The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:05 am

The Shadow of the Dalai Lama: Sexuality, Magic and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism
© 2003 by Victor and Victoria Trimondi
Translated by Mark Penny




"My own role? Nothing. Zero ... So one day, if the Dalai Lama becomes a mass murderer, he will become the most deadly of mass murderers.”
-- The Dalai Lama

Table of Contents:

• Introduction: Light and Shadow
• Plato's Cave
• Realpolitik and politics of symbols
• Note on the Cited Literature
• Part I -- Ritual as Politics:
1. Buddhism and Misogyny (historical overview)
2. Tantric Buddhism
3. The "Tantric Female Sacrifice"
4. The Law of Inversion
5. Pure Shaktism and Tantric Feminism, and Alchemy
6. Kalachakra: The Public and the Secret Initiations
7. Kalachakra: The Inner Processes
8. The ADI Buddha: His Mystic body and His Astral Aspects
9. The ADI Buddha: The Mandala Principle and the World Ruler
10. The Aggressive Myth of Shambhala
11. The Manipulator of Erotic Love
12. Epilogue to Part 1
• Part II -- Ritual as Politics
• Introduction: Politics as Ritual
1. The Dalai Lama: Incarnation of the Tibetan Gods
2. The Dalai Lama (Avalokitesvara) and the Demoness (Srinmo)
3. The Foundations of Tibetan Buddhocracy
4. Social Reality in Ancient Tibet
5. Buddhocracy and Anarchy -- Contradictory or Complementary?
6. Regicide or Lamaism's Myth of Origin and the Ritual Sacrifice of Tibet
7. The War of the Oracle Gods and the Shugden Affair
8. Magic as a Political Instrument
9. The War Gods behind the Mask of Peace
10. The Spearhead of the Shambhala War: The Mongols
11. The Shambhala Myth and the West
12. Fascist Occultism and its Close Relationship to Buddhist Tantrism
13. The Japanese Doomsday Guru Shoko Asahara and XIV Dalai Lama
14. China's Metaphysical Rivalry with Tibet
15. The Buddhocratic Conquest of the West
16. Tactics, Strategies, Forgeries, Illusions
17. Conclusion
• Postscript: Creative Polarity beyond Tantrism
• References
• Annex: Critical Forum Kalachakra Tantra
• Glossary
• Biographies of Victor and Victoria Trimondi
Site Admin
Posts: 36190
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:06 am


Introduction: Light and Shadow

For centuries after Buddha had died,
his shadow was still visible in a cave
a dreadful, spine-chilling shadow.
God is dead: but man being the way
he is for centuries to come there
will be caves in which his shadow is shown
and we, we must also triumph over his shadow.

-- Friedrich Nietzsche

The practice and philosophy of Buddhism has spread so rapidly throughout the Western world in the past 30 years and has so often been a topic in the media that by now anybody who is interested in cultural affairs has formed some sort of concept of Buddhism. In the conventional “Western” notion of Buddhism, the teachings of Buddha Gautama are regarded as a positive Eastern countermodel to the decadent civilization and culture of the West: where the Western world has introduced war and exploitation into world history, Buddhism stands for peace and freedom; whilst Western rationalism is destructive of life and the environment, the Eastern teachings of wisdom preserve and safeguard them. The meditation, compassion, composure, understanding, nonviolence, modesty, and spirituality of Asia stand in contrast to the actionism, egomania, unrest, indoctrination, violence, arrogance, and materialism of Europe and North America. Ex oriente lux—“light comes from the East”; in occidente nox—“darkness prevails in the West”.

We regard this juxtaposition of the Eastern and Western hemispheres as not just the “business” of naive believers and zealous Tibetan lamas. On the contrary, this comparison of values has become distributed among Western intelligentsia as a popular philosophical speculation in which they flirt with their own demise.

But the cream of Hollywood also gladly and openly confess their allegiance to the teachings of Buddhism (or what they understand these to be), especially when these come from the mouths of Tibetan lamas. “Tibet is looming larger than ever on the show business map,” the Herald Tribune wrote in 1997. “Tibet is going to enter the Western popular culture as something can only when Hollywood does the entertainment injection into the world system. Let’s remember that Hollywood is the most powerful force in the world, besides the US military” (Herald Tribune, March 20, 1997, pp. 1, 6). Orville Shell, who is working on a book on Tibet and the West, sees the Dalai Lama’s “Hollywood connection” as a substitute for the non-existent diplomatic corps that could represent the interests of the exiled Tibetan hierarch: “Since he [the Dalai Lama] doesn’t have embassies, and he has no political power, he has to seek other kinds. Hollywood is a kind of country in his own, and he’s established a kind of embassy there” (Newsweek, May 19, 1997, p. 24).

In Buddhism more and more show-business celebrities believe they have discovered a message of salvation that can at last bring the world peace and tranquility. In connection with his most recent film about the young Dalai Lama (Kundun), the director Martin Scorsese, more known for the violence of his films, emotionally declared: “Violence is not the answer, it doesn’t work any more. We are at the end of the worst century in which the greatest atrocities in the history of the world have occurred ... The nature of human beings must change. We must cultivate love and compassion” (Focus 46/1997, p. 168; retranslation). The karate hero Steven Segal, who believes himself to be the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama, tells us, “I have been a Buddhist for twenty years and since then have lived in harmony with myself and the world” (Bunte, November 6, 1997, p. 24; retranslation). For actor Richard Gere, one of the closest Western confidants of the Dalai Lama, the “fine irony of Buddhism, which signifies the only way to true happiness, is our own pleasure to offer to each and all” (Bunte, November 6, 1997, p. 25;retranslation). Helmut Thoma, former head of the private German television company RTL, is no less positive about this Eastern religion: “Buddhists treat each other in a friendly, well-meaning and compassionate way. They see no difference between their own suffering and that of others. I admire that” (Bunte, November 6, 1997, p. 24). Actress Christine Kaufmann has also enthused, “In Buddhism the maxim is: enjoy the phases of happiness for these are transitory” (Bunte, November 6, 1997, p. 21). Sharon Stone, Uma Thurman, Tina Turner, Patty Smith, Meg Ryan, Doris Dörrie, and Shirley MacLaine are just some of the film stars and singers who follow the teachings of Buddha Gautama.

The press is no less euphoric. The German magazine Bunte has praised the teachings from the East as the “ideal religion of our day”: Buddhism has no moral teachings, enjoins us to happiness, supports winners, has in contrast to other religions an unblemished past ("no skeletons in the closet”), worships nature as a cathedral, makes women beautiful, promotes sensuousness, promises eternal youth, creates paradise on earth, reduces stress and body weight (Bunte, November 6, 1997, pp. 20ff.).

What has already become the myth of the “Buddhization of the West” is the work of many. Monks, scholars, enthusiastic followers, generous sponsors, occultists, hippies, and all sorts of “Eastern trippers” have worked on it. But towering above them all, just as the Himalayas surpass all other peaks on the planet, is His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Timeless, gigantic, respectful, tolerant, patient, modest, simple, full of humor, warm, gentle, lithe, earthy, harmonious, transparent, pure, and always smiling and laughing — this is how the Kundun (the Tibetan word means “presence” or “living Buddha”) is now known to all. There is no positive human characteristic which has not at one time or another been applied to the Dalai Lama. For many of the planet’s inhabitants, even if they are non-Buddhists, he represents the most respectable living individual of our epoch.

Many believe they have discovered in the straightforward personality of this Buddhist monk all the rare qualities of a gracious and trustworthy character that we seek in vain among our Western politicians and church leaders. In a world full of evil, materialism, and corruption he represents goodwill, the realm of the spirit, and the lotus blossom of purity; amidst the maelstrom of trivialities and confusion he stands for meaning, calm, and stability; in the competitive struggle of modern capitalism and in an age where reports of catastrophes are constant he is the guarantor of justice and a clear and unshaken will; from the thick of the battle of cultures and peoples he emerges as the apostle of peace; amidst a global outbreak of religious fanaticism he preaches tolerance and nonviolence.

His followers worship him as a deity, a “living Buddha” (Kundun), and call him their “divine king”. Not even the Catholic popes or medieval emperors ever claimed such a high spiritual position — they continued to bow down before the “Lord of Lords” (God) as his supreme servants. The Dalai Lama, however –according to Tibetan doctrine at least — himself appears and acts as the “Highest”. In him is revealed the mystic figure of ADI BUDDHA (the Supreme Buddha); he is a religious ideal in flesh and blood. In some circles, enormous hopes are placed in the Kundun as the new Redeemer himself. Not just Tibetans and Mongolians, many Taiwan Chinese and Westerners also see him as a latter-day Messiah. [1]

However human the monk from Dharamsala (India) may appear, his person is surrounded by the most occult speculations. Many who have met him believe they have encountered the supernatural. In the case of the “divine king” who has descended to mankind from the roof of the world, that which was denied Moses—namely, to glimpse the countenance of God (Yahweh)—has become possible for pious Buddhists; and unlike Yahweh this countenance shows no wrath, but smiles graciously and warmly instead.

The esoteric pathos in the characterization of the Dalai Lama has long since transcended the boundaries of Buddhist insider groups. It is the famous show business personalities and even articles in the “respectable” Western press who now express the mystic flair of the Kundun in weighty exclamations: “The fascination is the search for the third eye”, Melissa Mathison, scriptwriter for Martin Scorsese’s film, Kundun, writes in the Herald Tribune. “Americans are hoping for some sort of magical door into the mystical, thinking that there’s some mysterious reason for things, a cosmic explanation. Tibet offers the most extravagant expression of the mystical, and when people meet His Holiness, you can see on their faces that they’re hoping to get this hit that will transcend their lives, take them someplace else” (Herald Tribune, March 20, 1997).

Nevertheless — and this is another magical fairytale — the divine king’s omnipotent role combines well with the monastic modesty and simplicity he exhibits. It is precisely this fascinating combination of the supreme (“divine king”) and the almighty with the lowliest (“mendicant”) and weakest that makes the Dalai Lama so appealing for many — clear, understandable words, a gracious smile, a simple robe, plain sandals, and behind all this the omnipotence of the divine. With his constantly repeated statement — “I ... see myself first as a man and a Tibetan who has made the decision to become a Buddhist monk” — His Holiness has conquered the hearts of the West (Dalai Lama XIV, 1993a, p. 7). We can believe in such a person, we can find refuge in him, from him we learn about the wisdom of life and death. [2]

A similar reverse effect is found in another of the Kundun’s favorite sayings, that the institution of the Dalai Lama could become superfluous in the future. “Perhaps it would really be good if I were the last!” (Levenson, 1990, p. 366). Such admissions of his own superfluity bring tears to people’s eyes and are only surpassed by the prognosis of the “divine king” that in his next life he will probably be reincarnated as an insect in order to help this lower form of life as an “insect messiah”. In the wake of such heartrending prophecies no-one would wish for anything more than that the institution of the Dalai Lama might last for ever.

The political impotence of the country the hierarch had to flee has a similarly powerful and disturbing effect. The image of the innocent, peaceful, spiritual, defenseless, and tiny Tibet, suppressed and humiliated by the merciless, inhumane, and materialistic Chinese giant has elevated the “Land of Snows” and its monastic king to the status of a worldwide symbol of “pacifist resistance”. The more Tibet and its “ecclesiastical king” are threatened, the more his spiritual authority increases and the more the Kundun becomes an international moral authority. He has succeeded in the impossible task of drawing strength from his weakness.

The numerous speeches of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, his interviews, statements, writings, biographies, books, and his countless introductions and forewords to the texts of others deal almost exclusively with topics like compassion, kindness, sincerity, love, nonviolence, human rights, ecological visions, professions of democracy, religious tolerance, inner and outer spirituality, the blessings of science, world peace, and so on. It would take a true villain to not agree totally with what he has said and written. Training consciousness, achieving spiritual peace, cultivating inner contentment, fostering satisfaction, practicing awareness, eliminating egoism, helping others — what responsible person could fail to identify with this? Who doesn’t long for flawless love, clear intellect, generosity, and enlightenment?

Within Western civilization, the Dalai Lama appears as the purest light. He represents — according to former President Jimmy Carter — a new type of world leader, who has placed the principles of peace and compassion at the center of his politics, and who, with his kind and winning nature, has shown us all how the hardest blows of fate can be borne with perseverance and patience. By now he symbolizes human dignity and global responsibility for millions. Up until very recently hardly anyone, with the exception of his archenemies, the Chinese communists, has dared to criticize this impotent/omnipotent luminary. But then, out of the blue in 1996, dark clouds began to gather over the bright aura of the “living Buddha”.

Charges, accusations, suspicions and incriminations began to appear in the media. At first on the Internet, then in isolated press reports, and finally in television programs (see Panorama on ARD [Germany], November 20, 1997 and 10 vor 10 on SF1 [Switzerland], January 5-8, 1998). At the same time as the Hollywood stars were erecting a media altar for their Tibetan god, the public attacks on the Dalai Lama were becoming more frequent. Even for a mundane politician the catalogue of accusations would have been embarrassing, but for a divine king they were horrendous. And on this occasion the attacks came not from the Chinese camp but from within his own ranks.

The following serious charges are leveled in an open letter to the Kundun supposedly written by Tibetans in exile which criticizes the “despotism” of the hierarch: “The cause [of the despotism] is the invisible disease which is still there and which develops immediately if met with various conditions. And what is this disease? It is your clinging to your own power. It is a fact that even at that time if someone would have used democracy on you, you would not have been able to accept it. ... Your Holiness, you wish to be a great leader, but you do not know that in order to fulfill the wish, a ‘political Bodhisattva vow’ is required. So you entered instead the wrong ‘political path of accumulation’ (tsog lam) and that has lead you on a continuously wrong path. You believed that in order to be a greater leader you had to secure your own position first of all, and whenever any opposition against you arose you had to defend yourself, and this has become contagious. ... Moreover, to challenge lamas you have used religion for your own aim. To that purpose you had to develop the Tibetan people’s blind faith. ... For instance, you started the politics of public Kalachakra initiations. [3] Normally the Kalachakra initiation is not given in public. Then you started to use it continuously in a big way for your politics. The result is that now the Tibetan people have returned to exactly the same muddy and dirty mixing of politics and religion of lamas which you yourself had so precisely criticized in earlier times. ... You have made the Tibetans into donkeys. You can force them to go here and there as you like. In your words you always say that you want to be Ghandi but in your action you are like a religious fundamentalist who uses religious faith for political purposes. Your image is the Dalai Lama, your mouth is Mahatma Ghandi and your heart is like that of a religious dictator. You are a deceiver and it is very sad that on the top of the suffering that they already have the Tibetan people have a leader like you. Tibetans have become fanatics. They say that the Dalai Lama is more important than the principle of Tibet. ... Please, if you feel like being like Gandhi, do not turn the Tibetan situation in the church dominated style of 17th century Europe” (Sam, May 27, 1997 - Newsgroup 16).

The list of accusations goes on and on. Here we present some of the charges raised against the Kundun since 1997 which we treat in more detail in this study: association with the Japanese “poison gas guru” Shoko Asahara (the “Asahara affair”); violent suppression of the free expression of religion within his own ranks (the “Shugden affair”); the splitting of the other Buddhist sects (the “Karmapa affair”); frequent sexual abuse of women by Tibetan lamas (“Sogyal Rinpoche and June Campbell affairs”); intolerance towards homosexuals; involvement in a ritual murder (the events of February 4, 1997); links to National Socialism (the “Heinrich Harrer affair”); nepotism (the “Yabshi affair”); selling out his own country to the Chinese (renunciation of Tibetan sovereignty); political lies; rewriting history; and much more. Overnight the god has become a demon. [4]

And all of a sudden Westerners are beginning to ask themselves whether the king of light from the Himalayas might not have a monstrous shadow. What we mean by the Dalai Lama’s “shadow” is the possibility of a dark, murky, and “dirty” side to both his personality and politicoreligious office in contrast to the pure and brilliant figure he cuts as the “greatest living hero of peace in our century” in the captivated awareness of millions.

For most people who have come to know him personally or via the media, such nocturnal dimensions to His Holiness are unimaginable. The possibility would not even occur to them, since the Kundun has grasped how to effectively conceal the threatening and demonic aspects of Tibetan Buddhism and the many dark chapters in the history of Tibet. Up until 1996 he had succeeded –the poorly grounded Chinese critique aside — in playing the shining hero on the world stage.

Plato’s cave

The shadow is the “other side” of a person, his “hidden face”, the shadows are his “occult depths”. Psychoanalysis teaches us that there are four ways of dealing with our shadow: we can deny it, suppress it, project it onto other people, or integrate it.

But the topic of the shadow does not just have a psychological dimension; ever since Plato’s famous analogy of the cave it has become one of the favorite motifs of Western philosophy. In his Politeia (The State), Plato tells of an “unenlightened” people who inhabit a cave with their backs to the entrance. Outside shines the light of eternal and true reality, but as the people have turned their backs to it, all they see are the shadows of reality which flit sketchily across the walls of the cave before their eyes. Their human attentiveness is magically captivated by this shadowy world and they thus perceive only dreams and illusions, never higher reality itself. Should a cave dweller one day manage to escape this dusky dwelling, he would recognize that he had been living in a world of illusions.

This parable was adapted by Friedrich Nietzsche in Aphorism 108 of his Fröhliche Wissenschaft [The Gay Science] and — of interest here — linked to the figure of Buddha: “For centuries after Buddha had died,” Nietzsche wrote, “his shadow was still visible in a cave — a dreadful, spine-chilling shadow. God is dead: but man being the way he is, for centuries to come there will be caves in which his shadow is shown — and we — we must also triumph over his shadow”. [5]

This aphorism encourages us to speculate about the Dalai Lama. He is, after all, worshipped as “God” or as a “living Buddha” (Kundun), as a supreme enlightened being. But, we could argue with Nietzsche, the true Buddha (“God”) is dead. Does this make the figure of the Dalai Lama nothing but a shadow? Are pseudo-dogmas, pseudo-rituals, and pseudo-mysteries all that remain of the original Buddhism? Did the historical Buddha Shakyamuni leave us with his “dreadful shadow” (the Dalai Lama) and have we been challenged to liberate ourselves from him? However, we could also speculate as to whether people perceive only the Dalai Lama’s silhouette since they still live in the cave of an unenlightened consciousness. If they were to leave this world of illusion, they might experience the Kundun as the supreme luminary and Supreme Buddha (ADI BUDDHA).

In our study of the Dalai Lama we offer concrete answers to these and similar metaphysical questions. To do this, however, we must lead our readers into (Nietzsche’s) cave, where the “dreadful shadow” of the Kundun (a “living Buddha”) appears on the wall. Up until now this cave has been closed to the public and could not be entered by the uninitiated.

Incidentally, every Tibetan temple possesses such an eerie room of shadows. Beside the various sacred chambers in which smiling Buddha statues emit peace and composure there are secret rooms known as gokhangs which can only be entered by a chosen few. In the dim light of flickering, half-drowned butter lamps, surrounded by rusty weapons, stuffed animals, and mummified body parts, the Tibetan terror gods reside in the gokhang. Here, the inhabitants of a violent and monstrous realm of darkness are assembled. In a figurative sense the gokhang symbolizes the dark ritualism of Lamaism and Tibet’s hidden history of violence. In order to truly get to know the Dalai Lama (the “living Buddha”) we must first descend into the “cave” (the gokhang) and there conduct a speleology of his religion.

