Shabala King Garuda — Multicolored King of Air, Chi, Prana — Cheng, Enlightened Lord of the Five Activities of the Buddha
King Garuda is magnificent chief among the Four Dignities in Buddhism, Enlightened protector of the North of the mandala, and the king of all bird beings and air beings. This makes him among the most important of Enlightened Deities in Buddhism. As the wind-element protector, he is the patron of chi and prana and wind in our bodies. This is the very stuff of life.
- For a short meditation/visualization with mantra, see later in this feature!
King Garuda and Martial Arts
In martial arts movies, you often see martial artists performing extraordinary, almost super human skills, such as lightness skills, or super strength, or walking across the water, or from tree top to tree top. You might see a monk whirl into action and leave twelve stunned attackers on the ground. How is this conceptualized? This is a perhaps slightly exaggerated, but fun portrayal of the power of chi (“lung in Tibetan” or prana, or wind. Martial artists channel this chi for power.
It is this concept that powers the practice of great Lord Garuda, the Dignity of the Air and Wind, and the power behind that mysterious chi or prana.
Garuda’s best known form is Shabala Multicolored Garuda, a five-colored form to show that he encompasses all the Enlightened Activities of all five Buddha Families: white for pacifying, blue for wrathful, red for magnetizing, yellow for auspiciousness, and green for all activities.
He rules a mandala of five Garudas, with himself pictured in the center, and surrounding him are
- Buddha Garuda, in the center who is white (he is visualized at Shabala Garuda’s heart chakra, since Shabala is occupying the center of the mandala) representing pacifying activities of the Vairochana Buddha Family
- Vajra Garuda, in the East, who is blue representing wrathful and healing activities of the Akshobya Buddha Family and Medicine Buddha
- Ratna Garuda, in the South, who is yellow, representing accumulating and auspiciousness activities of the Ratnasambhava’s Jewel Family
- Padma Garuda, in the West, who is red, representing magnetizing and enchanting compassionate activities of the Amitabha Buddha Family
- Karma Garuda, in the North, who is green, representing all the activities of Amoghasiddhi and Green Tara’s Karma Family — green symbolically represents all activities, or the blending of all colors.
He is always active, flying, swooping, watching. As the wind of the north, he is a virtual hurricane of fearless energy.
Different forms of King Garuda
As with all Enlightened Deities, he can appear and manifest in any form or color. His forms are numerous, but his best known, aside from Shabala Multicolored Garuda, are probably Black Garuda and crowning the Three Fierce Ones: Vajrapani Hayagriva Garuda.
Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche, an Enlightened Buddha also manifested as King Garuda in one lineage teaching. Meanwhile, Black Garuda is actually an emanation of Shakyamuni Buddha, manifesting with this appearance to subdue disease and nagas.
Three Fierce Ones: Vajrapani Hayagriva King Garuda
In another lineage, the pre-eminent healing practice is the combined “three fierce ones” who are King Garuda, Vajrapani and Hayagriva. His mantra is
Om Vajrapani Hayagriva Garuda Hum Phet
This mantra is famous for healing. Often, healing activities are thought of as wrathful, since to fight a disease requires focus, power and strength.
Hayagriva, who is represented in this mandala by the green horse head — Hayagriva translates as “horse head” Buddha, a manifestation of Amitabha and Avalokiteshvara — is likewise associated with Wind and Chi and martial arts in a way similar to King Garuda. The green horse head arising from his main head is “wind horse” or Chi, the power of life.
- For a feature on Vajrapani Hayagriva Garuda, see>>
- For a feature on Amtitabha’s wrathful heruka manifestation Hayagriva, see our full feature>>
- For a video on Hayagriva, a full documentary, see>>
- For Hayagriva’s powerful chanted mantra, needed in these “troubled times” see>>
The combination of the three, the powerful Vajrapani, Hayagriva (as the wrathful Amitabha) and King Garuda, make the combine practice a powerful healing modality.
King Garuda in Hinduism is also the sacred companion and mount of Vishnu. Garuda is venerated in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Garuda is also a race of beings, like nagas, mentioned in several sutras.
Garuda — King of the Four Dignities
Garuda is also the leader among the four dignities of the four directions, who include: Enchanting Dragon in the west, invulnerable Snow lion in the east and fierce Tiger in the South and King Garuda in the north, who commands the greatest respect.
Garuda is the “strong arm” and activity of the Buddhas, the one who removes fear and fights our enemies.
