Chemchok Heruka with Consort-Tibetan Buddhist Thangka Painting


In Tibetan Buddhism, Chemchok Heruka is most notably known to be the focal divinity in the Fifty-eight Wrathful Deities mandala where he is the furious aspect of Samantabhadra. These 58 deities are said to be wrathful deities one can meet in death and rebirth. He is also known as the Mahottara Heruka. Meanwhile, in the Guhyagarbha Tantra, he is the main deity among the Heruka of the Eight Commandments of Accomplishments (Nyingmapa lineage) in Tibet. Please take a closer look at the thangka and notice that he is depicted with nine heads, all wrathful. Eighteen arms and eight legs can also be seen in the painting.

Chemchok Heruka -Tibetan Buddhist Thangka Painting
Chemchok Heruka -Tibetan Buddhist Thangka Painting

Following terton the tradition (or a person who was a follower of Padmasambhava, the founder of 8th-century Nyingmapa), deities such as Chemchok Heruka may take on varying forms depending on the needs of the times. The wings remain consistent in most depictions, as seen in this one behind the arms. On his waist is the skin of the tiger. Another notable element in this Thangka Painting is his consort Namshyalma in a union position. This yab-yum (lit. father-mother) is a symbol of the union of a deity and his consort, the union of strength and wisdom of the male and female. She holds a skull cap and the hands-on her right side represent the manifestations of eight bodhisattvas (gaurima), while the ones on her left are the manifestations of eight female bodhisattvas (singhama).

In addition, the skull caps also appear to have blood, as Heruka in Tibetan Painting translates to darg tung (blood drinker). Zoom in near the lower part of the thangka and there are groups of colored spheres each packed with offerings for the deities. The larger bowls appear to be skulls that represent elements of the senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and thinking). This symbolizes an offering of senses to the wrathful deities as symbols of their beings in exchange for blessings.

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