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Paintings > Thangka > Vishvarupa (Universal form) of Heruka Yab-Yum
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Vishvarupa (Universal form) of Heruka Yab-Yum

Vishvarupa (Universal form) of Heruka Yab-Yum

Vishvarupa (Universal form) of Heruka Yab-Yum

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Tibetan Thangka Painting

18.0" x 25.0"
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Vishvarupa (Universal form) of Heruka Yab-Yum

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The Universal form or Vishvarupa is concerned with two aspects of the deity – the immanent and the transcendental, the former suggesting that everything in the universe is glorified by the presence of the grace of the deity and later conceiving the deity as the divine repository of all elemental beings and things. This unique conception of the universal form has been explained in Buddhist scriptures. Moreover it conveys the tremendous power and infinite vision and reach of the deity in its universal form.

The wrathful aspect of the deity came into existence to fight against negative forces with compassion and to destroy obstacles in the path toward righteousness, thereby helping all-sentient beings reach enlightenment. Moreover, they also provide protection and prosperity to the sentient beings. Although the wrathful deities grasp dangerous weapon, snarl furiously, and make threatening gesture, but they are neither malignant nor harmful to humans. They rather protect their devotees like their own child; they quickly remove obstacles if properly worshipped and invoked. They terrify the terrifiers. It is believed that wrathful deities are more efficacious if worshipped in company with his consort. The wrathful deities are also depicted in universal form as the of present one; their meaning and purpose are same as in the case of peaceful deities, as discussed above. The universal form of wrathful deities with their consort are considered as more powerful and suitable for high level of tantric sadhana

At the centre of this grand black thangka, stand an eighteen-headed and twenty-six armed Heruka with his consort in sexual embrace. His ferocious face is adamantly demonic indicating his determination not to succumb to the instinct to reify the beings and things of any world as substantially real. Below him two more figures of multi-headed and armed Heruka are depicted very closely in a way that they are emanating from the main figure. The main figure of Heruka is holding bowls and beings in his hands, which are actually raised, to protect and blessed the devotees. His main hands are not visible as it is covered by the figures, depicted below. His eighteen heads rises magnificently, perhaps indicating that the vision of his critical wisdom penetrates all level of reality, and the agility of his dynamic compassion knows no limitations. He tramples underfoot beings, representing ignorance or evil. The other two manifestation of Heruka below the main figure are also in sexual embrace with the consort. Their hands are in threatening gesture; however one of the main hands of the figure third from the top is holding a bowl. He has also powerful wings, indicating his omnipresent for beings. Heruka is wearing the crowns of skulls with jewels; elephant, wolf, human skin, and tiger-skin skirt. The consort of all the three figures of Heruka is also wrathful. She is also adorned with bone ornaments. Aureole flames encircle all the three images of Heruka, which suggest the extension of the deity's power radiating outward. On the top of the aureole, Garuda, and wrathful dragons are depicted.

The central figures are surrounded with wrathful deities, Cosmic Buddhas etc. On the top, two figures of Brahmanrupa Mahakala are flanking a figure of Demonic Divine. The upper left corner has a beautifully rendered Nyingma lama in yab-yum posture and the upper right corner a wrathful deity on a hearth. Ranged down the left side are the figures of Cosmic Buddhas, a ferocious deity on a hearth, a dakini, and an angry god also on the hearth. Ranged down the right side are the figures of Cosmic Buddha, wrathful deities on hearth, and dakini. The foreground has also wrathful deities on the hearth and offerings.

The black background makes this thangka very significant as this is highly mystical and esoteric, and suitable for advanced practice.

Select Bibliography

B. Meulenbeld, Buddhist Symbolism in Tibetan Thangkas: The Story of Siddhartha and Other Buddhas Interpreted in Modern Nepalese Painting, Holland, 2001

H.E. Krejger, Kathmandu Valley Painting: The Jucker Collection, London, 1999

Marylin M. Rhie & Robert A.F. Thurman, World of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion, New York, 1999

R. Linrothe & Watt, Demonic Divine: Himalayan Art and Beyond, New York, 2004

Robert Beer, The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, Boston, 1999

This description is by Dr. Shailendra K. Verma, whose Doctorate thesis is on "Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (From its inception to 8th century A.D.).

Click Here to View the Thangka Painting along with its Brocade

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