The Dakini Principle
Tonight the center
has requested that I come and join you and speak about the Dakini Principle.
They have also requested that I try to mention a little about some of the women
who embodied this principle as well, so I will try to do this too. Before we
start, we should say a short prayer of
The term Dakini is Sanscrit. It's Tibetan
equivalent is Khadro, kha meaning sky and dro meaning to
go. Taking it together, Khadro means one who can move through the sky.
It's very important we think about this literal meaning in trying to understand
Dakinis. Now, all dakinis are portrayed in female form -- there male counterpart
being called dakas. There are enlightened dakinis and unenlightened dakinis.
The unenlightened dakinis are termed worldly dakinis because they are
still caught in the cyclic world of samsara. Worldly dakinis are found in human
form as well as in astral form and could have a form of a beautiful fairy-like
being or a demonic flesh-eating being. An example of a worldly dakini are the
Five evil Tseringma sisters Padma Sambhava tamed into protectors. Another
example of a worldly dakini is a celestial messenger falling into the category
of a protector bodhisattva performing beneficial actions. Another example might
be a great human practitioner that has accomplished some insight but who is not
yet released from suffering.
The enlightened dakinis are the Wisdom
Dakinis. They have passed beyond samsara into liberation and an example of an
enlightened dakini would be any one of the female yidam or one of the female
consorts to the Five Dhyana Buddhas.
There are five families of Worldly
and Wisdom Dakinis: Vajra Dakinis, Ratna Dakinis, Padma Dakinis, Karma Dakinis,
and Buddha Dakinis. And both the worldly dakinis and wisdom dakinis can have
supernatural powers. You may recall the story of Tilopa where he encountered a
number of various dakinis. The worldly dakinis who had control over sight and
sound bombarded him with mirages after which he met the dakinis embodying the
five activities and finally he met with the wisdom dakini in the heart of the
The dakinis are born in three manners: 1) Spontaneously
enlightened ones arise from Sabogakaya's unfoldment from Dharmakaya. Example of
these Dakinis being Tara and Vajrayogini. 2)Those born in heavenly realms. Those
who are born from within the heavenly realms and those who reach the heavenly
realms though their own attainment. 3)Finally, those born by realization of
mantra. These are humans who have reached various levels of inner realization.
So, as you can see, there are many different types and levels of
dakinis. Dakinis in general can be a guiding light along the path removing
physical and spiritual hindrances. They can play a great part in an individual's
attainment of enlightenment. They are the forces that awaken dormant qualities
of spiritual impulses hidden in the subconscious. It is the dakini's
inspirational influence that can open one and remove obstacles. But, it is the
Wisdom Dakinis that we should be interested in learning about and who we can
rely on to truly release us from samsara.
the ways we are reminded of the important place of the dakinis is that they are
included as a source of refuge. There are six sources of refuge. We take refuge
in the Buddha, of course, relying on his example as having accomplished the
path. We take refuge in the dharma as the methods he used which spell out
completely how to begin, overcome obstacles, enrich positive qualities and reach
the goal. We take refuge in the sangha as examples of people who has taken the
steps and who are able to lead us flawlessly through all obstacles as a supreme
and valuable guide. These are considered the outer sources of refuge and are
known as the Three Jewels.
The inner sources of refuge are known as the
Three Roots and this is where the dakini comes in. We take refuge in the lama as
the root of blessings because it is he or she that imparts the knowledge,
methods and wisdom that will enable us to obtain liberation. We take refuge in
the yidam as the root of accomplishment because it will be through our practice
of the yidam that we will be able to realize the nature of our mind. And, we
take refuge in the dakas and dakinis as the principle of wisdom as the root of
all Buddha Activity.
The femininity of a dakini is linked with the
symbolism of space. It's the ability to give birth to or actualize the full
range of potentialities. It is in the space of becoming, where the full range of
the four kinds of enlightened activity occur. The four kinds of activity being:
pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and destroying.
On a relative level,
pacifying energy allays one's fears and sufferings. Enriching energy increases
one's merit, long life and health. Magnetizing energy draws together the
necessary circumstances supporting spiritual development. And destroying energy
is wrathful intervention to quickly cut through obstacles faced on the path.
