Lion Faced Dakini – Singhamukha Yogini
Lion-faced Dakini is a secret form of Vajrayogini also has a relationship to Troma and the practice of chöd. She is appropriate for clearing obstacles of the most pervasive and malignant kind and cutting through the “three poisons” of mind.
This ancient practice has been important in Tibetan Buddhism since the time of Guru Rinpoche. PeGyal Lingpa received this revelation directly from Padmasambhava, appearing in a red-black form, instead of the more common dark blue manifestation. This indicates that this is the inner form of the yidam, allied to the Pema family.
Sengdongma is particularly focused on pacifying the destructive influence of the Mamos, the forces of distributed “yin” or feminine demonic energies.
The wanton destruction of the environment and the degradation of human culture greatly stirs up and enrages these elemental force. They retaliate with the disease, epidemics, weather disturbances and calamities on a major scale.
The Dakini became far more powerful than the demoness, who then began to lose her strength. While the Dakini was in a deep samadhi of taming the maras, countless dakinis emanated from her and subdued all the demons. Tramen Sengdongma, now pacified, took an oath to serve the dharma and became a protector. S
Table of Contents
- 1 - Iconography of Simhamukha
- 2 - Simhamukha and Sharma Tradition
- 3 - Description of Singhamukha by Rinpoche Jamgon Kongtrul
- 4 - Shakyamuni Buddha and Lion-faced Dakini
- 5 - The Wrathful Wisdom Dakini Simhamukha
- 6 - The Magical Function of Averting Psychic Attacks
- 7 - The Wrathful Archetype
- 8 - Simhamukha according to the Sakyapa Tradition
- 9 - Sadhana of Simhamukha Dakani
- 10 - Simhamukha Dakani Puja
- 11 - Singhamukha mudra
Iconography of Simhamukha
Simhamukha is iconographically represented as a wrathful deity who is usually depicted as a dark blue, or maroon colored lion-faced female and is associated with the direction East.
As Simhavaktra, an alternate form of Simhamukha, she is also an attendant of the Dharmapala Palden Lhamo, in which case she is depicted as carrying both a kapala, or skullcap, and a Kartika, or ritual knife.
Snarling and roaring with a gaping largemouth on a white lion face, Simhamukha stands fierce and menacing with two hands, dark blue in color, with protruding fangs, curled tongue, two large round eyes and dark green flowing hair.
The right-hand holds aloft a curved flaying knife with a gold vajra handle. The left clutches to the heart a white skullcup filled with blood. Adorned with a crown of five skulls, bone necklace and gold ornaments she wears a green silk scarf and a barely discernable tiger skin skirt.
In a dancing posture with the left leg extended and the right drawn up, she stands atop a red corpse seat, sun disc and a pink lotus surrounded by a circle of flame and smoke. With a body black in color, the face is that of a white lion, with three round yellow eyes, blazing fiercely with a gaping mouth, a yellow beard, eyebrows, and hair flowing upward.
The right-hand holds upraised a curved knife to the sky, left a skullcup of blood to the heart, carrying a khatvanga staff tipped with a trident in the bend of the elbow supported against the shoulder. Adorned with a tiara of five skulls, red scarf, elephant skin, bone ornaments, a long snake and fifty freshly severed heads as a necklace, she wears a tiger skin skirt.
Standing on the left leg with the right drawn up, trampling on a double triangle symbol, corpse, sun and multi-colored lotus seat, Simhamukha in a mood of great fierceness dwells in the middle of a blazing fire of pristine awareness.
Simhamukha and Sharma Tradition
In the Sarma (new) Schools the dakini Simhamukha is a tutelary deity arising out of the Cakrasamvara cycle of Tantras and belongs to the anuttarayoga ‘wisdom’ classification. The Sarma tradition Simhamukha is unrelated to the deity of the same name and appearance in the Nyingma ‘Terma’ (treasure) traditions.
In that tradition, of the many forms of Padmasambhava, she is regarded as the secret form of Guru Rinpoche. In the sadhana for Vajra Dakini Simhamukha, written by Jamgon Kongtrul, the goddess is described as follows:
Description of Singhamukha by Rinpoche Jamgon Kongtrul
The color of her body is a dark azure, like the dark color of the gathering storm clouds. And she is exceedingly wrathful. She has a single face and two arms.
