What’s so special about Hayagriva? In difficult times the wrathful Heruka emanation of Amitabha is an important Buddhist practice

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    “Whoever, including even the insects, has heard the name and mantra of Hayagriva only one time will never again fall into the lower paths.” — Sutra of Forming Hayagriva [6]

    Supreme Mantra of Hayagriva chanted

    The Supreme Mantra of Hayagriva chanted in the original transmitted language of Sanskrit 108 Times (for details on the mantra see the section below):


    Many Buddhist teachers recommend Hayagriva as the practice most needed in modern times of rampant Egoism and Attachment. Hayagriva — Amtitabha’s most wrathful form — is the Heruka (Hero) of the Lotus Padma Buddha Family, the “Incredible Hulk” manifestation of the Compassionate Buddha. His irresistible “active” Discernment Wisdom is what many modern people need.


    Buddha Weekly Hayagriva is a wrathful emanation of Amitabha Buddha Buddhism
    Hayagriva is the most heroic, active and wrathful form of the Buddha of Compassion Amitabha. He is also considered an emanation of the compassionate One Chenrezig – Avalokiteshvara.


    Great teachers in modern times continue to request their students accumulate Hayagriva Heruka’s mantra — known to be particularly efficacious in these troubled times:

    “In today’s age, it is a degenerate time where the five poisons and negative emotions are very strong. So we need a deity like Hayagriva to empower ourselves. Also negative influences today are so strong as well, like the coronavirus.” — Lama Jigme Rinpoche [19]


    Buddha Weekly Choden Rinpoche Hayagriva is the wrathful manifestation of Chenrezig Buddhism
    Choden Rinpoche said “Hayagriva is a wrathful manifestation of Chenrezig, the embodiment of all the Buddha’s compassion.”


    Specifically, Hayagriva is described as:

    “a swift and powerful means to overcome negative forces and obstacles. Prayers to Hayagriva are especially beneficial in these degenerate times when sufferings and illnesses are rampant due to the strong delusions of sentient beings.” [5]


    Buddha Weekly Praying to Hayagriva Buddha is a remedy for difficult modern times Buddhism
    Many prominent Buddhist teachers say that Praying to Hayagriva is especially effective in modern, turbulent times, times of war, times of epidemic, or any stressful time.


    So important is Padma Heruka — the Lotus Hayagriva — that he was one of the main Enlightened deities the great Lotus-Born Padmasambhava practiced: “Glorious Hayagriva and Vajravarahi banished hindrances.” He was also the main practice of the great Shabkar and other great yogis. [4]

    Guru Rinpoche “arose in the form of Padma Heruka, ferocious and strong, the heruka of the secret sign” — Lady Yeshe Tsogyal [4]

    Don’t miss part 1 of our “Deity Documentary” series on Hayagriva:



    [For a short daily tea offering meditation dedicated to the great and glorious Hayagriva, see section below. No empowerment is required for this auspicious practice.]

    NOTE: Although devotion to and tea offerings to Hayagriva is auspicious and meritorious, do not visualize yourself as Hayagriva without empowerment and do NOT chant the mantra without permission or lung of a teacher. We publish the mantras here for correctness and clarity for those who have empowerment. Advice from Lama Jigme Rinpoche: “Please do not do this particular mantra of Hayagriva without the transmission or empowerment first from a qualified master. The mantra must be done with the transmission from a master first or else you will only create obstacles for yourself.”

    Many illustrious Enlightened Masters taught and practiced Hayagriva as a Yidam aside from Padmasambhava, including the great Tibetan Yogi Shabkar, who was initiated by Chogyal Rinpoche. In his autobiography, Shabkar wrote:

    Buddha Weekly hayagriva yab yum Buddhism
    Mighty Haygriva’s ferocious aspect. Here he is in yab yum, representing the union of compassion with wisdom.

    “At dawn the following morning, he bestowed on us the maturing empowerment of the Victorious One, the Wish-fulfilling Gem, Hayagriva and Varahi. This is a profound and extraordinary teaching from the cycle of the new treasures. In heaven, the lineage of vidyadharas remains unbroken; on earth, the lines and colors of the mandala have not yet vanished; in between, the heaps of sacred substances have not yet diminished. Unsullied by demons and samaya-breakers, it still carries the fresh breath of both the wisdom dakinis and worldly dakinis.”

    Hayagriva in modern times

    Shabkar indicated in this quote that Hayagriva’s “mandala have not yet vanished.” In other words, Hayagriva is very much accessible to practitioners today — not just the ancient masters.

    In modern terms, Hayagriva is the “Incredible Hulk” emanation of Amitabha and Chenrezig and Vajravarahi — his wisdom consort — is the ultimate Dakini. (In some tantras, Green Tara is Hayagriva’s consort. Tara and Vajravarahi are, in essence, One.) Despite his wrathful form, he is still chief among the compassionate, important in modern times.

    The entire Padma Lotus family of Amitabha is represented well in the Wangdu prayer and tangkhas, for example:


    Buddha Weekly Wangdu Thangka Amitabha Hayagriva Vajrayogini Buddhism
    A Wangdu Prayer Thangka with the nine Magnetizing Yidams, including Hayagriva: Amitabha (top centre), the Heruka emanation of Amitabha Hayagriva (left of Amitabha, right of the viewer), Red Chenrezig Padmapani (right of Amitabha, left of viewer), Vajradharma (immediately below Amitabha), Pema Gyalpo (central deity, one of the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava), Vajravarahi Vajrayogini Dakini (left of Pema Gyalpo, under Hayagriva), Guhyajnana Dakini (left of Pema Gyalpo), Kurukulla (bottom right of Pema Gyalpo), Dope Gyalpo (bottom left.) For a feature on the Wangdu practice and prayer, see>>


    The Amitabha (Amita) Padma Family represents the Wisdom of Discernment — the main method Shakyamuni Buddha taught to overcome our Attachments and Ego. [For a feature on the Five Buddha Families and five poisons, see>>] In hectic, dangerous modern times, Hayagriva, the most “active” and wrathful form of Amitbabha and Avalokiteshvara, is the super-charged practice of choice for many.

    The power of Hayagriva in our modern world is symbolically and tangibly demonstrated by the sixty-four sacred places in our world that still exist today — created when Hayagriva battled Rudra (Ego) to save the world. [See the sections “Hayagriva battles Rudra” and “The World’s Sixty-Four Sacred Places” below in this feature.]


    Buddha Weekly Beautiful Hayagriva Sang Drup Secret Accomplishment Buddhism 1
    Hayagriva Sang Drub (Hayagriva Sangdrup) Secret Accomplishment.


    Hayagriva — Chief among the Wrathful

    As the Heruka of Amitabha’s Lotus Family, he is Chief among the Wrathful emanations, representing Dharma and Speech in its ferocious form — signified by the screaming (neighing) horse head bursting out of his fiery red hair.

    “The Powerful Heruka is Hayagriva. Every being that lives in this world has no choice but to follow Hayagriva’s command. He is more powerful than any other being; there is no one to equal or even compete with him. Hayagriva is the universal ruler of all that appears and exists. His wisdom intent is enriched by the ‘three neighs’ – which is too vast a subject to explain right now. What you need to understand about Hayagriva … is that there is no one greater or more powerful than “the Powerful Heruka.” — Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche [3]

    330px TangoMonastery Hayagriva monestary in Bhutan
    Tango Monastery in Bhutan is Hayagriva’s monestary.

    Hayagriva, the Wrathful Heruka, is the “Incredible Hulk” emanation of Amitabha and Chenrezig. As the Heruka of Amitabha’s Lotus Family, he is Chief among the Wrathful emanations, representing Dharma and Speech in its ferocious form — signified by the screaming (neighing) horse head bursting out of his fiery red hair.