Each of these activities has a profound ultimate function as well.
Ultimate pacification is the pacification of the mind's posions. Ultimate
enrichment brings accumulation of merit and wisdom to its fullest potential.
Ultimate magnitizing involves the overcoming of all confusion and superficial
thought patterns and thus awakening the true nature. And, ultimate destroying
anniliates all the ways we invest things into solidity.
In the symbolism
of the femine aspect of a dakini, the ultimate dakini embodies the
inseperability of emptiness and wisdom. Only when that dakini takes form in the
Five Buddha Families does she represent the differenting patterns of experience
that are the mental and physical constituents making up human personality.
Seeing the universe in these different arrangements is a way the Buddha families
are used to transform relative states of consciouness into the understanding of
the ultimate mind. In their neurotic expression the Buddha Families are styles
of imprissonment. In their enlightened expresesion they are styles of freedom. A
particular neurosis of each family is associated with a particular type of
wisdom or enlightened form it can be transmuted into.
purify both the male and female principles within the human body. It is through
a practice that seeds of the vital force of the five senses, the male aspect
represented by the Five Buddhas and the forces of wisdom, the female aspect of
the Buddha Nature represented by their Five Consorts are purified. It is through
the path of Vajrayana that one is able to attain enlightenment in just one
lifetime by making full use of the very poisons and illusions that cause
By consciously invoking a Wisdom Dakini we can begin to
develop a senstivity to the energy itself. When looking at the icongraphy of the
dakini we should bear in mind that through understanding her symbolism we can
identify with her and thus we are identifying with out own energy. That the
feminine principle of the wisdom dakini is a root of auspicious circumstances
and enlightened activity. I must however, emphasis that if you decide to take on
direct application of meditative methods the importance of getting proper
instructions and empowerments before hand. Reading descriptions out of a book
and then appling particular steps of visualization in a practice session will do
no benefit to one trying to learn, and in fact may very well do harm. The proper
steps of visualization and mechanics of an actual practice session must be
learned from a qualified guru. To do less than this will only end up harming an
individual and do nothing toward benefiting them. I cannot emphasis the proper
preparation and approach too heartedly. So, be sure if you are doing anything
more than looking and contemplating on a picture you seek advice and guidance
from a qualified lama.
Now, sentient beings are constantly operating from
these grounds of these Five Buddha Families and manifesting in it's natural
manner in any given situation the energies present within themselves with a
reference point that can either be confused or enlightened. There are polarities
and pulls of all kinds occuring in a pattern. A basic force that relates to this
basic patterning is a kind of clarity. It is a space where the two polarities
can exist and maintain themself. This space is a totally awake situation where
emotions and thoughts can arise but from an unconditional quality. If we can
realize this very fact when our emotions are happening, we can instead of being
caught up in the emotion or thought can release it in the midst of this space
instead and it will dissolve into its true nature of clarity.
Expereinces cannot occur without pain or pleasure. Any form of
experience contains a sense of reference point that is a basis for its
reflection. The Five Buddha Families are the five aspects of a total situation
from five different angles. All these qualities relate with each other and have
their basis quality as completely vast space. This space (or Akasha) is the
medium for the movement and all of our experiences are colored by these five
To Live as a dakini means to be aware of this space. This is
the true meaning of a dakini as being one who can move through space. It is a
space behind the poisons and thought patterns. Such an awareness, however, is
hard to maintain. Our mind is totally unstable and most of us have no real
control it. It flutters from one thing to another. Recognizing and training the
mind is the only way to gain stability. If we really had stability, we could
maintain recognition of our mind's essence in dharmakaya on a continual basis no
matter what was presented to us through our emotions or thoughts. It isn't long
before we are carried away by our numerous mind's distractions.
