Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Insulting the Dakini

"While claiming to be practicing the dharma with a high view, 
do not ignore cause and effect." 
--Patrul Rinpoche

So, then, this is a brief rumination on the subject of ignoring cause and effect, while attempting to  practice dharma with a high view, whether believing this to be the case, or indeed actually practicing dharma.

I should probably hasten to add that the photograph of the tulku in dakini get-up has nothing to do with our title, "Insulting the Dakini," nor is it meant to imply anything personal to the tulku therein depicted, who has most certainly never insulted a dakini in any of his numerous lifetimes. Actually, the photograph is here only because it is a photograph of a man in dakini get-up. You can find photographs like that all over the Internet. I just happened to pick that one at random.

I picked the photograph because, through the expectations of the Western feminist philosophy, and the access to media of individual Western feminists, dakinis have become very, very popular excuses for playing dress-up, and ignoring cause and effect.
"It is typical of the activity of the dakini to hit where it hurts, to get you where you live, to create for you a method by which you can try to run, but the road in front of you is turned around so that you can only run in a circle right back and it is as tricky and convoluted and sneaky as your own mind.  It will rub your face in your shit.  It will make you eat your own poison. But eventually, with faith and devotion, you will come out of it enlightened."
and elsewhere...
"The Buddha taught each person the nature of their own mind by showing them their poison, by ripening in their mind their potential for enlightenment, by shoving down their throat their own garbage, by giving them teaching that touched them in their language."
These are quotations from ghost-written pseudo-Buddhist dogma attributed to a Western person who believes herself to be a dakini. This is the sort of thing that sounds very edgy and interesting to the average Westerner, and if you don't have much of a Buddhist education, this sort of thing becomes very persuasive and attractive. As a dialectic, it could be argued that the above comments are fundamentally accurate.

I could argue that way myself. However, the very first admonition that the dakini gives you, when she visits you, is the admonition to do no harm.

Despite this, there eventually comes a time during the course and scope of instruction in the Vajrayana when one is told, "even when you are wrong, you are right," and as predicate to that teaching, one is told, on the old any-substance-can-be-medicine model, that any action has the ability to benefit beings. Thus, according to Thinley Norbu Rinpoche:
"Therefore, if it is necessary to use any of the seven nonvirtues of body and speech in order to fulfill the needs of sentient beings and benefit the teachings of Buddha, it is permitted and should be considered an action that needs to be performed without fear."
he quotes from Entering the Path of the Bodhisattvas to illustrate:
"Whoever always sees with compassion even has permission to do what which is prohibited."
and he also quotes several other sources, all to this same effect. He is an extraordinarily gifted Buddhist philosopher.

His gifts aside, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche is neither alone nor unique in making these observations. You can find them scattered around. To the average Westerner, without much of a Buddhist education, this becomes an intellectual dispensation: a letter of marque to do whatever you feel like doing, along the lines of crazy wisdom. However, as commonly encountered, there is often more crazy than wisdom in crazy wisdom, so these things become an excuse, or a defense, or a rationalization.

That is what I want to talk about today, because that is what insults the dakini. As dakinis tend to judge these sorts of ethical lapses without even a shred of mercy, you might want to take careful note of the comments of someone who has honored the matter in the breach, on many, many, many occasions.

It is quite true that even when you are wrong you are right. It is also ultimately true that cause and effect can be equalized. If you proceed from the view that the law of cause and effect arises from subjective mind, then nothing whatsoever is anything other than emptiness, and this includes emptiness itself. Here is Thinley Norbu Rinpoche again, quoting Mahapandita Dharmabhadra:
"Contributing circumstances present themselves as though they exist, so I do not say that results will not appear. Thus, I never deny anything anywhere, so there is no reason to misconstrue this speech. It is only from the interdependent relative truth that phenomena just appear. Beyond that, there is no need to concretize an independent reality cause and reality result. So, I see no reason to reify this."
So, in practice, the average Westerner could take this as a ticket to ride, thinking "oh, spontaneous me... I can do whatever I please, and it is always of benefit." If you layer in the whole preoccupation of women who run with wolves and so forth, and believe yourself to be a wild and spontaneous dakini, wandering around between two passing clouds -- or whatever defense, excuse, permission or rationalization your ego supplies itself to fortify itself -- then you can be just as nasty as you feel like being, without ever having to say you are sorry.

