Bliss Queen

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The Great Bliss Queen

When Padmasambhava was invited to Tibet, among the manifestations of compassionate activity who allied themselves with him were a Mon [tribal] woman called Tashi Chidren (or Kyiden,) and a woman of the Shelgar family, Dorje-tso.  But the most famous of all was Yeshe Tsogyal, a princess of the Karchen king's house who became known as Dechen Gyalmo, The Great Bliss Queen. 

   From Lady of the Lotus-Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal:

[Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava] ... vanished from our sight. 

Whereupon I, Tsogyal, made my way to the great cavern of Lhodrak Kharchu, where I caused Namkhai Nyingpo to progress in the meditation on the subtle channels and energies.  I granted the attainment of immortality, so that the bhikshu gained accomplishment, both supreme and ordinary.

Afterwards, I abided evenly in the view of the Great Perfection beyond all action, and as the experience dawned on me wherein all phenomena are extinguished in the nature of reality, I was perceived in various forms according to the needs of beings.

To the hungry I was heaps of food and all good things, and thus I brought them joy.   

To the cold and freezing I was fire and sun-warmth, thus their joy.

To the poor and needy I was wealth and riches, thus their joy.

To the naked I was every kind of raiment, thus their joy.

To the childless I was sons and daughters, thus their joy.

To those who craved a woman, I became a lovely girl and thus their joy.

To those who sought a lover, I was a handsome youth and thus their joy.

To those who wanted magic powers, I gave prowess in the eight great siddhis, and thus I brought them joy.

To the sick I was their remedy and thus their joy.

To the anguished I was all their mind desired, and thus I was their joy.

To those hard pressed by punishments of kings, I was the loving friend to lead them to the land of peace, and I was thus their joy.

To those in fear of savage beasts, I was a haven, thus their joy.

To those who fell into the depths, I was their drawing out and thus their joy.

To those tormented in the fire, I was a quenching stream and thus their joy.

To those in prey to any of the elements, I was their medicine and thus their joy.

For those who could not see, I was their eyes and brought them joy.

And for the halt and crippled I was feet and thus their joy.

I was a tongue for those who could not speak, and thus I brought them joy.

To those in fear of death I granted immortality, and thus I was their joy.

I led the dying on the path of transference and brought them joy.

To those who wandered in the bardo state, I was their yidam, bringing them to joy.

I cooled the burning heat and warmed the cold of those lost in the realms of hell.

Howsoever they were tortured, I changed myself to shield them, being thus their joy.

To those who lingered in the land of hungry ghosts, I was their food and drink and thus their joy.

I was freedom from stupidity and servitude for those caught in the wordless state of beasts -- and thus I brought them joy.

Those beings born in savage lands -- I turned them from barbarity and brought them joy.

I was a truce from war and strife for the asuras and was thus their joy.

The gods I guarded from their bitter fall and I was thus their joy.

I shielded all from everything that tortured them and was their every joy.

Wherever there is space, five elements pervade,
Wherever the five elements, the homes of living beings,
Wherever living beings, karma and defilements,
Wherever is defilement, my compassion also.
Wherever is the need of beings, there I am to help them.

And thus I remained for twenty years in the great cavern of Lhodrak Kharchu, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible."

Ultimate Dakini

Thus, by the Old School or Nyingma, Yeshe Tsogyal is viewed as the ultimate dakini, an embodiment of Venerable Superior Lady Tara the Swift, ruler of all the lotus and activity lineages.  Therefore she is considered to be not different from Vajravarahi, mother of all the buddhas and the very ground of being.  She is the source of other dakinis, innumerable as the dust of Mount Meru.

This Vajra Yogini, from her limitless compassion for all beings, petitioned the Lotus-born Master to teach the doctrine [dharma] of the spoken word [mantra] as many times as necessary to deliver all beings from suffering. It was she who recorded these teachings and, so that they would not ever disappear from the earth, requested that they be concealed in such a way that neither the elements nor mischievous beings could ever destroy them. 

