Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vaishravana: Guardian of the North

Vaishravana is one of the guardians (or kings) of the four directions in Buddhist cosmology. Vaishravana, leader of the Yaksha race, is a worldly guardian viewed as both a protector and benefactor (wealth deity). In Buddhist cosmology he lives on the north side of the lower slopes of mount Meru in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. As the leader of the Four Direction Guardians, he like the others, swore an oath of protection before the Buddha Shakyamuni. The stories and iconography of the Four Guardian Kings arise originally with the early Buddhist sutras and became fully developed in the later Mahayana sutras. The Four Guardians are common to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Paintings of the Four are found as murals at the entrance way into temples and in sets depicting Shakyamuni Buddha and the Sixteen Great Arhats. The Four Guardians are rarely if ever painted alone except for Vaishravana who has more than a dozen different iconographic forms.

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