Sky Dancer : The Secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel

Sky Dancer : The Secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel

Keith Dowman
Trinley Norbu Rinpoche (Translator)
Eva Van Dam (Illustrator)
Snow Lion Publications (June 1996)
Paperback, 379 pages, reprint edition

The biography of Yeshe Tsogyel, a revealed text (terma) attributed originally to Gyelwa Jangchub and Namkhai Nyingpo and revealed by Taksham Nuden Dorje; translated by Keith Dowman and Choepel Namgyel; introduction and commentarial essays by Keith Dowman; foreword by Trinley Norbu Rimpoche, illustrations by Eva Van Dam; cover picture by Robert Beer. Published by RKP, London, 1983; Arkana Series, Penguin, London, 1991; Snow Lion, New York, 1997.

‘Among the great female adepts of Tibetan Tantra, Yeshe Tsogyel is foremost, and this masterpiece of Tibetan biographical literature conveys the meaning of her sublime apocalyptic life with lyrical beauty. Yeshe Tsogyel was an eighth century Tibetan princess who became the tantric consort of Tibet’s Great Guru Padmasambhava. Her exemplary life story describes the ideal path of a yogini (a female practitioner) and in so far as it provides a blueprint for every woman who aspires to Buddhahood, Sky Dancer is one of the most important translations to be made from the Tibetan. It describes her motivation, the initiations taken from the Guru, her path of practice, her tribulations and the impediments in meditation practice, and the signs of her success in realisation of her buddha nature. ‘Skydancer’ is a translation of the Tibetan word ‘Khandroma’ (dakini), ‘female buddha’. Many of the songs provide secret precepts given to her by her teachers and by her to her disciples. These oral instructions belonging to the supreme path of tantra (anuttara-yoga-tantra) and Dzokchen provide the core of the biography.

‘This work is important not only for its profound and detailed instruction on tantra-yoga, as an inspiration and guide on the tantric path, but also as an historical work shedding light upon the heroic period of Tibetan history, the epoch of empire, and the life and activity of Guru Padmasambhava.’

‘Keith Dowman’s four essays on the historical and religious background and woman’s place in the tradition introduce readers to the Buddhist Tantra and elucidate the main points touched upon by the text.’

“Mr Dowman’s translation possesses an immediate, compelling voice, its clarity all the more remarkable when one considers the relative inaccessibility of the spiritual biography he translates…The brilliance of this translation stems from the fact that Dowman combines the linguistic and historic skills of a scholar with the insight and practical wisdom of a sadhaka.”

–Jane Casey in ReVision.

“No doubt it will be found relevant by feminists who yet have to make much headway against the taboos of Western Christianity. Tantra may provide an exciting alternative.”

— Iain Finlayson in the Glasgow Herald.

“Tsogyel’s biography overflows with profound meanings that either cannot or may not be fully explained in print. Where many fools have rushed in before him, Keith Dowman has trod lightly and well.”

— Anne Klein in Parabola.


Foreword by Trinley Norbu Rimpoche
Translator’s Introduction
The Secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel
Gyelwa Jangchub’s Introduction
    1 Tsogyel’s Conception
    2 Auspicious Omens and Birth
    3 Disillusionment and Meeting the Master
    4 Initiation and Instruction
    5 Meditation, Austerity and Spiritual Accomplishment
    6 Signs of Success and Proofs of Power
    7 Establishing, Spreading and Perpetuating the Teaching
    8 Fruition and Buddhahood
    Notes to the Text

    1 The Path of Inner Tantra
    2 Woman and the Dakini
    3 The Nyingma Lineages
    4 The Historical Background
    Notes to the Commentary

Tsogyels Conception

The Mother of the Conquering Buddhas past, present and future, the apparitional being Yeshe Tsogyel, whose name is known to all, having accumulated vast resources of virtue and awareness in previous aeons, finite and infinite, the veil of ignorance torn away she made this great wave of compassion for the sake of all sentient beings.

During the life-time of the great saint Takngu, when I was the daughter of a merchant, together with five hundred other girls I went for the saint’s audience. Introduced to the Buddha’s teaching I expressed the supreme, irreversible wish-fulfilling prayer of commitment to Buddhahood. After the transition at the end of that lifetime, I travelled through many Buddhafields of visionary pleasure, and then I took apparitional form as the Goddess Ganga Devi, and at the feet of the Lord Buddha Sakyamuni I absorbed and compiled his sacred word. Returning to the fields of visionary pleasure I was known as the Goddess Sarasvati, serving all manner of beings.

    At that time the Emperor of Tibet was Trisong Detsen, who was in truth an emanation of the Bodhisattva Manjusri. Trisong Detsen invited the Great Master Pema Jungne to come to Tibet to establish the tradition of the Buddha’s teaching. This Great Master’s being was unborn and undying, because in reality he was the Buddha Amitabha, Boundless Light, come to this world of men. Pema Jungne came to Tibet, and after the Emperor had fulfilled his commitment to build the great monastery of Samye Ling and innumerable other major and minor temples in the provinces and border areas, the light of the Buddha’s teaching shone forth like the rising sun.