    Venerable Steve Carlier explains: “Hayagriva is a wrathful aspect of Chenresig. Making prayers to Hayagriva is a swift and powerful means to overcome negative forces and obstacles including those caused by spirit harms. Prayers to the deity are especially beneficial in these degenerate times when sufferings and illnesses are rampant due to the strong delusions of sentient beings. As a manifestation of Chenresig, the practice of Hayagriva also helps to develop compassion.” [1]

    The brave practitioner who meditates on this monstrously beautiful emanation can overcome obstacles quickly, and understand His cry of Wisdom (Dharma.) Hayagriva is also famous for very effective healing practices. [For a praise to Hayagriva see below. Hayagriva practice, though, normally requires teacher guidance and empowerment. Honoring and praising Hayagriva is fine for all people.]


    Hayagriva Secret Accomplishment and Vajravarahi his wisdom consort Buddha Weekly
    Hayagriva Secret Accomplishment and Vajravarahi wisdom consort.

    The Five Deities, Including Hayagriva of the Kagyé

    According to Rigpa Wiki, the Five Deities — the Highest Forms of Body, Speech Mind, Qualities and Activities of the Buddhas, with Hayagriva as the Highest form of Speech — are:

    Hayagriva (enlightened speech)

    Hayagriva is a wrathful manifestation of Avalokiteshvara. Generally, Avalokiteshvara embodies the compassion of all the buddhas, and so he is connected with the enlightened mind, but in his manifestation, as Hayagriva, he represents enlightened speech.

    Yamantaka (enlightened body)

    The deity representing the enlightened body is known as Mañjushri Body or Yamantaka. Although usually Mañjushri represents enlightened speech, here in the Kagyé he represents enlightened body. Having the nature of Mañjushri this deity appears in wrathful form and is known as Yamantaka. This is the same as the yidam deity known as Vajrabhairava (Tib. Jikché), on which the followers of the Riwo Ganden tradition (i.e. the Gelugpas) meditate.



    Yangdak Heruka (enlightened mind)

    Vajrasattva is the peaceful form. The wrathful manifestation of Vajrasattva is Yangdak Heruka. He is similar to the deity known as Chakrasamvara (Tib. Demchok), who is practised in the Gelug tradition, and all the deities of the Mother Tantras are included in the practice of Yangdak.

    Chemchok (enlightened qualities)

    Generally, Chemchok is the chief of the mandala, but here in the Kagyé, Chemchok is the deity who embodies all the buddhas’ enlightened qualities.

    Vajrakilaya (enlightened activity)

    The deity representing enlightened activity is Vajrakilaya. In peaceful form, he is Vajrasattva, in semi-wrathful form he is Vajravidarana (Tib. Dorje Namjom), in wrathful form he is Vajrapani, and in extremely wrathful form he is Vajrakilaya.

    These five are wisdom deities.”

    Benefits of Practice of Yoga of Hayagriva

    The benefits to the devotee who practices the Yoga of Hayagriva (NOTE: requires full initiation and permission of a lineage teacher) were stated in The Manifestation of the Superb Victorious Wrathful Great Horse Tantra:

    Buddha Weekly Three horses hayagriva tamdrin Buddhism
    Hayagriva, the great Heruka aspect of Amitabha.

    “To the superb Initiation of the Fierce Hayagriva
    And the victorious Tantra of great value!
    If one surely beholds the initiation and has a fancy for it, he will be emancipated from fear and all diseases.
    Those who practice the Yoga of Hayagriva, their patron Buddha,
    Will be immune for seven hundred births from falling into the lower path and hell.
    Those who have the faith and the pure realization constantly,
    Will in their future life be born in the Pure Land.
    If one recites each word of mantra 100,000 times,
    Right in this life he shall see the face of Hayagriva.
    Even in offering a part of the offerings to the Lord,
    He will influence his surroundings and his neighbors.
    Those who merely recite the mantra frequently
    Will be free from the afflictions caused by evil spirits.”


    Buddha Weekly Hayagriva close cropped red lotus Buddhism
    Two-armed Hayagriva in union with wisdom consort Vajravarahi. (In the Secret Practices of Tara — a Highest Tantra practice — Green Tara’s consort is Hayagriva. It varies on the teacher and tantra. Hayagriva has a green horse head bursting symbolically from his fiery hair, representing Dharma speech in its active (green) form. Vajravarahi has a sow (pig) head, signifying overcoming of ignorance. The union is symbolic of the importance of combining both compassion and wisdom in practice. The red flaming lotus signifies Amitabha and the Lotus Family of Compassion and Dharma Speech.


    The Tantra of Proud Master Hayagriva states:

    “Those who practice the Yoga of Hayagriva will attain the Common and the Eight Superb Accomplishments. They will also obtain the Four Accomplishments of the Illumination-Holding (Yogi). He who does this will likewise attain the Three Bodies, the Four Bodies, the Five Bodies, and so on. He will also attain the Accomplishment of Mahamudra.”

    The Secret Wrathful Hayagriva Tantra calls Hayagriva:

    “the King of all Protections.”

    Speech the Most Important Jewel

    Of the three Jewels, it is often said by teachers that the most important is the Speech Jewel, the Dharma. The Buddha Jewel is our example, and the Sangha Jewel is our support, but it is the Dharma that points us to the path of Liberation and Enlightenment. Even if Buddha is gone beyond, and Sangha is not available to help us, the Dharma can always guide us.

    This makes the Enlightened Deities of Speech the most important for day-to-day practice. For this reason, Amtibabha is the most most beloved Buddha after Shakyamuni Himself. Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) — an emanation of Amitabha — is the best-known of the Compassionate family of the Lotus. The compassionate Ones, the Lotus Family, represents Speech in Kriya, Yoga and Anuttarayoga Tantras.


    Buddha Weekly Hayagriva Mandala final Buddhism
    The mandala of Hayagriva. The triangle points down. Top is West (red) the direction of the Padma family, including Hayagriva and Amitabha. The syllable in the centre is the seed syllable HRI in Sanskrit. (Tibetan script of Hri inset in another image). This image is the subject of the famous Hayagriva sand manadalas, which are built one grain of sand at a time. (See above inset photo and description.)


    Where “ordinary” pacifying speech and compassion are insufficient to the goal — the goal of Enlightenment, or removing the obstacles to Liberation — then normally a Vajrayana Buddhist turns  to the Heruka or Wrathful emanations. A devotee of Amitabha, or Dharma, would seek out mighty Hayagriva.

    Hayagriva — the Heruka of Speech

    Symbolism is crucial in Vajrayana visualized meditations. Even so, many wonder why Hayagriva appears to have a green horse head bursting out of his wrathful fiery hair — the horse screaming with mouth wide open. A horses roar, the challenge of the stallion protecting his herd, is a terrible sound, piercing in intensity, carrying for miles in all directions.


    Buddha Weekly Hayagriva 6Armed 500 Buddhism


    The green represents “wind” and “action” — as with Green Tara. In some tantras, Green Tara is also his consort. The ferocious horse scream is the penultimate symbolic roar of Dharma, carried on the winds to benefit all beings. Hayagriva is the ultimate “activity of the power of speech and Dharma.” Hayagriva is the Heruka emanation of Amitabha (and Chenrezig) and, as such, represents the most powerful aspect of speech or Dharma.

    Why is Speech so Important?

    Buddha Weekly Hrih on a lotus Buddhism
    Hrih on a lotus (this time in Tibetan script). Hrih is the seed syllable of the Padma family, including Amitabha, Chenrezig and Hayagriva. Because the Amitabha family is associated with Dharma Speech, the seed syllable is doubly significant.

    Hayagriva’s Sanskrit “seed” syllable is Hrih, the same as Amitabha. At a sophisticated level of understanding, this single syllable Hrih is Hayagriva Himself. The seed syllable itself is also symbolic of the awesome power of sound, words, mantras, syllables, speech.

    A single seed syllable, or a meaningful mantra, or a sutra or tantra text is often said to have the greatest impact in Buddhist practice. In this way, the three major emanations of Dharma Speech — Amitabha, Chenrezig and Hayagriva — are critical to Vajrayana practice. And, for those facing “obstacles” of any kind — afflictive emotions such as anger, illness such as cancer, poverty, or any issue that interferes with dedication to practice — Hayagriva is certainly the “go-to” Heruka.

