Four Sacred Sites of Vajra Yogini in Nepal
Each enlightened being in the vast Tibetan Buddhist pantheon represents a unique method or path towards Enlightenment. Amongst all of these deities who lead us to Enlightenment, there are none that can be compared to Vajra Yogini in terms of efficacy and expediency of practice. This has been famously said by many high lamas, including Lama Yeshe who quoted the Chakrasamvara Tantras that attributed Vajra Yogini’s supreme mantra to be the King of Mantras. This means that if you have the initiation and practice of Vajra Yogini, you will not need to recite any other mantras. If your vows and commitments are intact, you can gain spiritual attainments through the mere recitation of her mantra, even if you do not engage in any accompanying visualisations. No other Tantric deity’s mantra or practice can boast of such efficacy.
Like many great Tantric traditions, the practice of Vajra Yogini has divine origins and according to the various great masters who beheld visions of her, thus arose the various traditions and forms of Vajra Yogini that we rely upon today. In Kechara for example, we rely upon the form of Vajra Yogini that originally arose from a pure vision beheld by the great Indian master and scholar Naropa, who was renowned for having given up everything in order to seek out his master Tilopa. After countless years of struggle, Naropa met his teacher and became thoroughly devoted to him. It was only after years of trials and tribulations that Tilopa initiated his disciple Naropa into the sindhura mandala of Vajravarahi, perhaps the earliest lineage of the Vajra Yogini practice. Naropa was subsequently sent off to meditate and it is said that in six months, he achieved Mahamudra-siddhi and beheld Vajravarahi in the aspect that we know today as Vajra Yogini Naro Kechari (Naro Kachö in Tibetan).
The History and Lineage of the Five Forms of Vajra Yogini
It is said that Vajradhara manifested as Heruka Chakrasamvara in order to transmit and elaborate on the practice of Vajra Yogini. While all lineages of Vajra Yogini can be scripturally traced back to this original text, the subsequent lineages of her practice can be attributed to various great Indian masters of the past. Although there are innumerable lineages of Vajra Yogini, five main lineages are diffused within Tibetan Buddhism.
1. Vajravarahi (Indra Kachö)
One of the oldest and perhaps the earliest lineage of Vajra Yogini’s practice is the Indra Kachö or Indra Kechari lineage of Vajra Yogini. This lineage is also commonly known as the ‘Adamantine Sow’ or Vajravarahi; in Tibetan, this form of Vajra Yogini is known as ‘Dorje Phagmo’.
A depiction of Vajravarahi or also known as Indra Kacho. Click on image to enlarge.
A depiction of Vajravarahi, also known as Indra Kachö. Click on image to enlarge.
Vajra Yogini in her Indra Kachö form stands in the dynamic posture of a great vajra dance, with one foot stomping on Maha Ishvara representing great ignorance and the other leg raised in dance. Her right hand wields a curved knife up to the side and her left hand holds a skullcup at the level of her heart. She is sometimes depicted with the prominent face of a sow protruding from above her right ear; at other times, the sow protrudes from the crown of her head. The sow represents the transmutation of ignorance into the transcendent experience of great bliss and Emptiness.
This ancient lineage of Vajra Yogini can be traced all the way back to Indrabodhi or Indrabhuti, who received the practice from his guru, the Mahasiddha Lawapa also sometimes referred to as the Mahasiddha Kambalapada. The name Indra Kachö literally means that this form of Vajra Yogini was practised by Indrabodhi and so the lineage took his name. According to tradition, Indrabodhi was a king who ruled the kingdom of Sambhola, one of the two kingdoms in the land of the dakinis, Oddiyana. King Jalendra ruled the other non-Buddhist kingdom of Lankapuri. Although there was peace in the land, a propitious marriage was arranged to unite the two kingdoms and so a betrothal took place between Princess Laksminkara, the sister of King Indrabodhi, and the son of King Jalendra.