    Then Pema Jungne thought to himself, ‘The time has come for the Goddess Sarasvati to project an emanation so that I can spread the teaching of the Tantra.’ Instantaneously, like the planet Mercury falling into the immensity of the sun, Pema Jungne returned to Orgyen, the seat of all his emanation. When it was discovered that the Master had disappeared, the ministers of Tibet whispered abroad that he had been punished, banished to a savage land, Turkhara; the King said that the Master had gone to Senge Dzong Sum in Bhutan, where he was sitting in meditation; and the common people said that he had reconciled the King and Queen and had returned to India.

    Meanwhile, in reality, the Guru was coursing through hundreds of Buddhafields of the sphere of apparitional being, and he continued his travelling for the duration of seven human years. Finally, he gathered together Vajra Dakini, the Goddess Sarasvati, Tara Bhrikuti, the Dakinis of the Four Families, the Dakinis of the Power Places and many other Dakinis, and revelling with us all in pleasure, he exhorted us to ultimate pleasure with this song of pleasure:

HRI! Through the light-rays of the supreme outflow that
       is no outflow,
From the Guru’s vajra, the pleasure of desireless desire,
Into the secret sky of the Dakini, the supreme desire of
       no desire,
Now is the time to enjoy the profound secret of pure

Then from the very centre of the assembled goddesses, I, the Goddess Sarasvati, arose and answered the Guru:

HO! Buddha Hero, Heruka, Pleasure God!
When you, great dancer, dance the nine dances of life,
The pure pleasure of the sacred lotus is everywhere
And in the vastness of the bhaga there is no anxiety;
It is time to project an emanation into the savage world.

‘SAMAYA HO!’ exclaimed the Guru. ‘The bond is
‘SAMAYASTVAM!’ I replied. ‘You are the bond!’
‘SAMAYA HRI’ exclaimed the Guru. ‘The bond is all!’
‘SAMAYA TISHTHA!’ I replied. ‘The bond is strong!’
‘RAHO HAM!’ exclaimed the Guru. ‘Let the fire burn!’
‘RAGAYAMI!’ I concluded. ‘We are burning together!’

Thus the Guru’s vajra and the Dakini’s lotus were joined, and we entered a trance of union. The Five Goddesses of the Five Buddha Families, Lochana and her sisters, gave us worship and adoration; their Heruka Consorts expelled malevolent spirits; the Bodhisattvas gave their benediction; the great Takritas defended us from all intruding obstructive influences; the Four Door Keepers kept the mystic circle intact; the Four Vajra Goddesses danced; and the Guardians of the Teaching, the Fierce Lords of the Ten Directions, and the Mamo Dakinis, vowed to defend the teaching. At the same time the great pleasure of we mystic partners caused the elements of the mundane worlds of the ten directions to tremble and quake repeatedly. It was then that from the junction of Guru and Dakini beams of light in the form of a red syllable A surrounded by a circle of white vowels, and the white syllable BAM surrounded by a circle of red consonants, shot like the flight of a shooting star towards Tibet, to Seulung in Drak.

(Tsogyels Conception pp 6-9)

The Third Initiation

Obeying the Guru’s instruction, sealing my body as a lighted butter-lamp, I applied myself to meditation until Awareness, the value of the initiation, had become strong. Initially, I was oppressed by anxiety, but later the sounds of the syllables in the focal points of the psychic nerves resonated spontaneously; I gained full awareness and perfect control of my vital breath and energy flows, and instinctive and immediate knowledge of how to employ them; I attained intuition of the meaning of seed-essence as mahamudra; and the potential of the warmth of transcendent delight was fully realised. Thereafter, the capricious movements of karmic energy subsided, the energy of Awareness injected into the medial nerve; and a few signs of mastery occurred.

    However, the Guru enjoined me ‘not to eat the barley until it was ripe’, that my initiations were not yet complete. So with greater faith in Guru Rimpoche than the Buddha himself, I addressed him thus:

0 Venerable Orgyen Rimpoche,
Superior to the Buddhas past, present and future,
To myself and other mean and lowly beings
I beg you to grant the Supreme Initiation.

    Then the Guru appeared as the mandala of the Red Heruka, and from the syllable HUNG in his heart extremely fierce beams of red light radiating and again concentrating in his mandala, he took up the Absolute Heruka in his hand like a spear, and he replied:

Listen without distraction,
Dakini Tsogyelma, Queen Kuntuzangmo, listen
If you wish the seed to infuse your inner mandala,
Offer your mandala of mystic delight.
If you speak of this method your Samara is broken.

