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yi-dam

in Tibetan Buddhism, a tutelary, or guardian, deity with whom a lama (monk) has a special, secret relationship. The lama first prepares himself by meditation, then selects from among the guardian deities the one that reveals itself as offering the right guidance for a specific or lifelong goal. The lama will thereafter begin each day by worshiping his yi-dam. Any of the principal deities in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon can be selected as a yi-dam, who is generally worshiped in union with his female consort (yab-yum). Their appearance can be either mild, in which case they are represented as "crowned" Buddhas, wearing the ornaments of a bodhisattva ("Buddha-to-be"), or wrathful, in which case they wear crowns of skulls and garlands of severed heads and carry such implements as the chopper and the skull cup

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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