Today is Vajrayogini Day, which takes place every year on the first tsog day of Heruka and Vajrayogini Month. On this day, we can remember her amazing good qualities and try to ripen them within ourselves. By doing so, we can draw closer to her and eventually become her.
Our Vajra Queen
Within the Kadampa tradition, our highest yoga tantra deities are Heruka and Vajrayogini. Heruka is great bliss inseparable from emptiness, and Vajrayogini is emptiness inseparable from great bliss. Ultimately, they are the same person, differing only in aspect and emphasis. Practically, they are our spiritual guide’s truth body inseparable from our own pure potential. By relying upon Heruka and Vajrayogini, we can quickly ripen our Buddha nature and attain the union with their enlightened state. Our highest yoga tantra deity is also known as our “yidam,” which essentially means it is the actual Buddha we want to become. Venerable Tharchin explains we design our own enlightenment by the specific type of bodhichitta we generate. In our tradition, we take Heruka and Vajrayogini as our yidam.
Vajrayogini is known as the Vajra Queen because she is the highest of all the female enlightened deities for us. Many people, both in movies and in real life, develop tremendous loyalty and respect for their political queen, willing to dedicate their lives to fulfilling the wishes of their noble queen. How much more respect and devotion should we feel towards our Vajra Queen who leads us beyond samsara?
Venerable Tharchin once told me, several years before I married her, that my girlfriend at the time was an emanation of Vajrayogini. He explained this to me at my very first Heruka and Vajrayogini empowerment. Of course, she is not inherently so since she is inherently nothing, but he was unambiguous that I should view her in this way. I then asked him again several years later if he meant it that she was an emanation of Vajrayogini, and he said, “without a doubt, for you, she is.” When we got engaged, the ring she gave me had seven diamonds in it, and she said, “like seven lifetimes.” She had never read Guide to Dakini Land where it explains by relying upon Vajraygoini, an emanation will enter our life within seven lifetimes to lead us to Dakini Land, yet I was flooded with a clear recognition that was the meaning of her engagement ring to me. For me, she has been my spiritual muse – learning how to relate to her purely, learning how to help her, and overcoming all of the delusions her behavior would provoke in me.
Vajrayogini practice has many uncommon qualities that surpass even Heruka practice. First, her three-OM mantra is the king of all mantras. Geshe-la explains in Guide to Dakini Land:
“By reciting this mantra we can help others to fulfill their wishes and gain peace, good health, long life, and prosperity. We gain the ability to avert others’ diseases, such as cancer, strokes, and paralysis, as well as all physical pain and dangers from fire, water, earth, and wind. Some practitioners who have a strong karmic link with Vajrayogini, through their daily practice or by merely reciting this mantra attain outer Dakini Land before their death, sometimes even without engaging in close retreats or intense meditation. Some attain Dakini Land in the bardo by remembering as if in a dream their daily recitation of the mantra, thereby enabling Vajrayogini to lead them to her Pure Land. In Dakini Land these practitioners are cared for by Heruka and Vajrayogini and, without ever having to undergo uncontrolled death again, they attain enlightenment during that life. It is for these reasons that the three-OM mantra of Vajrayogini is called the `king of all mantras’.”
Vajrayogini’s body mandala is also unequaled. Again, Geshe-la explains in Guide to Dakini Land:
“In the practice of Heruka’s body mandala, Deities are generated at the outer tips of the twenty-four channels, at the twenty-four inner places. In Vajrayogini’s body mandala, however, the Deities are generated at the inner tips of the twenty-four channels, inside the central channel at the heart channel wheel. This is the main reason why Vajrayogini’s body mandala is more profound than those of other Yidams.”
Finally, Vajrayogini practice has an uncommon yoga of inconceivability, which is the most profound practice of self-powa in existence, enabling us to transfer our consciousness to the pure land where we can complete our spiritual training without ever having to take another samsaric rebirth. Through this practice, Geshe-la explains:
The uncommon yoga of inconceivability is a special method, unique to the practice of Vajrayogini, whereby we can attain Pure Dakini Land within this life without abandoning our present body.
By contemplating these incredible benefits of Vajrayogini practice, we can generate a strong faithful wish to rely upon her in this and all our future lives.
How we can activate Vajrayogini’s good qualities in our life
We do not consider the good qualities of Vajrayogini to simply think how amazing she is, the goal is for us to generate wishing faith, wishing to acquire these good qualities ourselves. At first, it can seem like her good qualities are so far away that knowledge of them is more academic than anything else. But there is a method for activating her good qualities within us right now, where we quite literally start to become her and fulfill her function in the world. How? Through faithful recitation of the Eight Lines of Praise to the Mother.