    All the key important aspects of Amitabha are “intensified” to its most wrathful level — Amitabha transformed into the Hulk-lilke version of Himself. All the symbols of Amitabha are still there: compassion, fire element, red, West, Lotus family (two-armed Hayagriva holds a red lotus), the aggregate of distinguishing (recognition), deep awareness of individualities, the Pure Land of Sukhavati (Western Paradise). And, importantly, as “Speech”, Hayagriva upholds the teachings of the sutra vehicles and the classes of tantra — perhaps in a more ferocious manner.

    Himilayan Art expert describes the popularity of Hayagriva in art:



    The Three Neighs of Hayagriva

    Hayagriva, the must wrathful aspect of Amtabha, controls all three worlds with the “Three Neighs of Hayagraiva” — rta mgrin gyi rta skad theng gsum. According to Rangjung Yeshe Wiki:

    “Three Neighs of Hayagriva: [the three continua of ground, path and result]. or alternatively:

    1) the neigh which arouses the world to the unborn identity of samsara and nirvana.

    2) the neigh which offers animate and inanimate worlds as a feast-offering to repay karmic debts gsod and

    3) the neigh which then enlists the support of beings and binds them under an oath of allegiance.” [14]


    Buddha Weekly Hayagriva Green Wind Horse ferocious rattle Sean Wah Buddhism
    Hayagriva’s green horse. Close up detail of a Dharma rattle created by artist Sean Wah with a detail of the windhorse on Hayagriva’s head. Note the sparks and flames of the mane, which symbolize his power. The horse head (or heads) emerge from Hayagriva’s heads. Hayagriva has three heads/faces (in most visualizations), representing the Three Doors: Body, Speech, Mind. As explained by Ven. Lama Jigme Rinpoche: “The horse’s manes are red symbolizing that it is there to give help; neighing with opened mouth, it conquers the three realms and terrifies evil spirits. “

    Symbolism of Hayagriva is itself a teaching

    The symbols of Hayagriva’s sacred emanation body are itself a teaching. As you visualize the wrathful emanation of Amitabha / Avalokiteshvara, it is vital to understand what each symbol represents. In an important teaching by Ven. Lama Jigme Rinpoche, teaching at Padma Rigdzin Ling, he described the benefits of the symbols:

    “As Hayagriva offers help, his body reflects a radiant brilliance. Hayagriva’s three heads represent the three doors: Body, Speech and Mind. By completing the entire six perfections (Paramitas), the six armed one subdues the suffering of the six causes (the six realms of Samsara). Hayagriva has three faces: a green face on the right who is smiling greatly, a white face on the left who is showing extreme covetousness, and a red face in the center. Each of Hayagriva’s faces comprise of three eyes, each seeing the three times (past, present, and future). All of his eyes are round and opened widely with wrathful energy. His mouth is opened with four fangs, which destroy the four evils (Maras).” [18]

    Buddha Weekly Hayagriva Ganesh Vajrayogini Amitabah high poster final larger Buddhism
    Masterpiece Hayagriva Sandrup and mandala.


    Synopsis of symbols and meaning:

    • Three faces or heads: represent the three doors: Body, Speech and Mind.
    • Six arms: subdue the six realms of Samsara with the Six Paramitas (Perfections), which are:
      • generosity.
      • morality.
      • patience.
      • energy.
      • meditation.
      • wisdom.
    • Three eyes on each face: sees the three times: past, present and future.
    • Eyes wide open: wrathful energy
    • Four fangs in His wrathful mouth: destroy the four evils (Maras)
    • Green horse head(s):
      • wind horse energy
      • red mane of horse(s): help from the deity
      • red sparks fill all realms: purifying and healing energy pacifies suffering
    • Implements in each of the six arms represent his awesome powers:
      • Vajra in the first right hand “symbolizing the five primordial wisdoms.” [18]
      • Khatvanga / Trident in the second right hand (middle) with a “trident, bearing three heads, symbolizing great bliss”[18] and also represents His Wisdom consort Vajravarahi.
      • Vajra Sword in the third (bottom) hand: “symbolizing the 8 Mahasiddhas” [18] cutting through ignorance with Discerning Wisdom of the Padma Amitabha Buddha Family.
      • Wrathful Mudra, his top left hand: “left has the index finger pointing towards the maras and evil forces” [18]
      • Short Spear in middle left hand: “pierces through perverted views” or ignorance.
      • Noose of Human Intestines in bottom left hand, “bound together into space” [19] and also represents that Hayagriva, typically a Father Tantra (intestines represent practices of the “Illusory Body”, described often as Father Tantra. )
    • Elephant-hide clothing: victory over narrow-mindedness.
    • Human-skin clothing: symbolic of impermanence
    • Tiger-skin cassock (the lower part of a monk’s robe): transformation of anger into wisdom and insight
    • Bone ornaments: “Hayagriva has two fastened ornaments that adorn his eight charnel ground attire, they are made of sacred thread (Brahmin thread) that is made from human hair and are ornamented with bones” [18]
    • Jewelry and the Six Paramitas:
      • Bracelets: symbolize Paramita of patience
      • Girdle for Paramita of morality
      • Ear ornament for patience
      • Necklace for diligence
      • Skull Crown for contemplation
      • Offering scarf for knowledge.
    • Five organs represented by eyes, tongue, ears, nose and the heart.
    • Eight legs stand on the Eight Great Nagas. Typically, nagas are associated with illnesses, or negative karmic outcomes due to technological development of the land. Rinpoche explains: “He carries extraordinary powers which help avoid smaller difficulties caused by ghosts, or bigger issues caused by King spirits, Naga spirits, Gong Spirits, etc. Due to the development in science and technology, humans continue to pollute the environment with chemicals and exploit natural resources through mining, deforestation and the development of land; this in term results in new and existing diseases.”


    Buddha Weekly Eight legs stomp on the eight Nagas of suffering Buddhism
    Hayagriva’s eight legs stomp on the Eight great Nagas — stomping out the causes of suffering.


    Venerable Lama Jigme Rinpoche explained why visualizing the symbols is more than just iconic:

    “The purpose of practicing the development stage is to refute the appearance and conception of ordinariness and to also teach clear manifestation to disprove appearance and have pride when you dispute conception. Clear Manifestation is the aspect of the deity to be attained by holding to the mind. Unfettered by appearance, fettered by conception. “Cut down the conception!” The Great Master Naropa so said.” [19]

    The origin story of Hayagriva in Tantra

    As with all Tantric elements, the story of Hayagriva’s origin is meaningful and rich with symbolism. During the initiation of Green Rta Mgrin (Green Hayagriva) — from the Treasury of Percipience — this story is first told by the Guru:

    “In the time long past when the Great Bliss-Beyond-Effort, the Lotus Dancing-Master, the Lord Buddha Amida was staying in the Heaven of Aog-min, a vicious demon named Dregs Byod Tshogs Sprul (prideful actor multitude-conjurer) roamed the worlds (of the Cosmos), committing various evils and doing grievous harm to all sentient beings.

    “Therefore the Lord conjured the Mandala of the Green Hayagriva, and by this subjugated the demon. Whereupon the great Mandala of Hayagriva was elaborated, the Tantra of Hayagriva preached. This caused the king of all demons great distress.

    4 086 Hayagriva Old Mandala
    The Mandala of Hayagriva in symbolic 2-dimensional form.

    “In a furious mood, he raised his five burning poisons and deranged the Three Kingdoms. He brought contagious diseases, famine, and war to the world. He destroyed the crops and showered various weapons of destruction upon the earth. At his instigation all the demons displayed dreadful forms; plagues raged, fields were scorched, and great floods covered the corners of the earth. Evil burned continually like furious fire; both the Path of Virtue and the Paths of Liberation were cut; the minds of the people were oppressed; and all the sentient beings throughout the Six Lokas were thrown into immeasurable misery.

