Lokapāla (Sanskrit: लोकपाल), Sanskrit and Pāli for "guardian of the world", has different uses depending on whether it is found in a Hindu or Buddhist context.

In Hinduism, the guardians of the cardinal directions are called the Lokapalas (लोकपाल), or Dikpalaka. The four principal guardians are:

In Buddhism, lokapāla (Wylie: 'jig rten pa'i srung ma) are one of two broad categories of Dharmapāla (protectors of the Buddhist religion) -the other category being Wisdom Protectors. In China, "each is additionally associated with a specific direction and the Four Heraldic Animals of Chinese astronomy/astrology, as well as playing a more secular role in rural communities ensuring favorable weather for crops and peace throughout the land...Easily identified by their armor and boots, each has his own magic weapon and associations."[1] Their names are (east) Dhrtarastra, (west) Virupaksa, (north) Vaishravana, and (south) Virudhaka.

In Tibetan Buddhism many of these worldly protector deities are indigenous Tibetan deities, mountain gods, demons, spirits or ghosts that have been subjugated by Padmasambhava or other great adepts and oath bound to protect a monastery, geographic region, particular tradition or as guardians of Buddhism in general.

These worldly protectors are invoked and propitiated to aid the monastery or Buddhist practitioner materially and to remove obstacles to practice. However, since they are considered to be Samsaric beings they are not worshiped or considered as objects of refuge.

According to Tripitaka Master Shramana Hsuan Hua of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, all of these beings are invoked (hooked and summoned) and exhorted to behave (subdued) and protect the Dharma and its practitioners in the Shurangama Mantra.[2]