 15, 2019 5:35 am

Yamantaka is a Buddha, one of countless forms Buddha Manjushri appears in to tame beings very difficult to tame. The yamas are a class of beings, and they were causing trouble for others and themselves; out of compassion & wisdom, Manjushri appeared to them in a form they could relate to--but one more powerful then them--in order to tame them and steer them toward liberation. There's a similar story about Buddha Vajrakilaya. All these wrathful yidams have an origin story.

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Re: What are the Tibetan "Fearful Dharma Protectors"?

Post by climb-up » Thu May 16, 2019 3:52 am

It did get mentioned in the second to last post above this, but while Yidams can be wrathful they are not Dharmapalas (Dharma protectors).

Yamantaka is an enlightened bodhisattva who manifest compassionately in a wrathful form in the same way that a mother might compationately yell at her child who is about to burn themselves or step into a busy street. The yelling may be wrathful, even frightening and upsetting, but is done out of compassion and love. A wrathful buddha acts out of pure compassion to help beings.

Dharmapalas can be enlightened or worldly. Worldly protectors are beings who have been tamed to serve and protect the dharma.

Yidams are taken as the path in tantric meditation.
Dharamapalas are not, but are engaged with to help overcome obstacles.

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