Ḍākiṇī: Dark Mistress of the Unborn

Dakini1

In her monumental work, Dakini’s Warm Breath, Judith Simmer Brown describes the nature of the Ḍākiṇī as, “In this her most essential aspect, she is called the formless wisdom nature of the mind itself. On an inner, ritual level, she is a meditational deity, visualized as the personification of qualities of buddhahood. On an outer, subtle-body level, she is the energetic network of the embodied mind in the subtle channels and vital breath of tantric yoga. She is also spoken of as a living woman: she may be a guru on a brocaded throne or a yogini meditating in a remote cave, a powerful teacher of meditation or a guru’s consort teaching directly through her life example. Finally, all women are seen as some kind of dakini manifestation.” (ibid, pg.9) Brown’s marvelous work will be utilized as the primary reference for this series.

In terms of the Ḍākiṇī’s alliance with the Unborn, she quintessentially represents the inner and outer currents of the Dark Principle THAT freely animates all dharmata and returns it to the Mahasunya from which it sprang. In this role she is Blessed Tara’s handmaiden. Brown states that while this principle oftentimes takes a feminine form, there is nothing (in essence—inclusion mine) feminine about IT. The etymology of Ḍākiṇī is usually interpreted as “she who flies from the sky. In the Unborn it is She who flies through the Sky of Mind. Brown further expounds:

The second part of her name, dro, indicates movement and life itself. Emptiness is not mere blankness but a mode of being, in which manifestation arises freely, never compromising the power of emptiness. In fact, manifestation in the case of the dakini aids the practitioner, for she points out the dynamic of emptiness in phenomena through her very being (dro).
This quality of movement is one of her most consistent traits, and it refers not only to the movement of her physical form but also to her ability to change form and to appear and disappear at will. The emblematic expression of movement is found in iconography depictions of her ‘dancing, stepping forward, or flying. These movements relate on an exoteric level to the dakini’s role as a helper or leader on the path; esoterically, they point not to herself but to the medium, the limitless space, in which she moves. She represents the inner experience of space, which is the inspirational impulse at the heart of enlightenment. Ma, the feminine ending, suggests that it is she who dances in the limitlessness of the sky, for as a feminine form she has a unique ability to point out emptiness directly. (ibid, pg.52)

Yea, the Ḍākiṇī fully represents the Boundless-Spirit of the Unborn. Mara, the Father of Evil, has created and inverted the nature of Ḍākiṇī as one that temps and usurps a yogin’s strength—like the dark and sinister succubae who assaulted Buddha Gautama as he sat beneath the sacred Bodhi-Tree. But Brown’s work steers well clear of any such negative connotation. While her countenance can and does appear “wrathful”, this is only to shock and awaken the yogin to Full and Undivided Recollection in the Unborn. Brown states that her appearance “may be tall and comely, short and broad, fair or dark. She may be gentle and melodious in her communications, or sharp and harsh. She may be sixteen years old, in the full bloom of youth, or she may be gruesome and wrathful, initially inspiring terror. When she is seen clearly, her power is very definite, penetrating, and even threatening in its directness. This power comes not from conventional magic but from wisdom, and her fierceness is not emotional but is the sharp energy of wakefulness.” (ibid, pg. 64-65) For our purposes the Ḍākiṇī is a divine protector that keeps evil away and who inspires the yogin/yogini to deeper and unrevealed sacred truths that will be forthcoming from the Dharma-womb of the Sugatagarbha.

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