The dakini fulfills the role of messenger somewhat in the way that the angel
does in theist religion. For example, when the Mahasiddha,
Tilopa, was doing a long meditation
retreat in a cave, it is recounted how Nagarjuna, who was not in the human realm
at the time but was giving teachings in the realm of the devas, sent the dakini,
Matongha, to him. She told Tilopa about that, saying that
Nagarjuna had known where Tilopa could be found and had sent her to give him
Matongha knew that Tilopa had once been the ruler of a province and that
because of his caste and worldly position, he was still possessed of a strong
arrogance that was hindering his spiritual progress. Therefore she gave
him the instruction to go to a certain village where he would find a woman who
was a sesame oil seller during the day, but who at night was a prostitute.
Tilopa followed her directions and went to work for the city woman. By
pounding sesame seed during the day and working for that woman at night, Tilopa's pride and
vanity were overcome.
The Padma Dakini, Drimima
In the "Merits of Practice" section of Machig Lapdron's namthar
[hagiography] she sends a dakini to care for her son who is in retreat.
When he was sixteen Machig said: "Now go to practice on the 'Snow
Mountain of Sampo' (Shangpo Gangri). You have a good connection
with that place."
He [her son Tonyon] left with three friends, and they walked for a month
before they arrived. The morning they arrived at Shampo they were making a
feast offering and Machig appeared there miraculously. She asked
"Are you tired?"
He said: "No, thank you. We are honored by your visit."
Then she gave him the greatest initiation of her lineages and the initiation
of the Five Dhyani Buddhas, and the Five Secret Vajra Varahi. The initiations
were perfectly performed. She stayed there in the cave for seven days. Many
dakas and dakinis were present. The son saw his mother become Vajravarahi,
and there was a rain of flowers, rainbows and many miraculous signs.
Machig ordered a local guardian called Shambo not to disturb her son's
practice and he promised to assist Tonyon. She ordered a Padma Dakini
called Drimima, which means "Without Obstacles," to serve
Tonyon and provide everything necessary for his retreat. She promised to
Machig said to her son: "Practice for thirteen years and aggregations,
manifestations, dimensions in space, objects and subjects of the sense will
manifest as mandalas* of the deity. Try to stabilize the pure vision of
illumination. Don't worry about your livelihood, there are those who will
So he entered the cave and made a seat of kusha grass and sat in the position
of Vairocana. The door was sealed and no one else entered. Then
Machig disappeared into the sky with a retinue of dakinis in the direction of
After three months he had a vision of hunger and thirst. He remembered
that his mother had said that someone would feed him, but he saw no one who
could keep him and feed him. But he thought: "This place has been
empowered by my mother. I should be able to remain with just the food of
meditation empowered by my mother. It would be impossible for me to die
of hunger." A while later a red lady appeared on a ray of
sunlight. She was very elegantly dressed and was bringing a bowl of
nectar for him to drink. She said: "Practitioner, drink
this and reach the depths of your practice."
He drank the bowl full of nectar and it had a wonderful taste, and afterwards
bliss spread through his whole body. He lost his desire for worldly food
and he thought: "Probably this is the Wisdom Dakini. This is a sign
of progress in practice."
Then the dakini said: "I was ordered by Machig to bring you what you
need. I am not your teacher, so do not tell me the signs of your
progress. Keep it hidden in the space of 'suchness.' You still have the
desire to tell everyone the signs of your practice. Observe your mind
well. When you have doubts or decisions to make, use your own innate
knowledge, do not go to others. Unite your way of seeing with your way of
As she said this, the [ray of] light stopped shining and disappeared.
Every three years she came back and gave him this amrita. After five
years Machig sent a yogi to check up on Tonyon and see if he was dead or
alive. The yogi arrived outside the cave. "Tonyon!" he
"Ah" was the response.
"Your mother sent me to see if you are hungry or cold. Do you have any
difficulties you cannot overcome?"
"Aren't you tired? I am glad to know my mother is alive and
well. I am living on the food of meditation -- How could I be
hungry? I have the clothes of the internal inner heat, and because of
this I have overcome attachment to warm clothes. My visions are great
companions, so I do not miss my friends. Everything that I see is full
of light, so I have no attachment to places," said Tonyon from
inside the cave.
Then the yogi went back and told all of this to Machig. She was happy
and she said, "Oh, he has this ability."
The disciples of Machig became as limitless as the sky. They came from
Central Tibet, Amdo, Kham and even Nepal. Great gurus, scholars, monks,
kings, noblemen, ministers, queens, princes, ambassadors, common people,
lepers and beggars, all went to Machig, bowed and received teaching from
her. Eventually her fame spread to India.
~ Tsultrim Allione's Women of Wisdom. London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984 ed.
Sometimes, the dakini is not merely the messenger, but more like an
embodiment of the Message itself. Herbert Guenther called them
"ciphers of transcendence" and thought they might be symbolic
projections of one's psychological state.
Vajradakini appeared to Abhayakirti (Tib. Jigs.med grags.pa), who is
usually called Naropa. While he was studying: " . . . a
terrifying shadow" fell upon his books. When he turned his head to see what
was its source, he saw an old woman with 37 ugly features:
. . . her eyes were red and deep-hollowed; her hair was fox-coloured and
dishevelled; her forehead large and protruding; her face had many wrinkles and
was shrivelled up; her ears were long and lumpy; her nose was twisted and
inflamed; she had a yellow beard streaked with white; her mouth was distorted
and gaping; her teeth were turned in and decayed; her tongue made
chewing noises and licked her lips; she whistled when she yawned; she
was weeping and tears ran down her cheeks; she was shivering and panting for
breath; her complexion was darkish blue; her skin rough and thick; her body
bent and askew; her neck curved; she was hump-backed; and being lame, she
supported herself on a stick.
