Mahakala is a protector deity known as a Dharmapala in Vajrayana Buddhism (a type of Buddhism which developed in India in the 5th century C.E.), particularly most Tibetan traditions, in Tangmi and Japanese Esoteric Buddhism.
”Maha” translates as ”great” and ”kala” translates as ”death” or ”time,” therefore, Mahakala represents ”Great Dark One” or “beyond the time.”
Dharmapala is typically black in color and appears in 75 different forms, each an emanation of a different Buddha. Black represents the total absence of color and also describes the true nature of Dharmapala as absolute or ultimate reality and transcendence of all form.
Despite a wrathful demeanor, the essential quality of Dharmapala is an awakened compassion. His blessings are said to quell difficulties, hindrances, and obstacles arising from depression and anger. In addition, He is in charge of all dharma protectors.
White Mahakala is a powerful deity of prosperity and wealth. He is a wrathful form of the deity of compassion, Avalokiteshvara (great being who helps all sentient beings be free of suffering before entering the bliss of Buddhahood). In this form, he demonstrates the compassionate activity of overcoming hindrances and attracting positive influences.
”Mahakala has never been known to harm one sentient being, even in the slightest manner, since He is constantly benefiting beings through the continuous play of the enlightened mind.” – Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, a senior lama of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
The form varies according to the different Tibetan teaching lineages. For example, there is the 2-armed big-mouthed Mahakala Bernakchen of the Karma Kagyu, the 4-armed Mahakala who is the protector of the Drikung Kagyu, and 6-armed Mahakala of the Gelugpas (His 6 arms represent the completion to the 6 six perfection-patience, generosity, diligence, morality, wisdom, and meditation).
The image of Mahakala shows that He holds the precious wish-fulfilling gem ”yid bzhin nor bu” to his heart and sits on the top of a white elephant.
The crown of 5 skulls symbolizes the 5 poisons: anger, ignorance, desire, jealousy, and pride – transformed into 5 wisdoms. He is also depicted with three eyes which represent His clear comprehension of the 3 times, and the vivid manifestation of the 3 bodies of Buddha.
The skull-cup in his left hand contains a vase of jewels in a sea of nectar, which represents the wealth which arises from the spiritual practice.
In Japan, He is variously considered to be the god of wealth or of the household, especially the kitchen. He is frequently described as holding a golden mallet as well as He is seen seated on bales of rice, with mice nearby.
“There is an emanation of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara which arose in the form of Mahakala and this is the Shangpa Kagyu Mahakala with one face and six arms, in a standing posture. This form was later adopted by Tsongkhapa (a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism whose activities led to the formation of the Gelug school) and followers as the main protector of the Gelugpa School.” – Jeff Watt, a leading scholar translator of Tibetan texts.
Mahakala Mantra Lyrics:
Here are three mantras:
”Om. Mahakalaye Soha.”
”Om Benza Nara Trim Trim Hung Hung Phet Phet Soha.”
”Om Mahalakaya Deva-Raksha Samaya Ho Balim Te Khahi.” – Meaning – “OM Mahakala, O protector of devas, the samaya. Eat this food offering.”
Benefits Of Reciting Mahakala Mantra
He is the most esteemed dharma protector in Tibet. His blessings are well-known for quelling difficulties and obstacles arising from anger and depression.
In the Buddhist tradition, ceremonies like the White Mahakala puja are considered to help
improve the practitioner’s life circumstances through the practice of generosity.
More importantly, saying this potent mantra destroys confusion, enemy’s encroachments, and ignorance, and removes all obstacles to wealth flows. Therefore, many people cultivate his practice in Tibet.
If you respect the protector Mahakala, these Tibetan mantras should not be to recited outside the dedicated rites. Also, it wouldn’t be entirely appropriate to attempt this spiritual practice without the associated empowerment.
“Some people try to practice without having received lung or empowerment. Without these prerequisites, or if their practice is incomplete, though there may be some blessing, it will not be as effective. And surely all aspects must be complete in order to attain any kind of realization.” – Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche