Naga

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Naga (Skt. nāga; Tib. ཀླུ་, lu, Wyl. klu) — serpent spirits classified as one of the eight classes of gods and demons, or as animals or demi-gods. They live beneath the surface of the earth or in the water, and in trees or rocks, and are believed to be endowed with magical powers and wealth, as well as being responsible for certain types of illnesses (Wyl. klu’i nad) transmitted to humans. They originate from the ancient snake cults of India, which probably date back to the Indus valley civilisation and were assimilated into Buddhism at an early date. In Indian mythology they are preyed on by the garudas.

When Buddha Shakyamuni was meditating under the Bodhi tree, just before attaining awakening, a storm arose, and the naga Muchalinda (Skt. Mucalinda) protected the Buddha to be from the rain.

It is said that Nagarjuna retrieved the Prajnaparamita Sutras from the nagas, after it had been entrusted to their care by Buddha Shakyamuni.

There are different classifications, yet one prominent list is the eight great nagas or eight naga kings, of which again there are different enumerations.

Virupaksha, the guardian king of the West, is the leader of the nagas.

Practices Related to the Nagas

Further Reading

  • The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, Robert Beer. Shambhala (1999), page 70-73.

Alternative Translations

  • Serpentine water spirits (Dorje & Coleman)
  • Serpent deities