    I, the girl Tsogyel, sank beneath mundane appearances, and having slipped into the nakedness of pure pleasure, I anointed my mandala of delight with the five sacred substances, and made further petition:

Buddha Hero of Pure Pleasure, do as you will.
Guru and Lord of Pure Pleasure,
With true energy and joy, I implore you to inject
The seed into the inner mandala.
And I will guard the secret of the method with my life.

    Then with three fingers stirring the pollen dust of the lotus, I offered my mandala to the mandala of the Guru’s Body with an intense snake-like dance. The mandala of dynamic space having gathered into itself the nature of the Great Pema Heruka himself by means of the hook of the lower member’s focal point, the Absolute Heruka, his magnificent flaming vajra in a state of rapacity and violent abuse, his wrinkles uncreased, projecting his full emanation, took command of the lotus throne with a roar of scornful laughter that flooded appearances with glory, transmuting them into pure pleasure. Thus he revealed to me the Mandala of the Blazing Sun of Radiant Inner Space, conferring power upon me.

    In this mandala of mystic union, Skilful Means and Insight, in this radiant mandala of Pure Being and Light Seed – the Pure Being of the Sublime Pure Land of the Four Herukas, the masters of the four focal points, and the Light Seed that is the actuality of a hundred million seed syllables – I was conferred the initiation and empowerment of the four joys.

    Out of the bliss-waves of the forehead centre of our union, in the sphere of intense experience of Awareness of joy, arose a white paradise divided into thirty-two lesser pure lands. In each of these pure lands was a white Heruka in mystic union with his Consort surrounded by hundreds of thousands, an incalculable number, of Herukas and their Consorts identical to the principal. In the centre of this vast mandala was the Master of all the Herukas, the principal Heruka and Consort into whose Awareness of joy I received initiation. Through this joy the passion of anger was purified, the body cleansed of all traces of habitual action and reaction patterns, insight was gained into the elements of the path of application, and I was enabled to act for the benefit of the seven worlds of the ten directions. At this level I was conferred the secret initiatory name, Tsogyel the White Goddess of Pure Pleasure (Dechen Karmo Tsogyel).

    Accordingly, in the throat centre was a yellow paradise divided into sixteen pure lands in each of which was a yellow Heruka in union with his Consort surrounded by hundreds of thousands of identical Herukas as in the forehead centre. In the middle of this mandala was the master of all the yellow Herukas, Ratna Vira and Consort, from whom I received initiation into all the infinite potentialities of superior joy. Thus the passion of desire was purified, all traces of action and reaction patterns were eradicated, and I gained insight into all the elements of the path of accumulation, obtaining the ability to assist the twenty worlds of the ten directions. Here, I received the secret name Tsogyel the Quality Increasing Yellow Goddess (Yonten Gyeje Sermo Tsogyel).

    In the same way, in the blue-black paradise of the heart centre comprised of eight lesser pure lands were eight blue-black Herukas in union with their Consorts surrounded by innumerable likenesses as above. In the centre was the master of all the blue-black Herukas, the principal Heruka, Buddha Vira and Consort, who initiated me into the mahamudra of supreme joy. Thus all the seeds of passion inherent in the mind were eradicated, and I gained insight into the elements of the path of liberation and the ability to assist the twenty-six worlds of the ten directions. I was given the name, Liberating Samaya Tsogyel (Drolje Damtsik Tsogyel) at this time.

    Accordingly, in the red paradise of the gut centre, in the sixty-one lesser pure lands, were sixty-one Herukas in mystic union with their Consorts, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of identical forms, in the centre of which was the principal of them all, the Red Heruka and Consort, into whose Awareness of innate joy I received initiation. Thereby, all traces of emotional clinging and the action and reaction patterns of undifferentiated body, speech and mind were eradicated, and with insight into the elements of the path of utter purity I gained ability to benefit the infinite unbounded universe. Here, I received the secret name, Boundless Awareness Tsogyel (Taye Yeshe Tsogyel).

    Then the Guru instructed me to practise in this manner: ‘In the Ultimate Mandala of the Four Joys bestow upon yourself the four initiations and empowerments into the four levels of Awareness for seven days. Then visualise the ascent of “love” as Awareness.’

    So maintaining unimpaired the progression of the four joys through the love-Awareness that is the value of this initiation, my experience intensified, increasing from height to height. If there is leakage of bodhichitta, the Buddha Unchanging Light is slain, and since there is no superior presence to whom such a crime can be acknowledged and thus atoned, such karma as that of the Avichi Hell results. Therefore, with the power of retraction, drawing up ‘love’ with the base energy of life-force, I held it in the pot of my belly, and maintaining the recollection of pleasure uncontaminated by lust, divesting myself of mindcreated samadhi yet not slipping into an instant of torpor, I experienced the ascent of Awareness.

