Dakinis – The blissful wisdom of tantric transformation
The concept of the ḍākinī somewhat differs depending on the context and the tradition.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Dakinis in Tibetan Buddhist pantheon
- 2 - List of Tibetan Buddist Dakinis
Dakinis in Tibetan Buddhist pantheon
In Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhism, Dakini can refer to both what can be best described as fierce-looking female embodiments of enlightened energy and to human women with a certain amount of spiritual development, both of which can help Tantric initiates attaining enlightenment.
The ḍākinī appears in a Vajrayana formulation of the Buddhist refuge formula known as the Three Roots. Sometimes she appears as the dharmapala, alongside a guru and yidam.
An archetypal ḍākinī in Tibetan Buddhism is Yeshe Tsogyal, consort of Padmasambhava.
Tibetan Lamas explain that Dakinis possess advanced experiences of tantric transformation and control and are therefore able to increase the blissful wisdom of a highly qualified practitioner.”
List of Tibetan Buddist Dakinis
This is a list of well-known Dakinis in the Tibetan Buddist Pantheon.
The concept of the ḍākinī differs depending on the context and the tradition.
A ḍākinī in Hinduism is a demon and in Buddhism is a type of female spirit.
In Japan it is difficult to trace the exact origins of the Japanese Dakiniten cult but it flourished mainly via the network of Inari worship and vice versa.
Vajrayoginī is a Tantric Buddhist female Buddha and a ḍākiṇī. Vajrayoginī’s essence is “great passion” (maharaga), a transcendent passion that is free of selfishness and illusion — she intensely works for the well-being of others and for the destruction of ego clinging. She is seen as being ideally suited for people with strong passions, providing the way to transform those passions into enlightened virtues.
Vajravarahi is a wrathful form of Vajrayogini associated particularly with the Cakrasamvara Tantra, where she is paired in yab-yum with the Heruka Cakrasamvara.
Yeshe Tsogyal (also known as “Victorious Ocean of Wisdom”, “Wisdom Lake Queen”, was the Mother of Tibetan Buddhism. Some sources regard her as a wife of Trisong Detsen, emperor of Tibet. Her main karmamudrā consort was Padmasambhava, a founder-figure of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. She is known to have revealed terma with Padmasambhava and was also the main scribe for these terma. Later, Yeshe Tsogyal also hid many of Padmasambhava’s terma on her own, under the instructions of Padmasambhava for future generations.
Nairātmyā or Dagmema is a yoginī, the consort of Hevajra in the Hevajra-tantra. The name means “she who has no self (ātman)”. Nair-ātmyā is the feminine form of nairātmya which comes from nirātman ; nairātmya means “of nirātman”, and in the feminine form, nairātmyā, “she who has no self”. Nair-ātmyā, the no-self female, that is, she who has no self. She is an embodiment of the Buddhist philosophical concept of anātman.
Samantabhadri is a dakini and female Buddha from the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition.
She is the consort and female counterpart of Samantabhadra, known amongst some Tibetan Buddhists as the ‘Primordial Buddha’. Samantabhadri herself is known as the ‘primordial Mother Buddha’.
Samantabhadri is the dharmakaya dakini aspect of the Trikaya, or three bodies of a Buddha. As such, Samantabhadri represents the aspect of Buddhahood in whom delusion and conceptual thought have never arisen.
As font or wellspring of the aspects of the divine feminine she may be understood as the ‘Great Mother’. Seen differently, Samantabhadri is an aspect of Prajnaparamita.
Kurukulla is a female deity of the Lotus family, associated with the activity of magnetization or enchantment.
She is usually depicted as red in colour, in dancing posture and holding a flowery bow and arrow.
She is also one of the Twenty-One Taras mentioned in the ancient Tara tantras.
Mandarava was, along with Yeshe Tsogyal, one of the two principal consorts of great 8th century Indian tantric teacher Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), a founder-figure of Tibetan Buddhism, described as a ‘second Buddha’ by many practitioners. Mandarava is considered to be a female guru-deity in Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana.
In Tibetan Buddhism, Siṃhamukhā or Siṃhavaktra, also known as the Lion Face Dakini or Lion-headed Dakini, is a wisdom dakini of the Dzogchen tradition. She is represented as a fierce dakini with the head of a snow lion. Her mouth is depicted with a roar, symbolizing untamed fury and jubilant laughter. Her roar disperses discursive thoughts. She is naked, symbolizing that she herself is completely free of discursive thought.
Machig Labdrön, or Singular Mother Torch from Lab”, 1055-1149) was a renowned 11th-century Tibetan tantric Buddhist practitioner, teacher and yogini who originated several Tibetan lineages of the Vajrayana practice of Chöd.
Niguma is considered one of the most important and influential yoginis and Vajrayana teachers of the 10th or 11th century in India. She was a dakini, and one of the two female founders of the Shangpa Kagyu school of Vajrayana Buddhism, along with dakini Sukhasiddhi. Her birth name was Shrijnana. Like many of the mahasiddhas and Tantric practitioners of the time, Niguma was known by several names both during her lifetime and afterwards. She was called Yogini Vimalashri, or Vajradhara Niguma, or Jñana (wisdom) Dakini Adorned with Bone (ornaments), or The Sister referring to her purported relationship to the great Buddhist teacher and adept Naropa. She was also sometimes called Nigupta, which is explained by the historical Buddhist scholar Taranatha as follows: “The name Nigu accords with the Indian language, which is Nigupta, and is said to mean ‘truly secret’ or ‘truly hidden.’ In fact, it is the code-language of the dakinis of timeless awareness.”
Nāroḍākinī is a deity in Vajrayana Buddhism similar to Vajrayogini who no longer appears in the active pantheon despite her importance in late Indian Buddhism.
Sukhasiddhi was an Indian teacher of Vajrayana Buddhism and master of meditation. She was born in west Kashmir to a large, poor family. She is mother of three sons and three daughters. Once she gave a beggar the only food in the house and was expelled from home.
Tāre Lhamo, a.k.a. Tāre Dechen Gyalmo, was a Tibetan Buddhist master, visionary, and treasure revealer who gained renown in eastern Tibet. She was especially praised for her life-saving miracles during the hardships of the Cultural Revolution and for extending the life-span of many masters. It was said that her activities to benefit others swelled like a lake in spring.