Dharmapala Thangka CentreIconography

Tibetan Iconography

Yamantaka Vajrabhairava

Yamantaka Vajrabhairava belongs to the wrathful Highest Yoga Tantra Heruka manifestation of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom

His name «Bhairava» means «terrifier».In his name, «Yamantaka», contains the name «Yama», the Lord of Death - although when combined with «antaka» it actually means the «Destroyer of Death»

Yamantaka Vajrabhairava is a wrathful, buffalo-headed meditational deity and a dharma protector and one of the principal three meditational deities of the Gelug school. It was Tsongkapa the founder of the Gelug Tradition, who instituted Vajrabhairava as the principal Gelugpa meditation practice

He is depicted here with his consort Vajravetali in blissful union, symbolizing the union of compassion and wisdom.

He has 9 heads, 34 arms, 16 legs treading on gods, men and beasts alike.

First right hand:
Katrika - crescent-shaped knife to cut the roots of ignorance

Remaining right hands:

  1. Dart - piercing conception of subject and object
  2. Pestle - destroying degenerated mindfulness
  3. Fish knife - cutting off cyclic existence
  4. Harpoon - destroying the faults of body, speech, mind
  5. Ax - cutting imprints of obscurations of sentient beings
  6. Pear - piercing wrong views
  7. Arrow - transfixing pain of preconception
  8. Hook - keeps spirits and demons away
  9. Skull-headed club - destroying the obstacles of karma
  10. Katanga - transforming into nature of great practice too - tummo
  11. Rimless wheel - turning the wheel of Dharma
  12. Five-point vajra - being in the nature of the five wisdoms
  13. Vajra-hammer - destroying avarice
  14. Sword - bestowing the eight siddhis
  15. Hand-drum - invoking the buddhas

Under his right feet: eight siddhis

  1. Human - pill
  2. Buffalo - eye lotion
  3. Bullock - underground movement
  4. Donkey - sword
  5. Camel - flying in space
  6. Dog - becoming invisible
  7. Sheep - immortality
  8. Fox - the destruction of sickness

First left hand:
Kapala skull cup - symbol of wisdom and knowledge.

Remaining left hands:

  1. Head of Brahma - working with great compassion
  2. Shield - victory over the four maras
  3. Leg - practitioner proceeding to enlightenment
  4. Lasso - enveloping the mental continuum with pure wisdom
  5. Bow - victory over the three worlds entrails
  6. Intestine - represents the «illusion body» according to Gelek Rimpoche
  7. Bell - sound of Prajnaparamita
  8. Hand - performing the four activities
  9. Cotton shroud - eliminating the veil of obstacles to wisdom
  10. Man impaled on a stick - directly realizing emptiness by penetrating all things through voidness
  11. Brazier [stove] - possibility of developing clear light
  12. Scalp - mental continuum being filled with compassion
  13. Threatening mudra - threatening the demons
  14. Trident with flags - understanding the emptiness of the three doors as being one entity
  15. Fan - indicates that all things are like illusions

Under the left feet: eight powers

  1. Vulture - power of body
  2. Owl - power of speech
  3. Crow - power of mind
  4. Parrot - power of miracles
  5. Hawk - power of going anywhere
  6. Kite - power of abode
  7. Mynah bird - power of wish-fulfillment
  8. Swan - qualities [be of use for others]