    Binding recollection of the bodhichitta in the womb’s lotus, all ignorance was purified, and suppressing the thousand and eighty movements of karmic energy at the first juncture the Awareness of the dual omniscience of quantity and quality became the path of seeing, and I attained the first degree of enlightenment and certain extra-sensory powers emerged. Then the bodhichitta was drawn up and bound in the secret energy centre and motivation and volition were purified, and inhibiting the energy flows of the second juncture I gained the second degree. Then binding the bodhichitta between the secret and the gut centres consciousness was purified, and blocking the energy flows of the third juncture I gained the third degree. In the same way, the bodhichitta bound at the gut centre, name and form were purified, and when the energy flows of the fourth juncture had been stopped I attained the fourth degree; and the mind capable of both samsara and nirvana, and Awareness and innate joy, purified, I accomplished the Buddha’s essentiality of being. Binding the bodhichitta between the gut and the heart chakras the six sense-fields were purified, and the energies of the fifth juncture blocked I attained the fifth degree. Then binding the bodhichitta in the heart centre, purifying sensory contact, the energy flows of the sixth juncture were stopped and I reached the sixth degree; ordinary sleeping mind and special joy purified, I attained the goal of the Buddha’s absolute, empty being. Between the heart and the throat centres the bodhichitta was bound and feeling was purified, and stopping the energy flows of the seventh juncture I reached the seventh degree. Then binding the bodhichitta in the throat centre purifying craving and clinging, the energy flows of the eighth juncture stopped I reached the eighth degree; dream and supreme joy purified, I reached the goal of the Buddha’s being of consummate visionary enjoyment. Binding the bodhichitta between the throat and forehead centres sensual enthralment was purified, and inhibiting the energies of the ninth juncture I attained the ninth degree. Binding the bodhichitta in the forehead centre transmigratory existence was purified, and obstructing energy outflow at the tenth juncture I attained the tenth degree; when consciousness of the five sensory doors upon waking from sleep, the body’s veins and nerves and Awareness of joy had been purified I reached the goal of the Buddha’s stainless apparitional being. Then binding the bodhichitta between the forehead and the crown centres rebirth was purified, and the energy flows of the eleventh juncture contained I reached the eleventh degree. Then retracting and binding the bodhichitta at the crown centre the entire twelve interdependent elements of samsara, including old age and death, were purified, and stopping the twenty-one thousand energy flows of the twelfth juncture, lust, sleep, dream and waking – the four impure states of mind -were purified, and having purified the mind’s psychic nerves, energy flows and seed-essence, together with the four joys, I reached the twelfth degree.

    Thus I was endowed with the Buddha’s Pure Being and all the qualities of Buddha: I was transformed into the Pure Being that functions to imbue all creatures of the infinite universe with the value and meaning of existence, and I gained the innate ability to understand and employ any of the qualities of Buddha at will.

    Within six months I had attained the purpose of the three initiations, and my Guru instructed me further:

Human woman and Dakini,
Maiden with perfectly matured body,
A fortunate body endowed with the ten and twice times
       six conditions of ease.
An enduring and courageous body,
Great Mother of Wisdom, Sarasvati,
Sow-faced Dakini, Mistress of the Mysteries,
Now that the elixir of self and others has brewed,
And the door of the maturing mysteries has been
       opened to you,
0 Great Being, take a consort!

    But I prepared a ganacakra offering with my body and possessions, and rendered it to Guru Rimpoche with this petition:

Venerable Lord of Orgyen, Skull-Garland Skill,
Stem of the Mysteries, Vajradhara,
Your vast generosity is beyond gratitude;
Whatsoever will give you joy
I swear to give you heedless of body or life.
Please grant me the final initiation,
The Word Empowerment of Dzokchen –
Let the Guru confer the Fourth today!

    ‘The time is not ripe for you to practise the effortless method of Ati,’ Guru Rimpoche replied. ‘Persist in your practice on the path of the mahayana mysteries. Now, girl, without a consort, a partner of skilful means, there is no way that you can experience the mysteries of Tantra. It is rather like this: if a pot is unfired it will not bear usage; in an area without wood a fire will not bum; if there is no moisture to sustain growth it is useless to plant a seedling. So go to the Valley of Nepal where there is a sixteen-year-old youth with a mole on his right breast, who is an emanation of the Buddha Hero Hayagriva called Atsara Sale. He has wandered there from Serling in India. Find him, and make him your ally, and you will soon discover the realm of pure pleasure.’

    So, having received my Guru’s prophetic injunction, with a golden begging bowl and a pound of gold dust, I set out alone for the Valley of Nepal.

(Initiation and Instruction pp 39-44)

The Seven Thieves

In the district of Erong I encountered seven thieves. They sought to steal my gold, and followed me like dogs stalking a deer. I invoked my Guru and visualised the thieves as my Yidam, and conceiving the perfect plan of rendering my possessions as a mandala offering, I sang to them inspired:

0 seven Yidam of Erong,
It is fortunate to meet you here today.
So that I may attain Buddhahood
And fulfil the wishes of sentient beings
Let karmic misadventure be swiftly transformed.
To discover, fortuitously, the Lama’s compassion –
How truly marvellous!
Happy thoughts arising from within
May people find freedom through generosity.

