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Dakinis - Who are they and What they Represent?

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Thought I'd share with all....

I came across this information about the mystical, magical, beautiful Dakinis that we hear so often in our prayers' verses and it is really interesting to know what they represent and truly are...

Do add to this if you have found anything interesting ;)

The Dakini Principle


Dakini is a Sanskrit term, Khandro is its Tibetan equivalent, it means "Sky-Goer". Dakinis are portrayed in female form and their male counterparts are known as Dakas. There are two types of dakinis – the Wisdom Dakini and the worldly dakini. Worldly dakinis are the ones still trapped in the cyclic existence and are found in the human and well as the celestial realms. They can take a beautiful or a demonic form. For example, the originally evil five Tseringma sisters were tamed by Guru Padmasambhava into Dharma protectors. A female practitioner who has attained some insights but not yet fully liberated from samsara is also considered to be a worldly dakini.

Wisdom Dakinis are the enlightened ones, such as Vajra Yogini, Tara and Samantabhadri. They are also portrayed as female consorts of the male Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Dakini is a source of refuge. Besides taking refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), we also take refuge in the Three Roots (Guru, Yidam and Dakini): Guru as the root of blessings because he or she will guide us to attain enlightenment; Yidam as the root of accomplishment because through the skilful method of practicing on an Yidam or tutelary deity, one will realise the nature of his or her own mind; Dakini as the root of all enlightened activities since Dakini represents primordial wisdom.

Dakini is associated with spaciousness, therefore has the ability to give birth to limitless prospects of enlightened activities which can be grouped into four: pacifying, enriching, magnetising and destroying. Dakini also embodies the union of emptiness and wisdom. There is nothing more than this.

Many people associate the principles of Dakini with physical beauty or physical attractions of a woman, however this is not the ultimate meaning. A Dakini has the ability to move freely in the space, a space which is beyond thoughts and beyond fabrications. This is the state of awareness which is under control, stable and yet free. Everyone has the ability and the potentials to realise the Wisdom Dakini principles or nature within oneself.

Here is a beautiful picture of Flying Vajrayogini our Wisdom Dakini Queen...

Thank you for a wonderful post dsiluvu. From what I know, besides 'sky goer', they are also called "celestial woman" or "cloud fairy." I found more on from different beliefs.

Tibetan Buddhism

Although dakini figures appear in Hinduism and in the Bön tradition, dakinis are particularly prevalent in Vajrayana Buddhism and have been particularly conceived in Tibetan Buddhism where the dakini, generally of volatile or wrathful temperament, act somewhat as a muse (or inspirational thoughtform) for spiritual practice. Dakinis are energetic beings in female form, evocative of the movement of energy in space. In this context, the sky or space indicates shunyata, the insubstantiality of all phenomena, which is, at the same time, the pure potentiality for all possible manifestations.

Dakinis, being associated with energy in all its functions, are linked with the revelation of the Anuttara Yoga Tantras or Higher Tantras, which represent the path of transformation, whereby the energy of negative emotions or kleshas, called poisons, are transformed into the luminous energy of enlightened awareness (jnana) yielding rigpa.
When considered as a stage on the Vajrayana Path, the dakini is the final stages: the first is the guru, which corresponds to the initial realization of the true condition of reality, as this is introduced by the guru in the empowerment, if the disciple obtains what the Inner Tantras call peyi yeshe. The second is the devata, which corresponds to the meditation insofar as the devata is the method we use for developing the state discovered in the initial realization of the true condition of reality. The third stage is the dakini insofar as the dakini is the source of the activities based on the realization of the guru and the meditation of the devata. In Dzogchen these three correspond to tawa, gompa and chöpa: the first is the direct Vision of the true nature of reality rather than an intellectual view of reality, as is the case with the term in other vehicles; the second is the continuity of this vision in sessions of meditation; and the third is the continuity of this vision in the everyday activities. As a tantric practice, imperfections are utilised to make the vision uninterrupted. As the Base, the dakinis are the energies of life; as the Path, they are the activities of advanced practitioners; as the Fruit, they are the actionless activities of realized Masters.

According to tradition, a Dakini gave a black hat to the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284–1339), when he was three years old. The Black Crown became the emblem of the oldest reincarnating Tibetan lineage.

