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Insulting the Dakini

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 "While claiming to be practicing the dharma with a high view,
do not ignore cause and effect."
--Patrul Rinpoche

So, then, this is a brief rumination on the subject of ignoring cause and effect, while attempting to practice dharma with a high view, whether believing this to be the case, or indeed actually practicing dharma.

I should probably hasten to add that the photograph of the tulku in dakini get-up has nothing to do with our title, "Insulting the Dakini," nor is it meant to imply anything personal to the tulku therein depicted, who has most certainly never insulted a dakini in any of his numerous lifetimes. Actually, the photograph is here only because it is a photograph of a man in dakini get-up. You can find photographs like that all over the Internet. I just happened to pick that one at random.

I picked the photograph because, through the expectations of the Western feminist philosophy, and the access to media of individual Western feminists, dakinis have become very, very popular excuses for playing dress-up, and ignoring cause and effect.

    "It is typical of the activity of the dakini to hit where it hurts, to get you where you live, to create for you a method by which you can try to run, but the road in front of you is turned around so that you can only run in a circle right back and it is as tricky and convoluted and sneaky as your own mind. It will rub your face in your shit. It will make you eat your own poison. But eventually, with faith and devotion, you will come out of it enlightened."

and elsewhere...

    "The Buddha taught each person the nature of their own mind by showing them their poison, by ripening in their mind their potential for enlightenment, by shoving down their throat their own garbage, by giving them teaching that touched them in their language."

These are quotations from ghost-written pseudo-Buddhist dogma attributed to a Western person who believes herself to be a dakini. This is the sort of thing that sounds very edgy and interesting to the average Westerner, and if you don't have much of a Buddhist education, this sort of thing becomes very persuasive and attractive. As a dialectic, it could be argued that the above comments are fundamentally accurate.

I could argue that way myself. However, the very first admonition that the dakini gives you, when she visits you, is the admonition to do no harm.

Despite this, there eventually comes a time during the course and scope of instruction in the Vajrayana when one is told, "even when you are wrong, you are right," and as predicate to that teaching, one is told, on the old any-substance-can-be-medicine model, that any action has the ability to benefit beings. Thus, according to Thinley Norbu Rinpoche:

    "Therefore, if it is necessary to use any of the seven nonvirtues of body and speech in order to fulfill the needs of sentient beings and benefit the teachings of Buddha, it is permitted and should be considered an action that needs to be performed without fear."

he quotes from Entering the Path of the Bodhisattvas to illustrate:

    "Whoever always sees with compassion even has permission to do what which is prohibited."

and he also quotes several other sources, all to this same effect. He is an extraordinarily gifted Buddhist philosopher.

His gifts aside, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche is neither alone nor unique in making these observations. You can find them scattered around. To the average Westerner, without much of a Buddhist education, this becomes an intellectual dispensation: a letter of marque to do whatever you feel like doing, along the lines of crazy wisdom. However, as commonly encountered, there is often more crazy than wisdom in crazy wisdom, so these things become an excuse, or a defense, or a rationalization.

That is what I want to talk about today, because that is what insults the dakini. As dakinis tend to judge these sorts of ethical lapses without even a shred of mercy, you might want to take careful note of the comments of someone who has honored the matter in the breach, on many, many, many occasions.

It is quite true that even when you are wrong you are right. It is also ultimately true that cause and effect can be equalized. If you proceed from the view that the law of cause and effect arises from subjective mind, then nothing whatsoever is anything other than emptiness, and this includes emptiness itself. Here is Thinley Norbu Rinpoche again, quoting Mahapandita Dharmabhadra:

    "Contributing circumstances present themselves as though they exist, so I do not say that results will not appear. Thus, I never deny anything anywhere, so there is no reason to misconstrue this speech. It is only from the interdependent relative truth that phenomena just appear. Beyond that, there is no need to concretize an independent reality cause and reality result. So, I see no reason to reify this."

So, in practice, the average Westerner could take this as a ticket to ride, thinking "oh, spontaneous me... I can do whatever I please, and it is always of benefit." If you layer in the whole preoccupation of women who run with wolves and so forth, and believe yourself to be a wild and spontaneous dakini, wandering around between two passing clouds -- or whatever defense, excuse, permission or rationalization your ego supplies itself to fortify itself -- then you can be just as nasty as you feel like being, without ever having to say you are sorry.

Because of the operative mechanics of magical cause and result, you could get away with doing this for a very long time. We all know people who live a life of absolute virtue but suffer nonetheless, while some others, who engage in utter wickedness, seem to have no cares whatsoever. If you look at this long enough, you could even use it to persuade yourself that the law of cause and effect is wrong, or untrue. If you ever read the Christian Bible, you will find that the Psalms are almost obsessively preoccupied with the perceived inequality inherent in this view, providing the hardy believer with magical incantations to call down terrifying calamity if evildoers aren't punished with all possible speed, and the virtuous aren't rewarded even quicker.

People can live a life of absolute virtue and still experience suffering because of the actions of previous lives. Similarly, people can engage in utter wickedness, and seemingly profit, but they are constantly exhausting the benefit of previous lives while contributing to suffering in future lives. Either way -- and we need to be quite clear about this -- the results are inevitable. There are obviously experienced phenomena, and then there are phenomena yet to be experienced, whether in the next life or lifetimes in the distant future.