    Then placing my hands together in reverence, I arranged the gold in a pile as if it was a mandala. The seven thieves, though not understanding a single word, touched by the melody of my song, stood staring at me like statues, transported to the first level of samadhi. Then, in the Newar language, they asked, ‘Venerable Lady, what is your country? Who is your father? Who is your mother? Who is your Lama? What are you doing here? Please sing us another divine song!’

    As they made this request, the hairs of their bodies that had bristled in aggression lay down, a wreath of happy smiles signified their satisfaction, their malicious twisted faces became serene, and their pleasure showed in garlands of teeth. Gathering in front of me they sat down. I had a bamboo cane with three joints in it, and leaning upon it I replied in their Newar tongue:

You seven thieves with whom I have previous karmic
Know that aggression and malice are Mirror-like
       Awareness itself –
Radiance and clarity have no other source
Than a hostile mind filled with anger and enmity.
Look into your anger
And there is the strength of Diamond Being,
Detached from appearances, you are purified in
    This maiden’s fatherland is Overflowing Joy,
    Serene Fields of Emptiness and Visionary Pleasure;
    I am no stickler for conventional names and forms
    So if your favoured lady’s fair land appeals to you,
    I will lead you there.

You seven thieves with whom I have previous karmic
Know that pride and vain complacency are Awareness
       of Sameness –
Primal purity in meditative composure cannot be found
Except in an ambitious mind that believes itself supreme.
Look into natural purity
And there is a Fountain of Jewels, Ratnasambhava.
Detached from the state of Emptiness, light-form is pure.
    This maiden’s father is that source of every
    He is the wish-fulfilling gem itself;
    I am no glutton for the illusory chattels of wealth
    So if you think you would like the old man I will part
       with him.

You seven thieves with whom I have previous karmic
Know that desire and covetousness are Discriminating
       Awareness –
You will find fine sensory distinction in no other place
Than a mind hungering for beautiful things, wanting the
       whole world.
Look into the intrinsic freshness of your desire
And there is Boundless Light, Amitabha!
Detached from radiance, your pleasure is purified.
    This maiden’s mother is Boundless Light
    And in her is pure pleasure unlimited;
    I am no votary of the quality of feeling
    So if this old lady appeals to you I will give her away.

You seven thieves with whom I have previous karmic
Know that envy and alienation are All-Accomplishing
       Awareness –
Efficiency and success have no other source
Than a bigoted mind that is quick to judge and holds a
Look behind jealous thoughts
And there is immediate success, Amoghasiddhi!
Detached from crass envy and subtle resentments,
Whatever occurs is pure.
    This maiden’s Lama is Every Purpose Spontaneously
    The Lama whose every action is invariably
    So because I am no slave to the sphere of my work
    If you want this Lama
    I will abandon him to you.

You seven thieves with whom I have previous karmic
Know that ignorance and stupidity are Awareness of
       Dynamic Space –
There is no other way to hold fast to the path
Than through ignorance and a dense understanding.
Look into ignorance
And there is Dynamic Visionary Panorama, Vairochana!
Detached from hypnotic states, whatever arises is pure.
    This maiden’s beloved is Visionary Panorama
    And I love that ultimate consort, the Illuminator;
    And since I am no adherent of the duality of vision
       and viewer,
    If you desire my service
    I will show you the way.

The thieves were filled with undivided faith, and they felt repelled by the wheel of rebirth. They begged instruction and precepts from me, and then gained release from samsara. They begged me insistently to come to their
country, but I refused and continued on my way.

(Initiation and Instruction pp.44-47)

Inspiration for Austerities

In this vivid vision of radiant light I arrived at a place called Orgyen Khandro Ling, the Land of the Dakinis. In this land the fruit trees were like razors, the ground was plastered with meat, the mountains were bristling piles of skeletons and the clods of earth and stone were scattered fragments of bone. In the centre of this mandala was an immeasurable palace built of skulls and wet and dry heads, and the ceilings and door-blinds were made of human skin. At a radius of a hundred thousand leagues the palace was ringed by a circle of volcanoes, a wall of vajras, a perimeter of falling thunderbolts, a ring of eight cemeteries and a wall of beautiful lotuses. Within this boundary were flocks of flesh-eating, blood-drinking birds and crowds of demon savages, male and female, and other brutes, all of whom surrounded me glaring at me threateningly, but thereafter they acted with neither hostility nor friendliness.