Where Dragon represents generosity and achievement, and Snow Lion represents vitality and purity, and Tiger displays confidence and discipline, King Garuda stands as the champion of fearlessness, and the power of wisdom to overcome dangers and fears. He is the strong protective agent of Mother Tara. (See our special section on Mother Tara>>)
These four great dignities are not just charming stories or myth, with symbolic meanings. They embody the four elements that make our world: air or wind, fire, water, and earth, represented respectively by Garuda for air, Dragon for fire, Snow Lion for water and Tiger for Earth.
Elemental Powers — Air and Chi Empower Life Itself
Their powers and aspects manifest in our world in very real terms. The wind and air brings us life, through our breath and chi. Externally, wind brings in the rain for the crops, cools off the heatwaves. Both external and internal forces are symbolized by King Garuda.
Even if you don’t think of King Garuda as a being, he is a force we live with every day. Whether we respect that force is up to us. Making offerings to King Garuda is the same as honouring the vital essence of air and wind in our world, that gives us life.
When we want to invoke his vitalizing air or chi or prana, and his protection, we might display his mudra and chant his mantra. His mudra is well-known to Yogis as the Garuda Mudra, and helps yogis and yoginis to balance their vital energies and wind — balancing the yin and the yang and the left and the right.
We hold our hands in front of our heart, the right hand on top of the left hand, with the right thumb hooking around the knuckle of the other thumb. This symbolizes the charka channels, which internally unite at the central channel at our heart chakra. Our two hands are displayed like wings of a Garuda, with the fingers splayed to represent the channels branching out.
Shabala Multi-Colored Garuda Visualization
The best known practice of Garuda is probably the five-activity Shabala Transcendental Wisdom Multi-Colored Garuda — which originates both from Kalachakra literature, and is one of the thirteen golden dharma practices of Sakya. These thirteen golden Dharmas are the most important in the lineage.
If you do not have empowerment, you can still practice by visualizing the Buddha as Shabala Multi Colored Garuda in front of you. Always start, as with all Buddhist practices, with Taking Refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and stating Bodhichitta aspiration. This can be as simple as saying three times:
I take refuge in the Buddha the Dharma and the Sangha until I attain Enlightenment, for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Make the sensory offerings: candle, incense, water, some food. This can be as simple as lighting a candle, an incense stick, placing a flower and an apple. Since Garuda is an activity deity, and a wisdom protector, it is good to offer hot tea.
In front of you, visualize one-faced two armed and three eyed Garuda. The multicolored Shabala Garuda has a blue head. His shoulders and crown are multicolored, in the nature of luminous space. His upper body is red, in the nature of fire and tummo, and his belly is white in the nature of water. His legs are golden, in the nature of earth.
He has vast wings that are luminous and lusterous greens like multicolored windy clouds for activity. His right hand is in the mudra of granting refuge in the three Jewels and his left hand is in the threatening mudra to threaten the nagas and spirits. He is devouring the King of Nagas, in his sharp eagle-like beak, and standing on Nagas on lotus and sun disc. He is surrounded by wisdom flames.
Visualizing Empowering and Healing Light
Now, visualize lights streaming from Garuda’s body into your body, healing, empowering, auspicious, purifying, powerful light. If you are able, you visualize the five Garudas around Shabala Garuda, with White Garuda at his heart chakra, and Blue, Yellow, Red and Green Garudas surrounding him in the four cardinal directions. Otherwise, you visualize the light emanating from main Shabala Garuda, who is every color. If you viusualize this way, try to visualize the white light absorbing into your crown, the red to your throat chakra, the blue to the heart chakra, the yellow at the navel chakra, and the green at the secret chakra (see image above.)
White, red, blue, green and yellow light emanate and radiate from Shabala Garuda and absorb into your own body’s five chakras.
White Buddha Garuda’s pacifying light absorbs into our crown chakra, purifying our entire body of all defilements.
Red Padma Garuda’s magnetizing light absorbs into our throat chakra, blessing our speech.
Blue Vajra Garuda’s healing light absorbs into our heart chakra, purifying our mind streams.
Yellow Ratna Garuda’s light absorbs into our navel chakra, purifying all negative karma and bringing auspiciousness.
Green Karma Garuda’s light absorbs into our secret chakra (below our navels), purifying all negative actions and removing our obstacles.
Shabala Garuda Mantra
As you visualize this, holding the image for as long as you can, and maintaing the Garuda mudra in front of your heart, chant or say or whisper the mantra as much as you can, or at least 21 or 108 times.
