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Dakini Teachings

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Dakini Teachings: Padmasambhava's Oral Instructions to Lady Tsogyal. A collection of the great master's advice from the revelations of Nyang Ral, Sangye Lingpa and Dorje Lingpa. Covers the topics of taking refuge, bodhisattva vows, the vajra master, yidam practice, retreat, and the qualities of fruition. Dakini Teachings are timely advice -- short, direct instructions relating to the three levels of Buddhist practice: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The main emphasis of Padmasambhava's teaching is that spiritual knowledge must be personalized and not remain as mere theory. Buddha's teaching is divided into the sutra and tantra. Both show the way to enlightenment, how to be free of samsara. The great masters say that both have to be practiced. Without sutra and tantra, one cannot be enlightened. The only difference is that tantras take a short time to become enlightened and the sutras a long time. The dakinis are part of the tantric path. There are many dakinis: enlightened dakinis, and those are on the first to tenth bhumis. Vajrayogini is the greatest dakini and she is completely enlightened. Tara is also completely enlightened, but she manifests in order to benefit beings. So it's important to know the different levels of dakinis.

Some dakinis are dharma protectors because of their samaya. There are both male and female dharma protectors. The dharma protectors have to have achieved the bhumis. Then there are dakinis who have not achieved the bhumis. These are local deities and one does not take refuge in them. The dakinis we practice have to have achieved the bhumis. These dakinis help the dharma, help us, and can help others. There's a little bit of question if we practice dakinis who have not achieved the bhumis.

Many practitioners like to practice different deities, but it's important to understand about them. Some dakinis manifest in wrathful or peaceful forms, depending on which activity is most beneficial. They will appear according to the individual practitioner's necessity. Their forms, colors, and objects they hold represent different things. Different practices are done for different purposes. Which practices one does depends on the connection made in one's heart. In the blessing lineage of the Kagyupa the dharma protector is Mahakala. And in the different lineages there are connections with other dharma protectors.

In the Drikung, the dharma protector is also Achi. So in Drikung Achi is the female protector and she is one of the most important dakinis. She was born as a human being, but with special qualities. Her mother did not have any pains during pregnancy, but instead felt happy and joyful. Even during delivery there was no pain. When she was small she would recite Tara's mantra and she was a very compassionate person. She showed signs of realization and was fond of animals. When she dies, her pet animals entered the rainbow body as well.

The purpose of sadhana practice is to realize we have the same qualities potentially as the enlightened beings. The only difference is that we have not recognized them through lack of practice. The highest level of beings are the yidams. "Yi" means mind and "dam" means samaya. That means our mind should never be separated from the deity. Our yidam could be Chenrezig or Vajrayogini or Tara. Yidams are fully enlightened beings. In the Kagyupa tradition we practice Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara in union and also in single form. Those of you who are interested in practicing the dakinis should know their characteristic form and the meaning of that form so that the visualization can be done correctly.

I met an old woman, I think about sixty five. She shared her stories with me. When she was a teenager, she walked around the town and saw some lamas with some Western students. She felt an emotional connection and wanted to know more about them. So she attended a teaching on Chenrezig practice. She liked this practice but was careful not to talk about it with her family. But her mother said, no matter what you're doing, keep doing it. She had a tendency to get angry easily, which was pacified by the practice.

Q: In many of the stories of the mahasiddhas, it says how they met the dakinis and how this changed their lives. Were these people they met or inner realizations?

A: The dakinis are an aspect of wisdom. If there are some aspects of wisdom we don't have they can bring it to us. For example, Naropa was a great scholar and a good meditator. But the problem was his mental state was not stable. The dakini appeared to him as an old lady. She asked him a question, what do you know? He replied I know all the dharma. That was his pride. She did not accept this, and asked if you know the words or the meaning. He replied the word, and she was happy. Then he added and I also know the meaning. The she was sad and said you should see my brother, Tilopa. So Naropa left the school. He sought out Tilopa and received the mahamudra instructions from him. This is the Ganges mahamudra, which is the root of the Kagyu mahamudra. I received instruction on this from Tai Situ Rinpoche.

Q: Could you explain the significance of the implements Vajrayogini holds.

A: The Kapala symbolizes the transformation of blood into nectar and symbolizes the transformation of the inner energies. But we can't do these practices yet. It symbolizes the transformation of conceptual mind into wisdom. Some people drink alcohol, but I think one needs to be very careful. I don't agree with that. Whatever we drink during tsok we should bless and think of as nectar. The katvanaga. symbolizes the male deity, the heruka. And when Padmasambhava holds it, it symbolizes the female consort. There are two types of katvanga. At the top is a vajra. Under that is three heads, which represent the three kayas. Under that it a nectar vase, which is for long life. Then underneath that are crossed vajras, which symbolize the four immeasurables. There are five colored ribbons on the katvanga that symbolizes the five elements. The bells on it symbolize skillful means. The nature of Vajroyogini's fire and her sadhana is a preliminary to the heat practice. The drilbu (knife) symbolizes cutting through the four maras. It's cutting through the ego. Her color symbolizes that she is of the nature of great bliss.

Q: What practices should one do on dakini day?

A: Tsok offering is the most appropriate practice.

Q: Could you explain how all women embody the dakini?