    Then I went up into the palace, and having passed through three successive doorways, I found many dakinis in human form, carrying various offerings to the principal Dakini. Some cut shreds of flesh from their bodies with knives and preparing the flesh as ganachakra offering, they made worship. Some let blood from their veins, some gouged out their eye-balls, some cut off their noses, their tongues, or their ears, some cut out their hearts or their lungs, liver, spleen or kidneys, some gave their flesh and some their life blood, some gave their bone marrow and fluids, some gave their life-force or their breath, and some cut off their heads or their limbs. After cutting and preparing their offerings, they presented them to their principal Dakini and Consort who blessed them and distributed them as tokens of faith.

    ‘Why are you pursuing pain like this?’ I asked them. ‘If you take your own lives, how is it possible to reach the end of the Buddha’s path?’

    They replied:

0 woman with procrastinating mind,
The accomplished Lama, a real Lama,
Instantaneously confers his compassion,
Knowing what pleases him but deferring his pleasure,
Procrastinating, merit is lost –
Delay, and hindrances and obstacles multiply.
In so far as your cognition of ultimate truth is
It is fast as a flash of genuine faith;
If you fail to offer Awareness the moment it dawns,
Procrastinating, merit is lost –
Delay, and hindrances and obstacles multiply.
In so far as your cognition of ultimate truth is
It is fast as a flash of genuine faith;
If you fail to offer Awareness the moment it dawns,
Procrastinating, merit is lost –
Delay, and hindrances and obstacles multiply.
In so far as we have obtained this body for a moment,
Only a moment exists to celebrate the path;
Failing to offer this auspicious body while you have it,
Delaying, hindrances and obstacles multiply.
In as much as the Teacher appears only for an instant,
There is only an instant to enter the door of
      the mysteries;
Failing to offer the teaching the moment you possess it,
Delaying, hindrances and obstacles multiply.

Hearing this, I felt ashamed.

    Simultaneous with the dedication of the merit of the offerings, a Vajra Yogini appeared in front of each of the Dakini devotees, and at a snap of the thumb and forefinger she dissolved, and all was as before. Then each of the Dakinis asked the principal for instruction before withdrawing into herself for meditation. Thus their offering and meditation periods were repeated twelve times a day. Inside each of the doors to the meditation chamber was a guardian of the gate; in the centre of the mandala was Vajra Yogin! standing in a blaze of light so intense that it was almost unbearable to gaze upon.

    When Guru Rimpoche visited me again I described the various visions that I had experienced. ‘I want to practise something of that kind of austerity,’ I told him. ‘Please accept my pledge to undertake such a sacrifice.’

    ‘All that was only symbolic vision,’ Guru Rimpoche replied. ‘It is not
necessary for you now to make an actual offering of the flesh. Better than
that, practise these austerities.’

Listen to me, you goddess Tsogyelma;
Listen attentively, bewitching lady!
Those who possess this precious human trunk of gold
And who practise meditation always find sustenance,
While those ignorant of meditation go hungry,
And failing to grasp their chance they die of starvation.
It is beneficial to fulfil a pledge to practise these eight
       great austerities.
Practise austerity of diet: subsist on mineral essences
Extract the essences of ambrosial medicinal herbs
      and then breath air.
Practise austerity of dress, wear cotton cloth, then only
       bone ornaments,
And then go naked, relying on the mystic heat.
Practise austerity of speech: perform recitation and
Sing prayers, songs and liturgies, and practise mantra
       and breathing,
And then stay mute; abandon all idle talk.
Practise austerity of body: perform prostration and
Physical yoga, and the lotus posture in formal
Practise austerity of mind: develop the creative and
       fulfilment processes,
Cultivate the seed-essence of empty delight and abide in        the samadi of union.
Practise austerity of teaching: bear the torch of the
       Buddha’s doctrine;
Sustain the tradition, perfect the technique of
       transforming beings,
And cultivate skill in discourse, debate and composition.
Practise austerity of compassion: cherish others
      over yourself ‘
Treating aggressors like your sons and gold and
       excrement alike.
Practise austerity of benevolence: without concern for
       body or life;
Cultivate the mahayana aspiration of selfless service
      to others.
If you practise these austerities you become one with
      the Buddhaand his teaching;
You attain the unsurpassable, the miraculous and pure
If you deviate from this practice to follow self-mutilating
You become no different from despised fanatics
      and extremists.
Daughter of Kharchen, take my injunction to heart!

(Meditation Austerity and Spiritual Accomplishment, pp.65-68)

The Rape of the Dakini

Then I went to live in Shampo Gang, and it was there that seven bandits robbed me of my possessions and raped me. Afterwards I sang them this song of introduction to the four joys.

My sons you have met a sublime consort, the Great
And by virtue of your resources of accumulated merit,
Fortuitously, you have received the four empowerments.
Concentrate upon the evolution of the four levels of joy.

Immediately you set eyes upon my body-mandala,
Your mind was possessed by a lustful disposition,
And your confidence won you the Vase Initiation.
Apprehend the very essence of lust,
Identify it as your creative vision of the deity,
And that is nothing but the Yidam deity himself.
Meditate upon lustful mind as Divine Being.

