Dakini Origins and Meaning

Dakini is a Sanskrit term referring to a type of spirit in Vajrayana Buddhism. Dakinis are the most significant elements of the enlightened feminine in Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetan word for dakini is khandroma” (pronounced “mKha-gro-ma”), which means “sky goer” or “space-dancer,” and signifies that these ethereal awakened ones have departed the limitations of earth, and have the immensity of open space to play in.  Fittingly, “mKha-gro-ma” also means “she who traverses the sky” or “she who moves in space.” In other words, the word and phrase of Dakinis the Enlightened Feminine is a perfect match to understand the term “Dakinis.”

Dakinis are also recognized as a “celestial woman,” or “cloud fairy” as well as ”peerless,” and ”pristine.” Sometimes they are calm and stunning, and sometimes they are wrathful and fierce, with ornamented skulls. They are spirit-women who arise in visions, dreams, and meditation experiences.

The Dakini Goddess

Dakinis emerge in order to assist sentient beings. They are commonly portrayed as clad only in their ornaments, and in a dancing or lunging pose. Their fiercer forms function to help overcome challenges in our objective to evolve spiritually.

Vajrayogini the dakini goddess

The movements of their dance embody the movements of thoughts, and the energy effortlessly arising from the nature of the mind. Because they represent liberation they are often depicted as naked and dancing, however, they are not sexual symbols, but rather they represent the natural state.

Dakinis are “Emanations of Enlightened Mind” and so, they hold the bodhisattva vow. Not only the intention for enlightenment for oneself, but also for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Dakinis are subtle and lighthearted by nature. They embody a sharpness, a clarity, and an innate potency. They cut through, especially through intellectual rhetoric. They are extraordinarily direct. Dakinis carry an exceptionally piercing and radiant wisdom mind that is uncompromising, honest, and sometimes with a touch of fury.

The Roles of a Dakini

One of the roles of a Dakini is as a wisdom protector, signifying primordial insight. On the spiritual path of the meditator, the Dakini embodies stages of personal realization: the sanctity of the body (both female and male); the profound connection of body and mind in meditation; the visionary state of ceremonial practice; and the empty, spacious qualities of mind itself.

Because Dakinis are interconnected with spaciousness, they have the capacity to birth boundless forms of enlightened actions, which can be categorized into four parts: pacifying, enriching, magnetizing, and destroying.  As the Base, dakinis are the energies of life; as the Path, they are the actions of advanced practitioners; as the Fruit, they are the actionless deeds of realized Masters.

The Four Classes of Dakini

Judith Simmer-Brown, Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, distinguishes four core classes of Dakini. These follow the Twilight Language tradition of esotericism concerning secret, inner, outer, and outer-outer classes of dakinis. 

  1. The secret class of Dakini is Prajnaparamita (Tibetan yum chenmo) or voidness, the empty nature of reality according to Mahayana doctrine.
  2. The inner class of Dakini is the dakini of the mandala, a meditational deity (Tibetan: yidam), and a fully enlightened Buddha who helps the practitioner recognize their own Buddhahood.
  3. The outer Dakini is the physical form of the Dakini, attained through Completion Stage Tantra practices such as the Six Yogas of Naropa that work with the subtle winds of the subtle body so that the practitioner’s body is compatible with an enlightened mind.
  4. The outer-outer Dakini is a Dakini in human form. She is a yogini, or Tantric practitioner in her own right but may also be a “kamamudra,” or consort, of a yogi or mahasiddha.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Dakinis and Yoga Tantras

Dakinis, being related with energy in all its functions, are associated with Anuttara Yoga Tantras or Higher Tantras, which indicate the path of transformation, in which the force of negative emotions (or kleshas), referred to as poisons, are transformed into the brilliant energy of enlightened awareness (jnana) generating rigpa (true knowledge). This process is quite evocative of alchemy, the conversion of base metal into pure precious gold.

The Paradise of the Dakinis

A dakini is respected as a mystical presence who tests a practitioner’s capacities and commitments. Numerous stories of the Mahasiddhas in Tibet include passages where a Dakini will come to agitate the aspiring Mahasiddha. When the Dakini’s challenge has been satisfied, the practitioner is often then recognized as a Mahasiddha and elevated into the Paradise of the Dakinis – an oasis of enlightened ecstasy.