OM PAK SHIM SVA HA
Alternately, if you are using a mala to count your mantras, you can begin the first mantra with the Garuda mantra, but then pick up your mala for counting the rest.
Dedicating the Merit
When you are finished your healing and empowering mantra visualization, it is important to dedicate the merit to the benefit of all sentient beings. This can be as simple as saying, three times:
I dedicate the merit of this practice to the cause for Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Chi, Wind and the Inner Body
One reason Garuda is so well loved in Buddhist practice, is his association with the “wind element.” Most healers in Buddhism work with the inner body, the chakras, and the breath or chi (pronoucned chee), in the same way as advanced martial artists work with the same winds. Yoga practices in Buddhism usually involve inner body work, and working with the chi, “lung” or prana of the body.
Garuda represents the awesome power of air, wind and activity, and is the powerful general in the spiritual army of Mother Tara and Amoghasiddhi Buddha in the North. His vast wings can create hurricane forces of wind directed against evil, enemies, opponents of the Dharma, disease and decay.
Although all four dignities are mentioned in many sutras, Garuda is a frequent and awe-inspiring presence. Garudas are the powerful antagonist of Nagas or snakes and snake beings, and Kind Garuda rules all the Garudas, and all beings of the air and air realms.
Garudas are not just popular in Bhutan and Tibet, but in India, Nepal, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Thailand, and decorate many temples, and even businesses and homes.
13 Golden Dharmas of the Sakya
Shabala Garuda is one of the 13 Dharmas of the Sakya lineage .
“The Thirteen Golden Dharmas (Tib.: ser cho chu sum) of the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism are a group of special meditational practices so named because Sachen Kunga Nyingpo was required to offer gold to the teacher in requesting the initiation and teachings. The thirteen different teachings do not all come from the same teacher but rather several such as Bari Lotsawa, Mal Lotsawa and Nyen Lotsawa…
The Three Red Ones (mar mo kor sum) are all forms of Vajrayogini and are primarily used as meditational deities with the goal of realization. (1) Vajrayogini of Naropa, (2) Vajrayogini of Indrabhuti and (3) Vajrayogini of Maitripa – all from the Chakrasamvara cycle of Tantras.
The Three Great Red Ones (mar po kor sum) are power deities and used in subjugation or the rapid acquisition of material goods and wealth. (4) Kurukulla of the Hevajra Tantra, (5) Takkiraja of the Guhyasamaja Tantra and (6) Maharakta Ganapati associated with the Chakrasamvara Tantra (see Maharakta Outline Page).
The Three Small Red Ones (mar chung kor sum) are also power deities and used for acquiring specific material results. (7) Kurukulla-Tara of the Vajrapanjara Tantra, (8) Red Vasudhara of the Chakrasamvara cycle of Tantras and (9) Tinuma, the activity form of Vajravarahi, also of the Chakrasamvara cycle.
The four standard remaining deities which are common to most Sakya tradition groupings of the Thirteen Golden Dharmas are employed for a variety of sickness and disease. Red Jambhala is the exception and he is employed as a wealth deity. (10) Black Manjushri, (11) Shabala Garuda from the Kalachakra Tantra, (12) Simhanada Avalokiteshvara from its own tantra and (13) Red Jambhala from the Chakrasamvara Tantra.”
—Quote from the experts at Himalayan Art 
Definition of Garuda on 84000 glossary of terms (from 84000 translation project>>)
nam mkha’ lding
- mkha’ lding
- gser ’dab
- nam mkha’i lding
In Indian mythology, the garuḍa is an eagle-like bird that is regarded as the king of all birds, normally depicted with a sharp, owl-like beak, often holding a snake, and with large and powerful wings. They are traditionally enemies of the nāgas. In the Vedas, they are said to have brought nectar from the heavens to earth. Garuḍa can also be used as a proper name for a king of such creatures.
Notes and Citations
 Credits: 5 Garudas images Tangka Nepal>>
 Buddhist Door: Riding on the Back of Freedom: The Meaning of the Garuda>>
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Author | Buddha Weekly
Lee Kane is the editor of Buddha Weekly, since 2007. His main focuses as a writer are mindfulness techniques, meditation, Dharma and Sutra commentaries, Buddhist practices, international perspectives and traditions, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen. He also covers various events.
Lee also contributes as a writer to various other online magazines and blogs.