Vajrayana Buddhism uses different methods for developing the mind. In
the Development Stage of practice, for example, one imagines an outer world that
is perfect in every way, a Buddhafield. With everything in the world being made
up of the five elements, visualizing our outer world as a Buddhafiled allows us
to regard the body, speech and mind in its pure form. In a Completion Stage the
wisdom aspect of the Buddha Nature itself is recognized. One of the taming
processes used in Vajrayana Buddhism is Samatha and Vipasyana meditation. It is
beneficial because the mind must be held down and not left to it's own devices
where in it's own natural way it likes to get involved in anger and aversion and
other bad things. Such things like this is what the mind is used to and it is
with real training and effort, such as through Samatha and Vipasyana meditation,
that one can amend the habits of one's mind.
Dakinis can transform
energy directly through experiences and for this reason it is the dakini who is
associated with Tantric teachings and working with the energies of the body,
speech and mind. Meditation on a dakini such as Vajrayogini or the Five Buddha
Family Wisdom Dakinis is one way of establishing awareness of dakini energy in
all its forms.
Buddha's transcendent qualities are active principles
with one type of energy not being seperate from all of the other energies. This
is the key point. While ego naturally evolves because of its psychologic
components, if one is able to dissolves the projections of the mind, one can
replace it with the five factors of enlightenment. Thus, if one depends on the
Dakinis one can move toward transforming one's mind through the experiences one
comes across in one's life.
Now that we have a basic understanding of
what the Dakini principle is all about, I thought here I'd share just a couple
of stories of women who lived the dakini principle and who have left living
examples of this principle with us today. I have always found reading about
various individuals of great qualities a good way to contemplation and receive
inspiration and hope and to gain a confidence in the various teachings
The first woman I'd like to tell you about that exemplifed
the dakini principle and whom I personally always find inspiring is Niguma. Her
story begins a very very long time ago in a region covered by water and
possessed by a great Naga King during the time of a previous Buddha. Receiving
permission from the Naga King, a great disciple of that Buddha used his strong
miraculous powers to dry up the water and erect a great temple and monastery.
Another magician created a great city around the temple and filled it with busy
activity and the city settlement acquiring the reputation of a place of great
magic came to be called The Land of Great Magic. This is the place that Niguma
In many previous lives Niguma had followed the path of a
Bodhisattva. During these lifetimes her experiences enlarged and when she was
born as Niguma she came to experience the perfect state of enlightened mind so
that enlightened energy became manifest completely through her physical form. As
Niguma, she received ulitmate teachings from the Primordial Buddha Vajradhara
and initiation into all levels of the teachings. Even the subtlest obscurations
of her mind were dispelled. She attained the three bodies of perfect
enlightenment and from that lifetime till now she has been able to manifest in
whatever subtle or material form necessary to benefit beings.
example of how she helped even after passing from her physical body is the story
of her foremost disciple, Mahasiddha Chungpo Naljor. Although he had received
teachings from many great Siddhas he was encouraged by several of of them to
seek Niguma. However, since she had long passed into a rainbow body and left her
physical body, he wasn't exactly sure how to go about finding her. So, since he
heard hosts of dakinis presiding over ganachakra feasts (a ritual offering of
food) could be seen at a number of cremation grounds, he set out to a place
called Sosaling hoping to meet her.
Once there, in space above him
appeared a female deity, blue in color, and wearig elaborate bone ornaments,
holding as trident and skull. As he stared at her, his eyes would fluctuate back
and forth from seeing anywhere from one dakini to several hundred dakinis,
sometimes in meditation posture, sometimes dancing. Thinking this must be the
Niguma he strarted making prostrations and implored her for transmission. To his
surprise, however, she responded with a warning that she was a worldly dakini
with a large retinue and not a wisdom dakini and if he did not run away they'd
certainly do him harm. He, however, more convinced it was her, with a deepening
conviction continued to beseech her. Thus, on the day of the full moon it came
to be that Niguma gave him transmission into a practice known as Dream Practice.
This practice he practiced that night and in his dream state was given full
empowerment by her for the complete Five Dharmas of Niguma. The following day in
a waking state she again gave him these transmissions asking him, as well as a
man named Lavapa who was present and receiving the transmission, to keep the
teaching secret for seven generations. Keeping it secret for seven generations
means to keep the transmission in an unbroken line of transmission from the lama
to one chosen disciple in each generation for the seven generations before
opening it up and allowing wide distribution for the benefit of beings.
