Dakini is the wisdom or emptiness aspect of enlightenment. It does not refer only to the feminine forms. It is the wisdom that eliminates the five poisons caused by the ego, such as desires, anger, ignorance, pride and doubt. Everyone, male and female has this aspect of enlightenment. The skilful method is represented by the male energy, which is the other aspect of enlightenment. Wisdom or emptiness and compassion or skilful methods are the two aspects of enlightenment.
Rather than looking at the enlightened female practitioners as female in forms, we need to appreciate them in the more profound sense. They represent the fully developed state of wisdom.
From the cultural or traditional point of view, in the past and today in remote parts of the world the external conditions have been very difficult for female practitioners to practice and to attain enlightenment. Therefore, it is very important to highlight the importance of female through the spiritual expression.
None the less, it should never be misunderstood that Dakini only refers to female population and completely excludes the male population. The principle of Dakini cannot be fully developed with the support of Daka or Yidam, sometimes understood as masculine energy. Similarly the masculine energy or the Daka, cannot be fully activated without the support of Dakini or feminine energy.
In conclusion, it is a great mistake to treat Dakini as a female in human form, as Dakini truly refers to the wisdom or emptiness aspect of enlightenment. Therefore in instances where the female population is not or less respected, the principle of Dakini needs to be highlighted, otherwise one is advised not to fanatically differentiate the male and female energies, as both are needed badly to be developed in order to attain perfect enlightenment.
Vajra means “indestructible ” and yana means “vehicle” or “path”. It is an indestructible path to attain enlightenment and it is the quickest and most dangerous path. Vajrayana cannot be treated independently from Hinayana and Mahayana, which are the foundations for practicing Vajrayana. The Hinayana emphasizes on terminating samsaric rebirths by cutting all the negative and afflictive emotions caused by the ego, therefore, achieving self enlightenment. Mahayana emphasizes on attaining enlightenment for the sake of all beings, which is the great motivation known as Bodhicitta. Vajrayana develops great and quick methods to attain enlightenment based on Bodhicitta.
In Buddhist teaching, we always emphasize on “refuge”, such as taking refuge in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) or the Three Roots (Guru, Yidam and Dakini). If we carefully examine these two levels of three refuge objects, the actually refer to the path of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana.
By taking refuge in the Dakini, the representation of primordial wisdom or great emptiness, we are practicing the wisdom which acts like a fire that burn away all our afflictive emotions. In this sense, this is similar to the Hinayana practice. By taking refuge in the Yidam or the Daka, the representation of skilful methods or great compassion, we are actually practicing Bodhicitta and undertaking the Bodhisattva path, which is the Mahayana practice. By taking refuge in the Guru is the union of the great emptiness and great compassion.
Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha means that we are deciding a destination and the direction of our wishes. It means that we wish to become a Buddha or become enlightened. Without taking refuge, we will not be able to practice Bodhicitta or help all sentient beings in an effective manner. Without knowing our destination, all our beneficial activities would become very tiring and exhausting because we wouldn’t know what we are aiming for. Therefore taking refuge is the foundation.
In the Mahayana practice, it may take a few hundred lifetimes to attain Buddhahood and along the way, one may give up and abandon the path all together, the Buddha was very kind to provide the Vajrayana option to qualified practitioners. Being “qualified” means that one has to master the skills of refuge and the Bodhicitta motivation, without both, Vajrayana cannot be practiced and even in practice one will end up in a dangerous state that will take him or her directly to hell.
In Vajrayana, all the practices are about the great union of all the phenomena and the methods to directly point at the ultimate nature or our mind. Therefore, it is the quickest and most dangerous path. Without the foundation of refuge or Hinayana and Bodhicitta or Mahayana, we will not be able successful take the Vajrayana path.
Vajrayana practices is not only about visualization, about Mahamudra meditation or about colorful ways of performing ceremonies, it is about directly realizing one’s afflictive emotions and immediately transforming them into wisdom or realizing them as wisdom.
Restoring Yogini Traditations
The Yogini tradition was practiced since the time of Guru Padmasambhava and even before his time, not necessarily based on Niguma nor Naropa being practiced traditionally by the female practitioners of the Drukpa Order.
It is very difficult to explain because such kinds of practices are only revealed to qualified practitioners and it is practiced to strengthen the conviction of being enlightened without one lifetime. If man can do it, so can woman.
While the six Yogas of Naropa have been taught widely in monasteries to monks, it has rarely been taught to female practitioners as there have not been many qualified yogi or Yogini teachers being able to contribute in that sense. In eastern Tibet, the Drukpa Lineage used to have 3,000 nuns who were Yoginis, under the guidance of the previous reincarnations of Kyabje Khamtrul Rinpoche.
With the threat of modernization, such kind of Yogini practices has become very rare. There is a need to promote and restore this tradition, so that qualified female practitioners will also get the opportunity to be enlightened within one lifetime.