“Realpolitik” and the “Politics of Symbols”

Our study is divided into two parts. The first contain a depiction and critique of the religious foundations of Tibetan (“Tantric”) Buddhism and is entitled Ritual as Politics. The second part (Politics as Ritual) examines the power politics of the Kundun (Dalai Lama) and its historical preconditions. The relationship between political power and religion is thus central to our book.

In ancient societies (like that of Tibet), everything that happens in the everyday world — from acts of nature to major political events to quotidian occurrences — is the expression of transcendent powers and forces working behind the scenes. Mortals do not determine their own fates; rather they are instruments in the hands of “gods” and “demons”. If we wish to gain any understanding at all of the Dalai Lama’s “secular” politics, it must be derived from this atavistic perspective which permeates the traditional cultural legacy of Tibetan Buddhism. For the mysteries that he administers (in which the “gods” make their appearances) form the foundations of his political vision and decision making. State and religion, ritual and politics are inseparable for him.

What, however, distinguishes a “politics of symbols” from “realpolitik”? Both are concerned with power, but the methods for achieving and maintaining power differ. In realpolitik we are dealing with facts that are both caused and manipulated by people. Here the protagonists are politicians, generals, CEOs, leaders of opinion, cultural luminaries, etc. The methods through which power is exercised include force, war, revolution, legal systems, money, rhetoric, propaganda, public discussions, and bribery.

In the symbolic political world, however, we encounter “supernatural” energy fields, the “gods” and “demons”. The secular protagonists in events are still human beings such as ecclesiastical dignitaries, priests, magicians, gurus, yogis, and shamans. But they all see themselves as servants of some type of superior divine will, or, transcending their humanity they themselves become “gods”, as in the case of the Dalai Lama. His exercise of power thus not only involves worldly techniques but also the manipulation of symbols in rituals and magic. For him, symbolic images and ritual acts are not simply signs or aesthetic acts but rather instruments with which to activate the gods and to influence people’s awareness. His political reality is determined by a “metaphysical detour” via the mysteries. [6]

This interweaving of historical and symbolic events leads to the seemingly fantastic metapolitics of the Tibetans. Lamaism believes it can influence the course of history not just in Tibet but for the entire planet through its system of rituals and invocations, through magic practices and concentration exercises. The result is an atavistic mix of magic and politics. Rather than being determined by parliament and the Tibetan government in exile, political decisions are made by oracles and the supernatural beings acting through them. It is no longer parties with differing programs and leaders who face off in the political arena, but rather distinct and antagonistic oracle gods.

Above all it is in the individual of the Dalai Lama that the entire worldly and spiritual/magic potential of the Tibetan world view is concentrated. According to tradition he is a sacred king. All his deeds, however much they are perceived in terms of practical politics by his surroundings, are thus profoundly linked to the Tibetan mysteries.

The latter have always been shrouded in secrecy. The uninitiated have no right to participate or learn about them. Nevertheless, in recent years much information about the Tibetan cults (recorded in the so-called tantra texts and their commentaries) has been published and translated into European languages. The world that opens itself here to Western awareness appears equally fantastic and fascinating. This world is a combination of theatrical pomp, medieval magic, sacred sexuality, relentless asceticism, supreme deification and the basest abuse of women, murderous crimes, maximum ethical demands, the appearance of gods and demons, mystical ecstasy, and cold hard logic all in one powerful, paradoxical performance.

Note on the cited literature:

The original documents which we cite are without exception European-language translations from Sanskrit, Tibetan or Chinese, or are drawn from Western sources. By now, so many relevant texts have been translated that they provide an adequate scholarly basis for a culturally critical examination of Tibetan Buddhism without the need to refer to documents in the original language. For our study , the Kalachakra Tantra is central. This has not been translated in its entirety, aside from an extremely problematical handwritten manuscript by the German Tibetoligist, Albert Grünwedel, which can be found in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. Important parts of the Sri Kalachakra have been translated into English by John Roland Newman, along with a famous commentary on these parts by Pundarika known as the Vimalaphraba. (John Ronald Newman - The outer wheel of time: Vajrayana buddhist cosmology in the Kalacakra Tantra – Vimalaprabhā - nāmamūlatantrānusāriņī-dvādaśasāhasrikālagukālacakratantrarājaţīkā ) Madison 1987)

The Sri Kalachakra (Laghukalachakratantra) is supposed to be the abridgement of a far more comprehensive original text by the name of Sekoddesha. The complete text has been lost — but some important passages from it have been preserved and have been commented upon by the renowned scholar Naropa (10th century). An Italian translation of the commentary by Ranieri Gnoli and Giacomella Orofino is available. Further to this, we have studied every other work on the Kalachakra Tantra which we have been able to find in a Western language. We were thus in a position to be able to adequately reconstruct the contents of the “Time Tantra” from the numerous translated commentaries and sources for a cultural historical (and not a philological) assessment of the tantra. This extensive literature is listed at the end of the book. In order to make the intentions and methods of this religious system comprehensible for a Western audience, a comparison with other tantras and with parallels in European culture is of greater importance than a meticulous linguistic knowledge of every line in the Sanskrit or Tibetan original.

In the interests of readability, we have transliterated Tibetan and Sanskrit names without diacritical marks and in this have primarily oriented ourselves to Anglo-Saxon usages.



[1] In the opinion of the Tibet researcher, Peter Bishop, the head of the Lamaist “church” satisfies a “reawakened appreciation of the Divine Father” for many people from the West (Bishop 1993, p. 130). For Bishop, His Holiness stands out as a fatherly savior figure against the insecurities and fears produced by modern society, against the criticisms leveled at monotheistic religions, and against the rubble of the decline of the European system of values.

[2] Through this contradictory effect the Dalai Lama is able to strengthen his superhuman stature with the most banal of words and deeds. Many of His Holiness’s Western visitors, for example, are amazed after an audience that a “god-king” constantly rubs his nose and scratches his head “like an ape”. Yet, writes the Tibet researcher Christiaan Klieger, “such expressions of the body natural do not detract from the status of the Dalai Lama – far from it, as it adds to his personal charisma. It maintains that incongruous image of a divine form in a human body” (Klieger 1991, p 79).

[3] The Kalachakra initiations are the most significant rituals which the Dalai Lama conducts, partly in public and in part in secret. By now the public events take place in the presence of hundreds of thousands. Analyses and interpretations of the Kalachakra initiations lie at the center of the current study.

[4] Up until 1996 the West needed to be divided into two factions — with the eloquent advocates of Tibetan Buddhism on the one hand, and those who were completely ignorant of the issue and remained silent on the other. In contrast, modern or “postmodern” cultural criticisms of the Buddhist teachings and critical examinations of the Tibetan clergy and the Tibetan state structure were extremely rare (completely the opposite of the case of the literature which addresses the Pope and the Catholic Church). Noncommitted and unfalsified analyses and interpretations of Buddhist or Tibetan history, in brief open and truth-seeking confrontations with the shady side of the “true faith” and its history, have to be sought out like needles in a haystack of ideological glorifications and deliberately constructed myths of history. For this reason those who attempted to discover and reveal the hidden background have had to battle to swim against a massive current of resistance based on pre-formed opinions and deliberate manipulation. This situation has changed in the period since 1996.

[5] The fact that Nietzsche’s aphorism about the shadow is number 108 offers numerologists fertile grounds for occult speculation, as 108 is one of the most significant holy numbers in Tibetan Buddhism. Given the status of knowledge about Tibet at the time, it is hardly likely that Nietzsche chose this number deliberately.

[6] There is nonetheless an occult correlation between “symbolic and ritual politics” and real political events. Thus the Tibetan lamas believe they are justified in subsuming the pre-existing social reality (including that of the West) into their magical world view and subjecting it to their “irrational” methods. With a for a contemporary awareness audacious seeming thought construction, they see in the processes of world history not just the work of politicians, the military, and business leaders, but declare these to be the lackeys of divine or demonic powers.
Site Admin
Posts: 36190
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:08 am

Part I -- Ritual as Politics


Playboy: Are you actually interested in the topic of sex?

(14th) Dalai Lama: My goodness! You ask a 62-year-old monk who has been celibate his entire life a thing like that. I don’t have much to say about sex — other than that it is completely okay if two people love each other.

(The Fourteenth Dalai Lama in a Playboy interview (German edition), March 1998)

1. Buddhism and Misogyny -- An Historical Overview

A well-founded critique and — where planned — a deconstruction of the Western image of Buddhism currently establishing itself should concentrate entirely upon the particular school of Buddhism known as "Tantrism” (Tantrayana or Vajrayana) for two reasons. [1] The first is that the “tantric way” represents the most recent phase in the history of Buddhism and is with some justification viewed as the supreme and thus most comprehensive doctrine of the entire system. In a manner of speaking Tantrism has integrated all the foregoing Buddhist schools within itself, and further become a receptacle for Hindu, Iranian, Central Asian, and even Islamic cultural influences. Thus — as an oft-repeated Tantrayana statement puts it — one who has understood the “Tantric Way” has also understood all other paths to enlightenment.

The second reason for concentrating upon Tantrism lies in the fact that it represents the most widely distributed form of Buddhism in the West. It exerts an almost magical attraction upon many in America and Europe. With the Dalai Lama at its head and its clergy of exiled Tibetans, it possesses a powerful and flexible army of missionaries who advance the Buddhization of the West with psychological and diplomatic skill.

It is the goal of the present study to work out, interpret and evaluate the motives, practices and visions of Tantric Buddhism and its history. We have set out to make visible the archetypal fields and the “occult” powers which determine, or at least influence, the world politics of the Dalai Lama as the supreme representative of Tantrayana. For this reason we must familiarize our readers with the gods and demons who –not in our way of looking at things but from a tantric viewpoint — have shaped and continue to shape Tibet’s history. We will thus need to show that the Tibetans experience their history and contemporary politics as the worldly expression of a transcendental reality, and that they organize their lives according to laws which are not of this world. In summary, we wish to probe to the heart of the tantric mystery.

In light of the complexity of the topic, we have resolved to proceed deductively and to preface the entire book with the core statement of our research in the form of a hypothesis. Our readers will thus be set on their way with a statement whose truth or falsity only emerges from the investigations which follow. The formulation of this hypothesis is necessarily very abstract at the outset. Only in the course of our study does it fill out with blood and life, and unfortunately, with violence and death as well. Our core statement is as follows:

The mystery of Tantric Buddhism consists in the sacrifice of the feminine principle and the manipulation of erotic love in order to attain universal androcentric power

An endless chain of derived forms of sacrifice has developed out of this central sacrificial event and the associated power techniques: the sacrifice of life, body and soul to the spirit; of the individual to an Almighty God or a higher self; of the feelings to reason; love to omnipotence; the earth to heaven; and so forth. This pervasive sacrificial gnosis, which — as we shall see — ultimately lets the entire universe end in a sea of fire, and which reaches its full maturity in the doctrine of Tantrism, is already in place in the earlier phases of Buddhism, including the legend of Buddha. In order to demonstrate this, we think it sensible to also analyze the three Buddhist stages which precede Tantrayana with regard to the “female sacrifice”, the “manipulation of erotic love”, and the “development of androcentric power”.

The history of Buddhism is normally divided into four phases, all of which found their full development in India. The first recounts the legendary life and teachings of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, who bore the name Siddharta Gautama (c.560 B.C.E.–480 B.C.E.). The second phase, which begins directly following his death, is known as Theravada Buddhism. It is somewhat disparagingly termed Hinayana or the “Low Vehicle” by later Buddhist schools. The third phase has developed since the second century B.C.E., Mahayana Buddhism, or the “Great Vehicle”. Tantrism, or Tantrayana, arose in the fourth century C.E. at the earliest. It is also known as Vajrayana, or the “Diamond Vehicle”.

Just as we have introduced the whole text with a core hypothesis, we would also like to preface the description of the four stages of historical Buddhism to which we devote the following pages with four corresponding variations upon our basic statement about the “female sacrifice”, the “manipulation of erotic love”, and the “development of androcentric power”:

1. The “sacrifice of the feminine principle” is from the outset a fundamental event in the teachings of Buddha. It corresponds to the Buddhist rejection of life, nature and the soul. In this original phase, the bearer of androcentric power is the historical Buddha himself.

2. In Hinayana Buddhism, the “Low Vehicle”, the “sacrifice of the feminine” is carried out with the help of meditation. The Hinayana monk fears and dreads women, and attempts to escape them. He also makes use of meditative exercises to destroy and transcend life, nature and the soul. In this phase the bearer of androcentric power is the ascetic holy man or Arhat.

3. In Mahayana, the “Great Vehicle”, flight from women is succeeded by compassion for them. The woman is to be freed from her physical body, and the Mahayana monk selflessly helps her to prepare for the necessary transformation, so that she can become a man in her next reincarnation. The feminine is thus still considered inferior and despicable, as that which must be sacrificed in order to be transformed into something purely masculine. In both founding philosophical schools of Mahayana Buddhism (Madhyamika and Yogachara), life, nature, the body and the soul are accordingly sacrificed to the absolute spirit (citta). The bearer of androcentric power in this phase is the “Savior” or Bodhisattva.

4. In Tantrism or Vajrayana, the tantric master (yogi) exchanges compassion with the woman for absolute control over the feminine. With sexual magic rites he elevates the woman to the status of a goddess in order to subsequently offer her up as a real or symbolic sacrifice. The beneficiary of this sacrifice is not some god, but the yogi himself, since he absorbs within himself the complete life energy of the sacrifice. This radical Vajrayana method ends in an apocalyptic firestorm which consumes the entire universe within its flames. In this phase the bearer of androcentric power is the “Grand Master” or Maha Siddha.

If, as the adherents of Buddhist Tantrism claim, a logic of development pertains between the various stages of Buddhism, then this begins with a passive origin (Hinayana), switches to an active/ethical intermediary stage (Mahayana), and ends in an aggressive/destructive final phase (Tantrayana). The relationship of the three schools to the feminine gender must be characterized as fugitive, supportive and destructive respectively.

Should our hypothesis be borne out by the presentation of persuasive evidence and conclusive argumentation, this would lead to the verdict that in Tantric Buddhism we are dealing with a misogynist, destructive, masculine philosophy and religion which is hostile to life — i.e., the precise opposite of that for which it is trustingly and magnanimously welcomed in the West, above all in the figure of the Dalai Lama.

The “sacrifice” of Maya: The Buddha legend

Even the story of the birth of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni exhibits the fundamentally negative attitude of early Buddhism towards the sexual sphere and toward woman. Maya, the mother of the Sublimity, did not conceive him through an admixture of masculine and feminine seed, as usual in Indian thought, nor did he enter the world via the natural birth channel. His conception was occasioned by a white elephant in a dream of Maya’s. The Buddha also miraculously left his mother’s womb through the side of her hip; the act of birth thus not being associated with any pain.

Why this unnatural birth? Because in Buddhism all the female qualities — menstrual blood, feminine sexuality, conception, pregnancy, the act of childbirth, indeed even a woman’s glance or smile — were from the outset considered not to be indicators of the joys of life; rather, in contrast, human life — in the words of Buddha — ultimately exhausts itself in sickness, age and death. It proves itself to be an existence without constancy, as an unenduring element. Life as such, with its constant change and variety, stands opposed in unbearable contrast to eternity and the unity of the spirit. With the abundance of being it tries to soil the “pure emptiness” of consciousness, to scatter the unity of the spirit with its diversity, or — in the words of the best-known contemporary Buddhist cultural theorist, the American Ken Wilber — the “biosphere” (the sphere of life) drags the “noosphere” (the sphere of the spirit) down to a lower evolutionary level. Human life in all its weakness is thus a lean period to be endured along the way to the infinite (“It were better I had never been born”), and woman, who brings forth this wretched existence, functions as the cause of suffering and death.

Maya dies shortly after the birth of the Sublimity. As the principle of natural life — her death can be symbolically interpreted this way — she stood in the way of the supernatural path of enlightenment of her son, who wished to free himself and humankind from the unending chain of reincarnation. Is she the ancient primeval mother who dies to make place for the triumphant progress of her sun/son? In Ken Wilber’s evolutionary theory, the slaying of the Great Mother is considered the symbolic event which, in both the developmental history of the individual (ontogenesis) and the cultural history of humanity (phylogenesis), must precede an emancipation of consciousness. The ego structure can only develop in a child after the maternal murder, since the infant is still an undifferentiated unity within the motherly source. According to Wilber, a corresponding process can be observed in human history. Here, following the destruction of the matriarchal, “typhonic” mother cult, cultural models have been able to develop patriarchal transcendence and male ego structures.

On the basis of this psychoanalytically influenced thesis, one could interpret Maya’s early death as the maternal murder which had to precede the evolution of the male Buddha consciousness. This interpretation receives a certain spark when we realize that the name Maya means ‘illusion’ in Sanskrit. For a contemporary raised within the Western rationalist tradition, such a naming may seem purely coincidental, but in the magic symbolic worldview of Buddhism, above all in Tantrism, it has a deep-reaching significance. Here, as in all ancient cultures, a name refers not just to a person, but also to those forces and gods it evokes.

Maya — the name of Buddha’s mother — is also the name of the most powerful Indian goddess Maya. The entire material universe is concentrated in Maya, she is the world-woman. In ceaseless motion she produces all appearances and consumes them again. She corresponds to the prima materia of European alchemy, the basic substance in which the seeds of all phenomena are symbolically hidden. The word maya is derived from the Sanskrit root ma-, which has also given us mother, material, and mass. The goddess represents all that is quantitative, all that is material. She is revered as the “Great Mother” who spins the threads of the world’s destiny. The fabric which is woven from this is life and nature. It consists of instincts and feelings, of the physical and the psyche, but not the spirit.

Out of her threads Maya has woven a veil and cast this over the transcendental reality behind all existence, a reality which for the Buddhist stands opposed to the world of appearances as the spiritual principle. Maya is the feminine motion which disturbs the meditative standstill of the man, she is the change which destroys his eternity. Maya casts out her net of “illusion” in order to bind the autonomous ego to her, just as a natural mother binds her child to herself and will not let it go so that it can develop its own personality. In her web she suffocates and keeps in the dark the male ego striving for freedom and light. Maya encapsulates the spirit, her arch-enemy, in a cocoon. She is the principle of birth and rebirth, the overcoming of which is a Buddhist’s highest goal. Eternal life beckons whoever has seen through her deceptions; whoever is taken in will be destroyed and reborn in unceasing activity like all living things.

The death of Maya, the great magician who produces the world of illusions, is the sine qua non for the appearance of “true spirit”. Thus, it was no ordinary woman who died with the passing of Shakyamuni’s mother. Her son had descended to earth because he wished to tear aside the veil of illusion and to teach of the true reality behind the network of the phenomenal, because he had experienced life and the spirit as forming an incompatible dualism and was convinced that this contradiction could only be healed through the omnipotence of the spirit and the destruction of life. Completely imprisoned within the mythical and philosophical traditions of his time, he sees life, deceptive and sumptuous and behind which Death lurks grinning, as a woman. For him too — as for the androcentric system of religion he found himself within — woman was the dark symbol of transience; from this it follows that he who aspires to eternity must at least symbolically “destroy” the world-woman. That the historical Buddha was spared the conscious execution of this “destructive act” by the natural death of his mother makes no change to the fundamental statement: only through the destruction of maya (illusion) can enlightenment be achieved!

