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The Crown of Mahākāla

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Today features a short but vivid post. I found the following image of a magnificent Asian crown on the internet but I do not know who crafted it or where it is. Look at how splendid it is! Although I don’t know where this crown is from, I do understand what it represents. This is the crown of Mahākāla, a syncretic deity who is so different throughout Asia, he could almost be different gods. In India, he is a form of Siva. In Japan, Mahākāla is an exalted household deity associated with the kitchen and with wealth and luck. However the most dramatic and fearsome form of Mahākāla is the black multi-armed version which is universally worshipped in Tibetan Buddhism. The angry Tibetan version of Mahākāla is a dharmapāla–a deity of wrathful justice. Even though Mahākāla is terrifying, he is still a bodhisattva (like the gentle Kuan Yin) and his righteous anger serves a higher purpose. His savagery is actually a form of compassion for other enlightened and thinking beings. In his form as a dharmapāla, Mahākāla is depicted with a crown of five skulls to represent the transmutation of the five afflictions into five wisdoms. Each of the five jeweled skulls (thod skam gyi dbu rgyan) symbolizes one of the five Buddhas. Although Mahākāla somewhat resembles Kali, his mission, form, and purpose are obscure and different in accordance with the various esoteric sects of Tibetan Buddhism.

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