Guyagarbha Tantra


Following the continuum of the ground and the continuum of the path, which have been revealed in the previous chapters in respect of the peaceful deities, the continuum of the result is now presented in the form of a eulogy to the resultant buddha-body and pristine cognition, in the fully manifest maôçala of the peaceful deities.


Having divulged the maôçalas of the generation and perfection stages of the path, Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, sings the following eulogy to the fruitional maôçala of the result, which coalesces buddha-body and pristine cognition (v.1).


This chapter contains a general eulogy in five verses to the buddhas of the five enlightened families and the five pristine cognitions, which are also identified respectively with buddha-body, -speech, -mind, -attributes and -activities (vv.2-6). It concludes with a particular eulogy to the Supreme Embodiment of Samantabhadra and Samantabhadrï in union (v.7).


The purpose of this chapter is to explain the natural spontaneous presence of the wrathful deities within the primorially pure ground, the enlightened intention that gives rise to their manifestation, and the modality of their maôçala array.


Having revealed the maôçala of peaceful deities, Samantabhadra, the Supreme Embodiment, then manifests as the primordial buddha-body of perfect resource in the maôçala of naturally manifesting wrathful deities, which is their emanational basis (v.1).

There are therefore two major aspects to the emergence of the maôçala of wrathful deities which Longchen Rabjampa discusses in an extensive overview, namely, the spontaneous presence of the wrathful deities in the ground and the consequent emanation of the wrathful deities, including Rudra, from the ground.

At the outset, the Sanskrit term krodha is defined as a deity "triumphant over disharmony and acting on behalf of living beings through the enlightened activity of wrath". There are three types of wrathful deity, corresponding to the three buddha-bodies, and these are said to have four attributes through which their wrath is forcefully expressed, ie. their reality cannot be symbolised, their pristine cognition is undeluded, their deeds are effortless, and their enlightened activity is ostensibly wrathful for the sake of those beings who are dominated by anger or hatred and its concomitant self-cherishing pride or envy. This prevalence of anger, pride or envy is said to occur owning to a disproportionate excess of energy emitted by the wrathful maôçala, which abides naturally within the skull of the subtle body. In terms of the ground therefore, wrathful deities are primordially present as the maôçala of blood-drinkers in the crown-centre of the subtle body. In terms of the path, they are visually generated through meditation, and in terms of the result, they are spontaneously and fully manifest in the Ghanavyüha realm.

As far as the emanation of the wrathful deities from the spontaneous ground is concerned: The maôçala of wrathful deities is recognised to be both natural and emanational without contradiction because there is a movement from its natural manifestation in the crown centre to its extraneous manifestation in the world. Through the energy of the natural maôçala of wrathful deities, Rudra, the archetype of rampant egohood, emerges to display unenlightned wrath and the wrathful deities of pristine cognition emerge to subdue him. Although Rudra and his followers appear to have mundane forms and powers, and in the context of a narrative are said to be subdued by Heruka and placed around him in the maôçala, actually Rudra is a contrivance of the wrathful deities for didactic purposes and not an individual living being who experiences suffering. Fundamentally, Rudra is atemporally and naturally manifest as Samantabhadra, and his taming indicates the reversal of the sufferings of cyclic existence through the reversal of rampant egotism.

There is no contradiction between the tantras which describe this subjugation in beginningless time and those sütras which ostensibly refer to the subjugation of Rudra in a specific temporal setting; nor is there a fundamental distinction between Heruka who tames Rudra in the tantras and Guhyapati who does so in the sütras because these are respectively inner or natural and outer or emanational aspects of the same wrathful maôçala.


This chapter concerns the emergence of mundane wrathful deities, endowed with the chronic patterns of corrupt past actions, such as Rudra, and their consequent subjugation by the wrathful deities of pristine cognition.

