Preserving the Abodes of Tibetan Buddhist Deities

By Bikash K. Bhattacharya
Earth Island Journal
November 21, 2023

Under increasing climate pressures in Northeast India, monks and monasteries safeguard local lakes and forests.

A singular, seventeenth-century thangka painting adorns the central hall of Ganden Namgyal Lhatse, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India. The painting depicts a haggish figure with pendulous breasts, flaming eyebrows, and red hair standing on end. Palden Lhamo, the fearsome protector deity in the painting, commands supreme reverence in Tibetan Buddhism. As the protector deity of the lineage of Dalai Lamas, Palden Lhamo is known to assist senior monks in the identification of the next Dalai Lama through a series of visions on the bank of the sacred Lhamo La-tso — “Oracle Lake” — in a remote location southeast of Lhasa, Tibet.

Due to her association with Lhamo La-tso lake, followers of Tibetan Buddhism consider Palden Lhamo to be the goddess of the sacred lake and believe that she resides in a number of other lakes scattered in the Himalayan region.

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