Again and again, this overcoming of the feminine principle set off by the early passing of his mother accompanies the historical Buddha on his path to salvation. He experiences both marriage and its polar opposite, sexual dissolution, as two significant barriers blocking his spiritual development that he must surmount. Shakyamuni thus without scruple abandons his family, his wife Yasodhara and his son Rahula, and at the age of 29 becomes “homeless”. The final trigger for this radical decision to give up his royal life was an orgiastic night in the arms of his many concubines. When he sees the “decaying and revolting” faces of the still-sleeping women the next morning, he turns his back on his palace forever. But even once he has found enlightenment he does not return to his own or re-enter the pulsating flow of life. In contrast, he is able to convince Yasodhara and Rahula of the correctness of his ascetic teachings, which he himself describes as a middle way between abstinence and joie de vivre. Wife and son follow his example, leave house and home, and join the sangha, the Buddhist mendicant order.

The equation of the female with evil, familiar from all patriarchal cultures, was also an unavoidable fact for the historical Buddha. In a famous key dramatic scene, the “daughters of Mara” try to tempt him with all manner of ingenious fleshly lures. Woman and her erotic love — the anecdote would teach us — prevent spiritual fulfillment. Archetypally, Mara corresponds to the devil incarnate of Euro-Christian mythology, and his female offspring are lecherous witches. But Shakyamuni remained deaf to their obscene talk and was not impressed by their lascivious gestures. He pretended to see through the beauty of the devil’s daughters as flimsy appearance by roaring at them like a lion, “This [your] body is a swamp of garbage, an infectious heap of impurities. How can anybody take pleasure in such wandering latrines?” (quoted by Faure, 1994, p. 29).

During his lifetime, the historical Buddha was plagued by a chronic misogyny; of this, in the face of numerous documents, there cannot be slightest doubt. His woman-scorning sayings are disrespectful, caustic and wounding. “One would sooner chat with demons and murderers with drawn swords, sooner touch poisonous snakes even when their bite is deadly, than chat with a woman alone” (quoted by Bellinger, 1993, p. 246), he preached to his disciples, or even more aggressively, “It were better, simpleton, that your sex enter the mouth of a poisonous snake than that it enter a woman. It were better, simpleton, that your sex enter an oven than that it enter a woman” (quoted by Faure, 1994, p. 72). Enlightenment and intimate contact with a woman were not compatible for the Buddha. “But the danger of the shark, ye monks, is a characteristic of woman”, he warned his followers (quoted by Hermann-Pfand, 1992, p. 51). At another point, with abhorrence he composed the following:

Those [who] are not wise
Act like animals
Racing toward female forms
Like hogs toward mud

Because of their ignorance
They are bewildered by women, who
Like profit seekers in the marketplace
Deceive those who come near
(quoted by D. Paul, 1985, p. 9)

Buddha’s favorite disciple, Ananda, more than once tried to put to his Teacher the explicit desire by women for their own spiritual experience, but the Master’s answers were mostly negative. Ananda was much confused by this refractoriness, indeed it contradicted the stated view of his Master that all forms of life, even insects, could achieve Buddhahood. “Lord, how should we behave towards women?”, he asked the Sublimity — “Not look at them!” — “But what if we must look at them?” — “Not speak to them” — “But what if we must speak to them?” — “Keep wide awake!” (quoted by Stevens, 1990, p. 45)

This disparaging attitude toward everything female is all the more astounding in that the historical Buddha was helped by women at decisive moments along his spiritual journey: following an almost fatal ascetic exercise his life was saved by a girl with a saucer of milk, who taught him through this gesture that the middle way between abstinence and joie de vivre was the right path to enlightenment, not the dead end of asceticism as preached by the Indian yogis. And again it was women, rich lay women, who supported his religious order (sangha) with generous donations, thereby making possible the rapid spread of his teachings.

The meditative dismemberment of woman: Hinayana Buddhism:

At the center of Theravada, or Hinayana, Buddhism — in which Shakyamuni’s teachings are preserved and only negligibly further developed following his death — stands the enlightenment of the individual, and, connected to this, his deliberate retreat from the real world. The religious hero of the Hinayana is the “holy man” or Arhat. Only he who has overcome his individual — and thus inferior — ego, and, after successfully traversing an initiation path rich in exercises, achieves Buddhahood, i.e., freedom from all illusion, may call himself an Arhat. He then enters a higher state of consciousness, which the Buddhists call nirvana (not-being). In order to reach this final stage, a Hinayana monk concerns himself exclusively with his inner spiritual perfection and seeks no contact to any kind of public.

The Hinayana believers’ general fear of contact is both confirmed and extended by their fear of and flight from the feminine. Completely in accord with the Master, for the followers of Hinayana the profane and illusionary world (samsara) was identical with the female universe and the network of Maya. In all her forms — from the virgin to the mother to the prostitute and the ugly crone — woman stood in the way of the spiritual development of the monk. Upon entering the sangha (Buddhist order) a novice had to abandon his wife and children, just as the founder of the order himself had once done. Marriage was seen as a constant threat to the necessary celibacy. It was feared as a powerful competitor which withheld men from the order, and which weakened it as a whole.

Taking Buddha’s Mara experience as their starting point, his successors were constantly challenged by the dark power and appeal of woman. The literature of this period is filled with countless tales of seductions in which the monks either bravely withstood sexual temptations or suffered terribly for their errant behavior, and the victory of chastity over sexuality became a permanent topic of religious discussion. “Meditational formulae for alleviating lustful thoughts were prescribed”, writes Diana Paul, the American religious scholar, “The cathartic release of meditative ecstasy rivaled that of an orgasm [...] The image of woman had gradually developed as the antithesis of religion and morality.” (D. Paul, 1985, p. 8) The Buddha had already said of the “archetypal” holy man of this period, the ascetic Arhat, that “sexual passion can no more cling to an Arhat than water to a lotus leaf” (quoted by Stevens, 1990, p. 46).

In early Buddhism, as in medieval Christian culture, the human body as such, but in particular the female body, was despised as a dirty and inferior thing, as something highly imperfect, that was only superficially beautiful and attractive. In order to meditate upon the transience of all being, the monks, in a widespread exercise, imagined a naked woman. This so-called “analytic meditation” began with a “perfect” and beautiful body, and transformed this step by step into an old, diseased, and dying one, to end the exercise by picturing a rotting and stinking corpse. The female body, as the absolute Other, was meditatively murdered and dismembered as a symbol of the despised world of the senses. Sexual fascination and the irritations of murderous violence are produced by such monastic practices. We return later to historical examples in which monks carried out the dismemberment of women’s bodies in reality.

There are startling examples in the literature which show how women self-destructively internalized this denigration of their own bodies. “The female novice should hate her impure body like a jail in which she is imprisoned, like a cesspool into which she has fallen”, demands an abbess of young nuns. (Faure, 1994, p. 29) Only in as far as they rendered their body and sexuality despicable, and openly professed their inferiority, could women gain a position within the early Buddhist community at all.

In the Vinaya Pitaka, the great book of rules of the order, which is valid for all the phases of Buddhism, we find eight special regulations for nuns. One of these prescribes that they have to bow before even the lowliest and youngest of monks. This applies even to the honorable and aged head of a respected convent. Only with the greatest difficulty could the Buddha be persuaded to ordinate women. He was convinced that this would cause his doctrine irreparable damage and that it would thus disappear from India 500 years earlier than planned. Only after the most urgent pleas from all sides, but primarily due to the flattering words of his favorite disciple, Ananda, did he finally concede.

But even after granting his approval the Buddha remained skeptical: “To go forth from home under the rule of the Dharma as announced by me is not suitable by women. There should be no ordination or nunhood. And why? If women go forth from the Household life, then the rule of Dharma will not be maintained over a long period.” (quoted by D. Paul, 1985, p. 78). This reproach, that a nun would neglect her family life, appears downright absurd within the Buddhist value system, since for a man it was precisely his highest duty to leave his family, house and home for religious reasons.

Because of the countless religious and social prejudices, the orders of nuns were never able to fully flourish in Buddhist culture, remained few in number, and to the present day play a completely subordinate role within the power structures of the androcentric monastic orders (sangha) of all schools.

The transformation of women into men: Mahayana Buddhism:

In the following phase of Mahayana Buddhism (from 200 B.C.E.), the “Great Vehicle”, the relation to the environment changes radically. In place of the passive, asocial and self-centered exercises of the Arhat, the compassionate activities of the Bodhisattva now emerge. Here we find a superhuman deliverer of salvation, who has renounced the highest fruits of final enlightenment, i.e., the entry into nirvana (not-being), in order to help other beings to also set out along the spiritual path and liberate themselves. The denial of the world of the Hinayana is replaced by compassion (karuna) for the world and its inhabitants. In contrast to the Arhat, who satisfies himself, the Bodhisattva, driven by “selfless love”, ideally wanders the land, teaching people the Buddhist truths, and is highly revered by them because of his self-sacrificing and “infinitely kind” acts. All Bodhisattvas have open hearts. Like Jesus Christ they voluntarily take on the suffering of others to free them from their troubles and motivate their believers through exemplary good deeds.

The “Great Vehicle” also integrated a large number of deities from other religions within its system and thus erected an impressive Buddhist pantheon. Among these are numerous goddesses, which would certainly have been experienced as a revolution by the anti-woman monks of early Buddhism. However, Mahayana at the same time, in several philosophical schools which all — even if with varying arguments — teach of the illusion of the world of appearances (samsara), questions this realm of the gods. In the final instance, even the heavenly are affected by the nothingness of all being, or are purely imaginary. “Everything is empty” (Madhyamika school) or “everything is consciousness” (Yogachara school) are the two basic maxims of cognitive theory as taught in Mahayana.

The Mahayana phase of Buddhism took over the Vinaya Pitaka (Rules of the Order) from Hinayana and thus little changed for the Buddhist nuns. Nonetheless, a redemptive theme more friendly to women took the place of the open misogyny. Although the fundamentally negative evaluation of the feminine was not thus overcome, the Bodhisattva, whose highest task is to help all suffering creatures, now open-handedly and selflessly supported women in freeing themselves from the pressing burden of their sex. If the thought of enlightenment awakens in a female being and she follows the Dharma (the Buddhist doctrine), then she can gather such great merit that she will be allowed to be reborn as a man in her next life. If she then, in male form, continues to lead an impeccable existence in the service of the “teachings”, then she will, after “her” second death, experience the joy of awakening in the paradise of Buddha, Amitabha, which is exclusively populated by men. Thus, albeit in a sublime and more “humane” form, the destruction of the feminine is a precondition for enlightenment in Mahayana Buddhism too. Achieving the advanced stages of spiritual development and being born a female are mutually exclusive.

Only at the lower grades (from a total of ten) was it possible in the “Great Vehicle” for a woman to act as a Bodhisattva. Even the famous author of the most popular Mahayana text of all, The Lion’s Roar of Queen Sri Mala (4th century C.E.), was not permitted to lay claim to all the Bodhisattva stages and therefore did not attain complete Buddhahood. Women were thus fundamentally and categorically denied the role of a “perfected” Buddha. For them, the “five cosmic positions” of Brahma (Creator of the World), Indra (King of the Gods), Great King, World Ruler (Chakravartin), and Bodhisattva of the two highest levels were taboo.

Indeed, even the lower Bodhisattva grades were opened to women by only a few texts, such as the Lotus Sutra (c. 100 C.E.) for example. This text stands in crass opposition to the traditional androcentric views which were far more widespread, and are summarized in a concise and unambiguous statement from the great scholar Asangha (4th century C.E.): “Completely perfected Buddhas are not women. And why? Precisely because a Bodhisattva .... has completely abandoned the state of womanhood. Ascending to the most excellent throne of enlightenment, he is never again reborn as a woman. All women are by nature full of defilement and of weak intelligence. And not by one who is by nature full of defilement and of weak intelligence, is completely perfected Buddhahood attained.” (Shaw, 1994, p. 27)

In Mahayana Buddhism, gender became a karmic category, whereby incarnation as a woman was equated with lower karma. The rebirth of a woman as a man implied that she had successfully worked off her bad karma. Correspondingly, men who had led a sinful life were reincarnated as “little women”.

As so many women nevertheless wished to follow the Way of the Buddha, a possible acceleration of the gender transformation was considered in several texts. In the Sutra of the Pure Land female Buddhists had to wait for their rebirth as men before they achieved enlightenment; in other sutras they “merely” needed to change their sex in their current lives and thus achieve liberation. Such sexual transmutations are of course miracles, but a female being who reached for the fruits of the highest Buddhahood must be capable of performing supernatural acts. “If women awaken to the thought of enlightenment,” says the Sutra on changing the Female Sex, “then they will have the great and good person’s state of mind, a man’s state of mind, a sage’s state of mind. […] If women awaken to the thought of enlightenment, then they will not be bound to the limitation of a woman’s state of mind. Because they will not be limited, they will forever separate from the females sex and become sons.” I.e. a male follower of Buddha. (quoted by D. Paul, 1985, p. 175/176).

Many radical theses of Mahayana Buddhism (for example, the dogma of the “emptiness of all being”) lead to unsolvable contradictions in the gender question. In principle, the Dharma (the teachings) say that a perfect being is free from every desire and therefore needs to be asexual. This requirement, with which the insignificance of gender at higher spiritual levels is meant to be emphasized, however, contradicts the other orthodox rule that only men have earned enlightenment. Such dissonant elements are then taken advantage of by women. There are several extremely clever dialogs in which female Buddhists conclusively annul their female inferiority with arguments which are included within the Buddhist doctrine itself. For example, in the presence of Buddha Shakyamuni the girl Candrottara explains that a sex change from female to male makes no sense from the standpoint of the “emptiness of all appearances” taught in the Mahayana and is therefore superfluous. Whether man or woman is also irrelevant for the path to enlightenment as it is described in the Diamond Sutra.

The asexuality of Mahayana Buddhism has further led to a religious glorification of the image of the mother. This is indeed a most astonishing development, and is not compatible with earlier fundamentals of the doctrine, since the mother is despised as the cause of rebirth just as much as the young woman as the cause of sexual seduction. An apotheosis of the motherly was therefore possible only after the monks had “liberated” the mother archetype from its “natural” attributes such as conception and birth. The “Great Mothers” of Mahayana Buddhism, like Prajnaparamita for instance, are transcendental beings who have never soiled themselves through contact with base nature (sexuality and childbearing).

They have only their warmth, their protective role, their unconditional readiness to help and their boundless love in common with earthly mothers. These transcendental mothers of the Mahayana are indeed powerful heavenly matrons, but the more powerful they are experienced to be, the more they dissolve into the purely allegorical. They represent “perfect wisdom”, the “mother of emptiness”, “transcendent love”. When, however, the genesis of these symbolic female figures is examined (as is done at length in our analysis of Vajrayana Buddhism), then they all prove to be the imaginary products of a superior male Buddha being.

In closing this chapter we would like to mention a phenomenon which occurred much more frequently than one would like to accept in Mahayana: “compassionate copulation”. Sexual intercourse between celibate monks and female beings was actually allowed in exceptional circumstances: if it was performed out of compassion for the woman to be slept with. There could even be a moral imperative to sleep with a woman: “If a woman falls violently in love with a Bodhisattva and is about to sacrifice her life for him, it is his duty to save her life by satisfying all her desires” (Stevens, 1990, p. 56). At least some monks probably took much pleasure in complying with this commandment.

In Western centers of modern Buddhism too, irrespective of whether Zen or Lamaist exercises are practiced, it is not uncommon for the masters to sleep with their female pupils in order to “spiritually” assist them (Boucher, 1985, p. 239). But it is mostly a more intimate affair than in the case of the present-day Asian guru who boasted to an American interviewer, “I have slept with a thousand women. One of them had a hump. I gave her my love, and she has become a happy person. ... I am a ‘Buddhist scouring pad’. A scouring pad is something which gets itself dirty but at the same time cleans everything it touches” (Faure, 1994, p. 92).



[1] The Sanskrit word tantra, just like its Tibetan equivalent rguyd, has many meanings, all of which, however, are originally grouped around terms like ‘thread’, ‘weave’, ‘web’, and ‘network’. From these, ‘system’ and ‘textbook’ finally emerged. The individuals who follow the Tantric Way are called Tantrika or Siddha. A distinction is drawn between Hindu and Buddhist systems of teaching. The latter more specifically involves a definite number of codified texts and their commentaries.
Site Admin
Posts: 36190
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:15 am


2. Tantric Buddhism

The fourth and final phase of Buddhism entered the world stage in the third century C.E. at the earliest. It is known as Tantrayana, Vajrayana or Mantrayana: the “Tantra Vehicle”, the “Diamond Path” or the “Way of the Magic Formulas”. The teachings of Vajrayana are recorded in the holy writings, known as tantras. These are secret occult doctrines, which — according to legend — had already been composed by Buddha Shakyamuni, but the time was not deemed ripe for them to be revealed to the believers until a thousand years after his death.

It is true that Vajrayana basically adheres to the ideas of Mahayana Buddhism, in particular the doctrine of the emptiness of all appearances and the precept of compassion for all suffering beings, but the tantric temporarily countermands the high moral demands of the “Great Vehicle” with a radical “amoral” behavioral inversion. To achieve enlightenment in this lifetime he seizes upon methods which invert the classic Buddhist values into their direct opposites.

Tantrism designates itself the highest level of the entire edifice of Buddhist teachings and establishes a hierarchical relation to both previous phases of Buddhism, whereby the lowest level is occupied by Hinayana and the middle level by Mahayana. The holy men of the various schools are ranked accordingly. At the base rules the Arhat, then comes the Bodhisattva, and all are reigned over by the Maha Siddha, the tantric Grand Master. All three stages of Buddhism currently exist alongside one another as autonomous religious systems.

In the eighth century C.E., with the support of the Tibetan dynasty of the time, Indian monks introduced Vajrayana into Tibet, and since then it has defined the religion of the “Land of Snows”. Although many elements of the indigenous culture were integrated into the religious milieu of Tantric Buddhism, this was never the case with the basic texts. All of these originated in India. They can be found, together with commentaries upon them, in two canonical collections, the Kanjur (a thirteenth-century translation of the words of Buddha) and the Tanjur (a translation of the doctrinal texts from the fourteenth century). Ritual writings first recorded in Tibet are not considered part of the official canon. (This, however, does not mean that they were not put to practical use.)

The explosion of sexuality: Vajrayana Buddhism:

All tantras are structurally similar; they all include the transformation of erotic love into spiritual and worldly power. [1] The essence of the entire doctrine is, however, encapsulated in the so-called Kalachakra Tantra, or “Time Tantra”, the analysis of which is our central objective. It differs from the remaining tantra teachings in both its power-political intentions and its eschatological visions. It is — we would like to hypothesize in advance — the instrument of a complicated metapolitics which attempts to influence world events via the use of symbols and rites rather than the tools of realpolitik. The “Time Tantra” is the particular secret doctrine which primarily determines the ritual existence of the living Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and the “god-king’s” spiritual world politics can be understood through a knowledge of it alone.

The Kalachakra Tantra marks the close of the creative phase of Vajrayana’s history in the tenth century. No further fundamental tantra texts have been conceived since, whilst countless commentaries upon the existing texts have been written, up until the present day. We must thus regard the “Time Tantra” as the culmination of and finale to Buddhist Tantrism. The other tantric texts which we cite in this study (especially the Guhyasamaya Tantra, the Hevajra Tantra and the Candamaharosana Tantra), are primarily drawn upon in order to decipher the Kalachakra Tantra.

At first glance the sexual roles seem to have changed completely in Tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana). The contempt for the world of the senses and degradation of women in Hinayana, the asexuality and compassion for women in Mahayana, appear to have been turned into their opposites here. It all but amounts to an explosion of sexuality, and the idea that sexual love harbors the secret of the universe becomes a spectacular dogma. The erotic encounter between man and woman is granted a mystical aura, an authority and power completely denied it in the preceding Buddhist eras.