These Five Dharmas of Niguma are esentially no different then the
popularized Six Yogas of Naropa, Niguma's brother. It is just a difference of
lineage. The Six Yogas of Naropa coming from Naropa to Marpa and his successors
and the Six Yogas of Niguma coming from Niguma to Chungpo Naljor. Both of these
doctrines have been transmitted through history till today in an unbroken line
in the Kagyu tradition and are done in traditional three year Tibetan retreats.
Now, everyone has heard of the great 84 Mahasiddhis of India. Great men
and women who exemplified Buddha's teachings and the potential of
accomplishments. One of these great Mahasiddhas was a woman who also embodied
the dakini principle. Being maternally affectionate towards her students, she
was called Machik, in Tibetan meaning "one mother". Here full name was Machik
Drepay Drolma. Drepay Gyalmo meaning Queen of the Siddhis because of her
excelled accomplishments. The story about her life goes like this.
Milarepa's student Rechungpa was in India seeking teachings his lineage
hadn't received yet and was studying with a celebrated teacher called Tipupa.
One day in the bazaar a begger man bumped into him and in the conversation that
pursued predicted Milarepa's life was limited. Being concerned over this
encounter, he turned to Tipupa who confirmed this danger. Skillfully, Tipupa
recommended that Rechungpa seek out Machig Gyalmo requesting transmission of
Amitayus, a practice she was known to excell in. It is said that by receiving
from Machik Gyalmo the Amitayus empowerment and practice, Rechungpa was able to
forestall the threat to his life. And, it is said that Machik due to her great
accomplishment of this longevity practice lived 500 years. If you'd like to know
more about what an Amitayus
empowerment would entail there is a seven-part detailed account of this
empowerment given recently by Khempo Konchok Gyaltsen Rinpoche
Now, Tipupa was greatly accomplished in his own
right, so it was no small thing that he sent Rechungpa to Machik. Perhaps you
know the story about him. Tarma Doday, was son of the great Marpa the
Translator. One day thrown by his horse and suffering an untimely death caused
from a concussion he was beseeched by his parents to perform a practice that
died out with Tarma Doday, a practice of transfering one's consciousness into
that of a recently died body. Since there was no human corpse available to him,
he transfered his consciousness into the body of a recently dead pigeon. Marpa
taking care of the pigeon for several days received a sign in mediation of a
suitable newly dead human corpse in India. So, drawing a map for Tarma Doday he
showed the way from Tibet to India and sent the pigeon off in the direction of
that Indian charnal ground where the corpse would lay.
Arriving from the
long journey Tarma Doday landed on the newly dead young boy's chest and was able
to transfer his consciouness once again. Seeing the young boy come back to life
when the pigeon landed on the boy, the towns people convinced it was a great
miracle, came to call the boy Tipupa, meaning pigeon in Tibetan.
fact that Tipupa was so accomplished himself and sending him to Machik Drepay
Dolma is an indication of Machik's great accomplishments. And practitioner's
today of the Amitayus practice are continuing to be blessed with this lineage of
Machik Drepay Dolma.
Now, another great dakini was Gelongma Palmo, an an
intelligent and promissing princess that lived in India during the early
development of Buddhism before it's transmission to other countries. Due to
contracting leopracy in her youth and the development of open sores covering her
entire body being a source of contagion she was forced to leave the palace.
After going into hermitage as a nun, meeting a teacher moved by her situation,
she was given instructions and empowerment for meditation on the 1,000 Armed
Chenresig. Even though she diligently practiced, her state became quite bad. Her
extremedies began to rot away and she was in much pain. She couldn't sleep much.
Still, she maintained her focus and diligently pursued continued practice.
One night in a semi-asleep, semi-awake state she had a dream. A
brilliant white figure came with a large vase filled with pure water which was
poured over her body giving her the sense of feeling her disease shed like the
skin of a snake. To her surprise, when she awoke her body was not troubled with
the pain it had been. She became certain she had been cured due to the blessings
of Chenresig and prayed and meditated with even a greater fervor than before.
