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Lions Roar : July 2018
HOT OFF THE PRESS Heavens alive, I’m raising a barbarian!” Barbarian, I thought, that sounds great! I imagined women with long hair streaming out behind them, racing their horses over wide plains. I saw streaked sunrises on crisp mornings with no school, waking up outside, and night fires with charred meat and lots of bones to gnaw on. This wildness was so much a part of me; I could never imagine not living a life that didn’t allow for it. AT THE TIME WHEN I first learned about dakinis, I started doing a meditation practice from the Tibetan teacher Sapchu Rinpoche that involved Vajrayogini and the four retinue dakinis, repre- senting the four directions of the mandala. Since I had only heard about the dakinis a few times in a cursory way, I asked Sapchu Rinpoche, “What is a dakini?” He replied, “There are many kinds of dakinis, both worldly and wisdom dakinis. The wisdom dakinis are the same level as buddhas; the worldly dakinis can have enlightened aspects but also worldly aspects. Sometimes the dakinis operate as messengers, some- times as guides, sometimes as protectors. In the dakini prac- tice we develop a way to access the unique and powerful energy of the wisdom dakinis.” I asked, “What kind of messenger is the dakini?” Sapchu Rinpoche paused for a moment, and then replied, “The dakini is a messenger of emptiness and also appears in dreams to guide the medita- tor, and she might appear in real life as a woman with certain wisdom qualities. The dakini is a force of truth: wherever we cling, she cuts; whatever we think we can hide, she reveals.” As I began to practice the dakini mandala, I began to sense a power within myself that I had not ever allowed myself to feel. The idea of an enlightened, sacred feminine energy that was also naked, dancing, and fierce was something I had never experienced, and it touched me deeply. I couldn’t put into words the effect it had on me, but it was something significant and new. The fierce dancing dakinis embody and activate the powerful and transfor- mative energy of the feminine. When you think about it, we really don’t have that kind of image of spiritual enlight- enment in our world. We have a figure like the Holy Virgin Mother, who is peaceful and nonthreatening, but we don’t have many reflections of female divinity that are active, dancing, fierce, free, and wild. By activating the dakini power within us, we will have an inner resource that should never be underestimated. What we’re really doing is taking a part of the psyche that’s been relegated to the unconscious—the fierce, powerful femi- nine who has become repressed—and we are bringing that energy forward and exploring that energy’s potential for enlightenment. The dakinis tend to push us through blockages. They appear during challeng- ing, crucial moments when we might be stymied in our lives; perhaps we don’t know what to do next and we are in transition. Maybe an obstacle has arisen and we can’t figure out how to get around or get through— then the dakinis will guide us. If in some way we’re stuck, the dakinis will appear and open the way, push us through; sometimes the energy needs to be forceful, and that’s when the wrathful manifestation of a dakini appears. Often the dreams of the dakinis will come at dawn, or they will appear in cemeter- ies at sunset or dawn—cem- eteries being very important symbols of the liminal space between worlds, the twilight hour, which is in fact why the language of the dakinis is a symbolic one called the twi- light language. As I wrote in my book Women of Wisdom: “Twilight is the time between waking and sleeping, the con- scious and the unconscious. It is a time when the switchover takes place, so there could be a gap, a crack in the wall of the ever-protective ego structure where significant communica- tion from something beyond could take place. At dawn we are still beyond the limiting forces of the conscious mind, yet the heavy veil of deep sleep has lifted. We often find the dakini at these transitional points, when we are open to the ‘twilight’ language.” DANCINGVAJRAVARAHI(DORJEPAGMO);NEPAL,14THCENTURY;COURTESYOFWWW.LACMA.ORG LION’S ROAR | JULY 2018 74