She accomplished this by offering a prayer and creating a spell or seal that would affect the minds of those meant to later uncover the wealth of the Guru's teachings for the benefit of future generations. Teachings hidden in this way are called terma in Tibetan, and a person who finds them is known as a terton.

"Performing this role, Yeshe Tsogyal combines the energy of shakti with the prudent and conserving care of the stockman's or the householder's wife. 

She, therefore, exemplifies the function in tantric practice of the bhija [seed syllable,] or a mantra which contains in a condensed form, the various dharanis or sound-charms.  They, in turn contain the Doctrine, itself. 

These sounds manifest as female tantric deities and therefore, are called sustaining protectors, and their mandalas are also referred to as "sustaining" [or "supports."]

Forms and Aspects

Vajrayogini is ultimately Vajravarahi, the consort of Chakrasamvara, Lord of the Round of Existence.  She is depicted in various forms. For example, the Sakya and Gelugpa traditions generally focus on Naro Khachoema, who stands on both legs in alida [lunge, or archer's position] with the kapila or skull cup somewhat raised. She is surrounded by a ring of flames on a burning ground where she treads on corpses. 

Wearing only her head-dress and garland of skulls and bone ornaments, she may have a fierce expression with three red eyes, scowling brows, protruding belly and tongue. 

There is a tigu [Skt. kartika,] a vajra-handled hooked chopper, in her right hand.  The khatvanga [trident] is balanced on her left shoulder.  This form of Vajrayogini is similar in many respects to depictions of Nairatma and Vajravarahi.

The practice of Naro Khachoma as related to the Chakrasamvara tantra cycle combines the essential lineage teachings of both Naropa and Niguma.

The sadhana or ritual worship of Naro Khachoma includes "A Prayer of Aspiration to Behold the Lovely Face of  Khechari," which has been called,

"... one of the most lovely and inspiring songs I have found in sadhanas, ranking right up there with Jamgon Lodro Thaye's "Calling the Guru from Afar." It evokes the feeling of someone, being tired of the wearisome, illusory and repetitious sufferings of samsara, who longs to go "home" and into the warm arms of one's mother, who, in the personage of Vajrayogini, would put her arms around oneself and say, "It's okay, it's okay. You're home now!" And one looks up from that embrace and there it is -- the lovely face of Vajrayogini."

~ BB to the Kagyu email list, who later added,

"... when, for example, the Naro Khachoma empowerment is given, according to the Sakya tradition, one may take it either in the basic form, or with the body mandala and the uncommon inconceivable yoga added. When it is the former, it is more or less a blessing; when it is the latter, then one has to do several things:

1. Keep all the commitments, and so on, of the base deity empowerment (ie, either Hevajra or Cakrasamvara) that empowered one to receive the Naro Khachoma empowerment;
2. Commit to completing the Five Hundred (or until signs appear) 
during one's lifetime;
3. Do Naro Khachoma as a regular practice, including body mandala and so on; and
4. Stick around for the entire transmission of Naro Khachoma, which lasts either seven or ten days, with every teaching, which includes everything from the entry onto the path to the very end, repeated 4 times;
5. Do the other subsidiary yogas of Khachoma, including tsok and so on. It is also expected that one would enter a Khachoma retreat before the end of this life.  . . .  . "

Vajradakini

Vajradakini is the designation of the dancing semi-wrathful form of Vajravarahi.  She holds a vajra knife in her raised right hand, and a cup, or sometimes a vial, of amrita in the other.

The symbolism of the cup that she raises to her lips is related to the activity of the Great Goddess of India, Durga. 

Sometimes she is depicted holding a  two-sided drum as when she is equated with Machig Labdron, who popularized the Chod (pron. cho) as a complete path.

