Open edition of signed and numbered gold on black Mahakala screen prints now available in A3 size (15.5 x 12.5 inches).
This drawing depicts the protector Mahakala in his six-armed aspect as the main protector of the Shangpa Kagyu Tradition. Mahakala (Tib. Gonpo), the 'great black one', stands in an upright posture (samapada) with his heels together as he tramples underfoot the prostrate form of Ganapati on his golden sun disc and multicoloured lotus, which rests upon a vajra-rock formation. Ganapati, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is white in colour and wears divine silks and jewel ornaments. He lies upon his side in a sleeping posture, with his right and left hands holding a white radish (mueli) complete with leaves, and a jewel-disgorging mongoose. The force of Mahakala's weight is sufficient to 'crush the three worlds', which causes a cascade of jewels to stream from Ganapati's mouth, anus, and the pores of his skin onto Mahakala's sun disc. In Buddhism Ganapati is regarded as both a creator and a remover of obstacles, and he is particularly associated with wealth and also with being subjugated by Mahakala in certain legends.
Mahakala is extremely wrathful and blue-black in colour, like the 'clouds at the end of time'. His fierce face has three round, red and piercing eyes, upward blazing red facial hair, and a gaping mouth that reveals his sharp teeth, four fangs, and twisting red tongue. He laughs ferociously as he roars out the syllables HA HA HUM HUM PHAT PHAT, which grinds to dust all maras, enemies, and obstructive demons. His forehead is smeared with cemetery ash, his cheeks and nose with fresh blood, and his chin and throat with human fat. His tawny hair streams upward above his five-skull crown, and crowning the top of his head is a blue snake binding an iron half-vajra, which contains the seed-syllable HUM of Akshobhya Buddha, the 'Lord of the Vajra Family' to whom Mahakala belongs.
As garments Mahakala wears a tiger-skin loincloth that it bound by a green silk belt, and a decorative and protective vajra-scarf that circles around his upper body with long silken ends that billow about his two principal arms and lower body. The freshly flayed and bloody skin of an elephant is stretched across his back, with its head and forelegs to his right, and its tail and hind legs to his left. Around his neck he wears a garland of fifty freshly severed and blood-dripping heads, and a green serpent as a sacred thread. He wears ornaments of gold, the six bone ornaments, and small naga-serpents coil around his bracelets, armlets and anklets, which are also garlanded with little silver bells that tinkle from the tremulous energy of his body.
With his first two right and left hands he pounds a crescent-shaped vajra-chopper into a skull-cup in front of his heart, with the skull-cup containing his sustenance of the fresh blood and raw flesh of enemies and obstructive demons. With his second right hand he holds aloft a bone rosary fashioned as carved dry white skulls, and with his third right hand he rattles a damaru or pellet-drum. With his second left hand he holds aloft a skull-sealed trident with silk ribbons, and with his third left hand he holds a black vajra-noose. Mahakala shines with an unbearable brilliance amidst a blazing mass of wisdom fire, and his back is supported by the trunk of a vast sandalwood tree, the dense canopy of which appears behind the fiery tongues of his aura. He abides within a landscape of swirling clouds, angular rocks and turbulent water. In the foreground are a bowl of auspicious offerings, two small sacks of medicinal pills, and three blazing skulls. The central skull-cup contains swirling nectar or alcohol, and the other two upturned skulls contain a fire offering, and a wrathful offering of the five sense organs: nose (smell), tongue (taste), ears (sound), eyes (sight), and a heart (touch).
© text by Robert Beer