Uniting with space, your consort’s secret mandala,
Pure pleasure exciting your nerve centres,
Your aggression was assuaged and loving kindness
      was born,
And its power won you the Mystic Initiation.
Apprehend the very essence of joy,
Mix it with your vital energy and maintain it awhile,
And if that is not mahamudra, nothing is.
Experience pleasure as mahamudra.

Joined to your consort’s sphere of pure pleasure,
Inspired to involuntary exertion,
Your mind merged with my mind,
And that blessing won you the Wisdom Initiation.
Undistracted, guard the very essence of pleasure,
Identify pure pleasure with Emptiness,
And that is what is known as immaculate empty
Experience pure pleasure as supreme joy.

United at your consort’s blissful nerve,
Our two nectars fused into one elixir.
The phenomena of self and others extinguished,
Awareness won you the Initiation of Creative
Guard the natural purity in the world of appearances,
Identify your love and attachment with Emptiness,
And that is nothing other than Dzokchen itself.
Experience innate joy as no-joy.

This is extraordinary, exalted secret instruction;
To consciously practise this method brings a fall,
But discovered by chance it gives miraculous release.
You attained the four empowerments at once,
And your success was matured by the four stages
      of joy.

(Establishing, Spreading and Perpetuating the Teaching, pp.118-9)

Tsogyel’s Karmamudra Instruction

After I had finished, the Nepali girl Kalasiddhi performed many prostrations and circumambulations and then made this request:

Mother, when you have vanished into inner space,
What should we zap-lam initiates of the Tibetan
       mysteries do?
Who will dispel obstructing spirits and stimulate our
Still sustain Tibet with your compassion!

I answered her:

0 listen Dakini, well-born lady,
Mantra-born maiden with siddhi,
You who show the path of virtue
With a well-endowed body’s selfless aspiration.
This community and future travellers on the zap-lam
Must first find a teacher especially qualified,
And from that teacher possessing every spiritual sign,
You must request initiation and pledge fulfilment of
      your vows.
Then train your energy flows until you gain self-control,
And after receiving the three superior initiations,
      cultivate ensuing desire,
To perfect the nature of the four levels of joy,
For six months or until signs of achievement appear
      in the body.
Unite male (solar) and female (lunar) energies,
Developing the method of mixing higher and lower
Female assisting male and male assisting female,
The principles of each being separately practised.
Intensify and elevate your practice, broadening the
       horizons of your pleasure;
But if pleasure and Emptiness are not identified,
Profitlessly you stray from the path of Tantra:
Apprehend the intrinsic unity of pleasure and Emptiness.
Guard the samaya of Guru and Dakini like your eyes;
In various skilful ways enjoy the five sacred substances;
Practise to perfection the skill of retaining your
Be attentive to obstacles and hostile powers;
If the samaya is impaired strive to restore it.
About the body: do not let it slip into old habits
Or you will become like ordinary men and women;
With the confidence of the deity, meditate charged
      with power
And inform your focal points of energy as a principal        and his circle of deities.
About speech: concentrate upon mantra and
      energy flows –
Without energy control your sexual activity is
Properly execute the exercises of ‘drawing up’
      and ‘saturating’
And with the nails of your imagination apply
      an hermetic seal.
About mind: identify the conditioned mind with
       seed-essence itself;
If seed-essence is lost in actuality
The karma of slaying a Buddha is incurred;
At all costs gain self-control.
Absorb yourself intently in the experience of desire,
For without it the mysteries have no meaning;
Desire as pure pleasure is the goal fulfilled.
Preserve constant cognition of the primal purity of
Protect the samaya like your body and life,
For if it is broken there is no authority to restore it.
The foregoing is advice upon meditation practice.

All you initiates into the tantric mysteries
Should bury your ambition and conceit in a pit,
Pour your sanctimony and pride into a river,
Bum your obsessive lust and infatuation in fire,
Cast your selfish aggression and perverse behaviour
      on the wind,
And dissolve your shamelessness and deceitful lies
      in space.
Protect your secret sexual practices from prying eyes;
Do not be loose with your sexual organs, bind them fast;
Do not flaunt your signs of success;
Rely upon the Yidam deity as the indivisible three roots;
Maintain regular torma offerings and ganachakra
      feast rites;
Preserve the seed of kindness for the sake
      of other beings;
Do not break the flow of formless benediction.
The foregoing is general instruction upon Action.

With that understanding fixed in your heart, 0 Siddhi,
You and I are essentially one,
And through emanation we will give purpose to beings
       of the future.

(Fruition and Buddhahood, pp.155-7)

Tsogyel’s Instruction on Lama and Dakini

Then Ma Rinchen Chok made his petition:

Lama, Lady Tsogyelma,
When you have gone to the land of Orgyen
How should we of this community act?
How should we pray?
Please tell us how we can remain with you.

