Mahakala is the wrathful manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva
of compassion. He is one of the main deities of Tibetan Buddhism, and is
considered both a meditational deity, or yidam, and a protector deity.
Following his practise would result in reaching two goals: the excellent
goal, meaning that the practitioner becomes a Buddha; and the common goal,
meaning that Mahakala would remove obstacles, grant knowledge and fulfil
He is shown here with four wrathful heads, each of which has a third eye.
His fierce open mouths bare his awesome fangs. Each of his head is
surmounted by a five-skull crown. His crown of five skulls represents the
five main afflictions of anger, greed, pride, envy, and ignorance and their
corresponding transformation into positive virtues. His hair stands upright
behind the crown, flame-shaped. He is surrounded by a flame like golden
aureole. This billowing mass of flames that surrounds wrathful deities is
described as a 'blaze of awareness fire'. The energy of the wisdom of these
wrathful forms blazes like the sun's inexhaustible fire. The sun, as a
symbol of pure wisdom, is consumed with fire, yet is not itself consumed.
Its eternal fire is inexhaustible. The wrath of these deities is not
ordinary anger, but wisdom-anger manifesting in its most indestructible or
vajra nature, carrying the capacity of terrifying all evil spirits.
The twisting and blazing fiery aureole surrounding Mahakala is also
described as kalagni, meaning the 'fire of time'. Literally it is the 'fire
at the end of time', according to Buddhist ideals, the ultimate
conflagration of the universe at the end of this aeon.
The aureole flames are drawn with much grace and expression of movement, the
flames curl to one side and leap out at the other. This transverse movement
of the flames enhances the dynamic body posture of Mahakala, full of
vitality and movement.
His eyebrows too are like small flames, and his beard is made of golden hook
He wears many ornaments on his body, and a necklace of fifty freshly severed
human heads. A tiger skin is around his loins and he tramples upon a human
figure, denoting obstacles.
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