Becoming Vajrayogini is not like an on-off switch but is rather like a volume knob – the more we rely upon her, the more we come to embody her good qualities until eventually we gradually become her. In our practice of divine pride, we train in imputing our “I” onto Vajrayogini, thinking, “I am Vajrayogini.” If we impute “I am Vajrayogini” onto our ordinary samsaric body and mind, this is not only a mistaken imputation, it might land us in a psychiatric hospital! For an imputation to be valid, the basis of imputation must be valid. For an imputation to be valid, the name, aspect, and function must all be in alignment. A tennis racket may be used to strain spaghetti noodles, but we would not call it a strainer. In the context of Vajrayogini practice, her aspect is the beautiful red Dakini, her function is to bestow the qualities of her mind, and her name is Vajrayogini. If we impute our I onto these three – her name, aspect, and function – we can validly say we are Vajrayogini.
Oftentimes, especially in our early years of Vajrayogini practice, we tend to place primary emphasis on the “aspect” of Vajrayogini, imputing our “I” onto this mere image. But this rarely works to generate much feeling of actually being Vajrayogini. In contrast, when we feel like this aspect is performing the function of Vajrayogini in our mind, then when we impute our I onto Vajrayogini engaging in her enlightened deeds, it is very easy to generate a qualified feeling of divine pride being Vajrayogini leading all beings to freedom.
For me at least, the supreme method for generating a feeling of Vajrayogini accomplishing her function is using the Eight Lines of Praise as an invocation for her to accomplish her special function through us. When we do this, we will feel her enter us and accomplish these eight special functions through us; and on this basis, it is easy to generate a qualified divine pride.
We can understand how to do this as follows:
OM I prostrate to Vajravarahi, the Blessed Mother HUM HUM PHAT
To prostrate means to wish to become, it is a form of wishing faith. Vajravarahi refers to her function of destroying ignorance, recognizing her as the essence of the perfection of wisdom that destroys ignorance. Blessed Mother means she is the mother of all the Buddhas, both in the sense of all Buddhas are born from bliss and emptiness (definitive Vajrayogini), but also in the sense of the actual mother of all the Buddhas in that they arise from her. In this sense, she is simply the highest yoga tantra version of Mother Tara. When we recite this line, we imagine we invoke this power to destroy the ignorance of all living beings and give birth to all the Buddhas, requesting that this function be accomplished within our mind.
OM To the Superior and powerful Knowledge Lady unconquered by the three realms HUM HUM PHAT
Superior means she can see directly the ultimate nature of all phenomena, powerful Knowledge Lady means she has the power to bestow great bliss, and unconquered by the three realms means she has the power to overcome all delusions of the desire, form, and formless realm. When we recite this line, we imagine we invoke her to bestow bliss on ourselves and all living beings, which bestows a direct realization of emptiness on the minds of all, enabling them to completely abandon all the delusions of the three realms. We feel as if this is actually happening inside our mind.
OM To you who destroy all fears of evil spirits with your great vajra HUM HUM PHAT
Nobody is an evil spirit from their own side, they only become evil spirits for us if we relate to them in deluded ways. It is our delusions that create all evil spirits in our life, and we can say from one perspective all evil spirits are really just our delusions so condense that they take on a life or personality of their own and function like they are an “evil spirit.” But through Vajrayogini’s blessings, we can come to experience all beings and all phenomena as manifestations of her mind of bliss and emptiness. In this way, what was previously experienced as an evil spirit in our life is now experienced as the dance of bliss and emptiness. Instead of harming us, we receive blessings. All fear is destroyed because they are now seen as bliss and emptiness, and indeed we can say all “evil spirits” themselves are destroyed, not in the sense of they are killed, but in the sense that there is no longer a valid basis for imputing “evil spirit.” When we recite this line, we imagine that we come to see all phenomena as manifestations of bliss and emptiness, and so we fear nothing and nobody has the power to harm us in any way. We strongly believe our view of everything has changed and now we fear nothing because we experience it all as great bliss.
OM To you with controlling eyes who remain as the vajra seat unconquered by others HUM HUM PHAT
Vajra seat here means she is always in union with Heruka who is eternally filling her with great bliss as she bestows the realization of emptiness on his mind. Her controlling eyes can subdue negative behavior simply by looking at others, much in the way a mother’s firm stare brings her children in line without saying a word. When we recite this verse, we imagine that while in union with Heruka – being filled with bliss and bestowing upon him the realization of emptiness – we can look out onto all living beings subduing all of their negative behavior in an instant. We feel this compassionate power coursing through us and that this function is actually being accomplished.
OM To you whose wrathful fierce form desiccates Brahma HUM HUM PHAT
This refers to Vajrayogini’s ability to subdue the pride of all living beings, even the highest gods. Geshe-la explains that pride is the death of all spiritual learning. If we are free from pride, we can use the Dharma to overcome all our other faults; but if we are consumed by pride, we cannot overcome any of our faults. Subduing our pride is, in this sense, a prerequisite for all spiritual progress. Vajrayogini does not merely subdue our pride, she desiccates it, which means to drain of emotional or intellectual vitality. We generate pride when we observe some uncommon characteristic we have, and then think that somehow makes us better than others. Perhaps a candle in a dark room provides some light but standing next to the blazing of the sun its luminescence is humbled. In the same way, we may think we are special in some way, but standing before the Vajra Queen we are stripped away of all pretension and are drained of any emotional or intellectual basis for thinking we are special in any way. Vajrayogini’s mere presence has this humbling effect on all living beings, opening their mind to generate faith in the spiritual path. When we recite this line, we feel as if the pride of ourselves and all living beings has been thoroughly desiccated and everyone now bows down with humble faith in her magnificence, ready to learn from her.
