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Tibetan Buddhist Demons

Scary Buddha demon often embodies impure thoughts and desires that lead to negative behavior, although some are just scary reminders to only do good deeds.

Although the presence of demons is often crucial to religious systems. These terrifying Buddhist monsters don’t just exist to scare you – they symbolize the mean and evil aspects of human nature.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that everyone has Buddha-nature and can attain enlightenment, but also believe that humans are inherently prone to succumb to their basest desires such as greed, ego, lust, and anger.

Tibetan Buddhism is a branch of Buddhism that developed from the combination of its indigenous religious belief of Bon and Mahayana.

On one hand, Bon consists of shaman practices. It gradually formed under the further self-development of the primitive Tibetan shamans of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Buddhism, on the other, made its foothold in Tibet in the 6th to 8th centuries.

Initially, the Buddhism type adapted from the Tibetans only included Indian figures like devas, yakshas, and asuras. But later, other local Bon Tibetan gods and spirits got incorporated into Buddhist practices and beliefs.

In Buddhism, there’s no concept of absolute evil demons because all sentient beings can improve their karma through practice.

Here’re the top 8 Tibetan demon deities, which can often be seen in Tibetan monasteries and treated as demons.

Mahakala (The Great Black One)

Who is it?

Mahākāla (Sanskrit, Literal: Great Black One) is a protector deity, which means “beyond time” or death. He is the wisdom protector recommended by all sects of Tibetan Buddhism.

How can I tell?

With three eyes, Mahākāla is of the brilliance of 10 million black fires of dissolution and dwells in the midst of eight cremation grounds. He is depicted in a number of manifestations. The most notable variation in Mahakala’s manifestations and depictions is in the number of arms.

The Two-Armed Mahakala is the wrathful incarnation of the Ādi-Buddha, as well as of the Buddha Vajradhara. The Four-Armed Mahakala is the incarnation of Cakrasaṃvara. The Six-Armed Black Mahakala is the wrathful incarnation of the eleven-face Avalokitesvara with thousand hands and thousand eyes.

Mahākāla is a common Buddha demon of Buddhism and Hinduism. This deity is a manifestation of Shiva in Hinduism. In Vajrayana Buddhism, however, it is the protector deity. As Mahakali’s spouse, she is very frightening. She is three-eyed with four arms. Mahakala, together with Mahakali, represent Brahman’s destructive power, and they do not subscribe to any regulations or rules.

Both Mahakala and Mahakali have the power to dissolve even the existence of space and time into themselves, and they may exist as emptiness after the dissolution of the universe. They can annihilate creatures without mercy because they are the personifications of space and time.

Palden Lhamo

Who is it?

Palden Lhamo (Tibetan: དཔལ་ལྡན་ལྷ་མོ།, Sanskrit: Lakshmi) is an important female guardian deity of Tantric Buddhism. In Chinese Buddhism, she refers to as either “Meritorious god”(功德天) or “Auspicious goddess”(吉祥天女). She’s the goddess of happiness and wealth.

How can I tell?

In Tibetan Buddhism, Palden Lhamo has both peaceful and wrathful forms.

The latter form is a fierce deity. She is usually depicted as deep blue in color and with red hair, riding side-saddle on a yellow mule. On her head, there are five human skulls, crescent-shaped adornments, and peacock feathers. Her left-hand holds a skeleton stick, which was specially designed to deal with the evil spirit of Asura. Her right hand holds a skull bowl full of blood.

Palden Lhamo is an important female Buddha demon of Tantric Buddhism. She derived from the ancient Indian myth Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity. In Tibetan Buddhism, Lakshmi has both peaceful and wrathful forms.

She is deep blue in color and with red hair, riding side-saddle on a yellow mule.

There are five human skulls on the head. On the right ear, there is a small lion, which symbolized listening to the scriptures, and on the left ear, a small snake represents wrathful.

On her waist, she hangs a notebook, dedicated to recording bad things done by sentient beings, whose skin will be flayed.

In her left hand, she holds a stick crafted from human bone to deal with the evil spirit of Asura. In the right hand, she holds a skull bowl full of blood. 

Yamāntaka (The Destroyer of Death)

Tibetan Buddhists conceptualized Yamāntaka as the conqueror of death. In the pantheon of Buddhist deities, there are several deities – Yamāntaka. Yet, Vajrabhairava is well-known among these deities. He is also among the Anuttarayoga tantra deities in Tibetan Buddhism’s Gelug school.

Tibetan artists depict Yamāntaka with a wrathful expression. He manifests himself in various forms with six faces, six legs, and six arms that hold different weapons while seated or standing. Each face comes with three eyes.

Yamaraja (The King of Hell)

Yamaraja is a wrathful Buddha demon. He presided over hells (Narakas) and judge the dead. He can determine the goodness of a person in his life.

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Modern Theravada depicts Yama as responsible for sending disease, old age, punishments, and even maladies and calamities to humans to warn them to behave well in their life. When a person dies, Yama summons and examines that person.

Vaisravana(The God of Wealth)

Vaisravana is the god-king of Yakshas, a semi-divine natural spirit. He is the protector of the Lokapala (world), the overlord of many semi-divine beings. And he is also the owner of the world’s treasures.

Depicted with jewels and a plump body, he is carrying a club and a money-pot. He has three legs, one eye, eight teeth, four arms, and three heads in recent puranic texts.

In Buddhism, Vaisravana is Vaiśravaṇa or Jambhala. He is one of the 4 heavenly kings.

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Ekajati is Māhacīnatārā. She is a fierce protector and a powerful one. Legend has it that she got her eye pierced by Padmasambhava to let her effectively subdue Tibetan demons. Nyingma school considers her as a principal protector together with Vajrasadhu and Rahula.

Her ascribed powers include divesting enemies of fear, removing personal hindrances to enlightenment, and spreading joy. She is also the Dzogchen teachings’ principal guardian.

Beg-Tse (The War Goddess)

Beg-Tse is the lord of war. Characterized by orange-red hair and red skin with two arms, Beg-Tse also has three bloodshot eyes, and her right hand wields a sword. He also carries in his right hand a human heart.

Moreover, he carries a bow and arrow in his right hand and a halberd together with a banner. He also sports a chainmail shirt. Rikpay Lhamo, his consort, accompanies him along with Laihansorgodog, his main general.

Tsui Marpo

Tsui Marpo, also [Yasha] and [Monster Red], is the son of the most ferocious Zanpu and witch in Tibet. He was originally the Dharma protector of the original Bon religion in Tibet and the leader of the powerful Yaksha army.

After Guru Rinpoche arrived in Tibet, he subdued him, therefore Tui Marpo firmly guarded the oath of the Buddha’s teachings, obeying the dispatch of Guru Rinpoche, and protecting Guru Rinpoche’s preach and his disciples in the Nyingmapa lineage. He is the Dharma protector for the great wisdom of Nyingmapa.

As the god in charge of life in the Three Realms, Tsui Marpo is also the god of wealth, the Incarnation of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, and the embodying compassion of Hayagriva. He looks extremely angry on the outside, and very merciful inside.

Devoted prayers and offerings to Tsui Marpo will quickly obtain all kinds of favorable conditions such as wealth, power, and increased luck in this life, and in the next life, they will also receive all kinds of success and special help, and they also obtain the achievement of liberation from the world.

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