Recently, we all read about a tulku in Tibet, who died together with his wife, when their house collapsed during a rainstorm. Also, Hitler seemed to be getting along rather well, right up to the point where his body was doused with kerosene and set ablaze. Kennedy was smiling and waving to the adoring crowds that day in Dallas, his elegantly sophisticated wife like a jewel at his side. In seconds, his brains were blown out, and his elegantly sophisticated wife went along to marry a Greek. We can go on and on and on like this -- the whole study of history teaches nothing less.

If you take your sublimated aggressions, angers, hatreds, jealousies, and so forth, and give them free reign, believing that you are beyond cause and effect, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you excuse yourself by saying, "Don't try this at home, but I can get away with it because I am a highly realized being," then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you are injuring others, by whatever means and under whatever pretext, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you are claiming this ability or that ability, and using these claims as your authority to lie in wait for others to fall, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you are latching on to some romanticized Western notion of the dakini, and using this as an excuse to act like common street trash, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you are fighting amongst yourselves, in the name of the dakini, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you believe that the dakini is something or someone apart, drawing distinctions between one or another, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

There are an inconceivably large number of dakinis, continuously operative at all times and in all places. I do not know how to put a number on them. There are clouds of them. But, if you mistake that which is inherently space with substance, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you believe that dakinis are exclusively confined to or one-or-another propositions, i.e. women, or delimited by distinctions between nature, characteristic, this temperament, or that temperament, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you say that the one to whom you point embodies the dakini any more or less than the one to whom you do not point, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

Claiming that one is practicing dharma with a high view, yet engaging in covert warfare and engineering is quite simply adding another layer to delusion -- like taking a psychedelic drug to find "truth." Indeed, the farther one goes with the dharma, the more one realizes that the basis of every appropriate action must be kindness and compassion. This is not "must" in the imperative sense, as in you "must" do this, but in the declarative sense. Similarly, the basis of every inappropriate action must be ignorance and delusion. Sooner or later, all actions ripen unto themselves, and I do not think a trial is involved. I do not think there is room for explanation, equivocation, flexibility, or the fine creativity of defense.

Speaking of defense:

In the world of high-dollar criminal defense, there is a strategy known as the "exorcist's defense." This comes from the case of a Korean shaman who was brought to trial for beating his wife to death. A massive amount of evidence was introduced that the victim loved her husband very much; that both believed the wife to be possessed by a demon; that the extended families and even neighors shared this belief; that all parties appealed to the shaman to exorcise the demon, and that the shaman attempted this by beating the woman, believing he was "beating out the demon." In his zeal, the beating took its toll, but all parties intimate with the matter believed that it was actually the demon who stole the woman back from the shaman's hands. In the prototype, the defendant was acquitted... and then went off to live happily ever after with his young mistress. Turns out that the "demon" which afflicted his late wife, was her knowledge of incidents of his infidelity.

If you are employing the exorcist's defense to clandestinely indulge your own corruptions, this gravely insults the dakini and will most certainly --- and this an absolute certainty -- result in the most extreme suffering imaginable. Managing to escape the suffering thus far is no indication that your actions have been ratified by your lofty view, or your ghost writer's venturesome turn of phrase.

Steadfastly clinging to belief in one's own status provides no laissez passer. Pointing to credentials, or professional occupation is no evidence of one's intentions. There are overt intentions, and then there are covert intentions, which is a rather different study. Casting about for a free pass or making a dialectic of intention gravely insults the dakini.

How wonderful that in the dharma kindergarten, all the girls are dakinis and all the boys are yogis. Sometimes, I want to take a switch to their backsides, and beat the Jesus out of them.

However, as time goes by, I have learned to resist that impulse by asking myself one simple question.

The question is: "Why?"

Why are you hitting, hurting, creating methods, rubbing faces, feeding poison, and arrogating unto yourself the processes of cause and effect, while at the same time believing yourself to be somehow above those self-same processes?

Why are you so gravely and fundamentally insulting the dakini?

Why are you so gravely and fundamentally insulting your mind?

    "If you think, 'I will have no karmic ripening even if I engage in the ten unvirtuous acts,' you should be able to accept the ten unvirtuous acts of others directed towards you -- even if it might result in your death. Can you do that?"

--Guru Shri Singha,
as quoted by
Guru Padma of Uddiyana
The Treasure of the Lotus Crystal Cave

Written by Khyungpo Naljor a twelfth-century Tibetan master who had a visionary experience in which a lion-headed dakini appeared and sang this song.

Crystal dakini guards against interruptions...
Jewel dakini increases wealth.
Lotus dakini gathers energy.
Action dakini gets everything done.
When wanting and grasping hold sway
The dakini has you in her power.
Wanting nothing from outside, taking things as they come,
Know the dakini to be your own mind.

The essence of mind is knowing.
Know that the crystal is the non-thought of mind itself
And the crystal dakini guards against interruptions.
Know that the source of wealth is contentment
And the jewel dakini fulfills all wants and needs.
Know that the lotus is the non-thought of freedom from attachment And the lotus dakini gathers energy.
Know that action has no origination or cessation
And the action dakini gets everything done.
Those who do not understand these points
Can practice for eons and know nothing.