Eight Dharma Protectors

Eight Dharma Protectors – Defenders of the Law

The Dharmapalas or Dharma Protectors are guardians of truth and defenders of Buddhism. Although fierce, wrathful deities, they are simultaneously Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and so beings of sublime compassion and wisdom. They wage merciless war against enemies of Buddhism and evil spirits who prey on their devotees.

There are hundreds of Dharmapalas, but some are more widely venerated than others. The eight most popular and significant are known as the Eight Dharma Protectors:

• Begtse

• Hayagriva

• Kubera

• Mahakala

• Palden Lhamo

• Tsangpa Drakpo

• Yama

• Yamantaka

Seven are male; Palden Lhamo is the lone female. They are known as the terrible ones because of their ferocious appearance, but they are terrible in righteousness, not evil.

The Eight Dharma Protectors are among the most popular subjects of Tibetan art. Images of them are contained in most Tibetan Buddhist temples. They are perhaps the most significant subjects of devotion for ordinary Tibetans. In Tibetan folk religion, the Dharmapalas are considered somewhat akin to guardian angels. Over generations, many families share devotion to specific Dharma Protectors similar to the way generations of a family may venerate saints. Many clans and families claim affiliation with specific Dharmapalas. (Not necessarily one of the eight; there are hundreds.)

ALSO KNOWN AS:

The Dharmapalas; Eight Terrible Ones

ORIGIN:

Tibet

SEE ALSO:

  • Begtse
  • Bodhisattva
  • Bon Spirits
  • Buddha
  • Hayagriva
  • Kubera
  • Palden Lhamo
  • Yama
  • Yamantaka

SOURCE:

Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

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