Her lion’s face is white in color and turns slightly to the right. The expression on her face is fierce and wrathful. From her three red eyes come flashes of lightning and her lion’s roar is like thunder.
The hair of her head is long and black and made of iron. From this mass of hair that is billowing about everywhere (as if in a storm) is projected miniature phurbas like live sparks.
With her right hand she flourished a five-pronged vajra in the sky and with her left hand, she holds before her heart a kapala skull-cup filled with blood.
She has a khatvanga staff cradled in the crook of her left arm. She girds her loins with a skirt made of tiger skin and, like a mantle, she wears the hide of an elephant and a flayed human skin. In all respects, she is garbed in the eight-fold attire of the cremation ground.
She adorns herself with a long garland of dried and freshly severed human heads, as well as with necklaces of human bone. She is adorned with various kinds of fearful apparitions and at her navel is the sun and moon.
Her two legs are extended and drawn up in the dance position of ardhaparyanka, while she stands amidst the blazing masses of the flames of wisdom.
At her forehead is the white syllable OM, at her throat is the red syllable, AH, and at her throat is the blue syllable HUM.
Then from the syllable HUM in her heart center there emanate rays of light, and from the great violently burning cremation ground in the land of Uddiyana, which is in the western direction, is invoked the Jnana Dakini Simhamukha, who is surrounded by retinues of hundreds of thousands of dreadful Matrika goddesses, together with the ocean-like hosts of guardian spirits who are her attendants.”
Shakyamuni Buddha and Lion-faced Dakini
Practice In the time of the 100-year lifespans, Buddha Shakyamuni appeared in the world and turned the wheel of dharma in many places such as Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Vulture’s Peak, and the charnel ground of Lanka, teaching on many levels including Vajrayana.
He said that at that time it was as if the sun were in the center of the sky, and there was no darkness anywhere, but when the sun went down then the darkness of ignorance would arise. But the Lord Buddha continued that there would be a method to dispel this ignorance, and so Vajrapani requested that Lord Buddha teach this method.
Shakyamuni Buddha rested in the samadhi of taming the maras and then taught the whole cycle of the Lion-faced Dakini.
He taught in many different ways, and these transmissions were concealed by Vajrapani as treasures after he received them.
Apart from its mantra recitation, Sengdongma practice contains the element of “dokpa” or reversal of negativity. Accompanied by the clapping of hands (bringing earth and heaven together), negative conditions, sickness and misfortunes of all kind are turned away and averted so that they never manifest or disturb the tantric practitioner’s health, wellness or spiritual progress.
The Wrathful Wisdom Dakini Simhamukha
In terms of these Higher Tantras, a meditation deity who is both wrathful and female is the Jnana Dakini Simhamukha. It is important to understand that, despite her exceedingly wrathful appearance and animal head, she is not a guardian spirit, subdued by magic, converted to the Dharma, and bound by oaths of service by some powerful Mahasiddha in the past.
Rather, she is a wrathful manifestation of Guhyajnana Dakini, who, according to the Nyingmapa tradition, was the principal Dakini teacher of Padmasambhava in the country of Uddiyana.
Therefore, although Simhamukha is a Dakini in her aspect, she functions as a Yidam or meditation deity and her special functions are averting and repulsing psychic attacks that may assault the practitioner and the subduing of negative female energy as personified by the Matrikas or Mamos.
These latter are wild uncontrolled female spirits inhabiting the wilderness, both the mountains and the forests, beyond the confines of patriarchal civilization. These female spirits are generally hostile to the male gender. Simhamukha appears in a form wrathful, feminine, and demonic; indeed, her form is said to be actually that of a Matrika or Mamo, not because her nature is evil or demonic, but because her wrathful aspect skillfully overcomes and subdues those violent negative energies. Simhamukha is a Jnana Dakini or wisdom goddess.
According to Jigmed Lingpa (1726-1798), the famous Nyingmapa master and discoverer of hidden treasure texts or Termas, Simhamukha represents a Nirmanakaya manifestation, appearing in time and history, whereas her Sambhogakaya aspect is Vajravarahi and her Dharmakaya aspect is Samantabhadri, the Primordial Wisdom herself.
Very often the Dakinis and the Matrikas were the old pre-Buddhist pagan goddesses of the earth and sky, although generally the Matrikas always tend to be more local in their nature. Dakinis may appear in many different female forms, young and old, some with animal heads.