With neither timidity nor dread Buddhist monks now speak about “venerating women”, “praising women”, or “service to the female partner”. In Vajrayana, every female being experiences exaltation rather than humiliation; instead of contempt she enjoys, at first glance, respect and high esteem. In the Candamaharosana Tantra the glorification of the feminine knows no bounds: “Women are heaven; women are Dharma; ... women are Buddha; women are the sangha; women are the perfection of wisdom” (George, 1974, p. 82).

The spectrum of erotic relations between the sexes ranges from the most sublime professions of courtly love to the coarsest pornography. Starting from the highest rung of this ladder, the monks worship the feminine as “perfected wisdom” (prajnaparamita), “wisdom consort” (prajna), or “woman of knowledge” (vidya). This spiritualization of the woman corresponds, with some variation, to the Christian cults of Mary and Sophia. Just as Christ revered the “Mother of God”, the Tantric Buddhist bows down before the woman as the “Mother of all Buddhas”, the “Mother of the Universe”, the “Genetrix”, the “Sister”, and as the “Female Teacher” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, pp. 62, 60, 76).

As far as sensual relationships with women are concerned, these are divided into four categories: “laughing, regarding, embracing, and union”. These four types of erotic communication form the pattern for a corresponding classification of tantric exercises. The texts of the Kriya Tantra address the category of laughter, those of the Carya Tantra that of the look, the Yoga Tantra considers the embrace, and in the writings of the Anuttara Tantra (the Highest Tantra) sexual union is addressed. These practices stand in a hierarchical relation to one another, with laughter at the lowest level and the tantric act of love at the highest.

In Vajrayana the latter becomes a religious concern of the highest order, the sine qua non of enlightenment. Although homosexuality was not uncommon in Buddhist monasteries and was occasionally even regarded as a virtue, the “great bliss of liberation” was fundamentally conceived of as the union of man and woman and accordingly portrayed in cultic images.

However, both tantric partners encounter one another not as two natural people, but rather as two deities. “The man (sees) the woman as a goddess, the woman (sees) the man as a god. By joining the diamond scepter [phallus] and lotus [vagina], they should make offerings to each other” we read in a quote from a tantra (Shaw, 1994, p. 153). The sexual relationship is fundamentally ritualized: every look, every caress, every form of contact is given a symbolic meaning. But even the woman’s age, her appearance, and the shape of her sexual organs play a significant role in the sexual ceremony.

The tantras describe erotic performances without the slightest timidity or shame. Technical instructions in the dry style of sex manuals can be found in them, but also ecstatic prayers and poems in which the tantric master celebrates the erotic love of man and woman. Sometimes this tantric literature displays an innocent joie de vivre. The instructions which the tantric Anangavajra offers for the performance of sacred love practices are direct and poetic: “Soon after he has embraced his partner and introduced his member into her vulva, he drinks from her lips which are dripping with milk, brings her to coo tenderly, enjoys rich pleasure and lets her thighs tremble.” (Bharati, 1977, p. 172)

In Vajrayana sexuality is the event upon which all is based. Here, the encounter between the two sexes is worked up to the pitch of a true obsession, not — as we shall see — for its own sake, but rather in order to achieve something else, something higher in the tantric scheme of things. In a manner of speaking, sex is considered to be the prima materia, the raw primal substance with which the sex partners experiment, in order to distill “pure spirit” from it, just as high-grade alcohol can be extracted from fermented grape juice. For this reason the tantric master is convinced that sexuality harbors not just the secrets of humanity, but also furnishes the medium upon which gods may be grown. Here he finds the great life force, albeit in untamed and unbridled form.

It is thus impossible to avoid the impression that the “hotter” the sex gets the more effective the tantric ritual becomes. Even the most spicy obscenities are not omitted from these sacred activities. In the Candamaharosana Tantra for example, the lover swallows with joyous lust the washwater which drips from the vagina and anus of the beloved and relishes without nausea her excrement, her nasal mucus and the remains of her food which she has vomited onto the floor. The complete spectrum of sexual deviance is present, even if in the form of the rite. In one text the initiand calls out masochistically: “I am your slave in all ways, keenly active in devotion to you. O Mother”, and the “goddess” — often simulated by a prostitute — answers, “I am called your mistress!” (George, 1974, pp. 67-68).

The erotic burlesque and the sexual joke have also long been a popular topic among the Vajrayana monks and have, up until this century, produced a saucy and shocking literature of the picaresque. Great peals of laughter are still heard in the Tibetan lamaseries at the ribald pranks of Uncle Dönba, who (in the 18th century) dressed himself up as a nun and then spent several months as a “hot” lover boy in a convent. (Chöpel, 1992, p. 43)

But alongside such ribaldry we also find a cultivated, sensual refinement. An example of this is furnished by the astonishingly up-to-date handbook of erotic practices, the Treatise on Passion, from the pen of the Tibetan Lama Gedün Chöpel (1895–1951), in which the “modern” tantric discusses the “64 arts of love”. This Eastern Ars Erotica dates from the 1930s. The reader is offered much useful knowledge about various, in part fantastic sexual positions, and receives instruction on how to produce arousing sounds before and during the sexual act. Further, the author provides a briefing on the various rhythms of coitus, on special masturbation techniques for the stimulation of the penis and the clitoris, even the use of dildos is discussed. The Tibetan, Chöpel, does not in any way wish to be original, he explicitly makes reference to the world’s most famous sex manual, the Kama Sutra, from which he has drawn most of his ideas.

Such permissive “books of love” from the tantric milieu are no longer — in our enlightened era, where (at least in the West) all prudery has been superseded — a spectacle which could cause great surprise or even protest. Nonetheless, these texts have a higher provocative potential than corresponding “profane” works, in which descriptions of the same sexual techniques are otherwise to be found. For they were written by monks for monks, and read and practiced by monks, who in most cases had to have taken a strict oath of celibacy.

For this reason the tantric Ars Erotica even today awake a great curiosity and throw up numerous questions. Are the ascetic basic rules of Buddhism really suspended in Vajrayana? Is the traditional disrespect for women finally surmounted thanks to such texts? Does the eternal misogyny and the denial of the world make way for an Epicurean regard for sensuality and an affirmation of the world? Are the followers of the “Diamond Path” really concerned with sensual love and mystical partnership or does erotic love serve the pursuit of a goal external to it? And what is this goal? What happens to the women after the ritual sexual act?

In the pages which follow we will attempt to answer all of these questions. Whatever the answers may be, we must in any case assume that in Tantric Buddhism the sexual encounter between man and woman symbolizes a sacred event in which the two primal forces of the universe unite.

Mystic sexual love and cosmogonic erotic love:

In the views of Vajrayana all phenomena of the universe are linked to one another by the threads of erotic love. Erotic love is the great life force, the prana which flows through the cosmos, the cosmic libido. By erotic here we mean heterosexual love as an endeavor independent of its natural procreative purpose for the provision of children. Tantric Buddhism does not mean this qualification to say that erotic connections can only develop between men and women, or between gods and goddesses. Erotic love is all-embracing for a tantric as well. But every Vajrayana practitioner is convinced that the erotic relationship between a feminine and a masculine principle (yin–yang) lies at the origin of all other expressions of erotic love and that this origin may be experienced afresh and repeated microcosmically in the union of a sexual couple. We refer to an erotic encounter between man and woman, in which both experience themselves as the core of all being, as “mystic gendered love”. In Tantrism, this operates as the primal source of cosmogonic erotic love and not the other way around; cosmic erotic love is not the prime cause of a mystical communion of the sexes. Nonetheless, as we shall see, the Vajrayana practices culminate in a spectacular destruction of the entire male-female cosmology.

Suspension of opposites:

But let us first return to the apparently healthy continent of tantric eroticism. “It is through love and in view of love that the world unfolds, through love it rediscovers its original unity and its eternal non-separation”, a tantric text teaches us (Faure, 1994, p. 56). Here too, the union of the male and female principles is a constant topic. Our phenomenal world is considered to be the field of action of these two basic forces. They are manifest as polarities in nature just as in the spheres of the spirit. Each alone appears as just one half of the truth. Only in their fusion can they perform the transformation of all contradictions into harmony. When a human couple remember their metaphysical unity they can become one spirit and one flesh. Only through an act of love can man and woman return to their divine origin in the continuity of all being. The tantric refers to this mystic event as yuganaddha, which literally means ‘united as a couple’.

Both the bodies of the lovers and the opposing metaphysical principles are united. Thus, in Tantrism there is no contradiction between erotic and religious love, or sexuality and mysticism. Because it repeats the love-play between a masculine and a feminine pole, the whole universe dances. Yin and yang, or yab and yum in Tibetan, stand at the beginning of an endless chain of polarities, which proves to be just as colorful and complex as life itself.

The divine couple in Tantric Buddhism: Samantabhadra and Samantabhadri

The “sexual” is thus in no way limited to the sexual act, but rather embraces all forms of love up to and including agape. In Tantrism there is a polar eroticism of the body, a polar eroticism of the heart, and sometimes — although not always — a polar eroticism of the spirit. Such an omnipresence of the sexes is something very specific, since in other cultures “spiritual love” (agape), for example, is described as an occurrence beyond the realm of yin and yang. But in contrast Vajrayana shows us how heterosexual erotic love can refine itself to lie within the most sublime spheres of mysticism without having to surrender the principle of polarity. That it is nonetheless renounced in the end is another matter entirely.

The “holy marriage” suspends the duality of the world and transforms it into a “work of art” of the creative polarity. The resources of our discursive language are insufficient to let us express in words the mystical fusion of the two sexes. Thus the “nameless” rapture can only be described in words which say what it is not: in the yuganaddha, “there is neither affirmation nor denial, neither existence nor non-existence, neither non-remembering nor remembering, neither affection nor non-affection, neither the cause nor the effect, neither the production nor the produced, neither purity nor impurity, neither anything with form, nor anything without form; it is but the synthesis of all dualities” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 114).

Once the dualism has been overcome, the distinction between self and other becomes irrelevant
. Thus, when man and woman encounter one another as primal forces, “egoness [is] lost, and the two polar opposites fuse into a state of intimate and blissful oneness” (Walker, 1982, p. 67). The tantric Adyayavajra described this process of the overcoming of the self as the “highest spontaneous common feature” (Gäng, 1988, p. 85).

The co-operation of the poles now takes the place of the battle of opposites (or sexes). Body and spirit, erotic love and transcendence, emotion and intellect, being (samsara) and not-being (nirvana) become married. All wars and disputes between good and evil, heaven and hell, day and night, dream and reality, joy and suffering, praise and contempt are pacified and suspended in the yuganaddha. Miranda Shaw, a religious scholar of the younger generation, describes “a Buddha couple, or male and female Buddha in union ... [as] an image of unity and blissful concord between the sexes, a state of equilibrium and interdependence. This symbol powerfully evokes a state of primordial wholeness and completeness of being.” (Shaw, 1994, p. 200)

But is this state identical to the unconscious ecstasy we know from orgasm? Does the suspension of opposites occur with both partners in a trance? No — in Tantrism god and goddess definitely do not dissolve themselves in an ocean of unconsciousness. In contrast, they gain access to the non-dual knowledge and thus discern the eternal truth behind the veil of illusions. Their deep awareness of the polarity of all being gives them the strength to leave the “sea of birth and death” behind them.

Divine erotic love thus leads to enlightenment and salvation. But it is not just the two partners who experience redemption, rather, as the tantras tell us, all of humanity is liberated through mystical sexual love
. In the Hevajra-Tantra, when the goddess Nairatmya, deeply moved by the misery of all living creatures, asks her heavenly spouse to reveal the secret of how human suffering can be put to an end, the latter is very touched by her request. He kisses her, caresses her, and, whilst in union with her, he instructs her about the sexual magic yoga practices through which all suffering creatures can be liberated (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 118). This “redemption via erotic love” is a distinctive characteristic of Tantrism and only very seldom to be found in other religions.

Cultic worship of the sexual organs:

What symbols are used to express this creative polarity in Vajrayana? Like many other cultures Tantric Buddhism makes use of the hexagram, a combination of two triangles. The masculine triangle, which points upward, represents the phallus, and the downward-pointing, feminine triangle the vagina. Both of these sexual organs are highly revered in the rituals and meditations of Tantrism.

Another highly significant symbol for the masculine force and the phallus is a symmetrical ritual object called the vajra. As the divine virility is pure and unshakable, the vajra is described as a “diamond” or “jewel”. As a “thunderbolt” it is one of the lightning symbols. Everything masculine is termed vajra. It is thus no surprise that the male seed is also known as vajra. The Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit word is dorje, which also has additional meanings, all of which are naturally associated with the masculine half of the universe. The Tibetans term the translucent colors of the sky and firmament dorje. Even in pre-Buddhist times the peoples of the Himalayas worshipped the vault of the heavens as their divine Father.

Vajra and Gantha (bell)

The female counterpart to the vajra is the lotus blossom (padma) or the bell (gantha). Accordingly, both padma and gantha represent the vagina (yoni). It may come as a surprise to most Europeans how much reverence the yoni is accorded in Tantrism. It is glorified as the “seat of great pleasure” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 228). In “the lap of the diamond woman” the yogi finds a “location of security, of peace and calm and, at the same time, of the greatest happiness” (Gäng, 1988, p. 89). “Buddhahood resides in the female sex organs”, we are instructed by another text (Stevens, 1990, p. 65). Gedün Chöpel has given us an enthusiastic hymn to the pudenda: “It is raised up like the back of a turtle and has a mouth-door closed in by flesh. ... See this smiling thing with the brilliance of the fluids of passion. It is not a flower with a thousand petals nor a hundred; it is a mound endowed with the sweetness of the fluid of passion. The refined essence of the juices of the meeting of the play of the white and red [fluids of male and female], the taste of self-arisen honey is in it.” (Chöpel, 1992, p. 62). No wonder, with such hymns of praise, that a regular sacred service in honor of the vagina emerged. This accorded the goddess great material and spiritual advantages. “Aho!”, we hear her call in the Cakrasamvara Tantra, “I will bestow supreme success on one who ritually worships my lotus [vagina], bearer of all bliss” (Shaw, 1994, p. 155).

This high esteem for the female sexual organs is especially surprising in Buddhism, where the vagina is after all the gateway to reincarnation, which the tantric strives with every means to close. For this reason, for all the early Buddhists, irrespective of school, the human birth channel counted as one of the most ominous features of our world of appearances. But precisely because the yoni thrusts the ordinary human into the realm of suffering and illusion it has — as we shall see — become a “threshold to enlightenment” (Shaw, 1994, p. 59) for the tantric. Healed by the mystic sexual act, it is also accorded a higher, transcendental procreative function. From it emerges the powerful host of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. We read in the relevant texts “that the Buddha resides in the womb of the goddess and the way of enlightenment [is experienced] as a pregnancy” (Faure, 1994, p. 189).

This central worship of the yoni has led to a situation in which nearly all tantra texts begin with the fundamental sentence, “I have heard it so: once upon a time the Highest Lord lingered in the vaginas of the diamond women, which represent the body, the language and the consciousness of all Buddhas”. Just as the opening letters of the Bible are believed in a tenet of the Hebraic Kabbala to contain the concentrated essence of the entire Holy Book, so too the first four letters of this tantric introductory sentence — evam (‘I have heard it so’) — encapsulate the entire secret of the Diamond Path. “It has often been said that he who has understood evam has understood everything” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 7).

The word (evam) is already to be found in the early Gupta scriptures (c. 300 C.E.) and is represented there in the form of a hexagram, i.e., the symbol of mystic sexual love. The syllable e stands for the downward-pointing triangle, the syllable vam is portrayed as a upright triangle. Thus e represents the yoni (vagina) and vam the lingam (phallus). E is the lotus, the source, the location of all the secrets which the holy doctrine of the tantras teaches; the citadel of happiness, the throne, the Mother. E further stands for “emptiness and wisdom”. Masculine vam on the other hand lays claims to reverence as “vajra, diamond, master of joys, method, great compassion, as the Father”. E and vam together form “the seal of the doctrine, the fruit, the world of appearances, the way to perfection, father (yab) and mother (yum)” (see, among others, Farrow and Menon, 1992, pp. xii ff.). The syllables e-vam are considered so powerful that the divine couple can summon the entire host of male and female Buddhas with them.

The origin of the gods and goddesses:

From the primordial tantric couple emanate pairs of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, gods and demons. Before all come the five male and five female Tathagatas (Buddhas of meditation), the five Herukas (wrathful Buddhas) in union with their partners, the eight Bodhisattvas with their consorts. We also meet gods of time who symbolize the years, months and days, and the “seven shining planetary couples”. The five elements (space, air, fire, water and earth) are represented in pairs in divine form — these too find their origin in mystic sexual love. As it says in the Hevajra Tantra: “By uniting the male and female sexual organs the holder of the Vow performs the erotic union. From contact in the erotic union, as the quality of hardness, Earth arises; Water arises from the fluidity of semen; Fire arises from the friction of pounding; Air is famed to be the movement and the Space is the erotic pleasure” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 134).

It is not just the “pure” elements which come from the erotic communion, so do mixtures of them. Through the continuous union of the masculine with the feminine the procreative powers flow into the world from all of their body parts. In a commentary by the famous Tibetan scholar Tsongkhapa, we read how the legendary Mount Meru, the continents, mountain ranges and all earthly landscapes emerge from the essence of the hairs of the head, the bones, gall bladder, liver, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, ribs, excrement, filth (!), and pus (!). The springs, waterfalls, ponds, rivers and oceans form themselves out of the tears, blood, menses, seed, lymph fluid and urine. The inner fire centers of the head, heart, navel, abdomen and limbs correspond in the external world to fire which is sparked by striking stones or using a lens, a fireplace or a forest fire. Likewise all external wind phenomena echo the breath which moves through the bodies of the primeval couple (Wayman, 1977, pp. 234, 236).

In the same manner, the five “aggregate states” (consciousness, intellect, emotions, perception, bodiliness) originate in the primordial couple. The “twelve senses” (sense of hearing, other phenomena, sense of smell, tangible things, sense of sight, taste, sense of taste, sense of shape, sense of touch, smells, sense of spirit, sounds) are also emanations of mystic sexual love. Further, each of the twelve “abilities to act” is assigned to a goddess or a god — (the ability to urinate, ejaculation, oral ability, defecation, control of the arm, walking, leg control, taking, the ability to defecate, speaking, the “highest ability” (?), urination).

Alongside the gods of the “domain of the body” we find those of the “domain of speech”. The divine couple count as the origin of language. All the vowels (ali) are assigned to the goddess; the god is the father of the consonants (kali). When ali and kali (which can also appear as personified divinities) unite, the syllables are formed. Hidden within these as if in a magic egg are the verbal seeds (bija) from which the linguistic universe grows. The syllables join with one another to build sound units (mantras). Both often have no literal meaning, but are very rich in emotional, erotic, magical and mystical intentions. Even if there are many similarities between them, the divine language of the tantras is still held to be more powerful than the poetry of the West, as gods can be commanded through the ritual singing of the germinal syllables. In Vajrayana each god and every divine event obeys a specific mantra.

As erotic love leaves nothing aside, the entire spectrum of the gods’ emotions (as long as these belong to the domain of desire) is to originally be found in the mystical relationship of the sexes. There is no emotion, no mood which does not originate here. The texts speak of “erotic, wonderful, humorous, compassionate, tranquil, heroic, disgusting, furious” feelings (Wayman, 1977, p. 328).