    Thereupon, the Bhagavan (Amida), from his heart center, sent forth the Mandala of the Wrathful Hayagriva, whereby the demon king was subjugated and bound to observe the Precepts.

    By the end of the Kasyapa Buddha’s time in this Kalpa, the demon king Matram Rutras afflicted all the sentient beings, killing them and eating their corpses. Whereupon the Bhagavan again sent forth the Mandala of Hayagriva transformed in blue, and plunged it into the chest of the demon, cutting him to pieces.

    After the extinction of the demon, his demon-body became the abode of Hayagriva. Then he was bound by the Precepts and became known as Mahagala, the Guardian of Dharma. At that time, the Tantra of the Manifestation of the Superb Horse was preached. Later on, the Nirmanakaya Buddha, Gotama, preached the Seven Hundred Stanzas of the Enlightenment of Hayagriva.” [2]

    [For a more detailed version of this story, quoted from Padma Thangyig Serteng or The Golden Rosary of the Lotus-born, see the section below “Hayagriva Battles Rudra”.]

    Amazing Hayagriva Sang Drup Secret Accomplishment Buddha Weekly
    Hayagriva Sang Drup Secret Accomplishment is one aspect of Hayagriva, the mighty Heruka aspect of Amitabha and Chenrezig.


    The great mantra of Hayagriva

    Hayagriva’s practice, although a Highest Yoga Tantra practice — that strictly requires empowerment to self-generate — is openly practiced by many devotees of the Padma family: compassionate people who care about the suffering of the world. It is also considered the “practice for modern” times — since Hayagriva’s mandala exists tangibly in our world (see the section on the 64 Sacred places below.)

    For these reasons, teachers such as Lama Zopa Rinpoche, actively encourage students to praise, honour and even chant the mantra of Hayagriva. Empowerment is still required to practice self-generation and the more in-depth practices, but the mantra has become widely distributed and actively encouraged in these difficult modern times full of strife, pandemic and obstacles.

    As the Heruka of the Speech and Lotus Family, Hayagriva’s mantra is particularly effective. Although practicing Hayagriva requires empowerment — a Highest Yoga Tantra practice — many people attend Empowerments to recieve blessings only. Geshe Tenley explains: “You may also attend as a blessing without taking vows or formal commitments. Geshe Tenley explains that when this empowerment is given in the monastery in India, many people come from afar to receive this powerful blessing.” [5]

    Note: this chanting of the mantra is in the Tibetan style (see below). Although hearing the mantra can be a blessing, as per the Sutra of Forming Hayagriva: “Whoever, including even the insects, has heard the name and mantra of Hayagriva only one time will never again fall into the lower paths”

    Venerable Zasep Rinpoche advises: “Regarding sharing and reciting Hayagriva’s mantras it is fine, as long as you don’t do self generation without the empowerment.” — in other words visualize Hayagriva in front of you, not with yourself as the deity.


    Attending an empowerment for a blessing, listening to the mantra, making offerings or praying to Hayagriva, are all beneficial to any sentient being. The main mantra is, as published on the Kurukulla Centre for Tibetan studies is [See commentary on Mantra below section]:


    in Tibetan pronunciation this can sound like:

    Om Hri Benza Todha Hayagiva Hulu Hulu Hum Pey

    There is also a longer version of the mantra, especially important in Hayagriva Sangdrub practice:


    In Tibetan, this is typically pronounced:



    Buddha Weekly Hayagriva Mantra in Tibetan English and with Meaning explained Buddhism
    The mantra of Hayagriva Sang Drup in Tibetan characters, English transliteration of Sanskrit (not Tibetan) and the concise explanation of the meaning of the mantra.

    In 2018, Lama Zopa’s students accumulated vast numbers of the Hayagriva mantra, dedicated to the long life of their great teacher. In Lama Zopa’s letters to students, requesting healing, Hayagriva’s mantra is often recommended:

    “Most Secret Hayagriva is the special protector deity of Sera Je Monastery, the monastery of Choden Rinpoche, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Geshe Tsulga, Geshe Tenley and other teachers with connection to Kurukulla Center. Recently it has been advised to do as many Hayagriva mantras as possible dedicated to the long life of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the Spiritual Director of Kurukulla Center.” [5]



    Lama Zopa at an event
    Lama Zopa.


    On the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, Lama Zopa recommended to a student who engages in healing for others:

    “When you practice healing on someone in pain, one method is to visualize the moon syllable OM on your hand. It is white in color and its nature is light.

    You should then recite the Most Secret Hayagriva mantra, which you need to memorize:


    While pressing your hand on the painful area, keep reciting this mantra.”


    Mantra Commentary and Meaning

    Although you don’t have to understand the meaning of the mantra, unless you are actively practicing Hayagriva as a self-generation or as a Yidam, it’s helpful to know what the Sanskrit describes. Bear in mind, Sankrit vowels have extensive multiple meanings. However,  Ven. Lama Jigme Rinpoche’s public commentary on the mantra is helpful [18].


    Om‘ is the Vajra Peak Tantra; it is most supreme, it is filled with wealth, treasure, auspiciousness, and prosperity. It is endowed with the aspect of fortune, promise, success, and it is the essence of holding a precious gem.

    Hrih‘ is Hayagriva’s own seed syllable put at the beginning of the mantra for invocation. Wisdom is also the syllable of ‘Hrih‘, which is the heart of Buddhahood.

    Pema Than‘ is the “eliminating lotus”.

    Benza Trohdha‘ is the wrathful Vajra.

    Hooloo Hooloo‘ means strive, strive!

    Hung‘ is the great bliss from the nature of the five wisdoms, in which the vowel U is demonstrated by the completeness of those five wisdoms.

    Phet‘ means to cut down or to break.

    The mental construction of perceiving attributes in accordance with time and purpose, so the act of cutting or breaking is attached to this mantra. In order to explain the meaning precisely, you have to cut down all the unfavorable conditions of mental construction in order to perceive the attributes of the five wisdoms. Through using the Wrathful Vajra Hayagriva’s eliminating lotus ‘Pema Than‘, you can attain the union of bliss and emptiness in body, speech, and mind. By meditating accordingly (Samadhi) on the development stage of Hayagriva and by diligently reciting his mantra, no evil spirits of the three realms will be able to harm you. The blessings of Hayagriva will enter your heart and you will immediately attain all the supreme and common siddhis.” [18]

    NOTE: Since the Sutra for Forming Hayagriva encourages chanting the mantra for “even the insects, and many — but not all — teachers say the mantra is fine to chant (as long as you visualize Hayagriva in front of you) we publish it here. Specially, the Sutra for Forming Hayagriva says: “

    “Whoever, including even the insects, has heard the name and mantra of Hayagriva only one time will never again fall into the lower paths.”

    Venerable Zasep Rinpoche indicated it is fine to say the mantra provided you visualize Hayagriva in front of you — in other words, without empowerment, you may not self-generate as Hayagriva.

    In Sanskrit, the mantra appears either as




    Taktri and Tatro widely translated from Sanskrit to English mean “Place” or “there” which makes Padman Tatro literally “Lotus Place” — or the Pure Land Sukhavati of the Padma (Lotus) family. In the Tibetan version, this is pronounced Pema Than Din. Than Din is also Tandin, or the Tibetan name of Hayagriva. However, Lama Jigme defines ‘Pema Than‘ — which is Tibetan version of the Sanskrit Padman Tatro — as the “eliminating lotus.” Both are correct — Lotus Place and Eliminating Lotus, depending on the commentary.

    Secret Attainment Hayagriva Sang Drub (Sangdrup)

    Secret Attainment Hayagriva (Hayagriva Sangdrup or Sang drub) — or Secret Accomplishment Hayagriva — is the penultimate wrathful form of Hayagriva, an Annutara Yoga Highest Yoga aspect and practice. Hayagriva Sang Drub is perhaps the best known, as this was the key practice of the great second Buddha Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche.


