Ornaments & it’s Significance of the wrathful Deities of Buddhist Pantheon


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The Three Divine Garments

The deities of the Buddhist pantheon are adorned with different types of bone and other ornaments that are significant to their wrathfulness. However, all these ornaments come in set with their symbolic meanings. A standard set of ornaments are worn by the deities that are both peaceful and wrathful. For the wrathful deities, eight ornaments of charnel ground, which includes, three divine garments, two hanging ornament, and three anoint elixir are depicted. In addition, there are also six-serpent ornament and eight attires of splendor.

Among the eight ornaments of the charnel ground, the three divine garments are; human skin, elephant’s skin, and tiger’s skin.  First timers and those who have never have been in contact with such a depiction mistake such wrathful deities to a demonic form. This is all because one does not understand the metaphorical meanings of the symbolic depictions and its representations. A deity wearing all these skins and skulls does not mean that he feeds on these sentient beings. These ornaments are rather used as symbols to depict certain meanings to guide to liberation through wrathful means but with ultimate compassion.

The human skin (mi lpags gyang zhi) draped over the shoulders a deity depicts practitioners triumph over the attachment. The reason why it is human skin is that the first attachment we have is to our own body, for that reason a metaphoric human skin is worn by the deity. The elephant’s skin draped over the upper part of the body symbolizes the subjugation or overcoming of ones ego and delusion. This goes back to the jataka tales of Buddha where the Buddha tames the drunk and enraged elephant with his compassion and kindness. Elephant therefore symbolizes the ego.

To over come the anger, skin of the tiger is depicted. As a whole it symbolizes the over coming of the three poisons which is similar to the depiction of pig, snake, and roster in the center of the Buddhist wheel of existences. Wrathful deities are also adorned with the crown of dried human skulls and a necklace mixed of dried and moist skull and freshly served human heads. Along with these two ornaments five serpent ornaments are also worn, which are white serpent tied up in the hair, yellow serpent as an ear ring, red serpent necklace, green serpent as bracelets and anklets, and black serpent necklace which hangs down below the waist. Furthermore, wrathful ones also appear in the eight-fold attire of the glorious ones. This includes their hair-tangled mess, which symbolizes the turning away from the samsara. The vajra wings and the gem wings that represents the skillful means and wisdom. All the wrathful ones wear a red and blue silken diadem, which surpass the externalism and nihilism.  Half vajra as its topknot that symbolizes as the lord of the particular deity family. Rhino hide armor for power. And the intimate sexual union is also considered, as an ornament of wisdom of the consort according to Khenpo Namdrol of Ngajur Nyingma Institute of Mysore . Most of the Wrathful deities should appear like an steel in the brilliance. They are surrounded by an aura of the fire, which is a symbol of primordial wisdom.

The wrathful deities are depicted in nine demeanors (gar gyi nyams dgu). Although it is not necessarily displayed, all the wrathful are meant to have all the nine styles. These are the characteristics of their manifestations that come in sets of three, which corresponds to body, mind, and speech. The three corresponding to body are seductive, heroic, and repulsive, which also corresponds to three poisons desire, hatred, and ignorance. The three that corresponds to speech are laughter (sounding like ha ha and he he), malicious threats, and terrifying roars. And the three that corresponds to mind are compassion, which can rear the ignorant sentient being’s desire or thirst; desire here refers to the desire to tame all irredeemable beings with the wrathfulness of a particular deity. Or in other words it pacify to the expanse of reality. Further, the practitioner visualizes the deity as the supreme wrathful deity controlling the three realms with his splendor. In doing so, one who practices should simultaneously keep in mind all the symbolic meanings. Thus it is the visual imagery that helps to arrive the point of focus while mediating or visualizing in the form of pure recollection (rnam dag dren pa).


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