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Thapa's Paper : Pancharakshya: Five Protective Deities in Vajrayana Buddhism of Nepal

Thapa's Paper : Pancharakshya: Five Protective Deities in Vajrayana Buddhism of Nepal

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Published by ShankerThapa
Mandala. The order of deities is Mahasahasrapramardini, Mahamantranusarini,
Mahapratisara, Mahasitavati and Mahamayuri. Even the places attributed to each deity in
the Mandala do not correspond with the description given in Nispannayogavali of
Abhayakara Gupta. These apotropaic texts have been transformed into individual deities.
Thus, they are the five deified spells. This book comes to stand for the source of
Buddhahood. The dhardni, the epitome of wisdom and power of the Dharma, can be
conceived as a protective deity.
4
The five deities are also correlated with the five senses
(pancha skandha) and five celestial Buddha. At the conceptual level, gods and fiends do not
exist in reality; they are merely the creation of fancies
5
and just visualized by devotees.
The term Pancharakshya refers to five different spells. Those charms involve
elaborated rituals and the esoteric Mantras. It is said that by eleventh century, the spells were
personified as deities. They were painted in manuscripts, designed in Mandalas and depicted
in wood struts, bronzes and stones.
6
D. C. Bhattacharya has introduced the theory of
emanation from Tara on the origin of Pancharakshya as protective deities. However, it is yet
to be examined. They are very popular in Mahayana - Vajrayana tradition. Nepal has lively
culture of performing rituals and worship of these protective deities. By the grace of ritual
significance and efforts of Buddhist scholars, believers and ritual forming Vajracharyas, this
tradition of worshiping protective deities has become very popular even among the
Taiwanese Buddhists. These goddesses are also called raksa deities. They are protective
because they protect. This cultural tradition is particularly very popular in Nepal because of
their ascriptive power. Therefore, the lay Newar Buddhists keep at least a copy of the text in
their houses for protection. Their worship is much in vogue is evident from the fact that their
images are found in monasteries in different forms.
7
Mandala. The order of deities is Mahasahasrapramardini, Mahamantranusarini,
Mahapratisara, Mahasitavati and Mahamayuri. Even the places attributed to each deity in
the Mandala do not correspond with the description given in Nispannayogavali of
Abhayakara Gupta. These apotropaic texts have been transformed into individual deities.
Thus, they are the five deified spells. This book comes to stand for the source of
Buddhahood. The dhardni, the epitome of wisdom and power of the Dharma, can be
conceived as a protective deity.
4
The five deities are also correlated with the five senses
(pancha skandha) and five celestial Buddha. At the conceptual level, gods and fiends do not
exist in reality; they are merely the creation of fancies
5
and just visualized by devotees.
The term Pancharakshya refers to five different spells. Those charms involve
elaborated rituals and the esoteric Mantras. It is said that by eleventh century, the spells were
personified as deities. They were painted in manuscripts, designed in Mandalas and depicted
in wood struts, bronzes and stones.
6
D. C. Bhattacharya has introduced the theory of
emanation from Tara on the origin of Pancharakshya as protective deities. However, it is yet
to be examined. They are very popular in Mahayana - Vajrayana tradition. Nepal has lively
culture of performing rituals and worship of these protective deities. By the grace of ritual
significance and efforts of Buddhist scholars, believers and ritual forming Vajracharyas, this
tradition of worshiping protective deities has become very popular even among the
Taiwanese Buddhists. These goddesses are also called raksa deities. They are protective
because they protect. This cultural tradition is particularly very popular in Nepal because of
their ascriptive power. Therefore, the lay Newar Buddhists keep at least a copy of the text in
their houses for protection. Their worship is much in vogue is evident from the fact that their
images are found in monasteries in different forms.
7

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Published by: ShankerThapa on May 05, 2010
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Pancharakshya: Five Protective Deitiesin Vajrayana Buddhism of Nepal
Prof. Shanker Thapa, Ph. D.
 Abstract
 
It is a matter of greater concern for scholars of Buddhist literature how PancharakshyaSutra came into being and developed to the present shape. As we know, Pancharakshyais a combination of five individual Sutras of similar nature. So, it got the name of Pancharakshya, the Sutra of fivefold protection. The context of origin of the individual protective Sutras and their historicity is a vital concern of scholars. PancharakshyaSutras was primarily intended for mundane benefit. The contexts and narratives in allthe five Sutras indicate such purposes. It is significant to note that Mahapratisara Sutraeven helps to attain enlightenment. This is possible through the recitation of the Sutra.This is the most important aspect of Pancharakshya Sutra. It is believed that each Sutrahas enormous power.
Keywords:
Buddhahood, dhardni,
 
