Violent Gods

Zaou-Gongen, a deity found in Japanese esoteric Buddhism.

Possibly my favourite part of Buddhism, especially in Tibet and Japan, is the presence of wrathful deities. Common traits include colourful skin (usually black or blue), being covered in fire, fierce facial expressions, long hair, and holding various weapons,  including swords, tridents, and vajras. People can take them in different ways, even wondering why they are in Buddhism, but here’s how I see them. They are symbols of great and limitless power, freedom from all shackles through strength and personal power, energy, and the wild dance of the human psyche, considering the movements of many wrathful deities of Tibet and Japan call to mind the cosmic dance of Shiva.

Mahakala, a wrathful deity in Tibet.

For a while, I thought they symbolized the total sublimation of sensual desires or ego, probably because of the myth of the subjugation of Maheshvara by Vajrapani (or Gozanze Myo-o depending on the version of the myth) and came close to declaring it immoral. But I have passed that. I simply like these deities far too much. Besides, how can they symbolize the domination, subjugation, and destruction of desires, when they themselves can be sensual and they do ostensibly resemble beings of desire?

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2 responses to “Violent Gods

  1. Vajrayana Buddhism has everything I could possibly want in a religion. Magic, a complex assortment of gods, ritualism, etc.

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