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Painting of Vajrayoginī

Vajrayoginī (Sanskrit: Vajrayoginī; Standard Tibetan: 'རྡོ་རྗེ་རྣལ་འབྱོར་མ་', Dorje Naljorma Wylie: Rdo rje rnal ’byor ma; Mongolian: Огторгуйд Одогч, Нархажид, Chinese: 瑜伽空行母 Yújiā kōngxíngmǔ) is the Vajra yoginī, literally 'the diamond female yogi'.

She is a Highest Yoga Tantra Yidam (Skt. Iṣṭha-devatā), and her practice includes methods for preventing ordinary death, intermediate state (bardo) and rebirth (by transforming them into paths to enlightenment), and for transforming all mundane daily experiences into higher spiritual paths.

Vajrayoginī is a generic female yidam and although she is sometimes visualized as simply Vajrayoginī, in a collection of her sādhanas she is visualized in an alternate form in over two thirds of the practices.

Her other forms include Vajravārāhī (Tibetan: Dorje Pakmo, Wylie: rdo-rje phag-mo; English: the Vajra Sow) and Krodikali (alt.

Krodhakali, Kālikā, Krodheśvarī, Krishna Krodhini, Sanskrit; Tibetan:Troma Nagmo; Wylie:khros ma nag mo; English: 'the Wrathful Lady' or 'the Fierce Black One' ).

Vajrayoginī is a ḍākiṇī and a Vajrayāna Buddhist meditation deity.

As such she is considered to be a female Buddha.

Vajrayoginī is often described with the epithet sarva-buddha-dakinī, meaning 'the ḍākiṇī who is the Essence of all Buddhas'.

Vajrayogini's sādhana, or practice, originated in India between the tenth and twelfth centuries.

It evolved from the Chakrasaṃvara sādhana, where Vajrayoginī appears as his yab-yum consort, to become a stand-alone practice of Anuttarayoga Tantra in its own right.

The practice of Vajrayoginī belongs to the Mother Tantra (Standard Tibetan: ma-rgyud) class of Anuttarayoga Tantra, along with other tantras such as Heruka Chakrasaṃvara and Hevajra.

According to scholar Miranda Shaw, Vajrayoginī is "inarguably the supreme deity of the Tantric pantheon.

No male Buddha, including her divine consort, Heruka Chakrasaṃvara, approaches her in metaphysical or practical import."

A number of lamas and other contemporary scholars do in fact argue otherwise, as Vajradhāra is widely considered the supreme deity of the Tantric pantheon, but the importance of Vajrayoginī is agreed upon.

 In his oral commentary on Vajrayogini the great non-sectarian master Jamyang Khentse Wangpo, whose words were recorded by the Gelugpa writer Ngawang Damcho Gyatso, writes:

What are the different divisions of Vajrayogini?

There is the secret Vajrayogini; that is none other than the primordial base-of-all of all sentient beings, the clear light mind that has been pure from the beginning.

In interdependence with that, there is there is the inner Vajrayogini [taking the form of] a short A, or in this system a VAM syllable, in the middle of a triangular matrix of channel-knots at the navel.

In dependence on this there is the co-emergent sambhogakaya Vajrayogini who abides in the Akanishta heaven, arising as an appearance of the outer nirvana and samsara.

Further, there are the field-born nirmanakaya [vajrayoginis] that abide in the twenty-four, thirty-two etc. sacred places of Jambudvipa.

Finally, all the women who abide in various countries and locations are the karma-born dakinis.

Vajrayogini/Vajravarahi ranks first and most important among the dakinis.

She is the "Sarva-buddha-dakini" the Dakini Who is the Essence of all Buddhas.

Although there are a number of visual representations of Vajrayogini, certain attributes are common to all: She is mostly shown as young, naked, and standing in a desirous or dancing posture.

She holds a blood-filled skull cup in one hand and a curved knife (kartr or dri-gug) in the other.

Often she wears a garland of human skulls or severed heads; has a khatvanga staff leaning against her shoulder; her usually wild hair flowing down her neck and back; her face in a semi-wrathful expression.