She asked Naropa what he was studying, and when he replied he was reading
epistemology, logic and other such topics, she asked if he understood what he
was reading. When he replied in the affirmative, she wanted to know
whether it was the words or the meaning that he grasped, and he confessed that
it was the words. At that she "rocked with laughter, and began to
dance waving her stick in the air." So Naropa, thinking to please her
further, added that he also got the meaning. At that, the dakini
began to weep, and threw down her stick. When questioned about her
seemingly contradictory behaviour, she said:
"I felt happy because you, a
great scholar, did not lie and frankly admitted that you only understood the
words. But I felt sad when you told a lie by stating that you understood
the sense, which you do not."
"Who, then, understands the
"Introduce me to him wherever
he may be."
"Go yourself, pay your
respects to him, and beg him that you may come to grasp the sense."
Then the dakini faded "like a rainbow
in the sky."
~ Guenther, H. The Life and
Teaching of Naropa. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
Sorry I Missed Your Call
Stories are told how yogis, reaching an impasse in their practice and much discouraged, are manipulated by a dakini
-- scolded or even seduced, so that they
might make progress. Some of these people who went on to become
famous and some of those accomplished practitioners, Hindu or Buddhist, are known as
There are also accounts of missed messages and failed opportunity.
Abhayakaragupta (d. 1125) was a Bengali Buddhist monk. He is considered a source of the Panchen Lama's lineage.
His life story as related by B. N. Datta tells that once, while he was sitting in the
cloisters of the monastery, there appeared to him a maiden dragging a large and
bloody slab of beef. She introduced herself as a Chandala, a member
of an outcaste group of butchers and those dealing in the by-products of that
trade, and offered the meat to him. He declined, obviously taken aback,
saying, "I am a biks[h]u of purer order. How shall I eat meat that is
extraordinarily offered to me?"
At that ungracious response, "she sank back and disappeared in the
court[yard] below. That was again Vajrayogini who gave him the Siddhi, but
he did not take it."
~ Janice D. Willis. "Dakini:
Some Comments," in Feminine Ground.
Lady of the Turquoise Lamp
Another missed opportunity was followed by
years of regret. When Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro Rinpoche
was a young man, his preconceived notion concerning social and ritual roles
stood in his way:
"One day Khyentse, alone as usual, went to Dodrupchen's shrine room to receive the Rigdzin Dupa empowerment. Dodrupchen was sitting on a
higher seat. Khyentse was asked to sit on a cushion by the window. A monk who was the ritual assistant
(chopon) put all the empowerment
materials on the altar and left the room. Dodrupchen kept saying the mantras.
Soon the vase on the altar emitted white beams of light, filling the whole room. Then red lights covered the whole room, and
it became hard for Khyentse even to see Dodrupchen. When the lights faded, he saw that a beautiful woman with ornaments was there, acting
as the 'action master' with dancing gestures. Khyentse, who was then a monk, thought, "It would have been better to have a monk doing the
action-master performances at such an important time."
At the end of the empowerment, the woman vanished. Dodrupchen told
Khyentse, 'Tulku Tsang! I had a supreme accomplishment to confer on
you, but because of your concepts it couldn't happen today. But you will get it
later. The lady was Dorje Yudronma (one of the main
Dharma protectresses of Longchen Nyingthig).' "
~ Tulku, Thondup. Masters of Meditation and Miracles. Boston/London:
As prophesied by the Mahasiddha Kukuraja, Garab Dorje (Sri Pramodavajra,) a
manifestation of Vajrasattva, was born as an immaculate conception to the
princess-nun, Sudharma of Uddiyana. He grew up at first to be a monk, but
later, he roamed and meditated in India as a yogin.
It was not long before he began to attract a small following of male and female disciples. On Mount Malaya, he was assisted by three
Enlightened-women (dakini) disciples in transcribing into book form the complete teachings of
Dzogchen. The work of composition was only concluded after three years of unstinting labour on the part of Sri Pramodavajra, the Dakini
Vajradhatu, the Dakini Suvarna Shankara, and the Dakini Anantaguna. When the work was finished they stored it in the archives of a cave-temple known as the
Dakini-abhivyaktabhava, or the "Dakini's Source of Manifestation", where it was held in the safe-keeping of the abbess, Dakini
With the certain knowledge that the precious, supreme Secret Doctrine was secure, Sri Pramodavajra then proceeded on pilgrimage to Vajrasana (modern Bodh Gaya), the site where centuries earlier Buddha Sakyamuni had attained his enlightenment. With his mystic consort, the Lady Suryakirana, he took up residence in the
'Cool Grove' (Sitavana) cremation ground, which lies about a mile or so north-east of
Fellowship, San Francisco, CA.
Dorje Yudronma: Indomitable Lady of the
Mahasiddha: A yogin of supreme accomplishment,
one with "magic" powers.
haoma: ancient fire ritual http://www.jhom.com/topics/angels/talmud_fourangels.htm
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