Buddha Heruka

Happy Heruka Day!

Welcome to our new blog! For our first post, we wanted to wish you a happy Heruka Day.


Who is Heruka?

Heruka is a Buddha of compassion, the same nature as Avalokiteshvara. In Modern Buddhism, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso explains that the word “Heruka” has three parts. “He” refers to the emptiness, or lack of inherent existence, of all phenomena. “Ru” refers to great bliss. “Ka” refers to the union of this emptiness and great bliss. Therefore, “real” Heruka, or what Buddhists call “definitive Heruka” is the union of bliss and emptiness, the ultimate result of our compassion and our wisdom.

Then there is “interpretive Heruka.” “Interpretive Heruka” is the Heruka we see as interpreted by great meditators and Buddhist artists. When Heruka is depicted in a painting or a statue, he has a deep blue body, twelve arms, and four faces. He is embracing his consort, Vajrayogini or Vajravarahi. To the untrained eye unused to such enlightened imagery, this depiction of Heruka may seem strange — or even frightening! However, if we come to understand the image better, we will clearly see how every part of an image of Heruka has something to teach us about our spiritual life.

As Geshe Kelsang explains his masterful book, Essence of Vajrayana:

  • Heruka is holding an elephant skin to remind us to abandon our ignorance.
  • The tiger skin he wears around his waist encourages us to let go of anger.
  • Embracing Vajrayogini teaches us to learn how to transform ordinary enjoyments into the spiritual path, and thereby eliminate our attachment.
  • Heruka’s 12 arms show that we should develop renunciation for samsara and destroy the twelve-dependent related links.
  • His long necklace shows that he has purified his body and his mind, just as we should.

You can read more about Heruka and meditations on Heruka in Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s book, Modern Buddhism. Thanks to Geshe Kelsang’s great kindness, you can download the electronic version of the whole book for free at the link above. You also might want to check this site to see if there are any free talks on Modern Buddhism in your area.

What is Heruka Day?

Heruka Day at Ganden CenterFor Buddhist practitioners who engage in the practices of Highest Yoga Tantra, Heruka Day is the day we celebrate our meditation practice on Heruka and our precious opportunity to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others.

At New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) Centers all over the world, Heruka Day is a day set aside for sincere prayers and meditations. Everyone is invited to join in for the Offering to the Spiritual Guide prayers that happen on this special day, and some Centers offer additional prayers specifically for practitioners of Highest Yoga Tantra.

Tell Us What You Think!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief explanation of Heruka and Heruka Day. We hope you will tell us what other kinds of blog posts you’d like to see on our site, and we will do our best to accommodate your wishes! Let us know by using the comments section below.

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