Her radiant red body is ablaze with the heat of yogic fire and surrounded by the flames of wisdom.

Various Forms & Lineages

Varietals of Vajrayogini/Vajravarahi seem to be present in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, for example the Padmadakini/Yeshe Tsogyal in the Nyingma or the Khundrol-ma in the Bon tradition.

Here we focus on the forms of Vajrayogini as practiced in the New Translation or Sarma School (= Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug traditions) of Tibetan Buddhism.

These forms of Vajrayogini share the triple-OM mantra (with minor variations), are usually named Vajra-yogini or Vajra-varahi, and can be traced back to one of the Indian mahasiddhas who lived in the 10th and 11th century, or to one of the Tibetan translators of the Sarma School like Marpa.

Naro Khachod


In a general context, Indian texts (and also modern authors) often do not seem to distinguish between the terms "Vajravarahi" (= Adamantine Yogini) and "Vajrayogini" (= Vajra Sow) using both names interchangeably.

If used to indicate a specific deity, however, one has to differentiate.

The iconography of Vajravarahi is based on a vision of Tilopa (928 - 1009 C.E.), called "rDo-rje phag-mo" in Tibetan;

and Vajrayogini's on a vision of Naropa (956 - 1040 C.E.),

Tilopa's disciple, called Naropa's Yogini (Tibetan: Na-ro mkha'-spyod).

Naropa did not pass on this particular practice lineage to Marpa but instead to the Phamtingpa Brothers from Parping (Nepal) who passed it on to the Sakya tradition from where it came later to the Gelugpas.


Vajravarahi in the Kagyu Tradition

The various Kagyu lineages of Vajravarahi (often translated as "Vajrayogini") go back to Tilopa, Naropa, and Marpa.

A number of modern Kagyu teachers, like Chogyam Trungpa and H.E. Garchen Rinpoche have stressed the importance of this practice.

The iconographical form is that of Vajravarahi.

With a semi- wrathful expression on her face, she is red in color, has three eyes and dark yellow hair flowing upward, at the crown a boar's head.

The right hand holds up a curved knife and the left a white skull cup at the heart.

In the bend of the left elbow stands an upright khatvanga staff. She is adorned with a tiara of gold and five white skulls, green ribbons and gold and jewel earrings, a garland of fifty fresh heads, a garland of flowers,

a bone necklace, girdle, bracelets and anklets, she wears a long green scarf around the shoulders.

With the right leg raised in a dancing posture, the left presses on a sun disc atop a prone figure.

Above a moon disc and pink lotus seat, she is completely surrounded by the tight curling flames of orange pristine awareness fire.

Vajrayogini in the Sakya Tradition

Maitri Khachod From the Phamtingpa Brothers the Vajrayogini (Tibetan:

Na-ro mkha'-spyod lineage quickly came to the great Sakya master Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092 - 1158 C.E.) who also received two other Vajradakini lineages derived

(1) from Maitripa in the form of Maitri's Dakini (Tibetan: Mai-tri mkha'-spyod) and
(2) from Indrabhuti in the form of Vajravarahi or Indra's Dakini (Tibetan: Indra mkha'-spyod).

Although Naropa's Vajrayogini is the principal practice all three forms are still alive and part of the Thirteen Golden Dharmas of the Sakyas.

Since all three dakinis are red in color they are also called the Three Red Ones (Tibetan: dmar-mo skor-gsum).

The Vajrayogini practice ranks most important and is very much alive in the Sakya tradition to this very day.

Over the centuries there have been various expositions of this system, most prominently the Eleven Yogas of Vajrayogini by Jamyang Khyentse Wangchuk (1524 - 68 C.E.) who also wrote an extensive commentary on the practice.

This commentary is the basis for the 7-day teachings given by the highest contemporary Sakya teachers like H.H. Sakya Trizin and H.E. Jetsun Kusho-la.

During those teachings some participants are also introduced to additional, most secret practices not contained in the common sadhana.

The Vajrayogini initiation is only given to aspirants who have been previously introduced to the Hevajra or Chakrasamvara mandala (= Highest Yoga Tantra initiations).