Eventually, she was blessed by a direct vision of Chenresig who dissolved into
her, and with this exprience she attained a very high state of realization and a
direct experience of the nature of her own mind.
Many Tibetan lamas
coming from Tibet have brought this practice to the West and many Westerners
have taken part in and been inspired by these fasting rituals around the 1,00
Armed Chenresig and referred to as the tradition of Gelongma Palmo.
The last short story I want to share with you is a woman who embodied the dakini
principle named Ani Jetsun Dolma who died in 1979. The Snow Lion Fall Newsletter
of 1988 carried an article on her life and I'd like to read to you excerpted
passages from this article.
A flock of green parrots settle on the
lantana brush. Up the hillside a gnarled ancient tree frames the dense jungle.
To its right a small chorten gleams white in the morning sun, brilliant and
unearthly. There rest the ashes of Ani Jetsun Dolma, a woman whose awesome
spiritual attainment has become a modern legend.
The Tibetan Refugee
Camp of Lobersing in the eastern ghats of Orissa, India is alive with the sound
of morning chores, cows, babies calling, and breakfast fires crackling. "When we
first came to the camp from Tibet in the early 60's we did not know about her
greatness," explains my translator, Jamyang Dolma, as we enter her neighbor
Sengela's sitting room. "She stayed by herself in a shack in the jungle doing
prayers and meditation. She did not enter the camp and we were afraid of the
"Ani Jetsun remained isolated in her retreat for nearly two
years, " a tall, thoughtful woman shares. "One day a woodcutter happened by her
hut. Troubled by many problems he requested a Mo (a type of divination). The
information she gave him was exact and his problems quickly resolved. Soon
everyone in the camp had heard his story."
The people of the camps began
turning to her for help for being without medical assistance, and the great
heat, malarial insects, and lack of adequate nutrition were formidable
challenges. "She kept a bottle full of water near her and during her meditations
she would blow on the water. When someone came to her for help she would give
them a drop of that water. Only one drop fo water would cure all kinds of
diseases, even of our cattle" said Sengela.
To the women she was
priceless beyond measure. "Bearing children was a dangerous ordeal", said Tseten
Dolma, Sengela's wife. During the last stages of our pregnancy we would go to
Ani Jetsun with some butter and she would blow on it and say mantras. When we
went into labor we would eat some of that butter. Immeditately the baby would be
born. The butter we ate would be found on the baby's head. For those years no
babies or mothers were lost."
"We could talk freely to her," Janyang
added. "She was a woman, so we women could tell our troubles freely to her, she
would understand." Sengela's brother nodded his head slowly. "Her Mo was always
accurate. She could help you find what was lost. She could tell the outcome of
events. And always she advised us to avoid harming others. She told us it would
bring peace and from that peace we could experience the depth of spirituality."
"She saved the crops one year," mused a farmer, kneading his work-worn
hands. "When we first arrived the local tribals were wild. They dressed in
leaves and hunted for their food. There were elephants, bear, and wild boar.
When our fields were planted and the corn ripening, the animals would come to
feed trampling everything underfoot. Ani Jetsun had us bring her some earth from
the field which she blew on and we scattered throughout the plots. We never had
that problem again".
Ani Jetsun rarely let her hut. When she did it
would be in the middle of the night to go to the large stupa at the edge of the
camp and pray. She remained in retreat allowing the villagers brief interviews.
"Often when we would visit she would have snakes crawling around and
over her." said Ani Kata, one of her disciples. "Poisonous snakes. Cobras. She
had no fear. Sitting with her one day I watched a big frog hopping across the
room. One of the cobras made to strike but Ani Jetsun brushed him away so that
the frog could escape. Bears wold come to eat the torma ritual cakes after her
ceremonies. Mosquitos wold not drink her blood. Even the hyenas left her in
"Her body was golden radiant," added another nun. "She barely
ate, only a bowl of milk with a little wheat flour. Yet she was big and fleshy."
Changchup Cherton who lived with Ani Jetsun in the
jungle for 7 months studying meditation shared some of the story Ani Jetsun had
told her. "She was born to a very rich nomad family of Redding, an eastern
district of Tibet with no need to worry for anything. At 16 her parents arranged
for her to get married. It seemed like a world of misery to her and she ran away
from home determined to acquire the teachings she craved".