The Black Queen

A  "cutting" practice of a different lineage is described in Chod: Cutting Through the Ego by Yangthang Rinpoche who said, at the Vajrayana Foundation Hawaii in 1991:

In chod, the principal meditational deity is Yeshay Tsogyal or Troma Nakmo, the Black Dakini as the female wisdom energy is involved in this practice.  In some texts, the dakini is red or black, or at first red and then black; sometimes she holds the curved blade in her right hand; sometimes the damaru in her right hand and a thigh bone in her left; sometimes she is holding a curved blade in her right hand and a skull in her left. 

As a dakini, she is the expression of divine wisdom; when she appears in red she is more peaceful and [when] she appears in black, more wrathful.  [Link is to Black Dakini description on the BuddhaNature site.]

However the wrathfulness is the intensity of her compassion and isn't anger.  She is the mother or source of all buddhas called Prajnaparamita, or transcendental wisdom.

More About the Troma Chod

D. L. in an effort to clarify the distinction between Tara and Troma, posted the following from notes (March 1987) on a teaching by Ven. Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche, in preparation for the empowerment for Troma Ngondro by H. H. Dudjom Lingpa: 

Troma is inseparable from the lama as Dharmakaya: Kuntuzangmo (Prajnaparamita), Samboghakaya: Dorje Palmo (Vajravarahi), Nirmanakaya: Troma (Vajra Khrodikali). The essence of Troma Nagmo is Yeshe Tsogyal. Troma Nagmo means black wrathful lady, she shows the powerful nature of Yeshe Tsogyal and Khandro Tuk Tik, the heart essence of the dakini.

Here's a description printed in a flyer from Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche's sangha given out freely as an excerpt from a talk on Troma and Chod given by him in Los Angeles April 9, 1986, so I feel comfortable sharing it openly, since it was originally given out openly:

"Troma, the Black Vajra Mother is the true heart essence of Guru  Padmasambhava. It is also the method of many of the great siddhas from the forefathers Sarahaba until it was revealed by the very noble siddha and terton, Dudjom Lingpa, who is the previous incarnation of H.H. Dudjom Ronpoche.

Chod by definition is "to cut through". The essence of chod is the prajnaparamita: the pervasive permanent unalterable absolute nature of emptiness. Emptiness is not nothingness, it is the full resplendent quality of subtle appearance and is called unstoppable clarity: the inner capacity of the nature of emptiness. It arises as the display of the five Dhayana Buddhas' consorts. Emptiness is inseparable from its resplendent capacity for manifesting beneficial appearances, the Five Wrathful mothers, Troma, also known as Vajra Khrodikali.

What must be understood about the cutting Chod, is what is to be cut and how it is that we cut it. The answer to what must be cut is the root of samsara. Samsara is the cycles of endless suffering of forever becoming: we must look at what causes that and that cause must be cut.

For us, non-realization of our absolute nature is not because we once realized our nature and then forgot it. It isn't that we had it and then lost it. The essential primary nature of absolute purity is innate in our being. Non-actualized purity is ignorance and so ignorance must be cut. It must be destroyed. It must be liberated.

Next to ignorance of Nature, the poison of desire must be cut. We have basic self-centered recognitions which function as our "I" or "me" or any manner of self-perceptions. Beyond this comes the recognition of everything which isn't "me", generally named "other". through this process of "I" and everything else that is not "I" a dualistic mode begins to function between the two. From this dualism arises the judgment of "it's so pretty" and the subtle attachment of "yes, I like it" which gives way to the gross attachment of "I need it" which is where suffering begins. If we need it and we can't get it, then we suffer: if we need it and we get it and we find out that we didn't want it, then we also suffer. If we need it and we get it and it fades away and dissolves into nothingness as all temporary things will, we suffer... .

Desire is also a stepping stone to hatred which is aversion or the other side of desire. Because I want something, then I have some vested interest in that particular phenomena happening: something comes along such as rain, for example, and blocks the fulfillment and "I don't like that." It's because I had some invested interest in what I wanted that aversion developed. Whatever prevents me from getting what I want results in this same aversion and so we find that at the forefront of aversion is desire.