Vajrayogini in the Gelug Tradition

It is said that Vajrayogini was Je Tsonkhapa's (1357 - 1419 C.E.) innermost yidam.

There is no evidence for this since the Gelugpas had paid attention to Vajrayogini/Vajravarahi only as the consort of Chakrasamvara being one of their three principal yidams (gsang bde 'jigs gsum; the others are Guhyasamaja and Vajrabhairava).

To this very day, Vajrayogini is not part of the canonical teaching curriculums at the tantric colleges.

Only as late as in 18th century the Sakya transmission of Naropa's Vajrayogini seems to have been introduced to the Gelug tradition.

From then on the Gelug and Sakya Vajrayogini lineages are separate from each other.

It was Phabongkha Rinpoche (1878 - 1941 C.E.) who recommended and promoted the Vajrayogini practice as the main meditational deity of the Gelug tradition.

The main disciples of Phabongkha Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche and Zong Rinpoche promoted the Vajrayogini practice further - especially among Western audiences.

So did the next generation of lamas like Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Geshe Tharchin, Gehlek Rinpoche, just to name a few.

Today the Vajrayogini practice has become very popular with teachers and students.

Like in the Sakya tradition aspirants have to take a full Highest Yoga Tantra empowerment before they can receive the Vajrayogini initiation.

Also Vajrayogini teachings (= commentaries on the practice) and retreats are often offered.

Origin and Lineage

Vajrayāna Buddhism teaches that the two stages of the practice of Vajrayoginī (generation stage and completion stage) were originally taught by Buddha Vajradhāra.

He manifested in the form of Heruka to expound the Root Tantra of Chakrasaṃvara, and it was in this tantra that he explained the practice of Vajrayoginī.

All the many lineages of instructions on Vajrayoginī can be traced back to this original revelation.

Of these lineages, there are three that are most commonly practiced:

the Narokhachö lineage, which was transmitted from Vajrayoginī to Nāropa;

the Maitrikhachö lineage, which was transmitted from Vajrayoginī to Maitripa;

and the Indrakhachö lineage, which was transmitted from Vajrayoginī to Indrabodhi.


Vajravārāhī, with a sow's head on the side

Vajrayoginī is visualized as the translucent, deep red form of a 16 year old female with the third eye of wisdom set vertically on her forehead.

Vajrayoginī is generally depicted with the traditional accoutrements of a ḍākiṇī including a cleaver (Tib. drigug, Skt. kartṛī) marked with a vajra in her right hand and a kapala (skull cup) in her left hand which is filled with blood that she partakes of with her upturned mouth.

Her consort Chakrasaṃvara is often symbolically depicted as a khaṭvāńga on Vajrayoginī's left shoulder, when she is in 'solitary hero' form.

Vajrayoginī's khatvanga is marked with a vajra and from it hang a damaru drum, a bell, and a triple banner.

Her extended right leg treads on the chest of red Kālarātri, while her bent left leg treads on the forehead of black Bhairava, bending his head backward and pressing it into his back at the level of his heart.

Her head is adorned with a crown of five human skulls and she wears a necklace of fifty human skulls.

She is depicted as standing in the center of a blazing fire of exalted wisdom.

Each aspect of Vajrayoginī's form and mandala is designed to convey a spiritual meaning.

For example, her brilliant red-colored body symbolizes the blazing of her inner fire (Tib. tummo).

Her single face symbolizes that she has realized that all phenomena are of one nature in emptiness.

Her two arms symbolize her realization of the two truths.

Her three eyes symbolize her ability to see everything in the past, present and future.

She looks upward toward the Pure Dākiṇī Land (Skt. Kechara), demonstrating her attainment of outer and inner Pure Dākiṇī Land, and indicating that she leads her followers to these attainments.

The curved drigug knife in her right hand shows her power to cut the continuum of the delusions and obstacles of her followers and of all living beings.

 Drinking the nectar of blood from the kapala in her left hand symbolizes her experience of the clear light of bliss.

In her form as Vajravārāhī, when she is known as 'the Vajra Sow' she is often pictured with a sow's head on the side of her own as an ornament and in one form has the head of a sow herself.

