Amitabha’s Lotus and Skull-Cup Empowerment

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He couldn’t believe it was happening! Not again! But sure enough, after being protected and comforted with the arrival of Pandaravasini, Schäfer found himself in a similar predicament when his body was being decapitated by the demons; but this time it involved a Wrathful-Form of Pandaravasini, as she transformed from a beautiful and enticing woman into a grotesque and terrifying shape of an angry-red Dakini who wasted no time in performing what she set-out to do. Yet, this time it was somehow different. He was actually witnessing, from an elevated vantage-point, a limp-form of himself as a woman lying helplessly prostrate in Pandaravasini’s Lotus as this wicked-dakini descended. 

As it rained-Red-Lightning, the Wrathful Dakini swooped down and decapitated his head and utilized its top-half as a Skull-Cup, from which she drank freely with it dripping of blood. She then sliced the lifeless corpse into tiny fragments and tossed them into a liquid-hot cauldron as an offering to demons. As they fiendishly feasted, Schäfer watched as every morsel was entirely consumed.  There he was now, just chunks of misery sinking ever-downward into a bottomless pit.  How strange it all was. His body was totally devoured, yet somehow he was still alive. He then no longer really cared, what he just witnessed was only the demise of his phantom self—a false “I”; the only “final” summation from all this was that the only Reality was in his Mind. 

Firstly, the Wrathful Dakini portrayed here is known as Vajra-Yogini—a Tantric Deity who personifies fiery red-hot spiritual energy. This is clearly depicted from her ruby-red skin and exhibiting a luminous third-eye in her forehead. She wields a “vajra-chopper” in her right hand, which in the story she uses to decapitate Schäfer’s head as well as cutting his body into tiny morsels. In this sense she is associated with the Bön/Tibetan practice of “Chöd”, or cutting-off. Symbolically this signifies severance from all forms of attachment, whether physical, emotional, mental and above all, spiritual. This is the most salient point in the above narrative. Schäfer is viewing all this transpiring in his Mind’s Eye. As you may recollect, from the former Ratnasambhava and Akshobhya Empowerments, he was delivered from all forms of skandhic attachment; now this includes even the deeper unconscious karmic and “spiritual” aspects. He notices that his prostrate form lying upon Vajra-Yogini’s chopping-block (and under her stomping-foot) is female. This signifies the deeply rooted Unconscious factors which for a man’s unconscious is feminine, his anima; while for a female’s unconscious it is masculine, her animus. The unconscious aspects are like a huge iceberg with its main body well-below the level of any surface—conscious-only—understanding.  Consciousness, on its own cognitive power, cannot overcome these monstrous-subterranean forces. This is why these Wrathful Deities make their appearance known, like spiritual advocates—to totally confront (startle) and uproot these deeply hidden vexations as viciously and unfeeling as a crow digging and clawing its way to a worm that is well embedded in the earth.

The Skull-Cup personifies that an alchemical-transfiguration is about to take place. Schäfer’s blood is now transfigured into the ambrosia of Great Nirvanic-Bliss. On Vajra-Yogini’s head rests five dried human skulls, or the dried-out Five Skandhas which she now offers to the Five Tathagatas. Around her neck hangs a garland of severed human heads, signifying the defeat over the diurnal round of human re-birth in the realm of samsara. She holds a type of mystical staff in the crook of her left arm, something known as a Khatvanga—much more to come on this in our Amoghasiddhi segment. Vajra-Yogini is also encircled with flames that signify her unquenchable energy and desire to purify all that is unwholesome with the purifying and Discriminating Wisdom of Fire. This is what fire does; it is a purifying agent that totally destroys all in its path and in the process does indeed make waste of all that is impure. She, like Pandaravasini, is an emissary of Amitabha and as such is a member of the Padma-family. This is the real nature of Discriminating Wisdom—for it burns away all that is unnecessary and harmful and obstructs one’s Recollective Vision for the Clear-Light of the Unborn Mind. Vajra-Yogini is also a cross-over with the Vajra-family; indeed, her name means the diamond-female yogi. In light of all this, this episode is indicative of the Self being rescued from final spiritual-damnation.  It is Amitabha’s Lotus and Skull-Cup Empowerment. The unfolding Lotus of Amitabha and his consort Pandaravasini is a source of spiritual refuge, while the Skull-Cup is that alchemical-agent that so totally transfigures Mind from any and all toxic defilements. 

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