"An enigmatic aspect of Buddhist iconography is the presence of wrathful, terrifying forms. Though these awesome, hair-raising images seem contradictory to Buddhist ideals, they are not personifications of evil or demonic forces. Rather they symbolize the violence that is a fundamental reality of the cosmos in general, and of the human mind in particular. In addition to destroying the passions of the mind, the purpose of gods is to protect the faithful. The wrathful deities, who symbolize the tremendous effort it takes to vanquish evil, especially perform this function."
"Each of the three forms of Mahakala has some distinctly different qualities and aspects.... The continuous counting of the rosary is a symbol of perpetual activity, which Mahakala achieves on a cosmic scale.... An elephant-headed entity lying crushed under his legs represents our instinctive, primary animal force and urge... The blazing fire surrounding him demonstrates his powerful energy out to consume all neurotic states of minds.... Mahakala's typical blackness symbolizes his all-embracing, comprehensive nature, because it is the hue into which all other colors merge; it absorbs and dissolves them. Just as all colors disappear in black, so do all names and forms melt into that of Mahakala. Black is also the total absence of color, again signifying the nature of Mahakala as ultimate reality.... He is the transcendent-time (maha-kala), absolute, eternal, measureless, and ever present."