Mahayana, Mandala, mundane, Pancharakshya, protection, Sutra, Vajracharyas, Vajrayana,
Philosophical Aspect of Pancharakshya
 Pancharakshya
is a Mahayana tantric text which belongs to the
Vidyadevi
section of 
 Kriya
tantra.
1
It is a collection of five Mahayana Sutras which is comprised of 
Mahapratisara
,
Mahashahasrapramardini
,
Mahamayuri
,
Mahamantranusarini
and
Mahasitavati
. This order is based on the
 Pancharakshya
 
Vidhana
as mentioned in
Sadhanamala
.
2
But the order and position of 
 Pancharakshya
deities in the Mandala in Tibetdiffers to this order and position.
3
This list places
Mahashahasrpramardini
at the center in a
Professor, Central Department of History, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, and Dean, LumbiniBuddhist University, Kathmandu, Nepal.
1
. Wangchuck Dorjee Negi,
Vajrayana Darshan Evam Sadhana
, Sarnath: CIHTS, 1998, pp. 71-72,310-311.
2
. Benoytosh Bhattacharya (ed.)
Sadhanamala
, Vol. 2, Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1968, pp. 405-413.
3
. Antoinette K. Gordon,
The Iconography of Tibetan Lamaism
, New Delhi: Munshiram Manohar Lal, 1978, p. 38 and 78. In the Tibetan tradition, the central position is given to
Mahashahasraprmardini
(Tib: Tong Chhemmo raptu Jomma). This order further varies to theorder mentioned in the
Vajravali
. It mentions the order as
Mahapratisara
 
Mahashahasrapramardini
,
Mahamantranusarini
,
Mahasitarati
and
Mahamayuri
. See: Raghuvir 
 
 2
Mandala. The order of deities is
Mahasahasrapramardini
,
Mahamantranusarini
,
Mahapratisara
,
Mahasitavati
and
Mahamayuri
. Even the places attributed to each deity inthe Mandala do not correspond with the description given in
 Nispannayogavali
of Abhayakara Gupta. These apotropaic texts have been transformed into individual deities.Thus, they are the five deified spells. This book comes to stand for the source of Buddhahood. The
dhardni
, the epitome of wisdom and power of the Dharma, can beconceived as a protective deity.
4
The five deities are also correlated with the five senses(
 pancha skandha)
and five celestial Buddha. At the conceptual level, gods and fiends do notexist in reality; they are merely the creation of fancies
5
and just visualized by devotees.The term
 Pancharakshya
refers to five different spells. Those charms involveelaborated rituals and the esoteric
Mantras
. It is said that by eleventh century, the spells were personified as deities. They were painted in manuscripts, designed in Mandalas and depictedin wood struts, bronzes and stones.
6
D. C. Bhattacharya has introduced the theory of emanation from Tara on the origin of 
 Pancharakshya
as protective deities. However, it is yetto be examined. They are very popular in Mahayana - Vajrayana tradition. Nepal has livelyculture of performing rituals and worship of these protective deities. By the grace of ritualsignificance and efforts of Buddhist scholars, believers and ritual forming Vajracharyas, thistradition of worshiping protective deities has become very popular even among theTaiwanese Buddhists. These goddesses are also called
raksa
deities. They are protective because they protect. This cultural tradition is particularly very popular in Nepal because of their ascriptive power. Therefore, the lay Newar Buddhists keep at least a copy of the text intheir houses for protection. Their worship is much in vogue is evident from the fact that their images are found in monasteries in different forms.
7
 