Because of the operative mechanics of magical cause and result, you could get away with doing this for a very long time. We all know people who live a life of absolute virtue but suffer nonetheless, while some others, who engage in utter wickedness, seem to have no cares whatsoever. If you look at this long enough, you could even use it to persuade yourself that the law of cause and effect is wrong, or untrue. If you ever read the Christian Bible, you will find that the Psalms are almost obsessively preoccupied with the perceived inequality inherent in this view, providing the hardy believer with magical incantations to call down terrifying calamity if evildoers aren't punished with all possible speed, and the virtuous  aren't rewarded even quicker.

People can live a life of absolute virtue and still experience suffering because of the actions of previous lives. Similarly, people can engage in utter wickedness, and seemingly profit, but they are constantly exhausting the benefit of previous lives while contributing to suffering in future lives. Either way -- and we need to be quite clear about this -- the results are inevitable. There are obviously experienced phenomena, and then there are phenomena yet to be experienced, whether in the next life or lifetimes in the distant future.

Recently, we all read about a tulku in Tibet, who died together with his wife, when their house collapsed during a rainstorm. Also, Hitler seemed to be getting along rather well, right up to the point where his body was doused with kerosene and set ablaze. Kennedy was smiling and waving to the adoring crowds that day in Dallas, his elegantly sophisticated wife like a jewel at his side. In seconds, his brains were blown out, and his elegantly sophisticated wife went along to marry a Greek. We can go on and on and on like this -- the whole study of history teaches nothing less.

If you take your sublimated aggressions, angers, hatreds, jealousies, and so forth, and give them free reign, believing that you are beyond cause and effect, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you excuse yourself by saying, "Don't try this at home, but I can get away with it because I am a highly realized being," then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you are injuring others, by whatever means and under whatever pretext, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you are claiming this ability or that ability, and using these claims as your authority to lie in wait for others to fall, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you are latching on to some romanticized Western notion of the dakini, and using this as an excuse to act like common street trash, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you are fighting amongst yourselves, in the name of the dakini, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you believe that the dakini is something or someone apart, drawing distinctions between one or another, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

There are an inconceivably large number of dakinis, continuously operative at all times and in all places. I do not know how to put a number on them. There are clouds of them. But, if you mistake that which is inherently space with substance, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you believe that dakinis are exclusively confined to or one-or-another propositions, i.e. women,  or delimited by distinctions between nature, characteristic, this temperament, or that temperament,  then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

If you say that the one to whom you point embodies the dakini any more or less than the one to whom you do not point, then you are gravely insulting the dakini.

Claiming that one is practicing dharma with a high view, yet engaging in covert warfare and engineering is quite simply adding another layer to delusion -- like taking a psychedelic drug to find "truth." Indeed, the farther one goes with the dharma, the more one realizes that the basis of every appropriate action must be kindness and compassion. This is not "must" in the imperative sense, as in you "must" do this, but in the declarative sense. Similarly, the basis of every inappropriate action must be ignorance and delusion. Sooner or later, all actions ripen unto themselves, and I do not think a trial is involved. I do not think there is room for explanation, equivocation, flexibility, or the fine creativity of defense.

Speaking of defense:

In the world of high-dollar criminal defense, there is a strategy known as the "exorcist's defense." This comes from the case of a Korean shaman who was brought to trial for beating his wife to death. A massive amount of evidence was introduced that the victim loved her husband very much; that both believed the wife to be possessed by a demon; that the extended families and even neighors shared this belief; that all parties appealed to the shaman to exorcise the demon, and that the shaman attempted this by beating the woman, believing he was "beating out the demon." In his zeal, the beating took its toll, but all parties intimate with the matter believed that it was actually the demon who stole the woman back from the shaman's hands. In the prototype, the defendant was acquitted... and then went off to live happily ever after with his young mistress. Turns out that the "demon" which afflicted his late wife, was her knowledge of incidents of his infidelity.