A: In tantric practices all females are the dakini, no question about it. But it depends on the person how we practice with this. The reason is that it requires two wings to fly. Other tantric practices are done without consort. Even if one doesn't do these practices, it's useful to think of women as dakinis as a mind training. Pure vision is important in Tantra. It's not making things pure but seeing how things actually are in their nature. This is called vajra pride. The essence teaching is to see all things as pure. The most important samaya is to see all things as pure. Another tantric samaya is not discriminating. Tantra was not taught for just some people. It's for all equally. In this way it's unlike the Vinaya. Reciting the mantra hundreds of thousands of times is also a good samaya, but the pure vision is more important.

The following is respectfully quoted from “Dakini Teachings” by Padmasambhava as translated by Erik Pema Kunsang:

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: If a master himself has not been conferred empowerments and he gives them to others, will they receive empowerments or not?

The master replied: Although you may be appointed by a charlatan to the rank of minister thus entrusted with power, you will only meet with misfortune. Likewise, although you may have an empowerment conferred upon you by a master who himself has not received it, your mind will be ruined. Moreover you will destroy the minds of others and go to the lower realms like cattle yoked together falling into an abyss. Carried away within an iron box with no exits, you will be sent to the bottom of hell.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: Isn’t the offering of a gift when receiving empowerment just something you yourself have invented?

The master replied: All the teachings and tantras explain that at this present time when you have obtained the fortune of a human body after being on errant paths for innumerable aeons, you should, free from the three spheres of concepts, offer your body, life, and spouse to the master who shows the path of unexcelled enlightenment.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: How severe is the misdeed of breaking the master’s command?

The master replied: The misdeeds of the three levels of existence do not match even a fraction of the evil of breaking the command of your master. Through this you will take rebirth in the Unceasing Vajra Hell and find no liberation.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: How should we regard the master possessing the oral instructions from whom we request teachings?

The master replied in verse:

You should know that the master is more important Than the buddhas of a hundred thousand aeons, Because all the buddhas of the aeons Appeared through following masters. There will never be any buddhas Who have not followed a master.

The master is the Buddha, the master is the Dharma. Likewise the master is also the Sangha. He is the embodiment of all buddhas. He is the nature of Vajradhara. He is the root of the Three Jewels.

Keep the command of your vajra master Without breaking even a fraction of his words. If you break the command of your vajra master, You will fall into Unceasing Vajra Hell From which there will be no chance for liberation. By serving your master you will receive the blessings.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: Which is more important, the master or the yidam deity?

The master replied: Do not regard the master and the yidam as different, because it is the master who introduces the yidam to you. By always venerating the master at the crown of your head you will be blessed and your obstacles will be cleared away. If you regard the master and yidam as being different in quality or importance you are holding misconceptions.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: Why is it important to practice the yidam deity?

The master replied: It is essential to practice a yidam deity because through that you will attain siddhis, your obstacles will be removed, you will obtain powers, receive blessings, and give rise to realization. Since all qualities result from practicing the yidam deity, then without the yidam deity you will just be an ordinary person. By practicing the yidam deity you attain the siddhis, so the yidam deity is essential.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: When practicing a yidam deity, how should we meditate and practice in order to attain accomplishment?

The master replied: Since means and knowledge are to practice the spontaneously present body, speech and mind through the method of yoga sadhana, they will be accomplished no matter how you carry out the sadhana aspects endowed with body, speech, and mind. They will be accomplished when the sadhana and the recitation are practiced in a sufficient amount.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: How should we approach the sugata yidam deity?

The master replied: Realize that you and the yidam deity are not two and that there is no yidam deity apart from yourself. You approach the yidam deity when you realize that your nature is the state of nonarising dharmakaya.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: Which yidam deity is better to practice, a peaceful or wrathful one?

The master replied: Since means and knowledge are practicing the spontaneously present body, speech, and mind through the method of yoga sadhana, all the countless sugatas, peaceful and wrathful, chief figures and retinues, manifest in accordance with those to be tamed in whatever way is necessary–as peaceful and wrathful, chief figures and retinues. But as they are all one taste in the state of dharmakaya, each person can practice whichever yidam he feels inclined toward.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: If we practice one yidam deity, will that be the same as practicing all sugatas?

The master replied: The body, speech, and mind of all deities are manifested by the three mayas in accordance with the perception of those to be tamed. In fact, no matter how they appear, if you practice one you will be practicing them all. If you accomplish one you will have accomplished them all.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: Is there any fault in practicing one yidam deity and then practicing another?

The master replied: Although the sugatas manifest as various kinds of families and forms, out of skillful means to tame beings, they are in actuality inseparable, the state of equality. If you were able to practice all the buddhas with this realization of their inseparability, your merit would be most eminent. But if you were to do so while regarding the yidam deities as having different qualities which should be either accepted or rejected, you would be immeasurably obscured. It is inappropriate to regard the yidams as good or bad, and to accept or reject them. If you do not regard them like that, it will be excellent no matter how you practice.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: Through performing the approach to one tathagata, will we accomplish the mind of all sugatas?

The master replied: By practicing with a vast view and remaining in the nature, you will attain stability in a yidam deity. When you complete the recitation, you will accomplish the activities of all the victorious ones without exception by simply commencing them.

Lady Tsogyal asked the Master: If one’s view is high, is it permissible to dispense with the yidam deity?

The master replied: If you attain confidence in the correct view then that itself is the yidam deity. Do not regard the yidam deity as a form body. Once you realize the nature of dharmakaya you will have accomplished the yidam deity.