From the poisons of ignorance, desire, and aversion the mind further complicates its delusion with a very beguiling pride of its own confusion and from this arises jealousy. These complete the full array of the poisons of the mind.  In Chod, there is always what are called the four demons or the four maras which are the four obstructing influences.

The first obstruction is the personal defilements of mind: the defilements are the five poisons: ignorance, desire, aversion, pride and jealousy. The second demonic influence is the obstruction of false contentment which is somewhat like pride. One takes for granted good situations thinking that they will go on forever: this is a very big obstacle because it wastes opportunities. The third demonic influence that obstructs the realization of enlightenment is based on self-holding and other-holding. The mind zig zags back and forth from "I like this" and "I don't like that" "this is pretty, that is not" "I need this" "I don't need that". Our mind enticed by the appearance of objects goes to the object and becomes dynamically involved there, totally seduced by samsaric appearances. The fourth obstruction is the root of the other three obstructions, the self-centeredness of one's "I".

The method to cut through these demonic influences is called Chod. One's pure motivation is the blade that cuts though the faults of self-centeredness.

Chod is the practice of generosity with one's most valuable possession, the body. There is nothing we value more, so this is what we use as our gift. Our mind is deathless, our body is not, so we transfer our mind out of our body and pure mind stands complete in space. The body, like a shell, is an empty remain.[sic]  Through mantra and visualization, the practitioner transforms the body into a vast and wholesome offering of whatever would be satisfying. The offering is not just substance, but it is also wisdom nectar which fills the vastness of space. This is then offered to all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, to any and all wisdom beings beyond the limit of our understanding. Further it is offered to every sentient being whoever they are, wherever they are. Whatever their particular need is is completely met by this offering and they're completely satisfied and fulfilled immediately and ultimately.

This trains the mind to cut through attachment. By this practice, one accomplishes both the accumulation of merit through generosity and the accumulation of wisdom through understanding the basis of non-reality of our physical form. One understands the nature of emptiness that pervades all beings and this accumulates wisdom. Enlightenment is produced by the two accumulations of merit and wisdom, so this is a path capable of rendering full realization of enlightenment."

The Yellow Queen

In another of her forms, the deity is beheaded, carrying her head in her hand like the Hindu goddess Chinamasta.  In this aspect, she is one of the Mahavidyas.  She is then, yellow in colour and accompanied by two yoginis, one on either side.  In her left hand is her head, severed by her own katri that is held in her right.  She is nude but for ornaments, with right leg out-stretched, and the left bent.  

Relation to the Indian Great Goddesses

We must begin here by emphasizing that unlike the ancient Indian goddesses, Buddhist deities do not demand nor require blood sacrifices.  

Click the underlined link to read from Mike Magee's translation of the tantric Hindu practice of Devi worship (Ch. xxiii of Tantrarajatantra ) for insight into her various forms and their relation to phases of the moon and all sorts of other interesting things.

The story of Devi's many manifestations appears in the "Devi Mahatmyam" (ch. 12) of Markandeya Purana. 

As Durga, the details of her activity are from the Devi Bhagavat Purana: 

At the beginning of Time, Mahish'ashura, the buffalo demon was granted a boon from Brahma that he would not be slain by gods, men, spirits or any aspect of nature.  Thinking himself invincible, he became a tyrant and ruled the world in place of the gods.  He even had the temerity to court the goddess.

In order to do battle with this embodiment of Evil manifesting in the form of the gigantic bull, the combined energies of all the gods join together to form one champion, a Goddess.  She has a sword, a trident, bow and arrows, a discus and many other weapons including even a bowl and scriptures in her 18 [or 10, or 12] hands. 