And he wept. I replied:

O listen, yogin,
You who have gained mastery of the Tantra,
Your concern for others is admirable.
I, a woman, Yeshe Tsogyelma,
Have been blessed by the Guru’s compassion
And now my goal is fully realised;
Tomorrow I go to the Land of Orgyen,
Pray and you will be blessed.

Brothers and sisters of this assembly,
Concentrate upon the teaching to serve your
      highest interest
And without conceit guard the interest of others.
Liberate your selves through vision, meditation
      and action;
Mount your prayers on the vibrance of Buddha speech;
An dispatch them with bone deep assurance
      and devotion.
Meditate upon the Lama just as the radiance of
And when the peak experience of immense space
When centrifugal diffusion and centripetal re-absorption
       are one
Remain in that state.
If you recognise me, The Dakini Queen of the Lake of
The principal of the whole of samsara and nirvana,
You know that I live in the minds of all sentient beings;
I project myself as the elements of body-mind
      and the sense fields
And by secondary emanation I appear as the twelve
       interdependent elements of existence.
Though we are certainly ultimately inseparable,
Failing to recognise me, you objectify me as
      an external entity.
But when you finally discover me,
The one naked mind arisen from within,
Absolute awareness permeates the universe,
Pleasure in primal purity is contained like a lake,
And the golden eyed fishes of heightened perception
Sustain that consummation of visionary experience
       and pleasure
And on the wings of perfect creativity you cross
      to the other side;
Running and jumping in the meadow
      of visionary appearances,
You fly into the sky matrix and vanish.
In the immense space of absolute awareness
The seed essence of pure pleasure stands thick
      like a lake,
Pure being and seed essence glister and pulsate
And seed-syllables and light-garlands sparkle
      and shimmer.
The vision of reality manifest expands, intensive
      visionary experience increases,
The castle of optimal knowledge is seized
And reality is extinguished as you vanish
      into primal space.
That is the way to remain inseparable from me.

(Fruition and Buddhahood, pp. 158-60)

Tsogyel’s Dzokchen Instruction

Then Odren Zhonnu Pel made this petition:

O Yeshe Tsogyelma!
When you go to the land of Orgyen
How should we incorrigible creatures
Practice Vision Meditation and Action?
I beg you for a little advice.

In response I gave this instruction:

Listen, faithful Zhonnu Pel.
The fledgling Dakini-bird nesting in a crag
Could not conceive how easy was flight
Until her skill in the six vehicles was perfected;
But her potential realised, wings beating with
      hidden strength,
Breaking the back of even the razor-edged wind,
She arrived at whatever destination she chose.
It was like that with me, the girl Tsogyel;
Although I longed for Buddhahood I was forced to wait
Until I had perfected my skill in meditation practice.
Practising to perfection the creative
      and fulfilment processes and Dzokchen,
This corporeal bundle dissolved in light,
And now I go into the presence of Orgyen Guru.
But I will leave you with these few words of testament.

‘Vision’ is but a quality of all meditative existence;
Yet absorbed in reality, experiencing its nature,
You find no mere emptiness for there is awareness
      and radiance,
Yet nothing permanent for all is intrinsically empty.
That essential insight is called ‘Vision’.
What are the modes of Vision?
In the creative mode it is the deity;
When you practise radiation and re-absorption,
      it is compassion;
When you practise the fulfilment process,
      it is mahamudra,
The essence without permanence or flux.
Turn your eyes inwards upon your own reality
And you see yourself, but you see nothing:
That visionary perception in itself,
That is what is designated ‘Vision’.

‘Meditation’ is the basis of all meditative existence;
When absorbed in reality, experiencing its nature,
Intent upon seeing the essential Vision,
Focusing an unwavering attention free of any limitation,
That is called meditative absorption.
And what are the modes of meditation?
Whether you practise the creative or fulfilment process
Peak experience shows you the ineffable reality –
You may practise any of the innumerable modes
      of meditation.
In truth, whatever your technique, the creative
      or fulfilment process,
In a condition free from depression, torpor
      and mental fog,
Registering undistracted silence,
If you focus upon universal sameness,
      you practise ‘Meditation’.

‘Action’ is the dynamic form of meditative existence;
When absorbed in its reality, experiencing its nature,
Sure in clarity of Vision, Meditation an
      ineradicable habit,
In a state of imperturbable relaxation,
You will see yourself perform a variety of actions.
What are the specific modes of Action?
Whatever the variable form of your activity,
Based in primal purity there is no conflict
      with meditative experience,
Which is intensified and elevated.
In truth, working, sleeping, coming, going,
Eating, sitting – in the performance of every activity
Is the quality of ‘Action’.
Because Action is an integral function
      of meditation practice –
Creative and fulfilment processes and Dzokchen, etc.
There is nothing else to say.

(Fruition and Buddhahood, pp.160-1)

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