The origin of time and emptiness:

In the Kalachakra Tantra (“Time Tantra”) the masculine pole is the time god Kalachakra, the feminine the time goddess Vishvamata. The chief symbols of the masculine divinity are the diamond scepter (vajra) and the lingam (phallus). The goddess holds a lotus blossom or a bell, both symbols of the yoni (vagina). He rules as “Lord of the Day”, she as “Queen of the Night”.

The mystery of time reveals itself in the love of this divine couple.
All temporal expressions of the universe are included in the “Wheel of Time” (kala means ‘time’ and chakra ‘wheel’). When the time goddess Vishvamata and the time god Kalachakra unite, they experience their communion as “elevated time”, as a “mystical marriage”, as Hieros Gamos. The circle or wheel (chakra) indicates “cyclical time” and the law of “eternal recurrence”. The four great epochs of the world (mahakalpa) are also hidden within the mystery of the tantric primal couple, as are the many chronological modalities. The texts describe the shortest unit of time as one sixty-fourth of a finger snap. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years, the entire complex tantric calendrical calculations, all emerge from the mystic sexual love between Kalachakra and Vishvamata. The four heads of the time god correspond to the four seasons. Including the “third eye”, his total of 12 eyes may be apportioned to the 12 months of the year. Counting three joints per finger, in Kalachakra’s 24 arms there are 360 bones, which correspond to the 360 days of the year in the Tibetan calendar.

Kalachakra and Vishvamata

Time manifests itself as motion, eternity as standstill. These two elements are also addressed in the Kalachakra Tantra. Neither cyclical nor chronological time have any influence upon the state of motionlessness during the Hieros Gamos. The river of time now runs dry, and the fruit of eternity can be enjoyed. Such an experience frees the divine couple from both past and future, which prove to be illusory, and gives them the timeless present.

What is the situation with the paired opposites of space and time? In European philosophy and theoretical physics, this relationship has given rise to countless discussions. Speculation about the space-time phenomenon are, however, far less popular in Tantrism. The texts prefer the term shunyata (emptiness) when speaking of “space”, and point out the secret properties of “emptiness”, especially its paradoxical power to bring forth all things. Space is emptiness, “but space, as understood in Buddhist meditation, is not passive (in the western sense). ... Space is the absolutely indispensable vibrant matrix for everything that is” (Gross, 1993, p. 203).

We can see shunyata (emptiness) as the most central term of the entire Buddhist philosophy. It is the second ventricle of Mahayana Buddhism. (The first is karuna, compassion for all living beings.) “Absolute emptiness” dissolves into nothingness all the phenomena of being up to and including the sphere of the Highest Self. We are unable to talk about emptiness, since the reality of shunyata is independent of any conceptual construction. It transcends thought and we are not even able to claim that the phenomenal world does not exist. This radical negativism has rightly been described as the “doctrine of the emptiness of emptiness”.

In the light of this fundamental inexpressibility and featurelessness of shunyata, one is left wondering why it is unfailingly regarded as a “feminine” principle in Vajrayana Buddhism. But it is! As its masculine polar opposite the tantras nominate consciousness (citta) or compassion (karuna). “The Mind is the Lord and the Vacuity is the Lady; they should always be kept united in Sahaja [the highest state of enlightenment]”, as one text proclaims (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 101). Time and emptiness also complement one another in a polar manner.

Thus, the Kalachakra divinity (the time god) cries emphatically that, “through the power of time air, fire, water, earth, islands, hills, oceans, constellations, moon, sun, stars, planets, the wise, gods, ghosts/spirits, nagas (snake demons), the fourfold animal origin, humans and infernal beings have been created in the emptiness” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 16). Once she has been impregnated by “masculine” time, the “feminine” emptiness gives birth to everything. The observation that the vagina is empty before it emits life is likely to have played a role in the development of this concept. For this reason, shunyata may never be understood as pure negativity in Tantrism, but rather counts as the “shapeless” origin of all being.

The clear light:

The ultimate goal of all mystic doctrines in the widest variety of cultures is the ability to experience the highest clear light. Light phenomena play such a significant role in Tantric Buddhism that the Italian Tibetologist, Giuseppe Tucci, speaks of a downright “photism” (doctrine of light). Light, from which everything stems, is considered the “symbol of the highest intrinsicness” (Brauen, 1992, p. 65).

In describing supernatural light phenomena, the tantric texts in no sense limit themselves to tracing these back to a mystical primal light, but rather have assembled a complete catalog of “photisms” which may be experienced. These include sparks, lamps, candles, balls of light, rainbows, pillars of fire, heavenly lights, and so forth which flash up during meditation. Each of these appearances presages a particular level of consciousness, ranked hierarchically. Thus one must traverse various light stages in order to finally bathe in the “highest clear light”.

The truly unique feature of Tantrism is that this “highest clear light” streams out of the yuganaddha, the Hieros Gamos. It is in this sense that we must understand the following poetic sentence from the Kalachakra Tantra: “In a world purged of darkness, in the end darkness awaits a couple” (Banerjee, 1959, p. 24).

Summarizing, we can say that Tantrism has made erotic love between the sexes its central religious theme. When the divine couple unite in bliss, then “by the force of their joy the members of the retinue also fuse”, i.e., the other gods and goddesses, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with their wisdom consorts (Wayman, 1968, p. 291). The divine couple is all-knowing, as it knows and indeed itself represents the germinal syllables which produce the cosmos. With their breath the time god (Kalachakra) and time goddess (Vishvamata) control the motions of the heavens. Astronomy along with every other science has its origin in them. They are initiated into every level of meditation, have mastery over the secret doctrines and every form of subtle yoga. The clear light shines out of them. They know the laws of karma and how they may be suspended. Compassionately, the god and goddess care for humankind as if we were their children and devote themselves to the concerns of the world. As master and mistress of all forms of time they determine the rhythm of history. Being and not-being fuse within them. In brief, the creative polarity of the divine couple produces the universe.

Yet this image of complete beauty between the sexes does not stand on the highest altar of Tantric Buddhism. But what could be higher than the polar principle of the universe and infinity?

Wisdom (prajna) and method (upaya):

Before answering this, we want to quickly view a further pair of opposites which are married in yuganaddha. Up to now we have not yet considered the most often cited polarity in the tantras, “wisdom” (prajna) and “method” (upaya). There is no original tantric text, no Indian or Tibetan commentary and no Western interpreter of Tantrism which does not treat the “union of upaya and prajna” in depth.

“Wisdom” and “method” are held to be the outright mother and father of all other tantric opposites. Every polar constellation is derived from these two terms. To summarize, upaya stands for the masculine principle, the phallus, motion, activity, the god, enlightenment, and so forth; prajna represents the feminine principle, the vagina, calm, passivity, the goddess, the cosmic law. All women naturally count as prajna, all men as upaya. “The commingling of this Prajna and Upaya [are] like the mixture of water and milk in a state of non-duality” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 93). There is also the stated view that upaya becomes a fetter when it is not joined with prajna; only both together grant deliverance and Buddhahood (Bharati, 1977, p. 171).

Prajna and Upaya

This almost limitless extension of the two principles has led to a situation in which they are only rarely critically examined. Do they stand in a truly polar relation to one another? Why — we ask — does “wisdom” need “method”? Somehow this pair of opposites do not fit together — can there even be an unmethodical, chaotic “wisdom”? Isn’t prajna (wisdom) enough on its own; does it not include “method” as a partial aspect of itself? What is an “unmethodical” wisdom? Even if we translate upaya — as is often done — as ‘technique’, we still do not have a convincing polar correspondence to prajna. This combination also seems far-fetched — why should “technique” and “wisdom” meet in a mystic wedding? The opposition becomes even more absurd and profane if we translate upaya (as it is clearly intended) as “cunning means” or even “trick” or “ruse” (Wilber, 1987, p. 310). [2] Whereas with “wisdom” one has some idea of what is meant, comprehending the technoid term upaya presents major difficulties. We must thus examine it in more detail.

“At all events”, writes David Snellgrove, a renowned expert on Tantrism, “it must be emphasized that here Means remains a doctrinal concept, serving as means to an end, and in no sense can this concept be construed as an end in itself, as is certainly the case with perfection of wisdom [prajna]” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 283). “Method” is thus an instrument which is to be combined with a content, “wisdom”. “Wisdom”, Snellgrove adds, “can seen as representing the evolving universe” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 244). Due to the distribution of both principles along gender lines this has a feminine quality.

The instrumental “method”, which is assigned to the masculine sphere, thus proves itself — as we shall explain in more detail — to be a sacred technique for controlling the feminine “wisdom”. Upaya is nothing more than an instrument of manipulation, without any unique content or substance of its own. Method is at best the means to an end (i.e., wisdom). Analytical reserve and technical precision are two of its fundamental properties. Since wisdom — as we can infer from the quotation from Snellgrove — represents the entire universe, upaya is the method with which the universe can be manipulated; and since prajna represents the feminine principle and upaya the masculine, their union implies a manipulation of the feminine by the masculine.

To illustrate this process, we should take a quick look at a Greek myth which recounts how Zeus acquired wisdom (Metis). One day the father of the gods swallowed the female Titan Metis. (In Greek, metis means “wisdom”.) “Wisdom” survived in his belly and gave him advice from there. According to this story then, Zeus’s sole contribution toward the development of “his” wisdom was a cunning swallow. With this coarse but effective method (upaya) he could now present himself as the fount of all wisdom. He even became, through the birth of Athena, the masculine “bearer” of feminine prajna. Metis, the mother of Athena, actually gives birth to her daughter in the stomach of the father of the gods, but it is he who brings her willy-nilly into the world. In full armor, Athene, herself a symbol of wisdom, bursts from the top of Zeus’s skull. She is the “head birth” of her father, the product of his ideas.

Here, the swallowing of the feminine and its imaginary (re)production (head birth) are the two techniques (upaya) with which Zeus manipulates wisdom (prajna, Metis, Athene) to his own ends. We shall later see how vividly this myth illustrates the process of the tantric mystery.

At any rate, we would like to hypothesize that the relation between the two tantric principles of “wisdom” and “method” is neither one of complementarity, nor polarity, nor even antinomy, but rather one of androcentric hegemony. The translation of upaya as ‘trick’ is thoroughly justified. We can thus in no sense speak of a “mystic marriage” of prajna and upaya, and unfortunately we must soon demonstrate that very little of the widely distributed (in the West) conception of Tantrism as a sublime art of love and a spiritual refinement of the partnership remains.

The worship of “wisdom” (prajna) as an embracing cosmic energy already had a significant role to play in Mahayana Buddhism. There we find an extensive literature devoted to it, the Prajnaparamita texts, and it is still cultivated throughout all of Asia. In the famous Sutra of Perfected Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses (c. 100 B.C.E.) for example, the glorification of prajnaparamita (“highest transcendental wisdom”) and the description of the Bodhisattva way are central. “If a Bodhisattva wishes to become a Buddha, […] he must always be energetic and always pay respect to the Perfection of Wisdom [prajnaparamita]”, we read there (D. Paul, 1985, p. 135). There are also instances in Mahayana iconography where the “highest wisdom” is depicted in the form of a female being, but nowhere here is there talk of manipulation or control of the “goddess”. Devotion, fervent prayer, hymn, liturgical song, ecstatic excitement, overflowing emotion and joy are the forms of expression with which the believer worships prajnaparamita.
Site Admin
Posts: 36190
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:15 am


The guru as manipulator of the divine:

In view of the previously suggested dissonance between prajna and upaya, we must ask ourselves who this authority is, who via the “method” makes use of the wisdom-energy for his own purposes. This question is all the more pertinent, since in the visible reality of the tantric religions — in the culture of Tibetan Lamaism for instance — Vajrayana is never represented as a pair of equals, but almost exclusively as single men, in very rare cases as single women. The two partners meet only to perform the ritual sexual act and then separate.

It follows conclusively from what has already been described that it must be the masculine principle which effects the manipulation of the feminine wisdom. It appears in the figure of the “tantric master”. His knowledge of the sacred techniques makes him a “yogi”. Whenever he assumes the role of teacher he is known as a guru (Sanskrit) or a lama (Tibetan).

How does the tantric master’s exceptional position of power arise? Every Vajrayana follower practices the so-called “Deity yoga”, in which the self is imagined as a divinity. The believer distinguishes between two levels. Firstly he meditates upon the “emptiness” of all being, in order to overcome his bodily, mental, and spiritual impurities and “blocks” and creates an empty space. The core of this meditative process of dissolution is the surrender of the individual ego. Following this, the living image (yiddam) of the particular divine being who should appear in the appropriate ritual is formed in the yogi’s imaginative consciousness. His or her body, color, posture, clothing, facial expression and moods are described in detail in the holy texts and must be recreated exactly in the mind. We are thus not dealing with an exercise of spontaneous and creative free imagination, but rather with an accurate reproduction of a codified archetype.

The practitioner may externalize or project the yiddam, so that it appears before him. But this is just the first step; in those which follow he imagines himself as the deity. Thus he swaps his own personal ego with that of a supernatural being. The yogi has now surmounted his human existence and constitutes “to the very last atom” a unity with the god (Glasenapp, 1940, p. 101).

But he must never lose sight of the fact that the deity he has imagined possesses no autonomous existence. It exists purely and exclusively as an emanation of his imagination and can thus be created, maintained and destroyed at will. But who actually is this tantric master, this manipulator of the divine? His consciousness has nothing in common with that of an ordinary person; it must belong to a sphere higher than that of the gods. The texts and commentaries describe this “highest authority” as the “higher self” or as the primeval Buddha (ADI BUDDHA), as the primordial one, the origin of all being, with whom the yogi identifies himself.

Thus, when we speak of a “guru” in Vajrayana, then according to the doctrine we are no longer dealing with an individual, but with an archetypal and transcendental being, who has as it were borrowed a human body in order to appear in the world. Events are not in the control of the person (from the Latin persona ‘mask’), but rather the god acting through him. This in turn is the emanation of an arch-god, an epiphany of the most high ADI BUDDHA. Followed to its logical conclusion this means that the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (the most senior tantric master of Tibetan Buddhism) determines the politics of the Tibetans in exile not as a person, but as the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, whose emanation he is. Thus, if we wish to pass judgment on his politics, we must come to terms with the motives and visions of Avalokiteshvara.

The tantric master’s enormous power does not have its origin in a Vajrayana doctrine, but in the two main philosophical directions of Mahayana Buddhism (Madhyamika and Yogachara). The Madhyamika school of Nagarjuna (fifth century C.E.) discusses the principle of emptiness (shunyata) which forms a basis for all being. Radically, this also applies to the gods. They are purely illusory and for a yogi are worth neither more nor less than a tool which he employs in setting his goals and then puts aside.

Paradoxically, this radical Buddhist perceptual theory led to the admission of an immense multitude of gods, most of whom stemmed from the Hindu cultural sphere. From now on these could populate the Buddhist heaven, something which was taboo in Hinayana. As they were in the final instance illusory, there was no longer any need to fear them or regard them as competition; since they could be “negated”, they could be “integrated”.

For the Yogacara school (fourth century C.E.), everything — the self, the world and the gods — consists of “consciousness” or “pure spirit”. This extreme idealism also makes it possible for the yogi to manipulate the universe according to his wishes and plans. Because the heavens and their inhabitants are nothing more than play figures of his spirit, they can be produced, destroyed and exchanged at whim.

But what, in an assessment of the Vajrayana system, should give grounds for reflection is the fact, already mentioned, that the Buddhist pantheon presented on the tantric stage is codified in great detail. Neither in the choreography nor the costumes have there been any essential changes since the twelfth century C.E., if one is prepared to overlook the inclusion of several minor protective spirits, of which the youngest (Dorje Shugden for example) date from the seventeenth century. In current “Deity yoga”, practiced by an adept today (even one from the West), a preordained heaven with its old gods is conjured up. The adept calls upon primeval images which were developed in Indian/Tibetan, perhaps even Mongolian, cultural circles, and which of course — as we will demonstrate in detail in the second part of our study — represent the interests and political desires of these cultures. [3]

Since the Master resides on a level higher than that of a god, and is, in the final instance, the ADI BUDDHA, his pupils are obliged to worship him as an omnipotent super-being, who commands the gods and goddesses, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The following apotheosis of a tantric teacher, which the semi-mythical founder of Buddhism in Tibet, Padmasambhava, laid down for an initiand, is symptomatic of countless similar prayers in the liturgy of Tantrism: “You should know that one’s master is more important than even the thousand buddhas of this aeon. Why is that? It is because all the buddhas of this aeon appeared after having followed a master. ... The master is the buddha [enlightenment], the master is the dharma [cosmic law], in the same way the master is also the sangha [monastic order]” (Binder-Schmidt, 1994, p. 35). In the Guhyasamaja Tantra we can read how all enlightened beings bow down before the teacher: “All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout the past, present and future worship the Teacher .... [and] make this pronouncing of vajra words: ‘He is the father of all us Buddhas, the mother of all us Buddhas, in that he is the teacher of all us Buddhas’” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 177).

A bizarre anecdote from the early stages of Tantrism makes this deification of the gurus even more apparent. One day, the famous vajra master, Naropa, asked his pupil, Marpa, “If I and the god Hevajra appeared before you at the same time, before whom would you kneel first?” Marpa thought, “I see my guru every day, but if Hevajra reveals himself to me then that is indeed a quite extraordinary event, and it would certainly be better to show respect to him first!” When he told his master this, Naropa clicked two fingers and in that moment Hevajra appeared with his entire retinue. But before Marpa could prostrate himself in the dust before the apparition, with a second click of the fingers it vanished into Naropa’s heart. “You made a mistake!” cried the master (Dhargyey, 1985, p. 123).

In another story, the protagonists are this same Naropa and his instructor, the Kalachakra Master Tilopa. Tilopa spoke to his pupil, saying, “If you want teaching, then construct a mandala!” Naropa was unable to find any seeds, so he made the mandala out of sand. But he sought without success for water to cement the sand. Tilopa asked him, “Do you have blood?” Naropa slit his veins and the blood flowed out. But then, despite searching everywhere, he could find no flowers. “Do you not have limbs?” asked Tilopa. “Cut off your head and place it in the center of the mandala. Take your arms and legs and arrange them around it!” Naropa did so and dedicated the mandala to his guru, then he collapsed from blood loss. When he regained consciousness, Tilopa asked him, “Are you content?” and Naropa answered, “It is the greatest happiness to be able to dedicate this mandala, made of my own flesh and blood, to my guru”.

The power of the gurus — this is what these stories should teach us — is boundless, whilst the god is, finally, just an illusion which the guru can produce and dismiss at will. He is the arch-lord, who reigns over life and death, heaven and hell. Through him speaks the ABSOLUTE SPIRIT, which tolerates nothing aside from itself.

The pupil must completely surrender his individual ego and transform it into a subject of the SPIRIT which dwells in his teacher. “I and my teacher are one” means then that the same SPIRIT lives in both.

The appropriation of gynergy and androcentric power strategies:

Only in extremely rare cases is the omnipotence and divinity of a yogi acquired at birth. It is usually the result of a graded and complicated spiritual progression. Clearly, to be able to realize his omnipotence, which should transcend even the sexual polarity of all which exists, a male tantric master requires a substance, which we term “gynergy” (female energy), and which we intend to examine in more detail in the following. As he cannot, at the outset of his path to power, find this “elixir” within himself, he must seek it there where in accordance with the laws of nature it may be found in abundance, in women.

