Yamantaka is the most wrathful highest yoga tantra yidam and one of the yidam practices of Lama Tsong Khapa. He is concerned with both illusory body and clear light meditation—the only tantra which does so. He has nine heads, symbolizing the nine categories of scripture, thirty-four arms making use of various implements, and sixteen legs, trampling the opponents of the dharma. He is a wrathful emanation of Manjushri, the Buddha of wisdom, and can either appear alone or with a consort, as seen here. If he has a consort, his consort is known as the "vampire lady" Vetali.
Yidam practices are among the most important in Buddhism, because yidams are personal deities which one meditates on at the point of death. If one can successfully visualize one's yidam at the point of death, the yidam will help you cross over the bardo into either enlightenment or an auspicious rebirth. Yamantaka is one of the most popular yidams.
The word "Yamantaka" literally means "slayer of death." The practice of Yamantaka is meant to overcome death. Not necessarily in the literal sense of a single body living forever like Count Dracula or Lord Voldemort, since the Buddha taught that death comes to us all, but in the more important spiritual sense of not being forced to take rebirth when and where you don't want to. Yamantaka also is meant to harness anger and hatred. When we are angry, it is as though we have no control over what we do or say. Or, we have to fight tooth and nail to make sure we don't explode. But when we practice wrathful deity practice, we can learn how to use anger wisely and with a paradoxical serenity.
Yamantaka is said to have been born when the people prayed to Manjushri to save them from death. A great and powerful yogi was meditating in a cave, when some robbers who had stolen a yak entered the cave and began to eat it. They suddenly noticed they were not alone, and they decided to kill the yogi to make sure he didn't bear witness against them. The yogi, who was on the verge of attaining enlightenment when he was killed, became overcome with intense anger, and using his magical powers, he attached the yak head to his neck and killed the robbers. Still angry, he roamed around the countryside, killing everything he came across. The people, terrified, prayed to Manjushri, who took the form of Yamantaka and destroyed the yak-headed monster.
From personal experience, Vesantra's Meeting the Buddhas, and Tsem Tulku Rinpoche's "Advise to a Yamantaka Initiate."
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