As to the former: On account of egotism and having violated their former tantric commitments (vv.2-3), beings are reborn in unbearable hellish domains (v.4) and then as tormented spirits (v.5). Then, once their coarse obscurations have diminished, they are consequently born in a monstrous ogre-like form which is harmful to others, on the basis of the subtle obscurations of having perversely meditated in the past on a wrathful deity and misinterpreted the correct conduct of the secret mantras. In this guise, they then come to dominate the mundane world-systems of desire and form, terrifying their inhabitants (v.6).

The subjugation of such negative forces by the wrathful deities of pristine cognition emerges as follows: Samantabhadra in the form of Heruka observes Rudra and his activities (v.7) and, to bring about their subjugation, he assumes the meditative stability of the “kingly Magical Net of wrathful deities” (v.8). The actual subjugation is carried out in four steps by means of the "four miracles": First, Samantabhadra and Samantabhadrï appear in union as Krodhïâvara and Krodhïâvarï (v.9). Second, through their enlightened intention they emanate a cloud of seminal energy (v.10). Third, the maôçala of wrathful deities, vast as the world-systems, is emanated therefrom (v.11). Fourth, this maôçala then generates fifteen great signs, indicating how cyclic existence is liberated in actual reality, in order to conquer Rudra and his acolytes (v.12).

Once subjugated, Rudra is wrathfully eradicated in the following manner: Samantabhadra transforms into the three-headed Mahottara or Buddha Heruka (v.13), with a retinue comprising the Herukas of the four other enlightened families (vv.14-15). Then, responding to the ferocious reaction of Rudra and his twenty-eight followers (v.16), the nine-headed form of Mahottara manifests in order to "liberate" them by wrathful sorcery (vv.17-18) and to gather together their twenty-eight consorts, the íâvarï, through which he absorbs the entire mundane world and its inhabitants (vv.19-20). Through further meditative stability, the five Herukas then reappear to enter into non-dual union with these consorts (vv.21-23), and from their wombs, the retinue of the wrathful Mätaraë, Piâäcï and Female Gatekeepers emanates (vv.24-27), taking their places along with them on the periphery of the maôçala (v.28).

Rudra and the proud malign forces who follow him are then revived and granted ablution, after which they are placed within the maôçala on the seats of the Herukas and come to acquire a certain vision of the pure maôçala (vv.29-31). Following their subjugation, which occurs simultaneously throughout the chiliocosms of the universe (v.32), they are accepted as retainers after taking an oath of allegiance. Their former consorts, the íâvarï, also request the conferral of the various rites that they might obey (vv.33-35), in response to which they are granted empowerments and injunctions (v.37).


The purpose of this and the succeeding four chapters is to present the continuum of the path through which the natural maôçala of the wrathful deities is actually attained. In sequence, these chapters present the wrathful mantras which arouse the continuum of buddha-mind (Ch.16), the maôçala of images to be visualised through meditative stability (Ch.17), the offerings which are then made to this maôçala (Ch.18), the corresponding commitments which practitioners are encouraged to adopt (Ch.19) and the ensuing enlightened activities which are performed (Ch.20). Practically, this implies that on the basis of the three kinds of meditative stability the celestial palace and deities of the wrathful maôçala are visually generated. Then, the genuine beings of wrathful pristine cognition are invited and supplicated with the clasped flowers, symbolic of the yogin’s awareness. Dissolving into the visualised maôçala, they confer commitments and are pleased by the feast-offerings, which are made in conjunction with the recitation of mantras and clear visualisation of the deities.

Consequently, enlightened activities are performed, along with concluding rituals of benediction and dedication of merit.


Having arrayed the natural maôçala of the wrathful deities, Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, then brings forth their maôçala of buddha-speech, the wrathful mantras, in order that this naturally manifesting array might be perceived externally by bodhisattvas and accomplished by yogins (v.1).