    Buddha Weekly Three horses hayagriva tamdrin Buddhism
    Hayagriva Sang Drub with three horse heads and six arms, the great Heruka aspect of Amitabha.


    On the Rangjung Yeshe Wiki, it is described as:

    “A Hayagriva practice discovered as a treasure teaching (gter ma) by Nyemo Tertön Sangye Wangchen (snye mo ba sangs rgyas dbang chen; aka rgya gong ri pa sangs rgyas dbang chen, 12th century) and Kyergangpa Chökyi Senge (1143-1216). Lama Kyergangpa was particularly devoted to the deity Hayagriva. Accordingly, in his dream practice, he visited the pure realm of Guru Padmasambhava repeatedly and received the full transmission of the “rta mgrin gsang sgrub” or “Secret Accomplishment Hayagriva.”

    As advised by Guru Rinpoche, he also requested these transmissions from a treasure revealer in Tibet, known as Nyemo Tertön. He greatly surprised the Tertön with his requests for this practice because the Tertön had kept his discovery of these teachings a complete secret. Two times the Tertön withheld some secret oral instructions, only to be asked specifically for them later. Thus it became apparent that Kyergangpa could only have been advised to ask for them by Guru Rinpoche in person.

    Kyergangpa spread this teaching among his students and it eventually became popular with several lineages. Though a teaching cycle of the treasure or terma tradition, most commonly associated with the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, it became popular predominantly with the Sarma schools. This Hayagriva cycle of teachings continues to be practiced among Shangpa Kagyu practitioners to the present day, mainly in conjunction with the rituals of the Six-armed Mahakala, and is also very popular among various lineages of Gelugpa practitioners. The 3rd Tukwan, Lobzang Chökyi Nyima (thu’u bkwan blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma, 1737-1802), the great master of Gonlung Jampa Ling and 35th throne holder of the famous Kumbum monastery in Amdo in northeastern Tibet, wrote particularly many arrangements for this practice.” [13]


    Most Secret Hayagriva

    Most Secret Hayagriva is another Highest Yoga Tantra aspect of Hayagriva — together with Hayagriva Sang Drub. Visually, the main differences in visualization are one green horse head on top of three faces for Most Secret Hayagriva, versus three green horse heads (one for each face) with Hayagriva Sang Drub. Most Secret Hayagriva appears in union with consort and with “Heruka” wings, while Hayagriva Sang Drub is solitary, although his consort is represented by the Katvanga in his second left hand.

    Both have similar benefits and are Annutara Yoga, highest yoga, class of tantra with commitments. According to a teaching synopsis of H.E. Choden Rinpoche’s 2013 visit to the Kurukulla centre:

    “Hayagriva is a wrathful manifestation of Chenrezig, the embodiment of all the Buddha’s compassion. Devotion to and practice based upon Hayagriva is a swift and powerful means to overcome negative forces and obstacles. Prayers to Hayagriva are especially beneficial in these degenerate times when sufferings and illnesses are rampant due to the strong delusions of sentient beings.

    Relying on this practice dispels obstacles created by naga energy such as cancer, leprosy and skin diseases, landlord spirits which manifest as paralysis or spirit harm, and epilepsy which is connected to spirit harm. The principal cause of these illnesses is one’s negative karma, while the non-human entities are precipitating conditions.

    Relying on this practice dispels obstacles created by naga energy such as cancer, leprosy and skin diseases, landlord spirits which manifest as paralysis or spirit harm, and epilepsy which is connected to spirit harm. The principal cause of these illnesses is one’s negative karma, while the non-human entities are precipitating conditions.

    Hayagriva is in the Annutara Yoga, highest yoga, class of tantra.”

    Annually, many centers and monasteries celebrate Hayagriva Pujas for the public benefit, including Kopan and Sere Jey:

    “Kopan Monastery offering the extensive Most Secret Hayagriva Puja (Tamdin tsokkhong). This is an all-day puja with an elaborate torma offering and extensive prayers and meditation. This puja was offered for the long life of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, as well as for the whole FPMT organization. Most Secret Hayagriva is the wrathful manifestation of Chenrezig and is also the main protector deity of Sera Je Monastery and also FPMT”:[12]

    Hayagriva and Tara

    Hayagriva’s consort in most practices is Vajravarahi. It is through the combination of the horse’s neigh (Hayagriva) and the sow’s grunt (Vajravarahi) that the great demon Ego was defeated in our world. [See Hayagriva battles Rudra section.] Hayagriva is none other than the Heruka form of Avalokiteshvara, while Vajravarahi is the blissful wisdom Dakini aspect of Tara. In the story of Hayagriva and Rudra, Samantabhadra Buddha directs the manifestations:

    “Assume the forms and sexes of Chenrezi and Dolma (Avalokita and Tara) and subdue the enemy by assuming the shapes of the deities Horse-mane and Sow’s head (Hayagriva and Vajravarahi).” [17]

    In other tantras, Hayagriva is the consort of Tara — notably in a very secret higher practice of Tara. In a lineage teaching described by Bopar Rinpoche, in Tara, the Divine Feminine [9], he outlined the “Secret” higher practices of Tara (only for initiates), including the visualization of Hayagriva as consort of Tara:

    “In the center of the celestial palace, Samaya Tara, green, in union with the male deity Hayagriva (Tandrin).”

    This secret practice focuses on working with the inner body and channels, and can only be undertaken with permission, training and initiation.

    As described above, the Wisdom Consort may also appear (or be visualized) as Red Vajravarahi and also as Blue Vajravarahi. In essence Tara and Vajravarahi are one — different visualized aspects of the Wisdom Deity. In Tara’s form, there is somewhat more empahasis on “activity.”

    Black Hayagriva

    Black Hayagriva is another special form of Hayagriva, “Black Hayagriva is very special, rarely practiced these days and rarely known.” [10] Lama Sonam Tsering Rinpoche explains Black Hayagriva:

    “The emanation of all Buddha’s speech arises as Avalokiteshvara, the form of compassion. In order to tame the wildest beings, Avalokiteshvara manifests as extremely wrathful Hayagriva. In this time of degeneration the inner elements of beings are imbalanced with very strong clinging and passions. Externally, this causes war and the use of biological and chemical weapons. Many new diseases with no known cure appear and epidemics spread quickly. Even friends, husbands, wives, and children seem intent on cheating and manipulating each other, so that no one knows who to rely on. This naturally leads to imbalances in the outer elements. The water element causes floods, tsunamis, and hurricanes; the fire element causes volcanoes, drought, and heat waves; wind causes tornadoes and windstorms; and the earth element causes earthquakes and landslides. Likewise, all the different classes of spirits become upset. The whole world, whether it is the inner elements of sentient beings or the outer elements, is extremely turbulent and out of control. At times such as this it is difficult for Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and wrathful deities to penetrate beings’ minds. That is when this form of Hayagriva in union with Tröma Nagmo, who is the most wrathful and therefore the most compassionate, appears.


    Black Hayagriva detail Pivotal HR Solutions Blog
    Detail from a Black Hayagriva tangkha.


    Extremely Wrathful Black Hayagriva has special power to affect beings’ minds and benefit those who are depressed, dysfunctional, or crazy, as well as to cure disease. This is the condensed essence of all the billions of Hayagriva practices. It is easy to practice and highly effective. Even hearing this practiced will subdue all classes of spirits. Remembering it will eradicate all wrong views and demonic forces. Touching the image of this Hayagriva will pacify all disease and the passions of the five poisons. For whoever has a connection to this practice the seed of samsara will be destroyed.” [10]

    Video from Himalayan Art on Black Hayagriva:

    Batou Kannon  馬頭観音

    Hayagriva is a popular wrathful aspect of Kanon (Guanyin, Kuan Yin, Avalokiteshvara), typically depicted with a white horse head — versus the green horse head favoured in Tibet and Nepal.


    Japanese Hayagriva
    Hayagriva is also popular in Japan.