Princess Laksminkara was just 16 years old when she was escorted to her new home with great pomp and ceremony. Prior to this, she had been practising the sadhana (daily meditational prayers and visualisations) that she had received from her guru and, driven by great renunciation, she was loathe to be bound by her new royal duties. In fact, the moment she arrived in her husband’s kingdom, a deep revulsion for the material world overcame her. She locked herself in her room, tore her clothes and seemed to be overcome with madness. One night, she escaped from the palace and went into the mountains to live in a cave and meditate. There, she is said to have gained Enlightenment (mahamudra-siddhi) and she began preaching the Buddha’s teachings to latrine sweepers and other outcasts of the kingdom.
From the time of her arrival, Princess Laksminkara’s outrageous behaviour brought much shame and trouble for her new royal family-in-law. King Jalendra immediately sent for King Indrabodhi to speak with his sister. However, King Indrabodhi realised that his sister had gained attainments and he himself felt the utmost shame for living a life surrounded by ease and comfort. And while his sister had realised the nature of existence, he had realised nothing and merely ruled his country.
Thereafter, King Indrabodhi resolved to follow in his sister’s path. After the coronation of his son as the new king, he retired to a small palace where he practised his sadhana for 12 years, finally achieving full Enlightenment himself.
One day, his son came to visit Indrabodhi, accompanied by those who loved the old king. As they were about to enter the palace, a loud voice boomed from over their heads. Looking up, they saw Indrabodhi floating in the air while seated on a magnificent throne.
Everyone prostrated to Indrabodhi and it is said that for seven days, he remained floating in the air while giving teachings to his son and friends on the doctrine of ‘inconceivable profundity and immensity’. On the eighth day, he ascended to Kechara Paradise with 700 disciples. Therefore, according to tradition, the Indra Kachö lineage of Vajra Yogini is one of the teachings that is attributed to the great king Indrabodhi.
2. Uddhapada Vajra Yogini (Maitri Kachö)
A thangka of Uddhapada Vajra Yogini, also known as Maitri Kachö Vajra Yogini. Click on image to enlarge.
Another famous lineage of Vajra Yogini’s practice is the Maitri Kachö or Maitri Kechari lineage. This lineage extends all the way back to the great Indian Mahasiddha Maitripa. It is also known as the Uddhapada Vajra Yogini or ‘One Leg Up’ Vajra Yogini lineage.
Uddhapada Vajra Yogini has her sacred body in a yogic posture with her right leg bent behind her at the knee. Her left arm, holding a skullcup, pulls her left leg up high against her breast while her right arm, holding a curved knife, is flung out behind her, above the sole of her right foot. In the crook of her left arm, she cradles a khatvanga which rests on her left shoulder.
Uddhapada Vajra Yogini arose from a vision beheld by the Mahasiddha Maitripa (1007-1078 CE). Maitripa was once a monk who studied at both the great monastic institutions of Nalanda and Vikramashila. While he was at Nalanda, he studied under the famous teacher Naropa, who was then known as the great scholar Abhayakirti.
Later, Maitripa studied in Vikramashila under the abbotship of the great master Atisha. However, he was expelled because of his controversial behaviour that contravened monastic rules. After leaving the monastery, he took up the practices of a wandering ascetic.
It was then that he met the great mahasiddha Shavaripa and became his student, receiving from him special instructions on Mahamudra. Maitripa went on to become known as a highly-accomplished adept of the Buddhist Tantric system and was renowned for passing the Mahamudra lineage and practice to the legendary Tibetan translator Marpa Chokyi Lodro, who in turn became the master of Jetsun Milarepa.
3. Vidyadhari Vajra Yogini (Flying Vajra Yogini)
Vajra Yogini in mid-flight is known as Vidyadhari, which literally means ‘Knowledge Holder’. This name in the Nepali language is ‘Bidjeswori’. Hence, her main shrine in Nepal which is located by the banks of the Bisnumati River is also called Bidjeswori. There is also another very sacred shrine to her at the Mahaboudha Stupa in Patan.