If you are employing the exorcist's defense to clandestinely indulge your own corruptions, this gravely insults the dakini and will most certainly --- and this an absolute certainty -- result in the most extreme suffering imaginable. Managing to escape the suffering thus far is no indication that your actions have been ratified by your lofty view, or your ghost writer's venturesome turn of phrase.

Steadfastly clinging to belief in one's own status provides no laissez passer. Pointing to credentials, or professional occupation is no evidence of one's intentions. There are overt intentions, and then there are covert intentions, which is a rather different study. Casting about for a free pass or making a dialectic of intention gravely insults the dakini.

How wonderful that in the dharma kindergarten, all the girls are dakinis and all the boys are yogis. Sometimes, I want to take a switch to their backsides, and beat the Jesus out of them.

However, as time goes by, I have learned to resist that impulse by asking myself one simple question.

The question is: "Why?"

Why are you hitting, hurting, creating methods, rubbing faces, feeding poison, and arrogating unto yourself the processes of cause and effect, while at the same time believing yourself to be  somehow above those self-same processes?

Why are you so gravely and fundamentally insulting the dakini?

Why are you so gravely and fundamentally insulting your mind?

"If you think, 'I will have no karmic ripening even if I engage in the ten unvirtuous acts,' you should be able to accept the ten unvirtuous acts of others directed towards you -- even if it might result in your death. Can you do that?"
--Guru Shri Singha,
as quoted by
Guru Padma of Uddiyana
The Treasure of the Lotus Crystal Cave

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12 reader comments:

Sydney said...

I think the crucial point in all those cases of "wrong" being sometimes "right" is the "Whoever" clause: "Whoever always sees with compassion even has permission to do what which is prohibited."

I don't see much of compassion in all those examples attributed to

Editor said...

You are quite correct.

Anonymous said...

its all a matter of "pure vision"...

Anonymous said...

"...beat the Jesus out of them..." Is that the same as "beating the bejesus" out of someone? I'm guessing there's two of them -- Jesus on the right and beJesus on the left --one for each gluteus. Double the lashes then!

Editor said...

Well, in the first draft I had it as "beat the sublimated Christianity out of them," but I recast it.

You know, there is a lot of covert Christian philosophy infecting Buddhism as expressed in the West.

That's what comes of keeping religion in one compartment.

Anonymous said...

This is an absolutely BRILLIANT commentary that should be read in every one of the Dharma Centers.

Graycard said...

A propos of nothing much at all, I'm thinking about the first "Buddhist" I ever met. He was a Poli Sci MA or PhD, I forget (this was like 1970) and this dude practiced relationship therapy, meaning he boffed a lot of young moms. When I asked him about his qualifications to do "therapy" he said something to the effect that politics is relationships & that's good enough.

He worked really hard at looking detached, mostly meaning he wore a really annoying smirk, especially when other people were having meltdowns, which was an indoor sport back in the day. Anyway this dude was deeply attached to his detachment, a fact that became absolutely unmistakable when a girlfriend dumped him. When I pointed is out he may have learned something from it.

Anonymous said...

"It is typical of the activity of the dakini to hit where it hurts."

Wait, this writ of a poseur dakini really does describe my mistress perfectly, beguiling Yudronma on her frisky attitudinal high-horse, so fine on the outside, yet so brutally destructive of one's sense of reality. Looks can and do kill.

Attitude aside, my research has led me to conclude that Dakinis actually have feelings. Their "displays" of emotion are not "mere displays". They actually have real emotions that hurt or feel good. Those emotions do not exist only to educate us about our own shit, but actually have a life of their own. It turns out Dakinis are more like us than we realized.

I used to think Dakinis were pretty much the same as the pert-breasted thangkha-goddesses -- perfectly flat and unconditioned by emotional depths, but delightful to look at or fantasize about. "They" didn't exist ndependently of my own mind, right? So why bother with sentimental notions like "sensitivity".