In Hindu tradition, the goddess Durga is called the Queen of the Dakinis and Matrikas or witches. In many ways, Simhamukha represents a Buddhist version of Durga, but instead of riding on a lion and brandishing her weapons with eighteen arms, Simhamukha has the head of a lion.
Among the eight Tantra sections transmitted to Tibet in the 8th century by Padmasambhava, there is the section called Ma-mo rbad gtong, “the cursing and spell casting associated with the witch goddesses,” wherein Simhamukha, as the chief divine figure, very much assumes the role of the Hindu goddess Durga in subduing demons and evil spirits and protecting practitioners from negative provocations of energy coming from the Mamos.
Like other nature spirits, the Mamos are disturbed by mankind’s destruction of the natural environment and therefore inflict plagues, new diseases, earthquakes, madness, wars, and other calamities upon human civilization.
The Magical Function of Averting Psychic Attacks
As we have said, the principal magical function of Simhamukha is the averting or repulsing of negative energy and sending it back to its source, whether that source is a black magician or an evil spirit.
Such a provocation of negative energy is called a malediction, and this is illustrated in the story of Bari Lotsawa (see below). Most often the Goddess is invoked to avert a psychic attack.
As indicated previously with the Dakini Kurukulla, Tantric Buddhism sees this working with energy in concrete ways in terms of the four magic or magical activities. Although Simhamukha can work with any of the four, she principally relates to the fourth function or fierce magical actions.
Therefore, the dark azure blue-colored Vajra Simhamukha is placed in the center of the mandala. Spiritually, she represents the transformation of anger or wrath into enlightened awareness, and psychically or magically, she accomplishes the subduing and vanquishing provocations of negative energy personified as demons and evil spirits.
She is surrounded by her retinue of four Dakinis who resemble herself, except for their body-color and certain attributes: in the east there is the white Buddha Simhamukha who has the magical function of pacifying circumstances and healing, in the south is the yellow Ratna Simhamukha who has the magical function of increasing wealth and prosperity, in the west is the red Padma Simhamukha who has the magical function of enchanting and bringing others under her power, and in the north is the dark green Karma Simhamukha who has the magical function of vanquishing and destroying negative forces.
Each of these aspects of Simhamukha has their own mantras and rituals. If the practitioner is working which a specific function, say, for example, becoming successful at business or winning at the horse races, he would put Ratna Simhamukha in the center of the mandala, doing the visualization while reciting her action mantra. But in thangkas, Vajra Simhamukha is usually represented as a single figure without the accompanying retinue.
The Wrathful Archetype
Nevertheless, despite her wrathful appearance and her magical activities, Simhamukha is a manifestation of the enlightened awareness of the Buddha and her nature is compassion.
Like the Archangel Michael, she slays the dragon representing the forces of evil and chaos. She only shows her fierce and angry face in order to subdue misguided beings, much like a mother disciplining her naughty child. The worldly gods and spirits are not enlightened beings; they are still conditioned by their ignorance and their karma and still abide inside of Samsara or cyclical existence. And sometimes they direct negative energy against humans in the form of maledictions and the practice of Simhamukha may be used to avert and repulse these psychic attacks.
Transcendent deities like Simhamukha are emanations or projections of enlightened beings and being archetypes they may serve as meditation deities. These figures are principally classified into three types because meditation on them the serve as antidotes to the three principal poisons that afflict human consciousness:
- meditation on peaceful tranquil deities transforms confusion,
- meditation on wrathful deities transforms anger, and
- meditation on lustful or joyous deities transforms desire.
Simhamukha according to the Sakyapa Tradition
But the revelation of the root mantra for Simhamukha is especially associated with the name of Bari Lotawa who came from the region of Dringtsam and it is said he was born in the same year as Milarepa (1040).
Traveling to Nepal and India, he studied Sanskrit, translating many texts including a collection of sadhanas and a collection of magical rituals.
While in Nepal, he debated with a Hindu teacher named Bhavyaraja, and when he defeated the later, the sorcerer launched a magical attack against the translator.
In terror, he fled to Bodh Gaya in India, where his own spiritual master Vajrasanapa advised him to propitiate the Dakinis with puja offerings and pray for their help.
In a dream, Simhamukha appeared to him and instructed him to go to a large rock to the east of Bodh Gaya and dig below the rock where he would find a hidden casket. He followed her instructions precisely and discovered the casket as described.
