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Buddhist Deities

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Buddhist Deities 3

Samantabhadra (Tibetan: Guntu Sangpo) is the primordial Buddha associated with compassion and is known as a protector of the sutra. He is the antecedent of all and the expanse of reality. He holds sway over existence and quiescence in their entirety. He is naked and blue in color, and is most often pictured embracing his white consort Samantrabhhadri. They are another emanation of Adibuddha, the ever-present potential for Buddhahood, that has always been and always be.


Senge Dongchenma (Sanskrit: Simhamukha or Simhavaktra) is known as "the lion-headed one", a particularly powerful guardian dakini emanation of Padmasambava. She is most often dark blue but she can be red, as she dances with a vajra chopper and skull cup.

Shakyamuni attained enlightenment after six years of fasting and meditation, became known as Buddha and founded Buddhism. He was born about 2500 years ago as Siddhartha Gautama, a prince and son of the king Suddhodana and queen Mayadevi. He is believed to have had 550 incarnations with more yet to come, but he is called Shakyamuni (the Sage of Shakya Clan) and when a reference is made to "the Buddha", he is the one.


Tsongkhapa (See: Je Tsongkhapa)

Troma Nagmo is a wrathful form of Vajrayogini. With great splendor of original nature, she suppresses demonic forces. In particular, she is an exponent of the Chod lineage with emphasis on severance, cutting all extremes.

Vairochana is an emanation of Adibuddha and represents the cosmic element of form (rupa). He is the primordial wisdom of the sphere of reality. His is in the center of the mandala consisting of the five Transcendental Buddhas, and his rites pacify negative emotions. He is white and his two hands are held against the chest with his thumbs and forefingers touching. He radiates the light of Buddhahood and his consort is Akashadhateshvari, who is the sovereign lady of infinite space. So the dance of light and the space for it to radiate through creates the united dance of Dharmadhatu. It is this dance that is represented by these unions and the sexual imagery depicted in Tantra.

Vajradhara is an emanation of Adibuddha, considered by some to be the highest deity of the Buddhist Pantheon in Vajrayana Buddhism, and its source. He is the central figure in the Refuge Tree of Kagyupa lineage. He is the Tantric form of Shakyamuni and his name means the bearer of the thunderbolt. Vajradhara embodies the primordial awakened mind and many Tantric teachings are attributed to him. He is an expression of Buddhahood itself in both single and yabyum form. He is depicted with his arms crossed on his chest, each holding a dorje.

Vajrakilaya (Vajrakila) is a wrathful form of Padmasambava. He is a Tantric deity who is embodied in the purba. He has at least six arms and wears a crown of skulls.

Varjrapani is a wrathful Bodhisattva and along with Avalokitesvara and Manjusri, he is one of the three family protectors. He fights a spiritual battle against the forces of ignorance, craving and samsara. He is a blue Tantric figure that is surrounded by a flamed halo, and wears a garland of skulls and a wreath of snakes.

Vajrasattva is the priest of the five Transcendental Buddhas. His practice is one of purification through the realization that in your true nature, you were never impure. He is visualized in the foundation meditation practices of Tantra, with the aim of generating Bodhichitta, the cosmic will to enlightenment. He is represented in two forms, single and yabyum. He is usually white in color and sits crossed legged with a dorje (vajra) in his right hand with palm upward against his chest and a bell in his left resting on the left thigh.

Vajravahari (Tibetan: Dorje Phamo) is the essence of the five kinds of knowledge and is the embodiment of pleasure. She is a two-armed red goddess who exhibits a dorje (vajra) in her right hand along with a raised index finger and in her left.

Vajrayogini (Tibetan: Dorje Naljorme) is one of the most important dakinis. She is a yidam of the Highest Tantra and appears in many Tantric practices. She is youthful and passionate for the Dharma. Her eyes are red and she has a forked tongue protruding through her teeth. A tiger skin is draped on her and wears human skulls while dancing on a human corpse. She dances with her right leg raised and has between four and twenty-four arms.


White Tara, the Mother of all the Buddhas, bestows the gift of longevity and is an elegant emanation. She energizes those who visualize her, and that energy can be invested in one’s spiritual practice. She is still and centered sitting in a full lotus, belonging to the Lotus Family of Amitaba. She has seven eyes: one each on the soles of her feet; one each on the palms of her hands; one each in the normal place on her face and one in the "third eye" position on her forehead. Several important White Tara practices have been passed down through the Karmapas and Dalai Lamas.


See our Homage to the 21 Taras

Yamantaka (Tibetan: Shinjeshe) is the conqueror or slayer of death as the wrathful emanation of Manjusri. He is a member of the Vajra Family of Akshobya and concerned with overcoming the poison of hatred. He is usually dark blue and is depicted in his simplest form (usually rupas) with one bullhead and two arms. He wears a crown of skull, has a third eye, a skullcap in his left hand and a chopper in his right. In thankas he most often has nine heads, sixteen feet and thirty four arms, all hold tantra symbols.


Yeshe Tsogyal a female siddha, was Padmasambava’s chief female disciple and main consort, and represents the feminine principle. She is responsible for memorizing, documenting and then concealing many of the termas left by Padmasambava. She was a dakini who took human form.

Notes: We use the term Transcendental Buddha that is interchangeable with Dhyani and Jina Buddhas.

We want to express our deepest heartfelt gratitude to Tulku Yeshe Nyima for his selfless assistance in correcting, clarifying and expounding upon this humble attempt to assemble a brief description of many of the primary deities. Any errors or omissions are totally our responsibility.

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