OM To you who terrify and dry up demons, conquering those in other directions HUM HUM PHAT
This refers to the ability of her wisdom blessings to burn up the inner demons of ordinary appearances and ordinary conceptions of all living beings. According to Sutra, the root of samsara is self-grasping ignorance, but according to Tantra, the root is ordinary appearances and conceptions. Ordinary appearances are, essentially, the things that we normally see – all of which appear to exist from their own side, independent of our mind. They appear to have some objective existence that we believe our mind merely observes accurately. Ordinary conceptions are believing these appearances to be true. We think everything really does exist in the way that it appears. Due to ordinary appearances and ordinary conceptions, we remain trapped in the nightmare of samsara, and the same is true for all other living beings. The fire of Vajrayogini’s wisdom blessings has the power to burn through all ordinary appearances and conceptions like the fire at the end of the aeon, stripping away samsara from everyone and enabling them to see directly pure worlds. Samsara is nothing more than a dream that need not be. Vajrayogini has the power to burn it all away. When we recite this verse, we imagine we invoke the fire of her wisdom blessings to radiate out like a spherical burst in all directions stripping away the ordinary appearances and conceptions of all living beings, and then we strongly believe that as a result of this enlightened action all beings are now able to see directly her pure world, Keajra Pure Land.
OM To you who conquer all those who make us dull, rigid, and confused HUM HUM PHAT
This refers to her ability to protect us from evil spirits who would interfere with our spiritual practice by making our minds dull, rigid, or confused. There are countless evil spirits who would interfere with our practice, and we have all experienced the effects of their interference in our practice. Vajrayogini can subdue these spirits in four ways, the first of which was already explained above by viewing them as manifestations of bliss and emptiness. The second is just as would-be attackers are deterred through knowing they are outmatched, so too evil spirits know they stand no chance against Vajrayogini and so they keep their distance. The third is through the wisdom fire of her protection circle, the basis for any negativity is burned away as it approaches, and thus cannot even enter like a magical shield that disarms all those who would enter the realm. Negativity simply can’t get through. The fourth way is through the power of her love and compassion for evil spirits who would do harm. Just as Buddha Shakyamuni under the Bodhi tree defeated all the spirits through the power of his love, so too Vajrayogini’s unconditional love defeats the evil intentions of all those who would interfere with our practice. As Geshe-la famously said, love is the real nuclear bomb that destroys all enemies. When we recite this verse, we imagine we invoke Vajrayogini to dispel all interference from evil spirits in these four ways, and strongly believe as a result all interference is permanently subdued.
OM I bow to Vajravarahi, the Great Mother, the Dakini consort who fulfills all desires HUM HUM PHAT
This refers to Vajrayogini’s ability to fulfill all the pure wishes of living beings. Buddhas do not fulfill our worldly wishes – nothing can since samsara is by nature contaminated. But they can fulfill all our pure wishes. Like a loving mother who helps fulfill all the pure wishes of her children, Vajrayogini works tirelessly to fulfill all the pure wishes of all living beings. What are pure wishes? They are spiritual wishes, such as wishing to abandon lower rebirth, escape from samsara, and gain the ability to lead all beings to enlightenment. They also include any wish to overcome our delusions, purify our negative karma, or gain any of the realizations of the stages of the path. Vajrayogini is the real wish-fulfilling jewel who possesses the power to fulfill all the pure wishes of all living beings. When we recite this verse, we strongly imagine that she does so in an instant and everyone is spontaneously born into the pure land.
We can recite these Eight Verses anytime, both in meditation and out of meditation. We can also recite specific lines of the eight verses as targeted prayers for specific situations we find ourselves in. The effectiveness of our recitations depends primarily upon the purity of our motivation, the depth of our faith, and the extent of our realization of emptiness of all phenomena. The more we improve these three conditions, the more we will begin to feel Vajraygoini entering into us and accomplishing her function through us in the world. With deeper experience, it will almost feel like she takes on a life of her own inside of us, spontaneously accomplishing her function in this world. Once we have a taste of this experience, generating qualified divine pride both in and out of meditation is easy.
May we all come under Vajrayogini’s loving care and behold her sublime face. May we become empty vessels through which she may accomplish her enlightened deeds in this world, bringing benefit and happiness to ourselves and all living beings in the process. May she burn away all ordinary appearance and conception until we see ourselves directly as the Vajra Queen.