Vajrayana is therefore — according to the assessments of no small number of Western researchers of both sexes — a male sexual magic technique designed to “rob” women of their particularly female form of energy and to render it useful for the man. Following the “theft”, it flows for the tantric adept as the spring which powers his experiences of spiritual enlightenment. All the potencies which, from a Tibetan point of view, are to be sought and found in the feminine sphere are truly astonishing: knowledge, matter, sensuality, language, light — indeed, according to the tantric texts, the yogi perceives the whole universe as feminine. For him, the feminine force (shakti) and feminine wisdom (prajna) constantly give birth to reality; even transcendental truths such as “emptiness” (shunyata) are feminine. Without “gynergy”, in the tantric view of things none of the higher levels along the path to enlightenment can be reached, and hence in no circumstances a state of perfection.

In order to be able to acquire the primeval feminine force of the universe, a yogi must have mastered the appropriate spiritual methods (upaya), which we examine in detail later in this study. The well-known investigator of Tibetan culture, David Snellgrove, describes their chief function as the transmutation of the feminine form into the masculine with the intention of accumulating power. It is for this and no other reason that the tantric seeks contact with a female. Usually, “power flows from the woman to the man, especially when she is more powerful than he”, the Indologist Doniger O’Flaherty (O’Flaherty, 1982, p. 263) informs us. Hence, since the powerful feminine creates the world, the “uncreative” masculine yogi can only become a creator if he appropriates the creative powers of the goddess. “May I be born from birth to birth”, he thus cries in the Hevajra Tantra, “concentrating in myself the essence of woman” (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 116). He is the sorcerer who believes that all power is feminine, and that he knows the secret of how to manipulate it.

The key to his dreams of omnipotence lies in how he is able to transform himself into a “supernatural” being, an androgyne who has access to the potentials of both sexes. The two sexual energies now lose their equality and are brought into a hierarchical relation with each other in which the masculine part exercises absolute control over the feminine.

When, in the reverse situation, the feminine principle appropriates the masculine and attempts to dominate it, we have a case of gynandry. Gynandric rites are known from the Hindu tantras. But in contrast, in androcentric Buddhism we are dealing exclusively with the production of a “perfect” androgynous state, i.e., in social terms with the power of men over women or, in brief, the establishment of a patriarchal monastic regime.

Since the “bisexuality” of the yogi represents a precondition for the development of his power, it forms a central topic of discussion in every highest tantra. It is known simply as the “two-in-one” principle, which suspends all oppositions, such as wisdom and method, subject and object, emptiness and compassion, but above all masculine and feminine (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 285). Other phrases include “bipolarity” or the realization of “bisexual divinity within one’s own body” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 314).

However, the “two-in-one” principle is not directed at a state beyond sexuality and erotic love, as modern interpreters often misunderstand it to be. The tantric master deliberately utilizes the masculine/feminine sexual energies to obtain and exercise power and does not destroy them, even if they are only present within his own identity after the initiation. They continue to function there as the two polar primeval forces, but now within the androgynous yogi.

Thus, in Tantrism we are in any case dealing with an erotic cult, one which recognizes cosmic erotic love as the defining force of the universe, even if it is manipulated in the interests of power. This is in stark contrast to the asexual concepts of Mahayana Buddhism. “The state of bisexuality, defined as the possession of both masculine and feminine sexual powers, was considered unfortunate, that is, not conducive to spiritual growth. Because of the excessive sexual power of both masculinity and femininity, the bisexual individual had weakness of will or inattention to moral precepts”, reports Diana Paul in reference to the “Great Vehicle” (D. Paul, 1985, pp. 172–173).

But Vajrayana does not let itself be intimidated by such proclamations, but instead worships the androgyne as a radiant diamond being, who feels in his heart “the blissful kiss of the inner male and female forces” (Mullin, 1991, p. 243). The tantric androgyne is supposed to actually partake of the lusts and joys of both sexes, but just as much of their concentrated power. Although in his earthly form he appears before us as a man, the yogi nonetheless rules as both man and woman, as god and goddess, as father and mother at once. The initiand is instructed to “visualize the lama as Kalachakra in Father and Mother aspect, that is to say, in union with his consort” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1985, p. 174), and must then declare to his guru, “You are the mother, you are the father, you are the teacher of the world!” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra II, p. 180).

The vaginal Buddha:

The goal of androgyny is the acquisition of absolute power, as, according to tantric doctrine, the entire cosmos must be seen as the play and product of both sexes. Now united in the mystic body of the yogi, the latter thereby believes he has the secret birth-force at his disposal — that natural ability of woman which he as man principally lacks and which he therefore desires so strongly.

This desire finds expression in, among other things, the royal title Bhagavan (ruler or regent), which he acquires after the tantric initiation. The Sanskrit word bhaga originally designated the female pudendum, womb, vagina or vulva. But bhaga also means happiness, bliss, wealth, sometimes emptiness. This metaphor indicates that the multiplicity of the world emerges from the womb of woman. The yogi thus lets himself be revered in the Kalachakra Tantra as Bhagavat or Bhagavan, as a bearer of the female birth-force or alternatively as a “bringer of happiness”. “The Buddha is called Bhagavat, because he possesses the Bhaga, this characterizes the quality of his rule” (Naropa, 1994, p. 136), we can read in Naropa’s commentary from the eleventh century, and the famous tantric continues, “The Bhaga is according to tradition the horn of plenty in possession of the six boons in their perfected form: sovereignty, beauty, good name/reputation, abundance, insight, and the appropriate force to be able to achieve the goals set” (Naropa, 1994, p. 136). In their introduction to the Hevajra Tantra the contemporary authors, G. W. Farrow and I. Menon, write, “In the tantric view the Bhagavan is defined as the one who possesses Bhaga, the womb, which is the source” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. xxiii).

Although this male usurpation of the Bhaga first reaches its full extent and depth of symbolism in Tantrism, it is presaged by a peculiar bodily motif from an earlier phase of Buddhism. In accordance with a broadly accepted canon, an historical Buddha must identify himself through 32 distinguishing features. These take the form of unusual markings on his physical body, like, for example, sun-wheel images on the soles of his feet. The tenth sign, known to Western medicine as cryptorchidism, is that the penis is covered by a thick fold of skin, “the concealment of the lower organs in a sheath”; this text goes on to add, “Buddha’s private parts are hidden like those of a horse [i.e., stallion]” (Gross, 1993, p. 62).

Even if cryptorchidism as an indicator of the Enlightened One in Mahayana Buddhism is meant to show his “asexuality”, in our opinion in Vajrayana it can only signal the appropriation of feminine sexual energies without the Buddha thus needing to renounce his masculine potency. Instead, in drawing the comparison to a stallion which has a penis which naturally rests in a “sheath”, it is possible to tap into one of the most powerful mythical sexual metaphors of the Indian cultural region. Since the Vedas the stallion has been seen as the supreme animal symbol for male potency. In Tibetan folklore, the Dalai Lamas also possess the ability to “retract” their sexual organs (Stevens, 1993, p. 180).

The Buddha as mother and the yogi as goddess:

The “ability to give birth” acquired through the “theft” of gynergy transforms the guru into a “mother”, a super-mother who can herself produce gods. Every Tibetan lama thus values highly the fact that he can lay claim to the powerful symbols of motherhood, and a popular epithet for tantric yogis is “Mother of all Buddhas” (Gross, 1993, p. 232). The maternal role logically presupposes a symbolic pregnancy. Consequently, being “pregnant” is a common metaphor used to describe a tantric master’s productive capability (Wayman, 1977, p. 57).

But despite all of his motherly qualities, in the final instance the yogi represents the male arch-god, the ADI BUDDHA, who produced the mother goddess out of himself as an archetype: “It is to be noted that the primordial goddess had emanated from the Lord”, notes an important tantra interpreter, “The Lord is the beginningless eternal One; while the Goddess, emanating from the body of the Lord, is the produced one” (Dasgupta, 1946, p. 384). Eve was created from Adam’s rib, as Genesis already informs us. Since, according to the tantric initiation, the feminine should only exist as a manipulable element of the masculine, the tantras talk of the “together born female” (Wayman, 1977, p. 291).

Once the emanation of the mother goddess from the masculine god has been formally incorporated in the canon, there is no further obstacle to a self-imagining and self-production of the lama as goddess. “Then behold yourself as divine woman in empty form” (Evans-Wentz, 1937, p. 177), instructs a guide to meditation for a pupil. In another, the latter declaims, “I myself instantaneously become the Holy Lady” (quoted by Beyer, 1978, p. 378).


Steven Segal (Hollywood actor): The Dalai Lama “is the great mother of everything nuturing and loving. He accepts all who come without judgement.” (Schell, 2000, p. 69)


Once kitted out with the force of the feminine, the tantric master even has the ability to produce whole hosts of female figures out of himself or to fill the whole universe with a single female figure: “To begin with, imagine the image (of the goddess Vajrayogini) of roughly the size of your own body, then in that of a house, then a hill, and finally in the scale of outer space” (Evans-Wentz, 1937, p. 136). Or he imagines the cosmos as an endlessly huge palace of supernatural couples: “All male divinities dance within me. And all female divinities channel their sacred vajra songs through me”, the Second Dalai Lama writes lyrically in a tantric song (Mullin, 1991, p. 67). But “then, he [the yogi] can resolve these couples in his meditation. Little by little he realizes that their objective existence is illusory and that they are but a function. ... He transcends them and comes to see them as images reflected in a mirror, as a mirage and so on” (Carelli, 1941, p. 18).

However, outside of the rites and meditation sessions, that is, in the real world, the double-gendered super-being appears almost exclusively in the body of a man and only very rarely as a woman, even if he exclaims in the Guhyasamaja Tantra, “I am without doubt any figure. I am woman and I am man, I am the figure of the androgyne” (Gäng, 1998, p. 66).

What happens to the woman?:

Once the yogi has “stolen” her gynergy using sexual magic techniques, the woman vanishes from the tantric scenario. “The feminine partner”, writes David Snellgrove, “known as the Wisdom-Maiden [prajna] and supposedly embodying this great perfection of wisdom, is in effect used as a means to an end, which is experienced by the yogi himself. Moreover, once he has mastered the requisite yoga techniques he has no need of a feminine partner, for the whole process is re-enacted within his own body. Thus despite the eulogies of women in these tantras and her high symbolic status , the whole theory and practice is given for the benefit of males” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 287).

Equivalent quotations from many other Western interpreters of Tantrism can be found: “In ... Tantrism ... woman is means, an alien object, without possibility of mutuality or real communication” (quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 7). The woman “is to be used as a ritual object and then cast aside” (also quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 7). Or, at another point: the yogis had “sex without sensuality ... There is no relationship of intimacy with an individual — the woman ... involved is an object, a representation of power ... women are merely spiritual batteries” (quoted by Shaw, 1994, n. 128, pp. 254–255). The woman functions as a “salvation tool”, as an “aid on the path to enlightenment”. The goal of Vajrayana is even “to destroy the female” (quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 7).

Incidentally, this functionalization of the sexual partner is addressed — as we still have to show — without deliberation or shame in the original Vajrayana texts. Modern Western authors with views compatible to those of Buddhism, on the contrary, tend toward the opinion that the tantric androgyne harmonizes both sexual roles equally within itself, so that the androgynous pattern is valid for both men and women. But this is not the case. Even at an etymological level, androgyny (from Ancient Greek anér ‘man’ and gyné ‘woman’) cannot be applied to both sexes. The term denotes — when taken literally — the male-feminine forces possessed by a man, whilst for a woman the respective phenomenon would have to be termed “gynandry” (female-masculine forces possessed by a woman).

Androgyny vs. gynandry:

Since androgyny and gynandry are used in reference to the organization of sex-specific energies and not a description of physical sexual characteristics, it could be felt that we are being overly pedantic here. That would be true if it were not that Tantrism involved an extreme cult of the male body, psyche and spirit. With extremely few exceptions all Vajrayana gurus are men. What is true of the world of appearances is also true at the highest transcendental level. The ADI BUDDHA is primarily depicted in the form of a man.

Following our discussion of the “mystic” physiology of the yogi, we shall further be able to see that this describes the construction of a masculine body of energy. But any doubts about whether androgyny represents a virile usurpation of feminine energies ought to vanish once we have aired the secrets of the tantric seed (semen) gnosis. Here the male yogi uses a woman’s menstrual blood to construct his bisexual body.

Consequently, the attempt to create an androgynous being out of a woman means that her own feminine essence becomes subordinated to a masculine principle (the principle of anér). Even when she exhibits the outward sexual characteristics of a woman (breasts and vagina), she mutates, as we know already from Mahayana Buddhism, in terms of energy into a man. In contrast, a truly female counterpart to an androgynous guru would be a gynandric mistress. The question, however, is whether the techniques taught in the Buddhist tantras are at all suitable for instituting a process transforming a woman in the direction of gynandry, or whether they have been written by and for men alone. Only after a detailed description of the tantric rituals will we be able to answer this question.

The absolute power of the “Grand Sorcerer” (Maha Siddha):

The goal of tantric androgyny is the concentration of absolute power in the tantric master, which in his view constitutes the unrestricted control over both cosmic primal forces, the god and the goddess. If one assumes that he has, through constant meditative effort, destroyed his individual ego, then it is no longer a person who has concentrated this power within himself. In place of the human ego is the superego of a god with far-reaching powers. This superhuman subject knows no bounds when it proclaims in the Hevajra Tantra, “I am the revealer, I am the revealed doctrine and I am the disciple endowed with good qualities. I am the goal, I am the master of the world and I am the world as well as the worldly things” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 167). In the tantras there is a distinction between two types of power:

Supernatural power, that is, ultimately, enlightened consciousness and Buddhahood.

Worldly power such as wealth, health, regency, victory over an enemy, and so forth.

But a classification of the tantras into a lower category, concerned with only worldly matters, and a higher, in which the truly religious goals are taught, is not possible. All of the writings concern both the “sacred” and the “profane”.

Supernatural power gives the tantric master control over the whole universe. He can dissolve it and re-establish it. It grants him control over space and time in all of their forms of expression. As “time god” (Kalachakra) he becomes “lord of history”. As ADI BUDDHA he determines the course of evolution.

Worldly power means, above all, being successfully able to command others. In the universalism of Vajrayana those commanded are not just people, but also beings from other transhuman spheres — spirits, gods and demons. These cannot be ruled with the means of this world alone, but only through the art of supernatural magic. Fundamentally, then, the power of a guru increases in proportion to the number and effectiveness of his “magical forces” (siddhis). Power and the knowledge of the magic arts are synonymous for a tantric master.

Such a pervasive presence of magic is somewhat fantastic for our Western consciousness. We must therefore try to transpose ourselves back to ancient India, the fairytale land of miracles and secrets and imagine the occult ambience out of which Tantric Buddhism emerged. The Indologist Heinrich Zimmer has sketched the atmosphere of this time as follows: “Here magic is something very real. A magic word, correctly pronounced penetrates the other person without resistance, transforms, bewitches them. Then under the spell of involuntary participation the other is porous to the fluid of the magic-making will, it electrically conducts the current which connects with him” (Zimmer, 1973, p. 79). In the Tibet of the past, things were no different until sometime this century. All the phenomena of the world are magically interconnected, and “secret threads [link] every word, every act, even every thought to the eternal grounding of the world” (Zimmer, 1973, p. 18). As the “bearers of magical power” or as “sorcerer kings” the tantric yogis cast out nets woven from such threads. For this reason they are known as Maha Siddhas, “Grand Sorcerers”.

Lamaist “sorcerer” (a Ngak’phang gÇodpa)

When we pause to examine what the tantras say about the magical objects with which a Maha Siddha is kitted out, we are reminded of the wondrous objects which only fairytale heroes possess: a magical sword which brings victory and power over all possible enemies; an eye ointment with which one can discover hidden treasure; a pair of “seven-league boots” that allow the adept to reach any place on earth in no time at all, traveling both on the ground and through the air; there is an elixir which alchemically transforms base metals into pure gold; a magic potion which grants eternal youth and a wonder cure to protect from sickness and death; pills which give him the ability to assume any shape or form; a magic hood that makes the sorcerer invisible. He can assume the appearance of several different individuals at the same time, can suspend gravity and can read people’s thoughts. He is aware of his earlier incarnations, has mastered all meditation techniques; he can shrink to the size of an atom and expand his body outward to the stars. He possesses the “divine eye” and “divine ear”. In brief, he has the power to determine everything according to his will.

The Maha Siddhas control the universe through their spells, enchantment formulas, or mantras. “I am aware”, David Snellgrove comments, “that present-day western Buddhists, specifically those who are followers of the Tibetan tradition, dislike this English word [spell,] used for mantra and the rest because of its association with vulgar magic. One need only reply that whether one likes it or not, the greater part of the tantras are concerned precisely with vulgar magic, because this is what most people are interested in” (Snellgrove, 1987,vol. 1, p. 143).

“Erotic” spells, which allow the yogi to obtain women for his sexual magic rituals, are mentioned remarkably often in the tantric texts. He continues to practice the ritual sexual act after his enlightenment: since the key to power lies in the woman every instance of liturgical coition bolsters his omnipotence. It is not just earthly beings who must obey such mantras, but female angels and grisly inhabitants of the underworld too.

The almighty sorcerer can also enslave a woman against her will. He simply needs to summon up an image of the real, desired person. In the meditation, he thrusts a flower arrow through the middle of her heart and imagines how the impaled love victim falls to the ground unconscious. No sooner does she reopen her eyes than the conqueror with drawn sword and out-thrust mirror forces her to accommodate his wishes. This scenario played out in the imagination can force any real woman into the arms of the yogi without resistance (Glasenapp, 1940, p. 144). Another magic power allows him to assume the body of an unsuspecting husband and spend the night with his wife incognito, or he can multiply himself by following the example of the Indian god Krishna and then sleep with hundreds of virgins at once (Walker, 1982, p. 47).

Finally, we draw attention to a number of destructive Siddhis (magical powers): to turn a person to stone, the Hevajra Tantra recommends using crystal pearls and drinking milk; to subjugate someone you need sandalwood; to bewitch them, urine; to generate hate between beings from the six worlds, the adept must employ human flesh and bones; to conjure up something, he swings the bones of a dead Brahman and consumes animal dung. With buffalo bones the enlightened one slaughters his enemies (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 118). There are spells which instantly split a person in half. This black art, however, should only be applied to a person who has contravened Buddhist doctrine or insulted a guru. One can also picture the evil-doer vomiting blood, or with a fiery needle boring into his back or a flaming letter branding his heart — in the same instant he will fall down dead (Snellgrove, 1959, pp. 116–117). Using the “chalk ritual” a yogi can destroy an entire enemy army in seconds, each soldier suddenly losing his head (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 52). In the second part of our analysis we will discuss in detail how such magic killing practices were, and to a degree still are, a division of Tibetan/Lamaist state politics.

One should, however, in all fairness mention that, to a lesser degree in the original tantra texts, but therefore all the more frequently in the commentaries, every arbitrary use of power and violence is explicitly prohibited by the Bodhisattva oath (to act only in the interests of all suffering beings). There is no tantra, no ceremony and no prayer in which it is not repeatedly affirmed that all magic may only be performed out of compassion (karuna). This constant, almost suspiciously oft-repeated requirement proves, however, as we shall see, to be a disguise, since violence and power in Tantrism are of a structural and not just a moral nature.

Yet, in light of the power structures of the modern state, the world economy, the military and the modern media, the imaginings of the Maha Siddhas sound naive. Their ambitions have something individualist and fantastic about them. But appearances are deceptive. Even in ancient Tibet the employment of magical forces (siddhis) was regarded as an important division of Buddhocratic state politics. Ritual magic was far more important than wars or diplomatic activities in the history of official Lamaism, and, as we shall show, it still is.

