A Hindu-Buddhist Distinction
Dakinis, goddesses and/or female consorts of deities in Buddhism are viewed as embodiments of Wisdom. This contrasts starkly with the Hindu tradition, which views female deities as aspects of energy called Shakti. In fact the Sanskrit word, shakti means power.
By the way, it is incorrect to think that there are 3 main gods in the Indian tradition. That was an idea imposed upon the structure of Indian mythology by scholars from the tradition that held to the Trinity paradigm.
In Bengal, Bihar and also in Nepal, the divine is understood, worshiped or invoked as a female. In Tibetan Buddhism, this confidence is most famously expressed in as the cult of Tara. It is not incorrect to view her and any of her manifestations as deity, bodhisattva, dakini but also, especially in Nepal where Hinduism and Buddhism intertwine, as Shakti. It may surprise some people to find that in the tantric tradition, Buddha Shakyamuni is considered to have taken the dairymaid, Sujata, as a temporary tantric consort fulfilling the role of shakti.
In the biography of Ayu Khadro, we learn that it was not uncommon for people visiting the Vajrayogini shrine to also go to the Kali temple near it, and vice versa. (The Hindu goddess Kali is a very wrathful manifestation of Parvati, wife of Shiva.)
S. Karmay enumerates 9 primordial females (srid pa mo dgu) who are sisters:
In transliterated Tibetan, he names these Nine Females of the World:
The Sky Queen is gnam-phyi-gung-rgyal. The second is gNam-sman-dkar-mo, the aunt of Gesar of Ling. The third sister is Mi-mkhan ma-mo who had the 8 offspring that are the progenitors of mankind. The 5th sister is Shed-za na-ma, the goddess of life whose four offspring are: pho-lha, ma-lha, zhang-lha, and sGra-lha. The 7th sister is phyva-tshe rgyal-mo (Queen of Wealth) and the mother of the gods, of horses, the door, and the hearth.
As a form of "enlightening" energy, the dakini could also be viewed as Shakti. This activity-that-empowers appears even in mystical Judaism [kabala] where she is Sh[e]kina, the glory of the Deity, but she is also the blessing that is the Sabbath Bride.
The shakti of Hindu deity Shiva is the most widely recognized. She has many names, manifesting as do most goddesses, in 3 main forms:
The Maiden aspect is the woman who serves to inspire the young hero on his quest. In folk tales, movies and video games, she is a princess.2. mature, generous, fiercely protective and motherly Hindu goddess Devi or Uma, or an alternate form, 10-armed Durga (Beyond Reach,) the warrior who vanquished primeval evil in the form of a monstrous water buffalo. See a similar form of the Buddhist deity, Vajravarahi.
Read her hundred names for insight into tantric Buddhist female deities.
This is Isis, deity of ancient Egypt, in search of her lost husband, Osiris. This is also Demeter, Greek goddess of Asia Minor, seeking her daughter Persephone and confronting the Universal Host, Hades, Lord of Death, to bargain for her return.3. The wrathful crone, Hindu black goddess Kali (remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?) is garlanded with skulls. The Sanskrit word, kali can be understood both as time and as black. She is the avenger of evil, and her sixteen hands hold various weapons symbolic of forms of destruction. She is surrounded by a ring of flames, and from her fanged maw protrudes her red tongue.
At her death, once every god-year [365 of ours], Shiva collects one of her bones to add to his mala which currently comprises only 21 bones. Animals (usually black goats) still are sacrificed at her temples like Kalighat, in Calcutta and therefore she is not a suitable object of Buddhist devotion. It was only in 1780 that human sacrifice was outlawed, though it had already been restricted as far back as Vedic times.
Kali also manifests as Chinnamasta, who bears her own severed head. There is a similar form in Tibetan Buddhism. (The motif in its male, Celtic version appears in the old poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. )
In many mythologies, the goddess disguises herself as an old woman and, in this manner, gets invited into the palace. There she performs helpful deeds that appear horrifying at first glance, for example, Greek goddess Demeter's attempt to bless the son of Metaneira by "burning away his mortality" in the hearth fire.
Her name is Sanskrit for Power of the Sun and Moon. She was a wisdom dakini that initiated Padmasambhava, and we read in the Nyingma text, Padma Kathang, that he prostrates to the enthroned dakini begging her for teachings: outer, inner and secret. She is called Laygyi Wangmo or "Queen of Action," for she transmutes her new acolyte by turning him into the sacred syllable HUM, swallowing him up and passing him through her body. In that way, he is initiated into her teachings, obtaining her own magical power or shakti energy before being ejected through her " secret lotus," so that he is completely purified and transformed.
Even her handmaid or Kumari (Sanskrit: princess, maiden) was a sorceress. She cut open her own breast with a crystal dagger and displayed a glowing mandala of deities within her. The two dakinis lived in the Castle of Skulls.
Shacha Dema (Belmo, Sakya Devi) is the name of the Bhutanese girl who was a consort of Guru Rinpoche's and is thought of as an emanation of Vajravarahi. She is depicted as the tigress in tangkas of his wrathful form as Dorje Drolo.
Niguma and Nairatmya are both legendary yoginis (female adepts) embodying that extraordinary shakti energy. The first one is a lineage guru (11th century) in her own right, a mahasiddha and companion of Naropa. She taught what is known as The Six Yogas of Niguma which includes abilities such as tummo, the practice of generating heat.
The second whose Sanskrit name describes her as Absolutely-No-Self, is the consort of Marpa, his moderating influence and the mentor of Milarepa.
The Triple Goddess
The dakini's triple nature is manifest in the Buddhist deity, Vajrayogini.
It was not by chance that Shakespeare used 3 witches or 'the three wyrd sisters' in his Scottish play, Macbeth. In European mythology, this three-fold nature appears as the three Norns or Fates who spin, measure and then clip the thread of life. Contemporary pagans or Wiccans also know her as the Triple Goddess, ruler of the three times [past, present and future] and the three worlds [heaven, earth, underworld].
*It is well-known that the Celts [pron.: kelts]
were members of the same ancient cultural group as some of the ancient migrants
to India. The cauldron of Celtic myth and folklore (the pot at the
end of the rainbow) is the equivalent of the dakini's skull-cup vessel, but in
the European tradition it may be supported on a tripod, in which all substances,
pure and impure, are mixed and transformed into bliss-ambrosia. It
performs the same function as the
bowl the dakini lifts to her lips or offers to others.
The Roma (Gitanos, Gypsies) acknowledge the Trickster aspect of shakti when they speak of duende, a spirit or force which enters through the feet causing a person to dance fiercely, or to be driven to extremes of behaviour, even madness. And this is not surprising, since it is thought that they originated in the central regions of India, today called Rajasthan.
Shakti: This Sanskrit word means "power," but it actually refers to a weapon such as a trident, pike or lance. In the symbology of many ancient gods, powers were depicted as tools and weapons; items that are collectively known today as "attributes." In some cultures, the female form of Divinity is a kind of living attribute -- that is, the goddess-consort stands for the god's activity in our world.
Himalayan Buddhism also makes use of this "language," but more
frequently it employs a subtler system that speaks of levels
of "existence" in which Deity proceeds from Emptiness and is
composed of Wisdom, depicted as a female in conjunction with Method as