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Buddhist Protectors of the Desire Realm

In Mahayana Buddhism, the protectors of the world are known as lokapalas and the great kings who guard the four sides of Meru are called caturmaharajikas.

Lokapala is derived from the Sanskrit word "lok" (people) and "pala" (protector/caretaker), or "caretaker of people."

Caturmaharajika means four great kings "whose abodes are the four sides of Meru, and who also serve as protectors of the world", and refers to "guardians of the world", specifically the four guardian kings of Mount Meru. They are also known as the four heavenly kings, and are said to "currently live in the Cāturmahārājika heaven ... on the lower slopes of Mount Sumeru, which is the lowest of the six worlds of the devas of the Kāmadhātu."

As the Four heavenly kings, they are "the protectors of the world" who fight off evil, "each able to command a legion of supernatural creatures to protect the Dharma."

The Four Heavenly Kings consist of:
In the Chilas I, 82:12. Inscription is the mantra "Om devadharmoyam priyasurasya" which means "homage and devotional offerings to Priyasuras" — probably puja consisting flowers and food offerings were made in ancient times. Priyasuras is defined as "Beloved Asuras", asuras being the lowest deities and demigods of Kāmadhātu. Rather than worship of them, the four heavenly kings symbolize the following aspects of the mind and their resulting conducts:
  • Vaiśravaṇa represents generosity and wealth, providing freedom by way of bestowing prosperity;
  • Virūḍhaka represents the growth of belief in the Buddha and faith in his Dharma:
  • Dhṛtarāṣṭra represents the maintenance of the mindful state through meditation; and
  • Virūpākṣa represents the vigilance of the mind by keeping the Five Precepts.


Originally posted: September 20, 2003 1431H
Update edited: March 2, 2013 1853H

Lokapalas and caturmaharajikas in Chilas und Thalpan (Nordpakistan);
Four male gate keepers:
Four heavenly kings:
Guardians of the directions:
Five Precepts:

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