    “Also called Batou Myouou 馬頭明王 (Sk: Hayagriva). The Horse-headed *Kannon 観音 in an angry, funnu 忿怒, form. He is also considered to be the angry form of the Buddha Muryouju 無量寿. One of the *Roku Kannon 六観音, who saves those in the realm of animals, and also one of the hachidai myouou 八大明王 (see *myouou 明王).

    “He is distinguished by the white horse’s head that he wears like a crown. The horse is one of the symbols of dominion of the Ideal king, Kyouryou rinjin 教令輪身 (or Kyouryou jouou 教令聖王; Sk: Chakravartin). There are many different forms of Batou having one to three faces and two to eight arms, and he holds different attributes in different images. In the Kannon Section of the *Taizoukai mandara 胎蔵界曼荼羅, he has three faces and two arms, is red in color, and makes the konpon-in 根本印 gesture in front of his chest. However, in art forms with three faces and eight arms are most common.

    “The cult of Batou appears not to have been as popular as those of the other esoteric Kannon, although it is recorded that an image of Batou was enshrined in Saidaiji 西大寺, Nara (late 8c). Batou is sometimes found in sets of the Roku Kannon, but independent images dating from the Heian period are rare. Well-known examples dating from the Kamakura and Muromachi periods include the standing statues in Kanzeonji 観世音寺, Fukuoka prefecture, and Joururiji 浄瑠璃寺, Kyoto, as well as the painted image of seated Batou in the Boston Museum of Art. In the Edo period, Batou came to be worshipped as a protector of horses due to his iconography and his role as savior of those in the realm of animals. Many remaining stone statues *sekibutsu 石仏, of Batou were once set in place to protect travelers and their horses from injury on dangerous paths. It is also thought that Batou became conflated with a folk horse deity believed to be the vehicle of a deity *kami 神, who rides between this world and the sacred realm. Because of this identification, he became the protector of horses and the Buddhist counterpart *honjibutsu 本地仏, of deities of common komagata 駒形 (horse-shaped) shrines, which are found all over Japan.” [11]

    Hayagriva Battles the Demon Ego (Rudra)

    The most enduring and symbolic tale of Hayagriva, a demonstration of the power of the wrathful Wisdom of Discernment to overcome Ego, is the story of Hayagriva and Rudra. Found in chapters 5-8 of Padma Thangyig Serteng or The Golden Rosary of the Lotus-born, as documented by Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal. Hayagriva’s skillful, wrathful means, designed to overcome rampant ego and attachments, is described as a world-changing event, a battle beyond epic. In the legend, the world was devastated by the Rudra “Black Salvation.” All peaceful means to suppress Rudra failed. [This is a long tale. To read the full story, Khandro.net the “Tale of Two”>>]

    These were desperate times:

    “Nagpo was indeed black, and horrible to look at with his three heads, each with three eyes. He had six hands, four feet and two wings. Immediately at his birth all the auspicious signs of the country disappeared, and the eighteen inauspicious ones appeared. Malignant epidemics attacked the whole region of Lanka-puri. Some died, others only suffered, but all were in misery. Lamentation, famine and sorrow beset the land. There were disease, bloodshed, mildew, hailstorms, droughts, floods and all other kinds of calamities. Even dreams were frightful, and ominous signs portending a great catastrophe oppressed everyone. Evil spirits roamed the land. So great were the evils that it seemed as if the merit of everyone had been exhausted all at once…” [17]

    So terrible was this demon, that he proclaimed:

    “Who is there greater and mightier than I?

    If there be any Lord who would excel me, Him too will I subjugate.”

    The hope against this apocalyptic demon was none other than Hayagriva and Vajravarahi.

    “This demon will have to be ground down — wiped out to the last atom, in this one body.

    Divine Horse-headed [Hayagriva] is the one who will dispel this threatening misfortune…”

    Later, after overcoming Rudra’s retinue, Hayagriva and Vajravarahi faced Rudra with the Neigh of the Horse (Dharma voice and wrathful discerning wisdom) and the Grunt of the Sow (symbolizing Bliss Emptiness Wisdom):

    “Then the Glorious One as Hayagriva, with his divine consort, Vajravarahi, each expressed their triumph by neighing and grunting three times.

    Hearing that Rudra was struck with mortal fear, but coming to the spot he said:

    “What do you say, little son of Hayagriva and Vajravarahi?

    All inhabitants of the realm of devas and ashuras

    Proclaim my virtues and sing my praises —

    I cannot be conquered. Rest yourselves in peace,

    Regard me with humility, and bow down to me.

    Even the regent of the devas in his odd garb ,

    In ages past, failed to conquer me.”

    Saying this, he raised his hands and came to lay them on the young one’s head. At this, Hayagriva immediately entered the rudra’s body from below by the secret path (Skt. guhya) and impaling him right the way through, showed his horse-head out the top of the head of the rudra. The oily fat of its body made the horse head look green. The mane dyed with blood became red and the eye-brows splashed with its bile became yellow. The forehead splashed with brains became white. And so the Glorious One, having assumed the shape and costume of the rudra, took on a terrible majesty.

    At the same time, Vajravarahi, his consort, did the same to the rudra’s consort, Krodheshvari, piercing and impaling her. She forced her sow’s head right up through the crown of that of the demoness until it towered above it. The Sow’s head turned black from having been steeped in the fat of the rakshasi.

    Then the two divine beings embraced each other, and in this form engendered [another] male child, a krodhabhairava (wrathful-terrifier.) Having done this, Hayagriva neighed shrilly six times, and Vajravarahi grunted deeply five times.”

    The world’s sixty-four power places

    The practice of Hayagriva is a living tradition. Although most Vajrayana practices generate the mandala of a visualized deity, then re-absorb the visualization, the mandala of Hayagriva and Vajravarahi (His consort) is a living one. The sacred places still exist in our world. It is for this reason Hayagriva practice is considered so powerful, and alive. Because these places still manifest, Hayagriva’s blessings are very powerful. It is for this reason Hayagriva is often called the “Ruler of the Worlds.”

    “There is something very profound to be understood here,” explained Orgyen Tobgyal in a teaching on the Wang Du. [For a feature on the Wang Du — the Great Cloud of Blessings, see>>] “According to the Nyingmapas, all the victorious ones produced Glorious Hayagriva and Vajravarahi, who then relied on the skilful method of union free from attachment, and annihilated and liberated Matam Rudra.

    “They scattered the remains of Rudra’s body throughout the world’s sixty-four power places – twenty-four sacred places, thirty-two sacred lands and eight great charnel grounds – all of which are sacred to Hayagriva and Vajravarahi. Each place is guarded by a chief daka and dakini, who were emanated by Hayagriva and Vajravarahi. As their mandalas have yet to be dissolved, each place continues to be guarded and preserved as sacred fields of the profound Dharma. The qualities of these profound Dharma fields are such that, through the power and blessings of the dakas and dakinis, by visiting just one of them, males will be blessed and become members of the daka family, and females will be blessed and become members of the dakini family. So, “Hosts of vajra dakas and dakinis who attract and magnetize” means not only all these dakas and dakinis, but also all those mentioned in the Chakrasamvara teachings.” [15]

    Note: Matam Rudra is Egoism as attached to the gross physical body. [See next section.]

    Internal Sacred Places

    The “battles” with worldly demons can be seen as metaphors for overcoming our own demons and attachments. Rudra here is not to be confused with the Vedic deity Rudra, as explained on Khandro.net: “There is a distinction between Rudra, the Vedic storm god who is Lord of Chaos (Skt. samhara-shakti, Form-loosening Energy) and the kind of being which Woodroffe designated with the spelling, “Rutra.” That one is a type of being that is essentially evil; not a devata of a celestial paradise. It is what is known as an adh’atma — a soul on a lower, destructive, path with “disintegrating propensities” that Chaos uses for its own ends.”[17]

    Hayagriva overcomes Matam Rudra — Egoism — demonstrating the power of the Wisdom of Discernment (the Wisdom of the Padma or Lotus Family and Amitabha) in overcoming our Attachments (the Poison of Desire.) For this reason, in completion and body mandala practices — more advanced Highest Yoga Tantra methods — these sacred places are associated with internal sacred places in the body (channels in the internal body.)

