Dharmapala Thangka CentreSchool of Thangka Painting


Tibetan Iconography

Yamantaka

Yamantaka is one of the most important of all Gelukpa archetype deities, representing the adamantine wisdom of ultimate reality in triumph over evil, suffering, and death. This painting is one of the earliest tangkas known of this figure. He is the terrific form of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, whose benign princely head appears in gold color with crown and earrings at the top of Yamantaka's Stack of heads. In order to conquer Death, the compassionate Bodhisattva assumes the buffalo-headed form of Yamataka, Lord of Death. With his other eight faces, sixteen legs, and thirty arms, he expresses the many facets of his inconceivable enlightenment, and manifests a power far greater than Yama. Thus over-whelming Yama, he stops his Icilling acti-vity and becomes the Terminator of Death [yamantaka]. This archetype deity was highly signifkant in the life of Tsong Khapa [who was believed to be an incarnation of Manjushri]. It thus became especially favored by the Geluk Order.

In Tibetan Buddhist practice there are three main forms of Yamantaka. the red Yamantaka, Raktayamari; the black Yamantaka, Krishnayamari; and the Vajrabhairava Yamantaka, the Diamond Terrifier. Of these three, the multicolored Diamond Terrifier form, in this and the next two images, is by far the best known. Bhairava forms are awesome, terrifying figures from Hinduism, and the vajra is the Symbol of ultimate reality manifesting äs compassion. So the Vajrabhairava Stands up in selfless ultimate reality, where the powers of the Bhairava forms are magnified unimaginably, so äs to move the viewer through terror to transcendence.

In this most powerful manifestation he holds his pale blue consort, Vajravetali, the Diamond Zombie, in the blissful union that symbolizes the union of compassion and wisdorn. They are encircled by a potent ring of flames shaded from light yellow to orange to red, and edged in gold lines.

Beneath their feet are skillfully portrayed figures of humans and animals.

Source: Published in "Wisdom and compassion - The sacred art of Tibet from Marylin M. Rhie and Robert A. F. Thurman in association with Harry N. Abrahams, Inc., Publisher", Page 283/285.