A Brief Story of Mahakala the Swift Wisdom Protector
In the past, Avalokitesvara the noble Great
Compassionate One, engendered great aspiration. For countless aeons, he
gathered the two accumulations, attained the tenth level of a bodhisattva, and
obtained the Great Light Rays Empowerment. He entered the ranks of the sons
and daughters of the Buddha by sealing his aspiration with the following vow:
"I shall benefit beings in this samsaric world and throughout the ten
directions. I shall remain in this samsaric world to liberate all sentient
beings from suffering and until every one of them has attained supreme
enlightenement, I myself shall not pass into nirvana. And if I ever break this
vow, may by body be shattered into a thousand pieces!"
stayed at Mount Potala. He performed emanations at every moment and brought to
maturation and liberation countless beings, in ways far too vast for us to
express. This he did for a great many aeons, until one day he thought he
should see what development had happened given the many beings he had led to
maturation and liberation.
With his clairvoyance, he exerted his gaze
on the world and saw that the realm of sentient beings was more confused than
ever. Peoples' lives were getting shorter, they were mired in the five dregs
and it was difficult for beings to avoid doing evil.
He thought, "I
haven't succeeded in liberating even a single sentient being!" This thought
broke his vow, and consequently, his body split into a thousand pieces.
Buddha Amitabha now appeared and said to Avalokitesvara, "Oh noble
son, you have broken your vow, that is not good! Now, you'd better renew your
resolution, and in stronger terms this time!"
After he finished
speaking, Amitabha took the thousand pieces and fashioned eleven faces and a
thousand arms. Then, he blessed Avalokiteshvara who now thought, "There is no
possible way for me to renew my vow more strongly than I did originally." So
for the next seven days, he remained in a daze [of uncertainty].
he came to, he perceived that by means of a wrathful form, he could train
sentient beings mired in the five dregs. Seeing that even those who practiced
Dharma were haunted by fears of the bardo, he recognized that in a wrathful
form, he could protect them from the frights of the bardo. Lastly, observing
that the beings of this degenerate age were poor and needy, and experienced
only suffering, he discerned that by means of a wrathful form, he could
provide them with an antidote to their suffering; their needs and desires
would be answered simply by expressing their wishes. Through this three-fold
activity, Avalokitesvara was able to renew his vow in ways even more powerful
than before and this was crystallized as the black-blue syllable HUNG at his
heart, which transformed into the swift wisdom-protector.
shook in six ways in respect to Avalokitesvara's compassionate aspiration.
Buddha Amitabha, together with countless Buddhas, bodhisattvas of the ten
levels and the like exclaimed with one voice, "Oh noble son! This is a noble
aspiration indeed! You shall have the powers of all the dakinis.You shall have
the strength of Yamantaka. And spirits, demons, harm-doers, and gods will
perform activity [on your behalf]."
Thus the great wrathful emanation
was granted the empowerments of the body, speech, mind, qualities and activity
of all the Buddhas of the three times. As of that time, Mahakala has remained
guardian of the teachings in all the Pure Lands.
A full account of
Mahakala ends the stories in Like an Illusion: Lives of the Shangpa Kagyu
Masters. Details on the book are available here.