In Hinduism

In Hinduism the term Dakini has often negative associations. From the ninth through at least the thirteenth centuries, there was an active cult of dakinis, usually called yoginis in India today. The dakinis are the guardians of the deeper mysteries of the self, and it is through them that the secrets of inner transformation are opened. The Ranipur-Jharial Temple in Orissa, India, contains stone carvings of sixty-four dakinis, ancient symbolic representations of the female principles of intuitive wisdom. At least nine yogini temples have been discovered so far. There is a distinction among the terms goddess, shakti, yogini and dakini, shakini though in general conversation it is blurred and the terms are used interchangeably. A dakini is a Tantric priestess of ancient India who "carried the souls of the dead to the sky" They are timeless, inorganic, immortal, non-human beings who have co-existed since the very beginning with the Spiritual Energy.

In Japanese Buddhism

Dakini-ten in Japan (She always appears in the form to have ridden on white fox.) 1783

During the decline of the Heian period, the Dakini image was mixed together with images of foxes and half-naked women, acquiring the names Dakini-ten (Dakini-deity, ????), Shinko?-bosatsu (Central Fox Queen-Bodhisattva, ?????), and Kiko-tenn? (Noble Fox-heavenly Queen, ????). In the Middle Ages the Emperor would chant before an image of the fox Dakini-ten during his enthronement ceremony, and both shogun and emperor would pay honors to Dakini-ten whenever they saw it. Although Dakini-ten was said to be a powerful Buddhist deity, the images and stories surrounding it in Japan in both medieval and modern times are entirely drawn from local kitsune mythology, having no parallels in China or India. The modern folk belief, often printed in Japanese books about religion, is that the fox image was a substitute for the Indian jackal, but the jackal is not associated with Dakini anywhere. It was a common belief at the time that ceasing to pay respects to Dakini-ten would cause the immediate ruin of the regime. Likewise, in the Genpei J?suiki it is claimed that Taira no Kiyomori met a kitsune on the road and that his subsequent performance of Dakini-ten rites caused him to rise from an unimportant clan leader to the ruler of the entire nation.

In early modern times the Dakini rite devolved into various spells called Dakini-ten, Izuna, and Akiba. People who felt wronged in their village could go to a corrupt yamabushi who practiced black magic, and get him to trap a kitsune and cause it to possess a third party. Reports of possession became especially common in the Edo and Meiji periods.

Thank you for a wonderful topic. Here is another information of Dakinis whom i never heard before, its interesting of what we found in searching indeed.

Eight Bodhisattva Dakinis

The Bardo Thödol speaks of eight female Bodhisattvas appearing in groups of two during the 2nd to 5th days of the bardo.

The deities in question, listed according to their appearance, have the following names:

2nd day
Lasya, who rules the human sense of vision and draws all eyes toward her by performing dance and mudra (1). Thus she is seen as the divine archetype of the female temptress, displaying the physical beauty, dignity, majesty and seductiveness of the feminine principle.
Pushpa (Skt., puspa, "flower"), the Goddess of flowers and the natural environment as well as the Bodhisattva of vision and sight.

3rd day
Mala, the Bodhisattva of adornments, necklaces and garlands
Dhupa, the Goddess of air, smell and scent who carries and burns wonderful incense

4th day
Gita, the Bodhisattva of singing and chanting
Aloka, who carries the torch of boundless white light

5th day
Gandha, Goddess of feelings carrying an essence made of herbs, representing sensory perception
Naivedya or Nartya, who offers the nourishment of meditation that is necessary for skillful action
These eight goddesses are associated with the eight male Bodhisattvas, with who they are frequently shown in sexual union, more precisely in the yab-yum position.

The fierce aspects of the eight deities are known as Eight Phramenma.

Positive Change:
Here are some various interesting "explanations" that I would like to add to an already most wonderful thread!

Dakini loosely translates as "sky-dancer" or "walker in space" from Sanskrit. The dakini represents complete freedom. As a female Buddha she symbolises enlightened energy.

A Dakini is a Tantric priestess of ancient India who "carried the souls of the dead to the sky". This Buddhist figure is particularly upheld in Tibetan Buddhism. The dakini is a female being of generally volatile temperament, who acts as a muse for spiritual practice. Dakinis can be likened to elves, angels, or other such supernatural beings, and are symbolically representative of testing one's awareness and adherence to Buddhist tantric sadhana.

According to legend, members of the Indian royal castes and the wealthy nobility brought their deceased to the far North to visit the Shrine of the Dakini (located at the foothills of the Himalaya). Other legends mention a Tibetan myth which says dakini first appeared in a remote area "pure of man".

Dakini are timeless, inorganic, immortal, non-human beings who have co-existed since the very beginning with the Spiritual Energy. In some New Age belief systems, they are angelic. This New Age paradigm differs from that of the Judeo-Christian by not insisting on angels being bona fide servants of God.