Inside, written in blood on human skin, was the fierce mantra of fourteen letters that averts all magical attacks.
That night he performed an averting rite and employing the mantra, he succeeded in hurling all the negative energy assaulting him back at its source in Nepal.
The rebound was so strong that it killed the sorcerer. For the next year, Bari did penance and purification practices at the stupa in Bodh Gaya in order to cleanse the sin of his act.
Returning to Tibet, he conferred the Simhamukha practice upon Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, both the oral instructions and the magical rituals.
In this way, the precepts for Simhamukha from Bari Lotawa become one of the Thirteen Golden Dharmas of the Sakyapa tradition.
These teachings descended to Khyentse Rinpoche who was himself a Sakyapa Lama.
17th Century and Simhamukh
In the 17th century, there was an important master belonging to the Bodongpa lineage, the Togdan Namkha Sangye Gonpo, but he followed the tradition of Bari Lotsawa when practicing Simhamukha. He was called a Togdan, literally meaning “one who possesses understanding,” because he was a wandering itinerant yogi.
He was cured of leprosy because of a vision of Simhamukha. But later he also had personal contact with Guru Rinpoche in his pure visions and was instructed in Simhamukha practice according to the Anuyoga system of non-gradual or instantaneous generation of the deity.
Sangye Gonpo explained that at the end of the practice one should integrate oneself into the state of contemplation that is the Great Perfection or Dzogchen. This is quite different from the usual Simhamukha practice in the Sakyapa tradition and in the Gelugpa tradition that inherited the latter.
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Simhamukh
The most extensive Tibetan commentary on Simhamukha practice is that by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892). This text draws on both the Nyingmapa tradition, where the Dakini is associated with Padmasambhava and on the traditions of the Newer Schools, especially the Sakyapa and the Bodongpa. The text is entitled “The Excellent Vase of Precious Jewels”.
Here are found a number of sadhanas and magical rites connected with Simhamukha, as well as a history of the revelation of the practices connected with Bari Lotsawa and Sangye Gonpo. The text compiled by the first Khyentse Rinpoche is mainly based on the teachings of Sangye Gonpo, but the former collected many different texts and put them together in a single volume.
Khyentse Rinpoche gives three sadhanas for the outer, inner, and secret forms of Simhamukha, composed by Padma Gargyi Wangchuk, also known as Jamgon Kongtrul. The latter was his colleague in the non-sectarian Rimed Movement in Eastern Tibet in the 19th century.
Sadhana of Simhamukha Dakani
The outer sadhana is for the Vajra Dakini Simhamukha, which is the usual form depicted in thankas (her description is given below).
The inner sadhana is for the Padma Dakini Simhamukha who has a red body and a yellow lion’s face. She serves for both increasing wealth and enchantment. The secret sadhana is for the exceedingly wrathful black Krodha Kali Simhamukha, “the wrathful black goddess,” who appears to annihilate the delusion of ego, symbolized by the insatiable demon king Rudra, much like Durga cutting the head off the demon king Mahisha.
The secret sadhana is also connected with the practice of Chod, the severing or cutting off of the ego. For this reason, this form of Simhamukha is also called Vajra Nairatma,
“she who destroys the notion of an ego.”
Simhamukha Dakani Puja
In general, the ritual practice for Simhamukha proceeds in the usual fashion of Dakini sadhana and puja, as for example, with Vajrayogini.
The practitioner places a kapala or skull-cup filled with wine on a tripod in the center of the mandala in the shrine.
A metal mirror is laid across the skull-cup. This mirror has been covered with red sindhur powder, in which are inscribed the triangles of origination in the form of a hexagram.
This symbol is called the Dharmodaya, or source of all phenomena, and at its center is inscribed the letter HUM, which is the seed syllable of the wrathful goddess.
A vase containing consecrated water is placed beneath the tripod. The vase, the kapala, and the Dharmodaya are all conventional feminine symbols.
Around them, the various offerings and ritual implements are arranged.
Simhamukha Mudra is the eighteenth hand gesture of the twenty-eight single-hand mudras (asamyuktahastas) as described in the AbhinayaDarpana.
Technique: Hold your hand raised, stretch your little finger and index finger upward while bending and applying the tips of the middle and ring fingers to meet with the thumb.
Application: Primarily used by performing artists to create context and express emotional states or specific actions.
Utilized for peace and restorative needs in the Yoga tradition.