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Tibetan Buddhist Gods

Buddhist gods, an important symbol of Buddhism, were introduced to Tibet with the arrival of Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal and Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty.

Tibetan Buddhism began in the Songtsen Gampo era in the 7th century. From a certain perspective, the 8-year-old Shakyamuni Buddha statue brought by Princess Bhrikuti and the 12-year-old Shakyamuni statue brought by Princess Wencheng almost became the beginning of the history of Tibetan Buddhism.

However, after more than 1,300 years of historical evolution and development, it has formed an intense ethnic style and local characteristic.

Even to this day, Buddhist deities still provide an important method and content for Buddhist monks’ studying and practicing in Tibetan monasteries.

Buddha and Gods

Buddha figures are the most enshrined category in Tibetan areas, including Shakyamuni Buddha, Jampa Buddha, Immortal Buddha, Medicine Buddha, etc.

Some statues like the 12-year-old Shakyamuni statue in the Jokhang Temple, the 8-year-old Shakyamuni statue in the Ramoche Temple, the Qamba Buddha statue in the Tashilhunpo Monastery, the Qamba Buddha statue in the Drepung Monastery, and the Shakyamuni statue in the Sakya Monastery.

1. Shakyamuni

Who is it?

Shakyamuni, formerly known as Gautama Siddhartha, is the founder of Buddhism. Shakyamuni was born in Kapilavastu, the north of ancient India around 500BC, and he was the son of King Śuddhodana. After enlightenment, he was respected by the world as “Sakyamuni”, meaning “the sage of the Sakyamuni”.

How can I tell?

Buddha Shakyamuni sits on the vajra seat with his left hand on his feet or holding a bowl, which means meditation. His right-hand points vertically to the ground, which means that Buddha Sakyamuni sacrificed everything to attain liberation for all living beings.

Bodhisattvas

Bodhisattva figures also account for a large proportion of Tibetan Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism, Guanyin is the most respected person in the Bodhisattva beliefs, followed by Manjusri, Samantabhadra, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, etc. Avalokitesvara with a thousand hands and a thousand eyes is a common kind of Guanyin.

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2. Guanyin

Who is it?

Guanyin is the incarnation of wisdom and compassion in Buddhism. When all beings encounter any difficulties and pains and can recite the name of Guanyin sincerely, Guanyin will rescue them. The famous Potala Palace in Lhasa is the dojo of Guanyin Bodhisattva. Potala is the transliteration of Sanskrit,  translated as “Po Lo”, referring to the island where Guanyin lives.  The “six-character mantra” (Om Mani Pad Mi Hum), well known to all Tibetans, is the mantra of Guanyin Bodhisattva. In Tibet, Songtsen Gampo is the incarnation of Guanyin Bodhisattva.

How can I tell?

Holding a jade vase and wearing a crown, she rides on a Golden Roar. Because she is dedicated to assisting Amitabha, and saving the world by seeking the sound of suffering, she has a Buddha statue of Amitabha on her crown.

3. Manjusri

Who is it?

Manjusri Bodhisattva is responsible for wisdom in Buddhism, and his dojo is in Mount Wutai, Shanxi, China. In Buddhist temples, he usually stands on the left side of Sakyamuni Buddha, serving as the left guard.

How can I tell?

Manjusri’s mount is a green lion, representing wisdom and mighty power. She is holding a sword, which represents wisdom. The image of Manjusri of Tantric Buddhism, topped with five buns, indicates that the five kinds of Buddha wisdom are sufficient.

4. White Tara

Who is it?

In Tibetan Buddhism, White Tara is one of the three deities of longevity. If we want to live longer for ourselves or others, praying for White Tara is very important.

How can I tell?

White Tara has a pure white body as well a dignified and peaceful face. She has one eye on her hands and feet, and three eyes on her face, so she is also called the seven-eyed goddess.

5. Green Tara

Who is it?

She can save eight kinds of suffering. At the same time, she can turn the “suspicion”, one of the Five Poisons in human behavior into complete wisdom, which has the merits of protecting women and children.

How can I tell?

The statue of Green Tara is in a Bodhisattva costume. The whole body is emerald green, and her head is wearing a small five Buddha crown. Her left hand is placed on the chest, holding the Utpala flower (blue lotus), and the right leg is stretched out.

6. 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.

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