Tools of Durga

The trident was given her by Shiva, and represents satva, rajas and tamas, qualities of the material world.  The discus was the gift of Vishnu, and stands for time as experienced through the earth's rotation.  The conch is from Varuna, the wind; it links sound and sky.  The bow and arrow are from the Maruts, seen by Hindus as standing for Samkhya and Yoga, but for Buddhists as corresponding to the two methods of Sutrayana and Vajrayana.  The danda [staff] was the gift of Yama, Lord of Death; it is that which finally strikes us down.  Her sword cuts through Illusion [maya].  Her spotless, shining shield can be viewed as the mirror that creates illusion and/or, from a Buddhist perspective, it is the unsullied true nature of Mind.

Her victory over the ashura, Mahisha, is told in the Devi-mahatmya as a series of symbolic engagements. At first, she ropes the titan with her noose, but it escapes assuming the form of a lion.  She beheads it with her sword, but the demon becomes a giant, also armed with a sword.  She lets loose a hail of arrows and the titan transforms into an elephant, seizing her with its trunk.  As it drags her to him, she uses her sword again.  It may be that it is this repetition that transforms him once again into a furious bull. 

Then she pauses, and lifting her bowl to her lips, she drinks serenely of amrita, the nectar of bliss.  Now her eyes turn red with her wrath as she cries, "Shout on!  Roar one moment more, fool, while I sip this delicious brew. The gods will soon be crying with joy, for you will lie murdered at my feet."

Then, she leaps into the air coming down hard with both feet on the ashura's neck into which she punches her trident.  As the demon tries to emerge from the mouth of the dying bull, he is caught in man-form.   Then she slashes again with her sword, and he is finally beheaded, dying once and for all.

Dorje Phagmo

The Nyingmapa, Kagyupa and others too, may visualize the Queen of Joy as the dancing Vajravarahi (Tib. Dorje Pagmo [Pa'mo]) who has a small sow's head over her right ear. 

At the foot of the Sow & Boar article, you can see a bronze rupa of the khadga (sword) dakini.  She is a Buddhist deity behaving like the Indian goddess, Durga, but the demon emerges from the body of a boar instead of a water buffalo.  Notice the pig's head that lies just beneath the demon.

More about Vajravarahi and Durga at the Asian Art site.

This photo, from about 30 years ago, is of the abbess of Samding, who is thought to incarnate Dorje Phagmo.  (Samding is on the shores of Yamdrok Tso [lake].)  She is the only woman to head a Tibetan Buddhist monastery [of men].  The 12th [?] tulku was recognized in 1937 [Chinese sources give 1947,] and in 1959 made it to India but returned to Tibet when the southern climate did not agree with her.  (The unrelenting heat was a contributing factor in the death of many of the refugees.)
 

The mandala of Vajravarahi at Asian Arts.

The central symbol of Vajrayogini is the 6-pointed star comprising two triangles standing for the union of opposites.  (A Kashmiri Muslim man referred to it as the "sky sign," and deemed it very auspicious. )

Known also as the Star of David and the Seal of Solomon, it is also a potent symbol in many other contexts.

________________________________________________________________

conserver: In an anecdote from the Ra-tik (Lopez 145) we see woman as the one who cares for the family's resources.

The sow [female swine: boar or pig] is an ancient symbol of fertility.  It is sacred to the Greek goddess Demeter, and to some of the most ancient female deities.

Some information is from Notes on the Basic Text for Emulating the Mother, Knowledge-bearer, the Great Bliss Queen which is the explanation for a three-fold tantric practice (Lopez 143-144.)

 

Reading

Stephen Beyer's The Cult of Tara:  Magic and Ritual in Tibet. Berkeley: U. of California, 1973/1978.

Keith Dowman's Sky Dancer: The Secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel. London: Arkana, 1989.

Tarthang Tulku's Mother of Knowledge: The Enlightenment of Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal.  Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1983.

A discussion of the sadhana of Dechen Gyalmo, Queen of Great Bliss is in Anne C. Klein's "Meeting the Great Bliss Queen" in Buddhists, Feminists, and the Art of the Self.

Photo of abbess, Images of Tibet.

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