I evetually learned that not all of them like being wet-nurses for emotional infants living in the bodies of grown men. Some Dakinis resent it viciously.

"But eventually, with faith and devotion, you will come out of it enlightened."

Wrongo. This would be dangerous. Dakinis may be beautiful, but they are not necessarily tame. A tigress in heat will not necessarily be pleased by your devotion. She might just bite your head off, the way cats do when a mouse no longer gives chase.

Dakinis are much more playful than drawings of naked goddesses on a thangkha. Don't chase them always. Turn around and walk away for a change.

"But that's disrespectful..."

Bullshit. They're trying to teach you a lesson, which is letting you figure out (after making a foolish ass of yourself many times) that you must give them a dose their own medicine. It seems to be against the rules, but rules are much more instructive if you break them sometimes. It's more fun, and Dakinis like to have fun.

Nothing is more annoying than an over-friendly dog that follows you everywhere and humps your leg if you don't pet him. Men with romantic ideas about Dakinis are about that sophisticated.

To get along with Dakinis, I've discovered that one must treat them as if they were perfectly ordinary women, subject to self-doubts, self-images, not to mention horomonal spikes and gulleys. It's a game, but they seem to enjoy the role-playing, especially if thick stacks of freshly-minted Federal Reserve Notes are involved.

In brief, one must speak softly and carry a big stick. No, wait. On second thought, put the stick away for a spell, and watch what happens. Just when things get scary, whip it out and let her have it. Give 'em what they deserve, until they ask you to stop. The scary mysterious Dakini has become putty in your hands. For a little while, anyway. She'll probably cook for you, unless she's American.

Editor said...

The damned Victor and Victoria Trimondi have published "commentary" to the effect that dakinis are historically beaten and their property burned, and I do believe Sogyal Rinpoche is on record as saying sometimes you have to rape them, but you know -- I haven't seen the textual authority. This is not to say that it never comes up, but gee whiz... do you know anybody who can fade that class of action?

In all seriousness, I think a lot of people are confusing dakinis with their own projections of women.

I do know of a very great lama who addressed this issue by employing explicit photos of Indian porn stars at certain points in the empowerments.... and I do believe you know him too.

Some people will say, "well, every woman is a dakini." I won't debate the point. It isn't worth it, and I'm too busy writing a book proposal for "Divine PMS, or You Want Dakini? I Got Your Dakini Right Here!"

Think Oprah will run with it?

Anonymous said...

Feminists insult the dakini worse than anybody else.

Anonymous said...

Dakini Song

Written by Khyungpo Naljor a twelfth-century Tibetan master who had a visionary experience in which a lion-headed dakini appeared and sang this song.

Crystal dakini guards against interruptions...
Jewel dakini increases wealth.
Lotus dakini gathers energy.
Action dakini gets everything done.
When wanting and grasping hold sway
The dakini has you in her power.
Wanting nothing from outside, taking things as they come,
Know the dakini to be your own mind.

The essence of mind is knowing.
Know that the crystal is the non-thought of mind itself
And the crystal dakini guards against interruptions.
Know that the source of wealth is contentment
And the jewel dakini fulfills all wants and needs.
Know that the lotus is the non-thought of freedom from attachment And the lotus dakini gathers energy.
Know that action has no origination or cessation
And the action dakini gets everything done.
Those who do not understand these points
Can practice for eons and know nothing.

Nightprowlkitty said...

Thank you so much for that beautiful song. "Know that the source of wealth is contentment." Such simple words with such rich meaning.

I don't understand how someone can write such things about dakinis as what you quoted, Tenpa -- seems so self-conscious. I would imagine that when one acts from compassion there is no thought-out decision as to method (i.e., "I will do what is prohibited"); rather sometimes what is prohibited is done during that process spontaneously.

So compassion and wisdom is the means, not any particular action. I certainly can't see that anyone would actually prescribe "doing what is prohibited," just doesn't make sense.