From the back
room comes the low mutter of prayers. The children press close, wide-eyed as
Changchup continued, "For many days Ani Jetsun travelled alone unmindful of the
dangers or difficulties. She made her way to Nyingma Shungse, a nunnery near
Lhasa and there became a nun. After some years of study and practice she went to
Shingdu Rinpoche's monastery and did several three year retreats. She embraced a
3 month retreat of Dzog Chen, a retreat in total darkness, never seeing light of
any kind, totally isolated from any human contact. A practice called Devcholin
follwed in which she subsisting on one consecrated stone a day with no food for
90 days. She went to Mount Kailash and cicumambulated the great holy mountain 13
times doing full prosrations all the way around the mountain.
war with the Chinese broke out she traveled to India and settled at Dejung
Rinpoche's retreat and monastery, where she and her attendant built a shack in
The sun is now setting golden in the camp and we join the
villagers in a quiet twilight stroll. Two old ladies pass us, prayer wheels
spinning. A young mother with her baby strapped to her back holds the hand of an
old man who clutches his beads, muttering his prayers intently. Jamtrol
Rinpoche's story of Ani Jetsun's death comes to mind. He was living in the camp
in 1979 at the time of her death. "Ani Jetsun told me one day that her attendant
was getting old and it was getting difficult for her to attend to her work. ‘My
time has come,' Ani said, ‘if I die it is a good time.' Two days later she fell
ill. The next morning many of us heard voices like strange birds we had never
heard before. A few hours later her attendant informed us of her passing. We
went ot her hut. Ani Jetsun had assumed the same posture of Shakyamuni Buddha
when he died, laying on her right side, her head propped up with her right hand.
Her face was the image of peace. For three days and three nights we attended the
body. It reamined warm, no sign of decay. It shrank somewhat. And on the day
before the cremation a thin stream of red from one nostril and white from the
other flowed. These are the signs of great yogic attainment.
When the fire was put to her pyre out of the spotless blue sky a gentle rain
fell. Many rainbows pierced the smoke. Five enormous birds circled above until
the body was completely consumed and then they vanished. They were five dakinis
escorting her to the pure land. In her ashes countless rig shells
(precious relics) were found."
The relics were distributed and during
troubled times the villagers seek them out, confident of their power to heal and
uplift. In her death as in her life Ani Jetsun Dolma radiates a wealth of
blessings, the results of her dedicated practice. She was not born to greatness,
the people of the camps repeatedly told me. She became great through her own
efforts. They refer to her as Rinpoche, Precious One. They cherish their
memories of her and pray for her quick rebirth among them. The inspiration of
her life continues to glow white and brilliant, like her chorten in the morning
This ends the story that appeared in Snow Lion Fall Newsletter,
a story of a woman in our own time who embodyed the dakini principle. Her great
practice and diligence can inspire us with blessings. The dakini principle is
something available to all of us. It is available and alive for both men and
women. Regardless of whether you are man or woman, regardless of your particular
situation in this life, if you have faith, confidence and diligence, compassion
and wisdom you can engage with the dakini principle and become enlightened.
In the Vajrayana tradition the lives of great practitioners, whether
they be male or female, represent models of dharmic practice and the
exemplification of the dakini principle at work. These practitioners became
enlightened because they used their human birth to the fullest potential and
they can instill in us an understanding and appreciation of the dakini
principle, the particular female energy of wisdom and vast space.
situation as intelligent beings with the ability to communicate, listen, make
sense and explain, we can understand clearly the distinction between samsara and
nirvana, we can learn what needs to be done, and then we can take practical
steps in that direction. This is the real teaching and intention behind all of
the ways in which we look at and seek enlightenment. It is my hope that these
stores about the lives of beings embodying the dakini principle provides us with
examples of conduct that will inspire us and especially arouse confidence in the
teachings giving us the impulse to follow in their footprints and likewise
arouse the dakini principle attaining development and accomplishment. I'm very
glad to have been able to share with you tonight. After questions closed with Dedication Prayer.