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Mahakala (Dharma Protector of the Nyingma Lineage)

Mahakala (Dharma Protector of the Nyingma Lineage)

The six-armed Mahakala has a blue, short and stout body that represents a dharma protector’s loyalty and sincerity, the unchanging nature of the dharma body and the ability to extinguish and subdue; his one face and three eyes (which are red, round and wide-open with anger) represent the thorough understanding of the past, present and future. On his forehead is a red dot; his moustache, eyebrows and hair are like flames of fire – they signify the fire of wisdom. His wide-opened bloody mouth roared angrily like loud peals of thunder, shaking all sentient beings awake, and intimidating all non-Buddhists and demons. In his mouth are two upper fangs and two lower fangs, they represent the Four Immeasurables and the unrivalled debating skills. On his red yellowish hair is the wrathful five-buddhas crown, depicted by skulls, they represent the five wisdoms of the tathagatas.

Little bells and different kinds of snakes are fastened onto the dharma protector’s body. Altogether, there are eight types of snakes, they represent the eight dragon kings. On his hair are the bluish black snakes, on his ears are the red snakes, on his neck are the white snakes and hanging from his neck to his belly is a huge green snake; coiled around his two big arms are the multi-coloured snakes while on his wrists are the yellow snakes; there is also a white snake on his green-cloth belt as well as white snakes on his feet. Snakes which represent anger get easily angry, yet they were coiling obediently on Mahakala’s body. This not because his wrath has intimidated them, but because his loving-kindness and compassion have prevented their anger from arising.

The dharma protector’s six arms represent the six paramitas; another important meaning is the use of his great mighty power to lead sentient beings from the six realms to the pure land of Amitabha Budddha, with the six-syllable mantra. His first right hand holds a curved knife above a blood-filled human skull cup held by his first left hand; they symbolise the ability to sever afflictions and demonic root, to gain great joy and enlightenment. His second right hand holds a string of human-skull beads in the air, they signify that sentient beings can hear his mantra and be saved, as the beads are being counted continuously, sentient beings are being saved continuously.

The third right hand shakes a handheld drum, calling for all other Mahakalas and their family members as well as all dharma protectors and dakinis to come. The second left hand holds a trident with a skull in the air. The third left hand holds a vajra hook and a lock, on one end of the string is a half-dorje, on the other end is a vajra hook, they represent the ability to hook up all sentient beings far and near, and to tie up those who broke their precepts.

The dharma protector wears a tiger-skin skirt, an elephant skin cloak and a snakeskin belt, they represent the subjugation of his own greed, pride and hatred. He steps on the elephant-head god, sun disc and lotus seat. The lotus seat represents the ability to rise from the mud and not be soiled, to leave the unclean samsara and to possess worldly bodhicitta. Above the seat is a flat sun disc that illuminates all dark areas and destroys all ignorance, it represents supreme bodhicitta.

Both the dharma protector’s feet step on the elephant-nose god of wealth, they indicate the power to subdue greedy thoughts and control wealth. His feet symbolise wisdom and convenience; his left foot stands upright while his right steps forward, they represent the carrying out of dharma protector’s activities. He wears a string of 51 fresh human-head necklace, they represent the purification of 51 habitudes and afflictions, surpassing the 51 positions of the bodhisattvas and attaining enlightenment. He stands by leaning against a burning sandal wood at his back, the fiery flame represents the fire of wisdom, it does not burn the sandal wood, but burns away all the obscuration of vexations instead.