and Lokesh Chandra,
Tibetan Mandala (Vajravali and Tantra Samuccaya)
, New Delhi:International Academy of Indian Academy, 19…., pp. 60-61.
4
. Luis C. Gomez, ‘Buddhist View of Language’, in Mircea Eliade (ed.),
The Encyclopedia of  Religion,
Vol. 8, New York. Macmillan, 1987, pp. 446-451.
5
. Kenneth K. S. Chen,
 Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey
, Princeton, Princeton University press, 1973, p. 327.
6
Pratapaditya Pal,
 Art of Nepal 
, Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum, 1985, p -34.
7
For further details on
 Pancharakshya
see: Shanker Thapa, ‘
 Pancharakshya
in NepaleseBuddhism',
 Loka Kirti Mahavihara Mataya Souvenir 
, Lalitpur, 2061; Shanker Thapa,‘Introduction to the
 Pancharakshya
Sutra in Mahayana Buddhism',
 Aayan
(The Path), No. 1, Year 1 , 2061, Kathmandu; Shanker Thapa, 'Iconography and Images of 
 Pancharakshya
Sutra in Newar Buddhism',
The Great Compassion – an International Buddhist Review
, Winter 2004,Kathmandu; Shanker Thapa, ‘An Introductory Remark on ‘Pancharakshya Sutra in Mahayana'Buddhism'
Rolamba
, Vol. 22, No. 3~4 and Vol. 23, nos. 1~4, July 2002 – Dec. 2003. For detailson Mahapratisara see: Shanker Thapa, 'Ritual Aspect of Mahapratisarä,
Voice of History,
Vol.XVI, No. 1, 2001; Shanker Thapa,'Iconography of Mahäpratisarä',
Tri-Bodhi
, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2002;
 
 3
The
raksa
deities are popular because of their enormous power as mentioned in the
Sadhanamala
.
8
The five protective goddesses are the five deified mystic spells or the
Vidya
.They are supposed to protect humanity from all kinds of troubles and miseries. To protecthimself from all possible evils and to ensure fulfillment of all desires, the votary wassupposed to write the charms or spells of five protective deities in drawn sheets of paper,horns of animals or any other suitable objects and hold the mantra in amulet.
9
During ritual performances, they are symbolically represented by specific grains such as white sesame,mustard, and black, green and red beans. The worship of these deities is believed to bringabout various benefits. It is even important to note that
Mahaprtisara
even confersenlightenment
10
along with other mundane benefits. The boons and benefits that
 Pancharakshya
could bring about include enormous happiness, success, free from all kinds of dangers, birth of a son, easy child birth, no bad dreams, attaining the
Vajrakaya
, protectionfrom enemies, cure serious illnesses, defense from forments of hell, escape misfortune, fulfillwishes, safety, protection from disasters and calamities, immunity from diseases, protectionof cattles, help sick trees, to ensure effectiveness of medicines, cure snake bites, freedomfrom snares, get support from deities and demons as well as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,removal of fear tranquility and relief from pestilence.
11
 The
 Pancharakshya
deities are venerable not only to learned men and women but alsoto
 Brahma
,
Vishnu
,
Mahesvara
,
 Indra
, the
Tathagatas
and other gods and goddesses. Each of them is considered the mother of the three worlds who keep constant watch on it. They helpto enlighten the sentient beings in the three worlds and also help them flourish. The protectivegoddesses are referred to as
Tarani
, which literally means the saviour-boat.
12
Similarly, it issaid that utterance of the name of 
Tara
and
Vasundhara
fulfills all aspirations.
13
Similarly, just to hear the names of five deities could help in getting rid of all misdeeds.
Shanker Thapa, 'Recognition of Mahapratisara in Different Buddhist Traditions',
 Khopring 
, No.12, Year 13, 2004-2005, Kathmandu.
8
. Benoytosh Bhattacharya,
 Indian Buddhist Iconography
, Calcutta, K.L. Mukhopadhyaya, 1968, pp. 302-303: Bhattacharya,
Sadhanamala
, . . . .,
op cit 
, pp. 396-402.
9
. D. C. Bhattacharya,
Studies in Buddhist Iconography
, New Delhi: Manohar, 1978, p. 69.
10
Peter Skilling
 ,
'The
 Raksa Literature
of Sravakayana',
 Journal of Pali Text Society
, Vol. XVI,1992, p. 140.
11
Gajaraj Vajracharya (ed.),
 Pancharaksa Sutrani
(Unpublished manuscript), pp.1-337; Todd T.Lewis,
 Popular Buddhist Texts from Nepal: Narratives and Rituals of Newar Buddhism
, NewYork: State University of New York Press, 2000, p. 27; Janardan Shastri Pandeya,
 BouddhastotraSangraha
, Delhi, Motilal Benarsi Das, 1994, pp. 112-115; Shasani, Thinley Ram,'Aryamahapratisara Vidyarajni',
 Dhih
, No. 28, Sarnath, 1999, pp. 127-142.
12
. D. C. Bhattacharya,
op. cit 
, pp. 10-11.
13
Tarabhattarakanama Stotra
- Quoted from : Pandeya,
op cit.
, pp. 88-92; Also see: MahendraRatna Shakya,
Basundhara Devi Chhagu Adhyayan,
Lalitpur, Lotus Research Center, 1994, pp.

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