Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, assumed the ferocious form of Yamantaka to conquer death. Death is visualized as a ferocious bull in Tibetan mythology, and is known as Yama, who is also the Hindu god of death. The tale behind Yamantaka's origin states that to tame Yama, Manjushri adopted the same form of a bull, adding to it eight other faces and a multiple array of arms, each holding fearful and deadly weapons. He further sprouted a number of legs, and surrounded himself with a vast host of terrifying beings. To confront death, he thus manifested the form of death itself, magnified to infinity. Death (Yama) saw himself endlessly mirrored back to himself, infinitely outnumbered by himself. Death was literally scared to death. Thus the yogi who meditates through the imagery of Yamantaka intends and hopes to develop a sense of identity strong enough to face down death, and the fear that attends upon it. Each head, each limb, each attribute, symbol and ornament of Yamantaka expresses the total mobilization of the faculties of enlightenment needed for this ultimate confrontation.
The iconography of Yamantaka has the following characteristics:
1). Nine heads. The first head is that of a bull. Next to his right horn he has three heads, and three heads next to the left horn. Between the horns, is a head red and terrible, above which is the head of Manjushri, with a slightly irritated expression.
The main enormous buffalo head is truly fearsome, with its gaping jaws, rolling tongue, three red-rimmed, popping eyes, and red nostrils.
2). Thirty four arms, each holding a symbolic implement. The two main arms hold a skull and a chopper.
3). Sixteen legs, eight on each side. Lying face down under his bent right legs are a human male and animals that are in turn, stepping on four devas, or heavenly gods. Under his outstretched left legs, a number of birds are stepping on four devas, including a personification of Ganesha, the Lord of obstacles.
Click Here to View the Thangka Painting along with its Brocade
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