    The sacred places are associated with body mandala practices as well. Of the sixty four places, as noted by Ogyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, there are twenty-four sacred places, thirty-two sacred lands and eight great charnel grounds. Other sources, such as the sadhana of Yumka Dechen Gyalmo from the Longchen Nyingtik, give a different versions of these sacred places, for example: “They abide on the vajra-body inherent in every sentient being, which is symbolized here by the body of Vajrayogini.”[16] The sacred places are also explained in the Hevajra Tantra and Chakrasamvara Tantras. There is no contradiction between the various teachings. The emphasis in Hayagriva (the wrathful Heruka of the Lotus Padma family) is overcoming our desires and attachments — a key teaching going back to the Four Noble Truths of Shakyamuni Buddha.

    Generally, the twenty-four external (world sacred places) are:

    1. Jālandhara
    2. Oddiyana
    3. Paurnagiri
    4. Kamarupa
    5. Malaya
    6. Sindhu
    7. Nagara
    8. Munmuni
    9. Karunyapataka
    10. Devikota
    11. Karmarapataka
    12. Kulata
    13. Arbuta
    14. Godavari
    15. Himadri
    16. Harikela
    17. Lampaka
    18. Kani
    19. Saurasta
    20. Kalinga
    21. Kokana
    22. Caritra
    23. Kosala
    24. Vindhyakaumarapaurika

    In addition there are the Eight Great Charnel grounds:

    1. The Sitavana Cool Grove (in the East)
    2. Perfected in Body (in the South)
    3. Lotus Mound (in the West)
    4. Lanka Mound (in the North)
    5. Spontaneously Accomplished Mound (in the South-East)
    6. Display of Great Secret (in the South-West)
    7. Pervasive Great Joy (in the North-West)
    8. World Mound (in the North-East).

    Hayagriva and great King Gesar

    Buddha Weekly Modern nice King Gesar of Ling Buddhism
    Gesar of Ling, here on his magical horse Kyang Go Karkar, was a king in 1027. In his great Buddhist Epic of a million verses, we learn how to overcome our obstacles, including fear. His allegorical tale is treasured and loved by Buddhist around the world.

    One of the most important and endearing stories in Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia is that of great King Gesar of Ling. Hayagriva — and horses — of course, plays a key role in this central story:

    In the story of the birth of Gesar, published in the Shambhala Times, it was Hayagriva who empowered the hero’s magical horse, Kyang Go Karkar. [7]

    At twelve-years of age, Gesar became King only after his magical horse, Kyang Go Karkar, won a competition horse race for the throne. It was an unfair match, since Kyang Go Karkar could actually fly — although in the race he kept his feet on the earth.  [For a full story on King Gesar, see>>]

    What is a Heruka?

    Herukas — variously described as “Vira Heros”, “Wrathful Ones”, or even “Blood Drinkers” (due to complex symbolism associated with Charnel Grounds) — are the highest and fiercest emanations of Enlightened Deities. A Heruka should not be confused with “Heruka” as one of the names of Chakrasamvara (especially in Geulg School, He is often just called Heruka). A Heruka is normally a wrathful emanation of an important Buddha.


    Buddha Weekly HAYAGRIVA WITH RED LOTUS Buddhism
    Hayagriva is often visualized with a sacred fiery red Lotus in his right hand.

    As wrathful emanations, they tend to take on the “activity” of the emanating Buddha. For example, Yamantaka, is the Heruka of Manjushri, who represents both “wisdom” and “body.” Hayagriva is the Heruka of Amitabha, who represents both “compassion” and “speech.” In other words, “Hulked-up Amitabha.” Vajrakilaya is Heruka emanation of Vajrasattva, and so on.



    Hulk comics character
    Promotional image of Incredible Hulk; art by Brandon Peterson


    Hayagriva’s Terrifyingly Beautiful Appearance

    As a Highest Yoga Tantra deity, Hayagriva appears often in YabYum, or in union with a consort representing wisdom. As an all-important Heruka of Dharma Speech, his consort is equally important, the Queen of the Dakinis Herself, Vajrayogini (usually appearing as Vajravarahi with the sow’s head). Vajrayogini appears blue in this union.

    Hayagriva, as Amitabha, is a beautiful ruby red, representing not only fire, but the Padma family. Although he is “hulked up” and massive, with bristling muscles and gigantic form, and regardless of fangs and fiery hair, he is very beautiful in the ferociously masculine sense. Vajrayogini (varahi) is, as always, sensuous and stunningly beautiful, but with a slightly wrathful face. If he is the metaphorical Incredible Hulk, then she might be the irresistible vampire queen (in appearance).


    Buddha Weekly Hayagriva Tamdrin Embracing Vajrayogini Vajra Varahi Buddhism
    Vajrayogini in her blue form as consort of the great Hayagriva, Heruka aspect of Amitabha Buddha. In this form she has a sow’s head (symbolizing overcoming of ignorance) and Hayagriva has a horse head signifying the activity of Dharma Speech (most important of the three jewels.)


    There are different forms, notably, two-armed and six armed, and one-horse head versus three-horse heads. Both Nyingma and Gelugpa have three-horse head versions (in thee Gelugpa lineage, the six-armed Hayagriva has three horse heads). The two-armed emanation typically displays one face, and therefore also one horse head. The two-armed Hayagriva is usually in union with Vajrayogini (Varahi).


    Buddha Weekly Nice Hayagriva Sang Drup Secret Accomplishment Buddhism 1
    Since Hayagriva is the Heruka emanation of Amitabha — the Buddha of the Lotus Family — he is often called the “Powerful of Herukas.”




    The symbolism of the two animals in important. Haygriva has a green horse, signifying fierce action speech. Vajravarahi (Vajrayogini) has a sows head, signifying wisdom (the sow’s head symbolically represents “triumph over ignorance.”) In other words, the ferocious compassion of Hayagriva (Horse: ferocious Dharma speech to liberate us) in union with the wisdom of Vajravarahi (Sow: triumph over ignorance.)

    In the two-armed Gelugpa meditational deities, Hayagriva YabYum Vajrayogini (Vajra Varahi), ruby red Hayagriva holds a fiery red Lotus in his right hand, and nectar in a skullcup in his left. The fiery lotus is a most important symbol of the Padma (Lotus) Buddha Family of Amitabha. Lapis lazuli blue Vajrayogini carries her normal implements, flaying knife and skullcup. The symbolism of these wrathful implements has been covered previously. (For a story on wrathful deities, see this popular Buddha Weely Story>>)

    Hayagriva ceremony for the long-life of the Dalai Lama at Sera Jey Monastic University:


    Why the Horse?

    The scream of the horse is piercing, ferocious, terrifying. A stallion’s roar can terrify a pack of wolves. Horses are also symbolic of WIND — in this context Lung (Tibetan), Prana (Sanskrit) and Chi (Chinese).

    Buddha Weekly windhorse by saddaraja Buddhism
    The Tibetan Windhorse is iconic of Lung or wind (Chi, Prana or breath). The Windhorse symbolically carries the prayers and wishes of practitioners to the Universe.


    It is also said that Shakyamuni was born in the Asian year of the Horse.

    Horses also represent swift fulfilment of wishes, both because of their association with Windhorse (usually visualized with the wish-fulfilling jewel on his back) and because in ancient times the horse was the symbol of wealth. A household would guard their horses above all other assets. Horses meant survival, prosperity, safety, happiness. The loss of a horse was treated as seriously as the loss of any other family member. The horse, in Tibet and Nepal, are the most sacred of sentient beings.


