Four Faced Mahakala

Who is he?

Four Faced MahakalaKnown as the ‘Great Black One’ in Sanskrit or Chaturmukha, Four Faced Mahakala is an emanation of the Buddha of Wisdom, Manjushri. He is popularly known to be able to quash our obstacles arising from ignorance and anger.

Being an enlightened Dharma Protector, he has been propitiated by many great masters including Lama Tsongkhapa, Nagarjuna and Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen. Four Faced Mahakala is also very well known to be one of the principle protectors of the Sakya tradition. He is also the main protector of Drepung Loseling Monastery and various Khangtsens in Ganden.

 

A Short History of Chaturmukha

Four Faced Mahakala is the Protector of the Guhyasamaja and Chakrasamavara Tantras. There was once a great Tibetan translator by the name of Nyen Lotsawa. When he received the tantric practice of Guhyasamaja of the Jnanapada Lineage from Risula (a dakini), she also bestowed on him the initiation of Four Faced Mahakala.

At this time, she gave him as a servant a dark skinned Brahman. When Nyen Lotsawa and the Brahman reached Nepal, the servant changed appearance and took on the form of a monk, an appearance more conducive for travelling in Tibet.

After the passing of Nyen Lotsawa, the monk remained with Lama Nam Ka’upa and then later with Sachen Kunga Nyingpo. This dark skinned monk is considered by many to be the emanation of Mahakala himself.

In later times, the Gelug School of Lama Tsongkapa adopted the Guhyasamaja practices and Four Faced Mahakala. Many more paintings and depictions of the four faced deity were made and he became a popular Protector. The vast majority of Tibetan and Mongolian paintings of Four Faced Mahakala are of the Gelug lineage.

 

How is Four Faced Mahakala connected to Dorje Shugden?

Four Faced Mahakala

Both Four Faced Mahakala and Dorje Shugden are emanations of the Buddha of Wisdom, Manjushri hence they share similar natures.

Besides that, they are both connected through Dorje Shugden’s previous life, Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen. Four Faced Mahakala was one of the heart practices of Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen for all his life. It is because of this reason that Dorje Shugden has a very intimate relationship with Four Faced Mahakala.

 

Iconography

This form of Mahakala has four faces and four arms indicating that he has realized the four noble truths. His central face and body is dark blue in color, while his right face is white, his left face is red and his top face is black. The main hands of Four Faced Mahakala holds a curved knife and a skull cup. The curved knife and the skull cup are iconic implements of Mahakala that symbolizes his enlightened nature in Tantric imagery.

The second pair of hands holds a raised sword in the right and a spear in the left. The right leg is bent and the left straight standing atop a prone corpse-like figure. His three eyes stare at our negative karma and obstacles wrathfully with a vision of past, present and future simultaneously.

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