Vidyadhari Vajra Yogini appears to be flying with her legs pulled apart in mid-stride towards the sky. Therefore, she is also known as Akash Vajra Yogini, literally ‘Sky-Going’ or ‘Flying Vajra Yogini’. Her right arm is stretched behind her, holding a curved cemetery knife (drigug). She cradles a khatvanga in the crook of her arm, resting it on her left shoulder while holding a skullcup with the same hand. In some depictions, her left leg is placed on her left arm or shoulder.
This form of Vajra Yogini is known to be a variant of the vision beheld by the Mahasiddha Maitripa and is sometimes known in Tibetan as Maitri Kachö as well. In general however, the name Maitri Kachö is usually reserved for Uddhapada Vajra Yogini.
4. Sukhasiddhi Dakini
This form of Vajra Yogini is known as the White Khechari. The practice arose from the 11th Century Indian yogini Sukhasiddhi. After she gained Enlightenment, she appeared to others in various forms. She is traditionally depicted as a dakini who holds a skullcup in one hand, points to the sky with the other and is white in colour. However, in her secret yidam aspect as White Khechari, she is depicted differently.
The practice of White Khechari was disseminated by the Tibetan master Khyungpo Naljor (1050-1140 CE) and was eventually incorporated into the Shangpa Kagyu lineage.
Vajra Yogini’s form according to this lineage is that of a youthful 16-year-old who bears an expression that combines the sentiments of passion and wrath. She has three piercing eyes and her mouth opens ever so slightly, revealing her white teeth, four sharp fangs and twisting red tongue. White in colour, she sits in the posture of giving birth with her legs spread apart, thereby exposing her sacred secret organ. Her naked form is adorned with bone ornaments and a garland of 50 freshly severed heads. Just like the other forms of Vajra Yogini, she holds a curved knife in her right hand and a skullcup in her left. Her loose black hair flows freely down her back.
The yogini Sukhasiddhi was originally from Kashmir, where she was a kind but impoverished mother of six children. One day, she mistakenly gave away her last bag of rice to a wandering beggar, thinking that her family would return with more food. However, when they returned empty-handed, her own family chased her away in anger. Distraught, she wandered about until she found herself in Oddiyana where she began to earn a living as a brewer of rice beer. It was also in Oddiyana that she gained the allegiance of a female disciple of the famous Indian Mahasiddha Virupa (not the same as the mahasiddha who stopped the sun), to whom she anonymously supplied free beer.
When Virupa learned of Sukhasiddhi’s kindness, he summoned her to his forest hermitage. She arrived bearing offerings of beer and pork. Impressed with her great generosity, Virupa immediately bestowed some of his most profound teachings upon this kindly old woman, who was 61 years old at the time. It is said that Sukhasiddhi attained full realisation that very same night, and spontaneously assumed the guise and appearance of a beautiful young girl.
5. Naro Kachö Vajra Yogini
With one face and two hands, and standing on both legs, this form of Vajra Yogini is the most widely recognisable form of the Queen of Tantras. Vajra Yogini in this form is so named because her lineage and practice first arose through a vision beheld by the great Indian Mahasiddha Naropa, thus giving rise to her Sanskrit name ‘Naro Kechari’, meaning “Naropa’s Dakini”.
Naropa was an eminent scholar of Nalanda Monastery who was especially known for being a faultless debater. Appointed as the “northern gatekeeper” of the monastery, it was his role to deal with anyone who entered Nalanda’s northern gates to challenge the monastery to a debate. It was an enormous responsibility for in those days, debates were a highly sophisticated art, and the defeated debater would have to adopt the practices and views of the victor. Such was the trust that Nalanda, a monastery of tens of thousands of highly accomplished scholars, had in Naropa to guard and protect their views.
Courtesy : http://www.tsemrinpoche. com