This thangka depicts a four-armed aspect of Mahakala, one of the eight great Dharmasalas, or Dharma Defenders. Also known as the Protector of Wisdom, Mahakala is a wrathful deity who courageously protects the Buddhist teachings and those who study them from harm and evil forces. Despite Mahakala’s always terrifying appearance, he is a Bodhisattva, an embodiment of compassion who acts for the benefit of all sentient beings. His function is to avert the inner and outer obstacles that prevent practitioners from attaining spiritual realizations, as well as to foster the necessary conditions for their practice. It is said that by simply making a wish for protection to Mahakala, a sincere seeker’s needs will be met.