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From Wikipedia,

Mahakala is a Dharmapala (“protector of dharma“) in Vajrayana Buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Shingon Buddhism).

In Japanese Buddhism, Mahakala (大黒天, Daikokuten?), belongs to the fourth hierarchy of deities (tenbu).

Name

Mahākāla is a Sanskrit bahuvrihi of mahā (“great”) and kāla (“black”). The literal Tibetan translation is “Nagpo Chenpo” (Wylie: gnag po chen po) though, when referring to this deity, Tibetans usually use the word “Gonpo” (mgon po) [the translation of the Sanskrit word Nāth meaning “lord” or “protector”] instead.

Description

Mahakala is relied upon in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. However, he is depicted in a number of variations, each with distinctly different qualities and aspects. He is also regarded as the emanation of different beings in different cases, namely Avalokiteshvara (Tib: Chenrezig) or Chakrasamvara (Tib: Korlo Demchog, Wylie: ’khor-lo bde-mchog).

Mahakala is typically black in color. Just as all colors are absorbed and dissolved into black, all names and forms are said to melt into those of Mahakala, symbolizing his all-embracing, comprehensive nature. Black can also represent the total absence of color, and again in this case it signifies the nature of Mahakala as ultimate or absolute reality. This principle is known in Sanskrit as “nirguna“, beyond all quality and form, and it is typified by both interpretations.

Mahakala is almost always depicted with a crown of five skulls, which represent the transmutation of the five kleshas (negative afflictions) into the five wisdoms.

The most notable variation in Mahakala’s manifestations and depictions is in the number of arms, but other details can vary as well. For instance, in some cases there are Mahakalas in white, with multiple heads, without genitals, standing on varying numbers of various things, holding various implements, with alternative adornments, and so on.

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