Mahakala (miniature painting)

ABM 009

 Code: ABM 009

  Country: Nepal

  Style: Three Malla Kingdoms

  Date: 1700 - 1800

  Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 18.8 x 12

  Materials: Buff paper

Folio x/26 of a Newar paper manuscript illustrared with a Hindu form of Mahakala.
Nous verrons à propos de Mahakala que les divinités sont loin d'être des abstractions, mais qu'elles interviennent dans le champ de l'action humaine. 
Citons ici cette anecdote rapportée par le XIVe Dalaï-Lama, qui montre l'intervention de la divinité pour protéger la première incarnation du souverain du Tibet :
"Le soir suivant la naissance du premier Dalaï-Lama, des bandits firent irruption dans la maison familiale. Les parents s'enfuirent en laissant l'enfant. Le lendemain, comme ils revenaient en se demandant ce qui était arrivé à leur fils, ils trouvèrent le nourrisson dans un coin de la maison. Un corbeau se tenait devant lui, le protégeant. Plus tard, lorsque le Premier Dalaï-Lama grandit et progressa dans sa pratique spirituelle, il eut un contact direct durant sa méditation avec la divinité protectrice Mahakala. Mahakala lui dit alors : « Quelqu'un comme vous qui êtes détenteur de l'enseignement du Bouddha a besoin d'un protecteur comme moi. Le jour même de ta naissance, je t'ai aidé. » Nous pouvons donc voir qu'il y a une véritable connexion entre Mahakala, les corbeaux et les Dalaï-Lamas." (14èmeDalaï-Lama (1993), Une Politique de la Bonté. Claire Lumière)
Il n'est pas anodin que ce soit un corbeau qui intervienne ici au nom de la divinité. Les animaux noirs sont en effet souvent associés à Mahakala.
Mahakala is a Dharmapala("protector of dharma") in Vajrayana Buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Shingon Buddhism).
In Japanese Buddhism, Mahakala (Jpn: Daikoku), belongs to the fourth hierarchy of deities (tenbu).

Mahakala is a Sanskrit bahuvrihi of maha ("great") and kala ("black"). The Tibetan name is Gonpo Phyag (Wylie: mGon po phyag ).
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 representing 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.
Six-Armed Mahakala
The Six-Armed Mahakala (Skt: Shad-bhuja Mahakala, Wylie: mGon po phyag drug pa) is favored by the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism, and in this manifestation is considered to be a fierce and powerful emanation of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
He is adorned with the following symbolic attributes:
   1. The Six Arms signify the successful completion of the six perfections (shad-paramita), which are practiced and brought to perfection by bodhisattvas during the course of their training.
   2. various implements in each hand.
There is also a White Six-Armed Mahakala (Skt: Shad-bhuja Sita Mahakala; Tib. Wylie: mGon po yid bzhin nor bu) popular among Mongolian Gelugpas. In this case, he is a "wealth deity", specifically supporting the comfort and economic well-being of tantric practitioners. As such, his iconography differs in form and symbolism, with his skull bowl containing various jewels rather than the typical mortal remains of his victims, and a crown of jewels instead of skulls. The following description is found in his sadhana: "His body is white. His face is wrathful and he has three eyes. He has six arms. His main right hand holds a wish-fulfilling jewel (cintamani) mounted on a jewel-tipped handle, in front of his chest."

Four-Armed Mahakalas
Various Four-armed Mahakalas (Skt. Chatur-bhuja Mahakala, Tib. Wylie: mGon po phyag bzhi pa) are the primary protectors of the Karma Kagyu and Drikung Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism. A four-armed Mahakala is also found in the Nyingma school, although the primary protector of the Great Perfection (Skt: Mahasandhi, Tib. Dzogchen) teachings which are the pinacle of the Nyingma system is Ekajati.
The four arms of this manifestation of Mahakala perform one of the following four positive karmas or actions, which are said to be his specific boon to his worshippers:
    * Pacify sickness, hindrances, and troubles.
    * Increase life, good qualities and wisdom.
    * Attract whatever Dharma practitioners need and bring people to the Dharma.
    * Destroy confusion, doubt, and ignorance.
Two-Armed Mahakalas
The two-armed Mahakala called Bernakchen is a protector of the Karma Kagyu school. It is often thought to be the primary protector, but it is actually the main protector of the Karmapas specifically.
Panjaranatha Mahakala, 'Lord of Charms" or "Lord of the Pavilion", an emanation of Manjushri is a protector of the Sakya order.

Kreijger, Hugo E. , 1999. Kathmandu Valley Painting: The Jucker Collection. London: Serindia Publ..

Pal, Pratapaditya, 1978. The Arts of Nepal, Volume Two: Paintings, pls. 21 & 27. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Compare

Sèngué, Tcheuky, 2002. Petite Encyclopédie des Divinités et symboles du Bouddhisme Tibétain. Editions Claire Lumiere . Pp. 322-324