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 invocation.
The term Dakini is Sanskrit. 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 mandala.
The dakinis are born in three manners:
1) Spontaneously enlightened ones arise from Sambhogakaya'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.
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.
Dakini One of 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 magnetizing 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 consciousness into the understanding of the ultimate mind. In their neurotic expression the Buddha Families are styles of imprisonment. In their enlightened expression 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.
Yogic practices 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 delusion.
By consciously invoking a [[Wisdom [Dakini]] we can begin to develop a sensitivity to the energy itself. When looking at the iconography 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.
Dakini 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 them-self. 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.
Experiences 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 energies.
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 separate from all of the other energies. This is the key point. While ego naturally evolves because of its psycho-logic 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 available.
The first woman I'd like to tell you about that exemplified 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 was born.
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 ultimate 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.
One 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 Khenpo Konchok Gyaltsen Rinpoche online.
Dakini 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 consciousness 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.
The 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 promising 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.
Dakini 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 jungle."
"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. Mosquitoes wold not drink her blood. Even the hyenas left her in peace."
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 traveled 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.
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.
Dakini 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 sun.
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.
In our 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.