Vajrayoginī is often associated with triumph over ignorance, the pig being associated with ignorance in Buddhism.

This sow head relates to the origins of Vajravārāhī from the Hindu sow-faced goddess Vārāhī.

The severed-headed form of Vajrayoginī is similar to the Indian goddess Chinnamasta who is recognized by both Hindus and Buddhists.


[[File:Painted 19th century Tibetan mandala of the Naropa tradition, Vajrayogini stands in the center of two crossed red triangles, Rubin Museum of Art.jpg|thumb|250px|Painted 19th century Tibetan maṇḍala of the Nāropa tradition, Vajrayoginī stands in the center of two crossed red triangles, Rubin Museum of Art]]

Vajrayoginī acts as a meditation deity, or the yab-yum consort of such a deity, in Vajrayāna Buddhism.

She appears in a maṇḍala that is visualized by the practitioner according to a sādhana describing the practice of the particular tantra.

There are several collections containing sādhanas associated with Vajrayoginī including one collection, the Guhyasamayasādhanamālā, containing only Vajrayoginī sādhanas and comprising forty-six works by various authors.

The yidam that a meditator identifies with when practicing the Six Yogas of Nāropa is Vajrayoginī and she is an important deity for tantric initiation,

especially for new initiates as Vajrayoginī's practice is said to be well-suited to those with strong desirous attachment, and to those living in the current "degenerate age".

As Vajravārāhī, her consort is Chakrasaṃvara (Tib. Khorlo Demchog), who is often depicted symbolically as a khaṭvāṇga on her left shoulder.

In this form she is also the consort of Jinasagara (Tib. Gyalwa Gyatso), the red Avalokiteśvara (Tib. Chenrezig).

Vajrayoginī is a key figure in the advanced Tibetan Buddhist practice of Chöd, where she appears in her Kālikā (Standard Tibetan: Khros ma nag mo) or Vajravārāhī (Tibetan:rDo rje phag mo) forms.

Vajrayoginī also appears in versions of Guru yoga in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. In one popular system the practitioner worships their guru in the form of Milarepa, whilst visualizing themself as Vajrayoginī.

The purpose of visualizing Vajrayoginī is to gain realizations of generation stage tantra, in which the practitioner mentally visualises them-self as their yidam or meditational deity and their surroundings as the Deity's maṇḍala.

The purpose of generation stage is to overcome so-called ordinary appearances and ordinary conceptions, which are said in Vajrayana Buddhism to be the obstructions to liberation (Skt. nirvāṇa) and enlightenment.

According to most commentaries associated with the deity, the practices of Vajrayoginī are relatively easy compared to those of other Highest Yoga Tantra yidams and particularly suited to practitioners in modern times:

The instructions on the practice of Vajrayoginī contain concise and clearly presented meditations that are relatively easy to practice.

The mantra is short and easy to recite, and the visualizations of the maṇḍala, the Deity, and the body maṇḍala are simple compared with those of other Highest Yoga Tantra Deities.

Even practitioners with limited abilities and little wisdom can engage in these practices without great difficulty.

The practice of Vajrayoginī quickly brings blessings, especially during this spiritually degenerate age.

It is said that as the general level of spirituality decreases, it becomes increasingly difficult for practitioners to receive the blessings of other Deities;

but the opposite is the case with Heruka and Vajrayoginī – the more times degenerate, the more easily practitioners can receive their blessings.


The female tulku who was the abbess of Samding Monastery, on the shores of the Yamdrok Tso Lake, near Gyantse, Tibet was traditionally a nirmāṇakāya emanation of Vajravārāhī (Tibetan: Dorje Phagmo).

The lineage started in 15th century with the princess of Gungthang, Chokyi Dronma (Wylie: Chos-kyi sgron-me)(1422–1455).

She became known as Samding Dorje Pagmo (Wylie:bSam-lding rDo-rje phag-mo) and began a line of female tulkus, reincarnate lamas.

Charles Alfred Bell met the tulku in 1920 and took photographs of her, calling her Dorje Pamo in his book.

The current incarnation, the 12th of this line, resides in Lhasa, where she is known as Female Living Buddha Dorje Palma by the Chinese.