This chapter presents the five categories of mantras through which the wrathful maôçala is activated or energised. There are mantras which visually generate the fifty-eight wrathful deities (vv.2-5), mantras which invite the Beings of Pristine Cognition (jñänasattva) corresponding to those deities (v.6), mantras which scatter the flowers of the yogin’s awareness as a request for commitments to be imparted (v.7), mantras in the form of a prayer for spiritual accomplishment and the conferral of commitments (v.8), and mantras through which torma-offerings are made for the sake of enlightened activity (v.9).

Finally, as an extraordinary sign of the efficaciousness of these mantras, all non-virtuous acts of body, speech and mind are incinerated and the purified body, speech and mind then blaze forth as buddha-body, -speech and -mind. The entirety of space is filled with the maôçalas of buddha-body, -speech and -mind.


Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, then presents the maôçala of images, visualised through meditative stability, which are the necessary supports clarifying the forms assumed by those wrathful deities, along with their mantras (v.1).


This chapter describes the supporting celestial palace and the maôçala of wrathful deities within it. The palace (v.2) is adorned with ornaments of skulls, snakes, corpses and light (v.3) and seats in the form of bull, buffalo, leopard, tiger and bear, surmounted in turn by the proud malign forces who were subjugated (v.4). Therein, the five Heruka are present (v.5), with their diverse ornaments and thundrous roars (v.6), hand-held emblems and queens (v.7). The retinue surrounding them includes the twenty female wrathful deities, ie. the Mätaraë, Piâäcï, and Gatekeepers (v.8), along with the twenty-eight íâvarï (v.9).

As a wondrous indication of this visualisation, the blazing maôçala of wrathful deities is said to radiate with the apparitions of buddha-body, -speech and -mind (v.10).


Having revealed the wrathful maôçala, Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, then describes the outer, inner and secret offerings which are designed to please the wrathful maôçala through skilful means (v.1).


The secret offerings are associated with the paths of liberation and skilful means. The former includes the authentic offering of the primordially pure true nature of mind and the offering of forceful compassionate "liberation" which benefits the ten kinds of being endowed with negatve attitudes (v.2). The latter refers to the seminal or blissful energy produced by the embrace of the male and female deities (v.3).

The inner and outer offerings are collectively known as the "desirable attributes" of the five senses, which are sacramental substances. The former are the five nectars, namely, excrement, urine, human flesh, blood and semen, through which cyclical existence is identified as nirväôa (v.4). The latter are the outer sacraments of food, drink, clothing and all else that possesses the desirable attributes of the senses (v.5). All these sacraments are offered to the deities of pristine cognition (v.6).

The benefits attained through the making of such offerings are the common accomplishments associated with the four rites of enlightened activity (v.7) and the supreme accomplishment of the three buddha-bodies consequent on the practice of symbolic and non-symbolic meditation (v.8). In sum, all worlds are filled with pleasing offerings (v.9).


Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, then divulges the supreme commitments in order that yogins of secret mantra might swiftly accomplish the result to which they aspire (v.1).


This chapter is an exegesis of the commitments associated with the maôçala of wrathful deities. The Sanskrit term samaya is defined as “ a commitment requiring the taking of a conventional oath of allegiance, which is laid down because benefits are obtained when it is guarded and retribution is exacted when it degenerates”.

The essence of the supreme commitments, the hallmark of their superiority, is that dissonant mental states may be engaged without accruing negative acts because the vows maintained by adherents of the lower vehicles are fully integrated with these commitments. Therefore they integrate the lower vows which comprise: the mind-control generated through the seven levels of prätimokêa vow taken for the sake of individual peace and happiness; the bodhisattva vows which bind the mind with an altruistic moral discipline to achieve realisation and benefit others; and the vows of the awareness-holders which benefit others by transforming dissonant mental states into pristine cognition. All these three trainings are gathered without contradiction in the commitments of the secret mantra (v.2).