    Buddha Weekly Hayagriva Sang Drup Sangdrup Secret Accomplishment Buddhism 1
    Hayagriva Sangdrup “Secret Attainment” Heruka emanation of Amitabha. His practice and mantra require empowerment from a qualified teacher. 

    Tea Offering to Hayagriva

    Hot tea is offered with mantras and prayers to symbolize “activity” of wrathful Hayagriva. This short, auspicious tea offering and prayer can be offered daily. No empowerment is required. You can chant mantras as you pour tea at the end of each line, or just pour tea, such as: Om Ah Hum, or the mantra of Hayagriva.

    Serkyem and tea offering phub dorji wang
    Tea offering serkhem.


    Traditionally, use a Serkhem. Otherwise, place a cup (ideally a stemmed cup to encourage a flow of tea) inside a larger bowl. You pour hot tea, signifying enlightened activities, allowing it to overflow the cup to signify auspicious blessings. Ideally, place blessed rice or grains (Om Ah Hum is a good blessing mantra) into the upper bowl as shown in the picture below. In some traditions, you use mixed colours of grain.

    HRIH! Hayagriva, the nine gaited king, fierce and majestic,
    You have come forth from the heart of Amitabha to defeat the evil designs of humans and non-human spirits.
    I sing praises of you and your host of deities.
    Who vanquish all foes of the Dharma and protect the practitioners;
    I sing praises to you all.
    HRIH! O fierce Vajra, born from the syllable HRIH
    You, Hayagriva, cast your fierce gaze upon the troublemakers.
    I prostrate to you who controls the three realms
    Through the resounding voice of HULU HULU HUM PEY!
    I pray that you partake of the ritual cakes and sacred offerings
    Multiply your fourfold actions of peace, increase, power and wrath
    Increasing the life, good health, merit, glory, and wealth,
    Of myself and my retinue, and those your yogis, teachers, and disciples.


    Buddha Weekly Serkyem full picture Buddhism
    A large formal tea serkym offering set with grains and black tea offerings. The go-to practice for removing obstacles is the “Serkyem” tea offering to the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and the Enlightened Protectors, who are the ferocious manifestations of the Buddhas.


    A Praise of Hayagriva

    This is adapted from an old translated praise, but does not include any secret practices that require empowerment.

    NOTE: Namo, namas translation —  نمس नमस् namas, s.m. (often used as an interjection; and changeable in comp. to नमः nama, and नमो namo), Bowing, bending, making a bow;—a bow, salutation, reverential salutation, paying honour (by gesture or words); adoration, obeisance (performed by joining the palms and inclining the head;—often used in connection with the name of a deity.


    Buddha Weekly Magnificent painted meteoric iron hayagriva phurba Buddhism
    A magnificent hand-crafted Hayagriva Phurba with wrathful meteoric iron blade and painted deities. Hand-crafted by tradition from Rigdzin Pema Tuthob. For a feature on his craft, see>>

    Namo Haygriva, Wrathful Activity of the Padma Family!

    Namo Hayagriva, Voice of Hrih, most Powerful of Sounds!

    Namo Hayagriva, Most Wrathful and Beautiful Deity, Who Cuts All Root Poisons of Ignorance, Desire and Hatred!

    Namo Lord Hayagriva, precious horse deity!

    Namo Horse-Headed Hayagriva and Consort Vajra Varahi!

    Namo Hayagriva! You are the wisdom body, speech and mind of all the buddhas of the ten directions,

    The kingly Hayagriva, the Lord of Secrets,

    Foremost among the wrathful.

    The very thought of you crushes obstructing forces

    To you I offer homage and praise!

    Namo Hayagriva—fiercest manifestation of Avaolokiteshvara!

    Namo Hayagriva—whose Voice is the cry of wisdom, the very syllable HRIH!

    Namo Hayagriva—the very embodiment of the speech of all Buddhas!

    Namo Hayagriva—who protects the wealth of the household and all horses!

    Namo Hayagriva—who Embodies wealth, power and spiritual attainment!

    Namo Hayagriva—Whose HRIH neigh frightens away all demons!

    Namo Hayagriva—By Whose power Guru Rinpoche subdued powerful spirits and worldly deities!

    Namo Hayagriva—whose horse voice cuts through all illusion!

    Namo Hayagriva—who cures all illnesses!

    Namo Hayagriva—lord of the horses sacred to Shakyamuni Buddha, Conqueror born in the year of the horse!

    Namo Hayagriva—who subdues all nagas, snakes and sea spirits!

    Namo Hayagriva—protector of the Dharma and of all wisdom!

    Namo Hayagriva! Fiercest Avaolokiteshvara, cry out for us now, we implore you! Let your HRIH terrify and chase away all demons and evil!  Let your HRIH protect our wealth and bring us prosperity, Lord Hayagriva! We pray to you to cure our illnesses by the very sound of your mighty HRIH! We ask you to cut through illusion and help us—and all beings—towards enlightenment.



    Buddha Weekly Three horses hayagriva tamdrin Buddhism
    Hayagriva, the great Heruka aspect of Amitabha.


    The Eight Herukas

    In the Nyingma Mahayoga tradition, there are the eight Enlightened Herukas, who are wrathful emanations of the major Enlightened deities.

    First, the three of Body, Speech and Mind:

    • Hayagriva (Pema Sung, Padma Gsung) or the Wrathful Amitabha, Buddha of Compassion and Speech
    • Yamantaka (Jampal Shinje) the wrathful Majushri, Buddha of Wisdom and Body
    • Vishuddha Sri Samyak (Yangdak Thuk) wrathful Vajrapani, Buddha of Power and Mind

    Then, the remaining five are:

    • Vajrakilaya Vajrakumara (Dorje Phurba) wrathful Vajrasattva, Buddha of Purification
    • Vajramrita (Dutsi Yonten) wrathful Samantabadhra, Buddha of Enlightened qualities
    • Matarah (Mamo Botong) wrathful Akasagarbha, deity of calling and dispatching
    • Kokastotrapuja-natha (Jigten Chotod), wrathful Ksitigarbha, deity of wordly offering and praise
    • Vajramantrabhiru (Mopa Dragnak) wrathful Maitreya, deity of wrathful mantras.



    Buddha Weekly three faces hayagriva yab yum Buddhism
    Hayagriva YabYum with consort blue Vajravarahi.


    How to identify which Hayagriva in Art

    Hayagriva always appears with a horse head emerging from a wrathful main face. Some Hayagriva depictions have one horse head — such as Most Secret Hayagriva and, typically, Black Haygriva — while Hayagriva Sangdrub always has three horse heads: one emerging from each of the wrathful heads of the deity. The art experts at Himalayan art, explain the differences:


    [1] Venerable Steve Carlier “Secret Hayagriva Empowerment by Dagri Rinpoche” introduction>>

    [2] Esoteric Teachings of the Tibetan Tantra, by C.A. Musés, [1961]

    [3] Wangdu: The Prayer which Magnetizes All that Appears and All that Exists

    [4] Lady of the Lotus Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal, Changchub, Gyalwa. Lady of the Lotus-Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal (Kindle Location 1243). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

    [5] Most Secret Hayagriva with Choden Rinpoche event description>>

    [6] Sutra for Forming Hayagriva

    [7] Riding the Powerful Steed of Compassion, Gesar’s Horse Kyang Go Karkar

    [8] Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol. The Life of Shabkar: Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin (Kindle Locations 2604-2609). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

    [9] Bokar Rinpoche. Tara The Feminine Divine (Kindle Location 564). Kindle Edition.

    [10] About Black Hayagriva

    [11] Youtube documentary>>

    [12] YouTube FPMT>>

    [13] Secret Accomplishment Hayagriva Sang Drub>>

    [14] Rangjung Yeshe Wiki>>

    [15] Teaching on Wang Du explaining Hayagriva and the other Padma deities>> 

    [16] Twenty-four great sacred places>>

    [17] Khandro Net: Tale of Two>> 

    [18] Teaching of Ven. Lama Jigme Rinpoche>>

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    Lee Kane

    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.

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