Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on October 8, 2014

I can see that this going to be fun, like walking a tightrope, but the concept of Dakini is an important one in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, one often avoided because it has subtle (and not so subtle) sexual connotations attached to it, i.e. dakinis are often said to be the physical consorts of gurus, and vice versa. I can't speak to that, but we can sort through some of the ideas surrounding dakini lore.

If you Google "Dakini" on the Internet you will get some 1,590,000 million links for that word, enough to satisfy whatever definition you might have imagined or are interested in. I can't explain all that you will find on Google; I won't even try.

"Dakini" is the Sanskrit term; "Khandro" is the Tibetan. The word translates to something like "Sky-Goer" or sometimes "Sky-Dancer." To my mind the word "emptiness" always comes to mind when I think of "dakini," being perhaps a synonym for "sky." It conveys the proper tone, and privately I like the phrase "Mirror of Emptiness," but what do I know.

Above all, Dakinis are decidedly feminine and wield feminine energy. IMO, making dakinis into something philosophical and abstract is a disservice to the concept. Female energy is the least abstract quantity in the world. Leave it to the man (or male energy) to be abstract and beat around the bush, so to speak.

And of course "dakini" is another one of those words that really can't be defined, so don't expect miracles. The best I can do is attempt to sketch something of what the dakini experience has meant to me, knowing ahead of time that it can but point at the reality. You are going to have to fill in the sub-text. And 'paleeze' don't be offended if I speak not only of male and female energy, but also about males and females.

"Dakini" is often officially defined as the female embodiment of enlightenment in the form of infinite receptivity, and often that receptivity is called "emptiness," and sometimes it is even called unconditional love.

And I have come to understand through experience that the function of emptiness is to arouse compassion and, to reveal it. Emptiness is humbling and at the same time empowering. So right off we have the male (compassion) and the female (emptiness) or, if you are more comfortable in the abstract, "skillful means" and "awareness" or "wisdom."

I don't intend to side-step the issue as to whether Dakinis, which are frequently said to be the consorts of great gurus, are meant to be understood abstractly and philosophically or are literally and physically true, as in sexual union, what is called Kamamudra. As far as I can tell, both views are true.

In other words, let's not overlook that although many texts say this stuff is purely "symbolic," many others clearly say this consort-thing is also acted out by males and females sexually. At heart we all guess that anyway. Do you really believe that all of those thankas (paintings) of male and female deities in sexual union are just figurative? Give me a break. And it is silly to ignore the obvious fact that the shape and function of the male and female genitals spell this story out in graphic form louder than any words. It is very simple: Let's not make the sexual connotations of "dakini" just another elephant in the room. They are on-point. However, that being said, they represent only one aspect of dakini wisdom.

In the literature, there are a number of types of dakinis, everything from the emptiness of all phenomena (very abstract), to flesh-eating creatures in female form, all the way up to human women who are realized yoginis, and some are the consorts of great male gurus and vice versa. Men are also consorts. And there are plenty of statements that clearly state that women, every last one of them, are dakinis and should be treated as such, and that men ignore this fact at their peril. Now there's food for thought!

"Dakini" is frequently defined as emptiness or in terms of emptiness. Another definition might be total receptivity, which on the mundane plane might manifest as unconditional love. Love unconditioned by exceptions is unconditional love or, as mentioned, total receptivity. All these words point to the same thing. I didn't make this up, so I am not responsible for sorting out all of the different connotations. Partly, I am just the messenger here.

Dakinis are enlightened energy in female form that is also called emptiness, which suggests it not only can reflect everything, but also contains everything, and further: everything manifests from it. The power of the vagina and the womb behind it cannot be overstated and should not be underestimated. When it comes to the battle of the sexes, there is no contest, not even close.

All of the esoteric lore, which I have studied, both East and West, make it clear that the male principle arose from within the female principle, just as each and every one of us is born from a woman. The simple "facts of life" embarrass all of the sophisticated symbolism floating around these days, every time. We all have eyes.

Emptiness and receptivity are key concepts here. Other definitions of "dakini" cite wisdom and awareness as definitive. Emptiness is totally receptive and reflective. It contains and receives everything. It mirrors! That is a rough idea of dakini energy.

As for my own two-cents on all of this, how I respond to the dakini energy in my own life, I can only offer the following, and please take it with a grain of salt. I am definitely going to go off the reservation here:

Some older Buddhist texts state that women cannot attain realization. I have never heard that from any of my Tibetan teachers; quite the contrary. But I can't resist responding that a responds might be that women don't have to realize what men need to realize, which is just what women have been pointing out to men all along, and those realizations are different for each one of us (men).

In the face of female dakini-energy, which is not intellectual, male cleverness is of no help whatsoever. As I like to say, you can't sneak up on a mirror, and emptiness is a perfect mirror in which everything is reflected, every last little thing. Pardon my French, but dakini energy literally will make a "better man of you" because receptivity only contains and reflects… whatever is there. It has no opinions. It might even be a concave mirror. It shrinks things down to size.

The dakini in every married man's life is his wife, and her inner-mirror reflects even the tiniest infraction or imperfection. Ultimately, no amount of misdirection, maneuvering, side-stepping, or cleverness will get men anywhere. It is all so painfully mirrored. And, as I mentioned, you can't sneak up on a mirror. Just try it.

Many ancient sources say that every human woman is a dakini, and that violence to women by men is suicide. In other words, you can't outwit or get around female energy because it is defined as receptivity – containment. There is no last court of appeal when it comes to reflection, so there is no use in trying. Trying just proves the point. Nothing but acceptance will do. Words to the contrary will never get out of the throat. Their echo silence.

In other words, there is no one to complain or point to. Dakinis reveal, in fact require, what can be called "manliness," the most skillful of means, no matter how difficult. Anything less will be more painful. So guys, the message is simple: just get it right the first time. I need to hear this most of all, of course.

In this mundane world, the dakini in every wife (and every wife or female partner is a dakini) reflects the state of the skillful means of the husband in minute detail. And I say "wife" instead of just "woman" because I want to indicate a committed relationship like a marriage, where real reflection is possible. A husband looks into his dakini's mirror and either accepts what he sees or resists it. Either way, he is looking at himself. This is epic.

Resistance or ignorance is futile and just initiates another painful round of Samsara. If the man does not like what he sees, he mistakenly blames the woman, and seldom himself. He considers here a nag or a hag or whatever, and his suffering intensifies. If the man can stand the reflection and makes whatever adjustments he sees are indicated in the dakini mirror, then he experiences unconditional acceptance, reception, and love, not just from his wife, but from himself as well. His "manliness" (skillful means) is enhanced and empowered. Otherwise, he experiences the furies all over again. In this regard a dakini is also an oracle, by reflection. The emptiness of the dakini mirror reflects the skillful means (compassion) or lack thereof.

In other words, it is the nature of emptiness (the dakini) to cause true compassion to arise as a result of perfect reflection. Obviously real men and women have obscurations that warp the reflection and the reflected, but that is my view of closely-held relationships.

Anyway, that was probably more than you wanted to hear. I have posted this poem I wrote before, but it sums up my own thoughts on the topic.


Unconditional love,
Has no conditions.
It accepts,
The exceptions.

Total receptivity,
Takes you in,
Until you know,

Contains everything,
And that includes,