Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Meditational Deities (ishtadevata, yi dam)

Meditational Deity | Buddhist Iconography Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Meditational Deities Explanation (below)
- Buddhist Tantra Classification System
- Kriya Tantra
- Charya Tantra
- Yoga Tantra
- Anuttarayoga Tantra
- Mandala Main Page
- Confusions
- Others...

Meditational Deity (yi dam, ishtadevata): a chosen, or personal meditational deity. These deities are generally selected from the inventory of principal meditation practices common to a particular spiritual lineage or tradition.

In Himalayan and Tibetan Buddhism examples might be for the Nyingma - Vajrakila; Sakya - Hevajra; Kagyu - Chakrasamvara; Gelugpa - Vajrabhairava and the Jonang - Kalachakra. Ishtadevata can be almost any deity that is classified as a 'wisdom deity' meaning it is an enlightened deity or an emanation of an enlightened deity, i.e. a Buddha. In the Sarma Tradition the deities chosen belong to the Four Classes of Buddhist Tantra:
(1) Kriya Tantra
(2) Charya Tantra
(3) Yoga Tantra
(4) Anuttarayoga Tantra

For the Bon religion examples of meditational deities are: Walse Ngampa and Magyu. For the various Hindu traditions deity selections might be Shaiva - Bhairava; Shakta - Durga or Kali; Vaishnava - Rama or Krishna.

Jeff Watt 6-2015 [updated 6-2017]