Moreover, an angel is the Western equivalent of a dakini. The behavior of dakini has always been revelatory and mysterious; they respond to the state of spiritual energy within individuals. Love is their usual domain - one explanation for dakini or angels supposedly living in the sky or heaven. Manifestations of dakini in human form occur because they supposedly can assume any form. Most often they appear as a human female. By convention, a male of this type is called a 'daka'.

In Tibetan Buddhism and other schools closely related to Yogacara and Vajrayana practises, a dakini is considered a supernatural being who tests a practitioner's abilities and commitments. Many stories of the Mahasiddhas in Tibet contain passages where a dakini will come to perturb the would-be Mahasiddha.

When the dakini's test has been fulfilled and passed, the practitioner is often then recognised as a Mahasiddha, and often is elevated into the Paradise of the Dakinis, a place of enlightened bliss. It should be noted that while dakinis are often depicted as beautiful and naked, they are not sexual symbols, but rather natural ones. There are instances where a dakini has come to test a practitioner's control over their sexual desires, but the dakini itself is not a being of passion. Tantric sex may involve a "helper" dakini - a human female trained in Tantra Yoga - or an "actual" dakini. Both increase the level of erotic pleasure for the sexual participants by helping them focus on a non-physical state of spiritual joy and the physical pleasure of sex at the same time.

Iconographic representations tend to show the dakini as a young, naked figure in a dancing posture, often holding a skull cup filled with menstrual blood or the elixir of life in one hand, and a curved knife in the other. She may wear a garland of human skulls, with a trident staff leaning against her shoulder. Her hair is usually wild and hanging down her back, and her face often wrathful in expression, as she dances on top of a corpse, which represents her complete mastery over ego and ignorance. Practitioners often claim to hear the clacking of her bone adornments as the dakinis indulge in their vigorous movement. Indeed these unrestrained damsels appear to revel in freedom of every kind.

There is a connection between Dakini goddess energies and all of creational feminine dieties.

Some people believe the Dakini language is linked to that of Atlantis - the trilling of the high priestesses in the language of Vril.

Dakini is the Goddess of Life's Turning Points. Distillations of archetypal emanations, the Dakinis represent those essence principles within the self which are capable of transformation to a higher octave. Dakinis are 'sky dancers,' heavenly angels devoted to the truth (dharma), woman consorts of and partners with the god-creators of India and Tibet. Dakini serves as instigator, inspirer, messenger, even trickster, pushing the tantrika (aspirant) across the barriers to enlightenment.

Dakini's wrathful aspect is depicted by the mala of skulls. Her peaceful aspect is depicted by the lotus frond. Like Hindu goddess Kali, her role is to transmute suffering. Her left hand holds high the lamp of liberation. Dakini represent the sky being a womb symbol connoting emptiness, creativity, potentiality. They are objects of desire and also carriers of the cosmic energies that continually fertilize our human sphere. Dakinis bring us pleasure and spirituality. They provoke the enervating lust that brings life into being. They are poetic and cosmic souls, put here to tempt us to spirituality.

It is said that the Dakinis have the power to instantly entrap mere mortals with their gaze. The mirror of your mind is the mysterious home of the Dakini - your right brain - your feminine side. The secret Dakinis guard the deeper mysteries of the self. Representing upsurging inspiration and non-conceptual understanding, Dakinis invite you to cut free of all limitations. They are unconventional, unexpected, spontaneous, dancing in great bliss, at one with divine truth. In the eastern tradition, a cycle of 64 Dakinis/Yoginis represents a complete cosmogram for the transformation of the self, embodying the total energy cycle of creation as depicted by the dance of Gnosis, the wisdom and energy of the divine feminine. In representing this complete cycle we have the opportunity of evoking not only the Goddess, but of manifesting the totality of the Great Goddess herself.

Yogini/Dakini temples flourished in India around the 9th through the 12th centuries. Erected in remote places, especially on hilltops, the temples were circular enclosures open to the sky. Around the inner circumference were 64 niches which housed exquisite stone carvings representing various aspects of the Goddess energy, creating a circular mandala around a central image of Shiva, symbol of Cosmic Consciousness and the one-pointedness of yogic discipline.

They are usually depicted as dancing which indicates they actively participate in the world or in the spiritual world,or in the spiritual in both Nirvana and samsara.Dakini represent manisfestation of energy in female form.The movement of energy and space indicates Shunyata. The Dakinis are much associated with the revelation of higher tantras. which represent the path of transformation.The Dakinis grant karma,siddhis or magical powers that are of a more worldly purpose.They manifest in visions,dreams and meditationed experiences.


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