The tantric concept, that power is transformed erotic love, is also familiar from modern psychoanalysis. It is just that in the Western psyche this transformation is usually, if not always, an unconscious one. According to Sigmund Freud it is repressed erotic love which can become delusions of power. In contrast, in Tantrism this unconscious process is knowingly manipulated and echoed in an almost mechanical experiment. It can — as in the case of Lamaism — define an entire culture. The Dutch psychologist Fokke Sierksma, for instance, assumes that the “lust of power” operates as an essential driving force behind Tibetan monastic life. A monk might pretend, according to this author, to meditate upon how a state of emptiness may be realized, but “in practice the result was not voidness but inflation of the ego”. For the monk it is a matter of “spiritual power not mystic release” (Sierksma, 1966, pp. 125, 186).

But even more astonishing than the magical/tantric world of ancient Tibet is the fact that the phantasmagora of Tantrism have managed in the present day to penetrate the cultural consciousness of our Western, highly industrialized civilization, and that they have had the power to successfully anchor themselves there with all their attendant atavisms. This attempt by Vajrayana to conquer the West with its magic practices is the central subject of our study.



[1] The first known Tantric Buddhist document, the Guhyasamaja Tantra, dates from the 4th century at the earliest. Numerous other works then follow, which all display the same basic pattern, however. The formative process ended with the Kalachakra Tantra no later than the 11th century.

[2] A conference was held in Berkeley (USA) in 1987 at which discussion centered primarily on the term upaya.

[3] This cultural integration of the tantric divinities is generally denied by the lamas. Tirelessly, they reassure their listeners that it is a matter of universally applicable archetypes, to whom anybody, of whatever religion, can look up. It is true the Shunyata doctrine, the “Doctrine of Emptiness”, makes it theoretically possible to also summon up and then dismiss the deities of other cultures. “Modern” gurus like Chögyam Trungpa, who died in 1989, also refer to the total archetypal reservoir of humankind in their teachings. But in their spiritual praxis they rely exclusively upon tantric and Tibetan symbols, yiddams and rites.
Site Admin
Posts: 36190
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:19 am


3. The Tantric Female Sacrifice

Until now we have only examined the tantric scheme very broadly and abstractly. But we now wish to show concretely how the “transformation of erotic love into power” is carried out. We thus return to the starting point, the love-play between yogi and yogini, god and goddess, and first examine the various feminine typologies which the tantric master uses in his rituals. Vajrayana distinguishes three types of woman in all:

The “real woman” (karma mudra). She is a real human partner. According to tantric doctrine she belongs to the “realm of desire”.

The “imaginary woman” or “spirit woman” (inana mudra). She is summonsed by the yogi’s meditative imagination and only exists there or in his fantasy. The inana mudra is placed in the “realm of forms”.

The “inner woman” (maha mudra). She is the woman internalized via the tantric praxis, with no existence independent of the yogi. She is not even credited with the reality of an imagined form, therefore she counts as a figure from the “formless realm”.

All three types of woman are termed mudra. This word originally meant ‘seal’, ‘stamp’, or ‘letter of the alphabet’. It further indicated certain magical hand gestures and body postures, with which the yogi conducted, controlled and “sealed” the divine energies. This semantic richness has led to all manner of speculation. For example, we read that the tantric master “stamps” the phenomena of the world with happiness, and that as his companion helps him do this, she is known as mudra (‘stamp’). More concretely, the Maha Siddha Naropa refers to the fact that a tantric partner, in contrast to a normal woman, assists the guru in blocking his ejaculation during the sexual act, and as it were “seals” this, which is of major importance for the performance of the ritual. For this reason she is known as mudra, ‘seal’ (Naropa, 1994, p. 81). But the actual meaning probably lies in the following: in Vajrayana the feminine itself is “sealed”, that is, spellbound via a magic act, so that it is available to the tantric master in its entirety.

The karma mudra: the real woman:

What then are the external criteria which a karma mudra, a real woman, needs to meet in order to serve a guru as wisdom consort? The Hevajra Tantra, for example, describes her in the following words: “She is neither too tall, nor too short, neither quite black nor quite white, but dark like a lotus leaf. Her breath is sweet, and her sweat has a pleasant smell like that of musk. Her pudenda gives forth a scent from moment to moment like different kinds of lotuses or like sweet aloe wood. She is calm and resolute, pleasant in speech and altogether delightful” (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 116). At another juncture the same tantra recommends that the guru “take a consort who has a beautiful face, is wide-eyed, is endowed with grace and youth, is dark, courageous, of good family and originates from the female and male fluids” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 217). Gedün Chöpel, a famous tantric from the 20th century, draws a distinction between the various regions from which the women come. Girls from Kham province, for example, have soft flesh, lovers from Dzang are well-versed in the erotic techniques, “Kashmiri girls” are to be valued for their smile, and so on (Chöpel, 1992, p. 45).

Sometimes it is also required of the karma mudra that as well as being attractive she also possess specialized erotic skills. For example, the Kalachakra Tantra recommends training in the sophisticated Indian sexual techniques of the Kama Sutra. In this famous handbook on the intensification of sexual lust, the reader can inform him- or herself about the most daring positions, the use of aphrodisiacs, the anatomical advantages various women possess, the seduction of young girls, dealings with courtesans, and much more. The sole intention of the Kama Sutra, however, is to sexualize life as a whole. In contrast to the tantras there are no religious and power-political intentions to be found behind this work. It thus has no intrinsic value for the tantric yogi. The latter uses it purely as a source of inspiration, to stimulate his desires which he then brings under conscious control.

Youth is a further requirement which the mudra has to meet. The Maha Siddha Saraha distinguishes five different wisdom consorts on the basis of age: the eight-year-old virgin (kumari); the twelve-year-old salika; the sixteen-year-old siddha, who already bleeds monthly; the twenty-year-old balika, and the twenty-five-year-old bhadrakapalini, who he describes as the “burned fat of prajna” (Wayman, 1973, p. 196). The “modern” tantric already mentioned, Lama Gedün Chöpel, explicitly warns that children can become injured during the sexual act: “Forcingly doing it with a young girl produces severe pains and wounds her genitalia. ... If it is not the time and if copulating would be dangerous for her, churn about between her thighs, and it [the female seed] will come out” (Chöpel, 1992, p. 135). In addition he recommends feeding a twelve-year-old honey and sweets before ritual sexual intercourse (Chöpel, 1992, p. 177).

When the king and later Maha Siddha, Dombipa, one day noticed the beautiful daughter of a traveling singer before his palace, he selected her as his wisdom consort and bought her from her father for an enormous sum in gold. She was “an innocent virgin, untainted by the sordid world about her. She was utterly charming, with a fair complexion and classical features. She had all the qualities of a padmini, a lotus child, the rarest and most desirable of all girls” (Dowman, 1985, pp. 53–54). What became of the “lotus child” after the ritual is not recorded.

“In the rite of ‘virgin-worship’ (kumari-puja)”, writes Benjamin Walker, “a girl is selected and trained for initiation, and innocent of her impending fate is brought before the altar and worshipped in the nude, and then deflowered by a guru or chela” (Walker, 1982, p. 72). It was not just the Hindu tantrics who practiced rituals with a kumari, but also the Tibetans, in any case the Grand Abbot of the Sakyapa Sect, even though he was married.

On a numerological basis twelve- or sixteen-year-old girls are preferred. Only when none can be found does Tsongkhapa recommend the use of a twenty-year-old. There is also a table of correspondences between the various ages and the elements and senses: an 11-year-old represents the air, a 12-year-old fire, a 13-year-old water, a 14-year-old earth, a15-year-old sound, a 16-year-old the sense of touch, a 17-year-old taste, an 18-year-old shape or form, and a 20-year-old the sense of smell (Naropa, 1994, p. 189).

The rituals should not be performed with women older than this, as they absorb the “occult forces” of the guru. The dangers associated with older mudras are a topic discussed at length. A famous tantric commentator describes 21- to 30-year-olds as “goddesses of wrath” and gives them the following names: The Blackest, the Fattest, the Greedy, the Most Arrogant, the Stringent, the Flashing, the Grudging, the Iron Chain, and the Terrible Eye. 31- to 38-year-olds are considered to be manifestations of malignant spirits and 39- to 46-year-olds as “unlimited manifestations of the demons”. They are called Dog Snout, Sucking Gob, Jackal Face, Tiger Gullet, Garuda Mug, Owl Features, Vulture’s Beak, Pecking Crow (Naropa, 1994, p. 189). These women, according to the text, shriek and scold, menace and curse. In order to get the yogi completely off balance, one of these terrible figures calls out to him in the Kalachakra Tantra, “Human beast, you are to be crushed today”. Then she gnashes her teeth and hisses, “Today I must devour your flesh”, and with trembling tongue she continues, “From your body I will make the drink of blood” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 191). That some radical tantras view it as especially productive to copulate with such female “monsters” is a topic to which we shall later return.

How does the yogi find a real, human mudra? Normally, she is delivered by his pupil. This is also true for the Kalachakra Tantra. “If one gives the enlightened teacher the prajna [mudra] as a gift,” proclaims Naropa, “the yoga is bliss” (Grünwedel, 1933, p. 117). If a 12- or 16-year-old girl cannot be found, a 20-year-old will suffice, advises another text, and continues, “One should offer his sister, daughter or wife to the ‘guru’”, then the more valuable the mudra is to the pupil, the more she serves as a gift for his master (Wayman, 1977, p. 320).

Further, magic spells are taught with which to summons a partner. The Hevajra Tantra recommends the following mantra: “Om Hri — may she come into my power — savaha!” (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 54). Once the yogi has repeated this saying ten thousand times the mudra will appear before him in flesh and blood and obey his wishes.

The Kalachakra Tantra urges the yogi to render the mudra pliant with intoxicating liquor: “Wine is essential for the wisdom consort [prajna]. ... Any mudra at all, even those who are still not willing, can be procured with drink” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 147). It is only a small step from this to the use of direct force. There are also texts, which advise “that if a woman refuses sexual union she must be forced to do so” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 125).

Whether or not a karma mudra needs special training before the ritual is something which receives varying answers in the texts and commentaries. In general, she should be familiar with the tantric doctrine. Tsongkhapa advises that she take and keep a vow of silence. He expressly warns against intercourse with unworthy partners: “If a woman lacks ... superlative qualities, that is an inferior lotus. Do not stay with that one, because she is full of negative qualities. Make an offering and show some respect, but don’t practice (with her)” (quoted in Shaw, 1994, p. 169). In the Hevajra Tantra a one-month preparation time is required, then “the girl [is] freed of all false ideas and received as though she were a boon” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 261).

But what happens to the “boon” once the ritual is over? “The karma mudra ... has a purely pragmatic and instrumental significance and is superfluous at the finish” writes the Italian Tibetologist Raniero Gnoli in the introduction to a Kalachakra commentary (Naropa, 1994, p. 82). After the sexual act she is “of no more use to the tantrik than husk of a shelled peanut”, says Benjamin Walker (Walker, 1982, pp. 72–73). She has done her duty, transferred her feminine energy to the yogi, and now succumbs to the disdain which Buddhism holds for all “normal” women as symbols of the “supreme illusion” (maha maya). There is no mention of an initiation of the female partner in the codified Buddhist tantra texts.

The karma mudra and the West:

Since the general public demands that a Tibetan lama lead the life of a celibate monk, he must keep his sexual practices secret. For this reason, documents about and verbal accounts of clerical erotic love are extremely rare. It is true that the sexual magic rites are freely and openly discussed in the tantra texts, but who does what with whom and where are all “top secret”. Only the immediate followers are informed, the English author June Campbell reports.

And she has the authority to make such a claim. Campbell had been working for many years as translator and personal assistant for the highest ranking Kagyüpa guru, His Holiness Kalu Rinpoche (1905–1989), when the old man (he was then approaching his eighties) one day asked her to become his mudra. She was completely surprised by this request and could not begin to imagine such a thing, but then, she reluctantly submitted to the wishes of her master. As she eventually managed to escape the tantric magic circle, the previously uninformed public is indebted to her for a number of competent commentaries upon the sexual cabinet politics of modern Lamaism and the psychology of the karma mudra.

What then, according to Campbell, are the reasons which motivate Western women to enter into a tantric relationship, and then afterwards keep their experiences with the masters to themselves? First of all, their great respect and deep reverence for the lama, who as a “living Buddha” begins and ritually conducts the liaison. Then, the karma mudra, even when she is not publicly acknowledged, enjoys a high status within the small circle of the informed and, temporarily, the rank of a dakini, i.e., a tantric goddess. Her intimate relationship with a “holy man” further gives her the feeling that she is herself holy, or at least the opportunity to collect good karma for herself.

Of course, the mudra must swear a strict vow of absolute silence regarding her relations with the tantric master. Should she break it, then according to the tantric penal code she may expect major difficulties, insanity, death and on top of this millennia of hellish torments. In order to intimidate her, Kalu Rinpoche is alleged to have told his mudra, June Campbell, that in an earlier life he killed a woman with a mantra because she disobeyed him and gossiped about intimacies. “The imposition of secrecy ... in the Tibetan system”, Campbell writes, “when it occurred solely as a means to protect status, and where it was reinforced by threats, was a powerful weapon in keeping women from achieving any kind of integrity in themselves. ... So whilst the lineage system [the gurus’ chain of initiation] viewed these [sexual] activities as promoting the enlightenment state of the lineage holders, the fate of one of the two main protagonists, the female consort, remained unrecognized, unspoken and unnamed” (June Campbell, 1996, p. 103). June Campbell also first risked speaking openly about her experiences, which she found repressive and degrading, after Kalu Rinpoche had died.

In her book, this author laments not just the subsequent namelessness of and disregard for the karma mudra despite the guru praising her as a “goddess” for as long as the ritual lasted, but also discusses the traumatic state of “used up” women, who, once their master has “drunk” their gynergy, are traded in for a “fresh” mudra. She also makes reference to the naiveté of Western husbands, who send their spouses to a guru in good faith, so that they can complete their spiritual development. (June Campbell, 1996, p. 107). During her relationship with Kalu Rinpoche he was also practicing with another woman who was not yet twenty years old. The girl died suddenly, of a heart attack it was said. We will return to this death, which fits the logic of the tantric pattern, at a later stage. The fears which such events awakened in her, reports Campbell, completely cut her off from the outside world and left her totally delivered up to the domination of her guru.

This masculine arrogance becomes particularly obvious in a statement by the young lama, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, who announced the following in response to Campbell’s commotion stirring book: “If Western women begin sexual relationships with Tibetan lamas, then the consequence for a number of them is frustration, because their culturally conditioned expectations are not met. If they hope to find an agreeable and equal lover in a Rinpoche, they could not be making a bigger mistake. Certain Rinpoches, who are revered as great teachers, would literally make the worst partners of all — seen from the point of view of the ego. If one approaches such a great master expecting to be acknowledged, and wishing for a relationship in which one shares, satisfies one another, etc., then one is making a bad choice — not just from the ego’s point of view, but also in a completely normal, worldly sense. They probably won’t bring them flowers or invite them to candlelight dinners” (Esotera, 12/97, p. 45; retranslation). It speaks for such a quotation that it is honest, since it quite plainly acknowledges the spiritual inferiority of women (who represent the ego, desire and banality) when confronted with the superhuman spiritual authority of the male gurus. The tantric master Khyentse Rinpoche knows exactly what he is talking about, when he continues with the following sentence: “Whilst in the West one understands equality to mean that two aspects find a common denominator, in Vajrayana Buddhism equality lies completely outside of twoness or duality. Where duality is retained, there can be no equality” (Esotera, 12/97, p. 46; retranslation). That is, in other words: the woman as equal and autonomous partner must be eliminated and has to surrender her energies to the master’s completion (beyond duality).

The “sexual abuse” of Western women by Tibetan lamas has meanwhile become something of a constant topic in the Buddhist scene and has also triggered heated discussion on the Internet. There we can read the following from an author called Mary Finnigan: “In some instances a male teacher would be having sex with several women students over a period of time. Each would be sworn to secrecy and each would be led to believe that she was the only consort. Then inevitably the secret came out and the effect of this on the particular dharma group was devastating” (Finnigan, Newsgroup 5). Finnigan answers the question of how the Tibetans behaved in such cases as follows: “My understanding is that Tibetan women regarded it as an honor and a duty to sleep with a lama if requested. I do not think the concept of sexual abuse was known to them until they became refugees (Finnigan, Newsgroup 5).

The fact that Sogyal is a pervert doesn’t absolve his students of the duty to venerate him as a living Buddha, because according to a well-known delok story, a lama's sexual misconduct is no excuse for vow-breaking by his disciples, and even turning down his unwanted advances leads to damnation to vajra hell:

"The young lady from a well-to-do family, named Chödrön, had sought out Buddhist teachings from numerous esteemed lamas. One of them, the itinerant Zhönu Gyaltsen, asked her to be his 'secret consort,' but she refused. The request caused her to lose faith in the lama and leave the gathering before receiving the complete instructions. Later, she told girlfriends about the incident. In Yama's assessment, since Zhönu Gyaltsen was a master of esoteric teachings, Chödrön had breached her tantric commitments on several counts: not complying with the lama's request, not completing the training in his teachings and (worst of all, it seems) speaking about the incident with other women. When Chödrön protests that if the lama was realized, it was inappropriate for him to take a sexual interest in her, Yama counters that when Zhönu Gyaltsen died, numerous relics and miraculous signs occurred, attesting to his high degree of realization. Positioning her as a gossip, he avers that she caused numerous others to lose faith, thereby harming the lama and his disciples. He concludes, 'it is a greater sin to denigrate and slander lamas and teachers than it is to murder a thousand living beings,' and condemns her to suffer the torments of the hell realms."

-- Against Hell: A Refutation of the Buddhist Hell Realms, Based on Their Historic Origins, Political Purpose, Psychological Destructiveness, Irrationality, and Demonstrable Inconsistency With the Original Buddhist Teachings, Framed as A Searching Review of Sam Bercholz’s After-Death Memoir, "A Guided Tour of Hell"by Charles Carreon

Even the official office of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has had to respond to the increasingly common allegations: “What some of these students have experienced is terrible and most unfortunate”, announced Tenzin Tethon, a secretary to His Holiness, and admitted that for a number of years there had already been reports of such incidents (Lattin, Newsgroup 2). Naturally, Tenzin Tethon made no mention of the fact that the sexual exploitation of women for spiritual purposes forms the heart of the tantric mystery.

But there are more and more examples where women are beginning to defend themselves. Thus, in 1992 the well-known bestseller author and commentator on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Sogyal Rinpoche, had to face the Supreme Court of Santa Cruz, alleged to have “used his position as an interpreter of Tibetan Buddhism to take sexual and other advantage of female students over a period of many years” (Tricycle 1996, vol. 5 no. 4, p. 87). The plaintiff was seeking 10 million dollars. It was claimed Sogyal Rinpoche had assured his numerous partners that it would be extremely salutary and spiritually rewarding to sleep with him. Another mudra, Victoria Barlow from New York City, described in an interview with Free Press how she, at the age of 21, was summoned into Sogyal Rinpoche’s room during a meditative retreats: “I went to an apartment to see a highly esteemed lama and discuss religion. He opened the door without a shirt on and with a beer in his hand”. When they were sitting on the sofa, the Tibetan “lunged at me with sloppy kisses and groping. I thought [then] I should take it as the deepest compliment that he was interested and basically surrender to him”. Today, Barlow says that she is “disgusted by the way the Tibetans have manipulated the reverence westerners have for the Buddhist path” (Lattin, Newsgroup 2). The case mentioned above was, however, settled out of court; the result, according to Sogyal’s followers, of their master’s deep meditation.