In this integration the most minute defects in the observance of the lower vows are purified (v.3). Even the four inimical defeats— murder, stealing, lying, and sexual misconduct, which pious attendants guard against through the prätimokêa vows are not contradicted because phenomena are transformed into the maôçala of deities. Similarly, the vows of the bodhisattvas are not contradicted because they are retained by extraordinary compassion and skilful means. The means of gathering all such vows within the commitments of the secret mantras are inherent in the rites of "liberation" and the practices of sexual yoga because mind-control and the three kinds of moral discipline known to bodhisattvas are always present (vv.4-7).

As to the classification of the commitments, five basic and ten ancillary commitments have been enumerated (vv.8-10). The former are the commitments never to abandon the Three Precious Jewels, to venerate the spiritual teacher, not to interrupt the recitation of mantras and securing of the sealing hand-gestures, to have loving kindness for those who enter the genuine path, and not to divulge the secret truths. These are defined as aspects of buddha-body, -speech and -mind to be guarded and attained in order that the seed of buddha nature, latent in all beings, might not be obscured (v.11). The ancillary commitments comprise five dissonant mental states which are not to be abandoned and five nectars which are to be acquired because they assist the observance of the basic commitments (v.12). The benefits which follow from the keeping of commitments are the attainment of buddhahood itself, while the unpleasant results of suffering and lack of accomplishment are the retributions exacted when they are broken (vv.13-16).

While all these commitments are subsumed by the indestructible reality of buddha-body, -speech and -mind (v.17), there is also a more detailed enumeration of three hundred and sixty subdivisions of the basic and ancillary commitments (vv.18-19), and, beyond that, they may even be considered inconceivable in numerical terms, owing to the inconceivable nature of appearance and emptiness (vv.20-21).

Consequent on keeping the commitments, the yogin is venerated by mundane beings (v.22), blessed by sublime beings (v.23), and attains the rank of an awareness-holder within the perceptual range of the buddhas (v.24). He or she integrates all vows and commitments in the aforementioned manner (v.25), and has the ability to restore broken commitments (v.26).


Samantabhadra, the Great Joyous One, then becomes absorbed in the meditative stability known as "the consecration of the spontaneous commitment" in order that those who keep the commitments might engage in enlightened activity (v.1).


This chapter begins with an explanation of the four kinds of enlightened activity, symbolised in succession by the shapes of the sacred Sanskrit letters Evaæ Mayä. These are respectively the rite of wrath (vv.2-4), the rite of subjugation (vv.5-7), the rite of enrichment (vv.8-10), and the rite of pacification (vv.11-13), each of which is presented in three phases, namely the making of a burnt offering, the piercing with the ritual dagger (kïla), and the enactment of the dance-steps that oppress negative forces.

Particular injunctions are subsequently given to those mundane beings on the periphery of the maôçala who consume the residual offerings of the feast, exhorting them to maintain the former oaths administered to them by Mahottara Heruka (vv.14-15).

The main part of the enlightened activity of the wrathful maôçala however is known as the rite of the dance steps and hand-gestures (v.16). This action, when performed by the five central Heruka and their consorts, brings about the accomplishment of all five kinds of enlightened activity (v.17). When engaged by the eight Mätaraë, it brings about subjugation, enrichment and pacification (v.18). When engaged by the eight Piâäcï it brings about wrathful destruction (v.19), and when engaged by the twenty-eight íâvarï, it fulfils curses and imprecations (v.20).

Corresponding to the four kinds of enlightened activity, which culminate in the wrathful rite of "liberation" are the places conducive to the attainment of their respective activities, namely, firepits for the rite of wrath, solitary tree-trunks for the rite of subjugation, thickets for the rite of enrichment, and trees or woodland for the rite of pacification. Each of the rites also requires a distinctive meditative stability (v.21). Thereby, all the tathägatas are trained in the performance of enlightened activities (v.22).

 This article is the fourth of a six part series which brings you Gyurme Dorje’s extensive and remarkable introuduction to the Guhyagarbha Tantra, the flagship tantra of the Nyingma School of the Tibetan Buddhism.

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