It would normally be correct to dismiss such “sex stories” as superfluous gossip and disregard them. In the occult logic of Vajrayana, however, they need to be seen as strategically placed ritual practices designed to bring the guru power and influence. Perhaps they additionally have something to do with the Buddhist conquest of the West, which is symbolized by various mudras. Such conjectures may sound rather bizarre, but in Tantrism we are confronted with a different logic to that to which we are accustomed. Here, sexual events are not uncommonly globalized and capable of influencing all of humankind. We shall return to this point.

But at least such examples show that Tibet’s “celibate” monks “practice” with real women — a fact about which the Tibetan clergy including the Fourteenth Dalai Lama have deceived the West until now. Because more and more “wisdom consorts” are breaking their oath to secrecy, it is only now that the conditions are being created for a public discussion of the tantric rituals as such. The criticism to date has not gone beyond a moral-feminist discourse and in no case known to us (with the exception of some of June Campbell’s statements) has it extended to the occult exploitative mechanism of Vajrayana.

On the other hand, the fact that the sexual needs of the lamas can no longer be covered up, has, in a type of advance strategy, led to a situation in which their “spiritual” work with karma mudras is presentable as something to be taken for granted, and which is not inherently shocking. “Many Rinpoches”, one Christopher Fynn has written on the Internet, “including Jattral Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse, Dilgo Khyentse and Ongen Tulku have consorts — which everyone knew about” (Fynn, Newsgroup 4).

And the Dalai Lama, himself the Highest Master of the sexual magic rites, raises the moral finger: “In recent years, teachers from Asia and the West have been involved in scandals about sexual misbehavior towards male and female pupils, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and the misuse of money and power. This behavior has caused great damage to the Buddhist community and individual people. Pupils of both sexes should be encouraged to confront teachers with unethical aspects of their behavior in an appropriate manner” (Esotera, 12/97, p. 45; retranslation). What should be made of such requests by His Holiness, which are also silent about the sexist mechanisms of Tantrism is a topic which we explore in detail in the second part of our study.

Following these up-to-date “revelations” about Western karma mudras, let us return to our presentation of the tantric scenario as described in the traditional texts.

The inana mudra: the woman of imagination

In contrast to the real karma mudra, the inana mudra is a purely spiritual figure, who appears as a goddess, the wisdom consort of various Buddhas, or as a “dakini”. She is the product of the imagination. But we must keep in mind that the inana mudra may never be a random fantasy of the guru, rather, her external appearance, the color of her hair, her clothing, her jewelry and the symbols which surround her, are all codified. Thus, in his imagination the tantric copies an image which is already recorded in the Buddhist pantheon. In this regard the cult of inana mudra worship has much in common with Christian mysticism surrounding Sophia and Mary and has therefore often been compared with, for example, the mater gloriosa at the end of Goethe’s Faust, where the reformed alchemist rapturously cries:

Highest mistress of the world!
Let me in the azure
Tent of Heaven, in light unfurled
Hear thy Mystery measure!
Justify sweet thoughts that move
Breast of man to meet thee!
And with holy bliss of love
Bear him up to greet thee!

(Faust II, 11997–12004)

Here, “the German poet Goethe … unsuspectingly expresses the Buddhist awareness of the Jñānamudrā [inana mudra]” notes Herbert Guenther, who has attempted in a number of writings to interpret the tantras from the viewpoint of a European philosopher (Guenther, 1976, p. 74).

It should however be noted that such Western sublimations of the feminine only correspond to a degree with the imaginings of Indian and Tibetan tantrics. There, it is not just noble and ethereal virgins who are conjured up in the yogis’ imaginations, but also sensuous “dakinis” trembling with lust, who not uncommonly appear as figures of horror, goddesses with bowls made of skulls and cleavers in their hands.

But whatever sort of a woman the adept imagines, in all events he will unite sexually with this spiritual being during the ritual. The white and refined “Sophias” from the realm of the imagination are not exempted from the ritual sexual act. “Among the last phases of the tantrik’s progress”, Benjamin Walker tells us, “is sexual union on the astral plane, when he invokes elemental spirits, fiendesses and the spirits of the dead, and has intercourse with them” (Walker, 1982, p. 74).

Since the yogi produces his wisdom companion through the imaginative power of his spirit, he can rightly consider himself her spiritual father. The inana mudra is composed of the substance of his own thoughts. She thus does not consist of matter, but — and this is very important — she nonetheless appears outside of her imagination-father and initially encounters him as an autonomous subject. He thus experiences her as a being who admittedly has him alone to thank for her being, but who nevertheless has a life of her own, like a child, separated from its mother once it is born.

In all, the tantras distinguish two “types of birth” for imagined female partners: firstly, the “women produced by spells”; secondly, the “field-born yoginis”. In both cases we are dealing with so-called “feminine energy fields” or feminine archetypes which the tantric master can through his imaginative powers render visible for him as “illusory bodies”. This usually takes place via a deep meditation in which the yogi visualizes the inana mudra with his “spiritual eye” (Wayman, 1973, pp. 193–195).

As a master of unbounded imagination, the yogi is seldom content with a single inana mudra, and instead creates several female beings from out of his spirit, either one after another or simultaneously. The Kalachakra Tantra describes how the imagined “goddesses” spring from various parts of his body, from out of his head, his forehead, his neck, his heart and his navel. He can conjure up the most diverse entities in the form of women, such as elements, planets, energies, forces and emotions — compassion for example: “as the incarnation of this arises in his heart a golden glowing woman wearing a white robe. ... Then this woman steps ... out of his heart, spreads herself out to the heaven of the gods like a cloud and lets down a rain of nourishment as an antidote for all bodily suffering” (Gäng, 1988, p. 44).

Karma mudra vs. inana mudra:

In the tantric literature we find an endless discussion about whether the magical sexual act with a karma mudra of flesh and blood must be valued more highly than that with an imagined inana mudra. For example, Herbert Guenther devotes a number of pages to this debate in his existentialist study of Vajrayana. Although he also reports in detail about the “pro-woman” intentions of the tantras, he comes to the surprising conclusion that we have in the karma mudra a woman “who yields pleasure containing the seed of frustration”, whilst the inana mudra is “a woman who yields a purer, though unstable, pleasure” (Guenther, 1976, p. 57).

As a product of the PURE SPIRIT, he classes the inana mudra above a living woman. She “is a creation of one’s own mind. She is of the nature of the Great Mother or other goddesses and comprises all that has been previously experienced” (Guenther, 1976, p. 72, quoting Naropa). But she too finally goes the way of all life and “therefore also, even love, Jñānamudrā [inana mudra], gives us merely a fleeting sense of bliss, although this feeling is of a higher, and hence more positive, order than the Karmamūdra [karma mudra] who makes us ‘sad’…” (Guenther, 1976, p. 75).

On the other hand there are very weighty arguments for the greater importance of a real woman (karma mudra) in the tantric rite of initiation. Then the purpose of the ritual with her is the final transcending of the real external world of appearance (maya) and the creation of a universe which functions solely according to the will and imagination of the tantric master. His first task is therefore to recognize the illusory character of reality as a whole. This is naturally represented more graphically, tangibly, and factually by a woman of flesh and blood than by a fictive construction of the own spirit, which the inana mudra is. She appears from the outset as the product of an illusion.

A karma mudra thus presents an exceptionally difficult challenge to the spiritual abilities of the adept, since the real human woman must also be recognized as an illusion (maya)! This means, in the final instance, nothing less than that the yogi no longer grants the entire physical world, which in Indian tradition concentrates itself in the form of a woman, an independent existence, and that as a consequence he recognizes matter as a conceit of his own consciousness. He thereby frees himself from all restrictions imposed by the laws of nature. Such a radical dissolution of reality is believed to accelerate several times the initiation process which otherwise takes numerous incarnations.

Especially if “enlightenment” and liberation from the constraints of reality is to be achieved in a single lifetime, it is necessary in the opinion of many tantra commentators to practice with a human mudra. In the Cakrasamvara Tantra we read for example, that “the secret path without a consort will not grant perfection to beings” (quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 142). Tsongkhapa, founder of the Tibetan Gelugpa sect is of the same opinion: “A female companion is the basis of the accomplishment of liberation” (quoted by Shaw, 1994, p. 146). Imagined women are only recommendable for less qualified individuals, or may serve at the beginning of the ritual path as a preliminary exercise, reports Miranda Shaw, who makes reference to modern Gelugpa Masters like Lama Yeshe, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and Geshe Dhargyey (Shaw, 1994, pp. 146, 244, notes 26, 27, 29).

A further reason for the use of a karma mudra can be seen in the fact that for his magical transformations the yogi needs a secretion which the woman expresses during the sexual act and which is referred to as “female seed” in the texts. It is considered a bodily concentrate of gynergy. This coveted vaginal fluid will later be the subject of a detailed discussion.

The maha mudra: the inner woman:

During the tantric ritual the karma mudra must therefore be recognized by the yogi as an illusion. This is of course also true of the inana mudra, since the tantric master as an autonomous being has to transcend both forms of the feminine, the real and the imagined. We have already learned from Herbert Guenther that the “spirit woman” is also of fleeting character and prone to transitoriness. The yogi may not attribute her with an “inherent existence”. At the beginning of every tantric ritual both mudras still appear outside of him; the karma mudra before his “real” eyes, the inana mudra before his “spiritual” eyes.

But does this illusory character of the two types of woman mean that they are dissolved into nothing by the tantric master? As far as their external and autonomous existence is concerned, this is indeed the yogi’s conception. He does not accord even the real woman any further inherent existence. When, after the tantric ritual in which she is elevated to a goddess, she before all eyes returns home in visible, physical form, in the eyes of the guru she no longer exists as an independent being, but merely as the product of his imagination, as a conceptual image — even when a normal person perceives the girl as a being of flesh and blood.

But although her autonomous feminine existence has been dissolved, her feminine essence (gynergy) has not been lost. Via an act of sexual magic the yogi has appropriated this and with it achieved the power of an androgyne. He destroys, so to speak, the exterior feminine in order to internalize it and produce an “inner woman” as a part of himself. “He absorbs the Mother of the Universe into himself”, as it is described in the Kalachakra Tantra (Grünwedel, Kalacakra IV, p. 32). At a later stage we will describe in detail the subtle techniques with which he performs this absorption. Here we simply list some of the properties of the “inner woman”, the so-called maha mudra (“great” mudra). The boundary with the inana mudra is not fixed, after all the maha mudra is also a product of the imagination. Both types of woman thus have no physical body, and instead transcend “the atomic structure and consist of a purely spiritual substance” (Naropa, 1994, p. 82). But the inana mudra still exists outside of the tantric master, the “inner woman”, however, as her name indicates, can no longer be distinguished from him and has become a part of his self. In general, the maha mudra is said to reside in the region of the navel. There she dances and acts as an oracle as the Greek goddess Metis once did in the belly of Zeus. She is the “in-born” and produces the “in-born joy of the body, the in-born joy of language, the in-born joy of the spirit and the in-born joy of consciousness” (Naropa, 1994, p. 204).

The male tantric master now has the power to assume the female form of the goddess (who is of course an aspect of his own mystical body), that is, he can appear in the figure of a woman. Indeed, he even has the magical ability to divide himself into two gendered beings, a female and a male deity. He is further able to multiply himself into several maha mudras. In the Guhyasamaja Tantra, with the help of magical conjurations he fills an entire palace with female figures, themselves all particles of his subtle body.

Now one might think that for the enlightened yogi the book of sensual pleasures would be closed, since for him there are no more exterior women. But the contrary is the case. His lust is not transformed, but rather made eternal. Thus in his imagination, he is “united day and night [with the maha mudra]. The yogi often says, he would not live without her kiss and embrace” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 102). He is even able to imaginatively stimulate the sexual organs of the inner woman in order to combine her erotic pleasure with his own (he simultaneously enjoys both), and thus immeasurably intensify it. (Farrow and Menon, 1992, pp. 271, 272, 291).

Despite this sexual turbulence he retains a strict awareness of the polarity of the primal cosmic forces, it is just that these are now realized within his own person. He is simultaneously masculine and feminine, and has both sexual energies under his absolute control. He incarnates the entire tantric theater. He is director, actor, audience, plot and stage in one individual.

Such agitated games are, however, just one side of the tantric philosophy
, on the other is a concept of eternal standstill of being, linked to the image of the maha mudra. She appears as the “Highest Immobile”, who, like a clear, magical mirror, reflects a femininity turned to crystal. An obedient femininity with no will of her own, who complies with the looks, the orders, the desires and fantasies of her master. A female automaton, who wishes for nothing, and blesses the yogi with her divine knowledge and holy wisdom.

Whether mobile or unmoving, erotic or spiritualized — the maha mudra is universal. From a tantric viewpoint she incarnates the entire universe. Consequently, whoever has control over his “inner woman” becomes a lord of the universe, a pantocrat. She is a paradox, eternal and indestructible, but nevertheless, like the whole cosmos, without an independent existence. For this reason she is known as a “magical mirror” (Naropa, 1994, p. 81). In the final instance, she represents the “emptiness”.

In Western discussion about the maha mudra she is glorified by Lama Govinda (Ernst Lothar Hoffmann) as the “Eternal Feminine” which now counts as part of the yogi’s essential being. (Govinda, 1991, p. 111). According to Govinda she fulfills a role comparable to that of the muse, who up until the 19th century whispered inspiration into the ears of European artists. Muses could also become incarnated as real women, but in the same manner existed as “inner goddesses”, known then under the name of “inspiration”.

The Buddhist doctrine of the maha mudra has also been compared with Carl Gustav Jung’s concept of anima (Katz 1977). Jung proposed that the human soul of a man is double gendered, it has a masculine and a feminine part, the animus and the anima. In a woman the reverse is true. Her feminine anima corresponds to a masculine animus. With some qualifications, the depth psychologist was convinced that the other-gendered part of the soul could originally be found in the psyche of every person. Jung thus assumes the human soul possesses a primary androgyny, or gynandry, respectively. The goal of an integrated psychology is that the individual recognize his or her other-gendered half and bring the two parts of the soul into harmony.

Even if we attribute the same intentions to Tantrism, an essential difference remains. This is, as all the relevant texts claim, that the feminine side of the yogi is initially found outside himself — whether in the form of a real woman or the figure of an imaginary one — and must first be integrated through sacred sexual practices. If — as in Jung — the anima were to be found in the “mystic body” of the tantric master from the start, then he would surely be able to activate his feminine side without needing to use an external mudra. If he could, then all the higher and highest initiations into Vajrayana would be redundant, since they always describe the “inner woman” as the result of a process which begins with an “exterior woman”.

It is tempting to conclude that a causal relation exists between both female tantric “partners”, the internal and the external. The tantric master uses a human woman, or at least an inana mudra to create his androgynous body. He destroys her autonomous existence, steals her gynergy, integrates this in the form of an “inner woman” and thus becomes a powerful double-gendered super-being. We can, hypothetically, describe the process as follows: the sacrifice of the exterior woman is the precondition for the establishment of the inner maha mudra.

The “tantric female sacrifice”

But are we really justified in speaking of a “tantric female sacrifice”? We shall attempt to find an answer to this difficult question. Fundamentally, the Buddhist tantric distinguishes three types of sacrifice: the outer, the inner and the secret. The “outer sacrifice” consists of the offering to a divinity, the Buddhas, or the guru, of food, incense, butter lamps, perfume, and so on. For instance in the so-called “mandala sacrifice” the whole universe can be presented to the teacher, in the form of a miniature model, whilst the pupil says the following. “I sacrifice all the components of the universe in their totality to you, O noble, kind, and holy lama!” (Bleichsteiner, 1937, p. 192)

In the “inner sacrifice” the pupil (Sadhaka) gives his guru, usually in a symbolic act, his five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), his states of consciousness, and his feelings, or he offers himself as an individual up to be sacrificed. Whatever the master demands of him will be done — even if the sadhaka must cut the flesh from his own limbs, like the tantric adept Naropa.

Behind the “secret sacrifice” hides, finally, a particular ritual event which attracts our especial interest, since it is here that the location of the “tantric female sacrifice” is to be suspected. It concerns — as can be read in a modern commentary upon the Kalachakra Tantra — “the spiritual sacrifice of a dakini to the lama” (Henss, 1985, p. 56). Such symbolic sacrifices of goddesses are all but stereotypical of tantric ceremonies. “The exquisite bejeweled woman ... is offered to the Buddhas” (Gäng, 1988, p. 151), as the Guhyasamaja Tantra puts it. Often eight, sometimes sixteen, occasionally countless “wisdom girls” are offered up in “the holy most secret of offerings” (quoted by Beyer, 1978, p. 162)

The sacrifice of samsara:

A sacrifice of the feminine need not be first sought in Tantrism, however; rather it may be found in the logic of the entire Buddhist doctrine. Woman per se -– as Buddha Shakyamuni repeatedly emphasized in many of his statements — functions as the first and greatest cause of illusion (maya), but likewise as the force which generates the phenomenal world (samsara). It is the fundamental goal of every Buddhist to overcome this deceptive samsara. This world of appearances experienced as feminine, presents him with his greatest challenge. “A woman”, Nancy Auer Falk writes, “was the veritable image of becoming and of all the forces of blind growth and productivity which Buddhism knew as Samsara. As such she too was the enemy — not only on a personal level, as an individual source of temptation, but also on a cosmic level” (Gross, 1993, p. 48). In this misogynist logic, it is only after the ritual destruction of the feminine that the illusory world (maya) can be surmounted and transcended.

Is it for this reason that maya (illusion), the mother of the historical Buddha, had to die directly after giving birth? In her early death we can recognize the original event which stands at the beginning of the fundamentally misogynist attitude of all Buddhist schools. Maya both conceived and gave birth to the Sublime One in a supernatural manner. It was not a sexual act but an elephant which, in a dream, occasioned the conception, and Buddha Shakyamuni did not leave his mother’s body through the birth canal, but rather through her hip. But these transfeminine birth myths were not enough for the tellers of legends. Maya as earthly mother had, on the path to enlightenment of a religion which seeks to free humanity from the endless chain of reincarnation, to be proclaimed an “illusion” (maya) and destroyed. She receives no higher accolade in the school of Buddha, since the woman — as mother and as lover — is the curse which fetters us to our illusory existence.

Already in Mahayana Buddhism, the naked corpse of a woman was considered as the most provocative and effective meditation object an initiand could use to free himself from the net of Samsara. Inscribed in the iconography of her body were all the vanities of this world. For this reason, he who sank bowed over a decaying female body could achieve enlightenment in his current life. To increase the intensity of the macabre observation, it was usual in several Indian monastic orders to dismember the corpse. Ears, nose, hands, feet, and breasts were chopped off and the disfigured trunk became the object of contemplation. “In Buddhist context, the spectacle of the mutilated woman serves to display the power of the Buddha, the king of the Truth (Dharma) over Mara, the lord of the Realm of Desire.”, writes Elizabeth Wilson in a discussion of such practices, “By erasing the sexual messages conveyed by the bodies of attractive women through the horrific spectacle of mutilation, the superior power of the king of Dharma is made manifest to the citizens of the realm of desire.” (Wilson, 1995, p. 80).

In Vajrayana, the Shunyata doctrine (among others) of the nonexistence of all being, is employed to conduct a symbolic sacrifice of the feminine principle. Only once this has evaporated into a “nothing” can the world and we humans be rescued from the curse of maya (illusion). This may also be a reason why the “emptiness” (shunyata), which actually by definition cannot possess any characteristics, is hypostasized as feminine in the tantras. This becomes especially clear in the Hevajra Tantra. In staging of the ritual we encounter at the outset a real yogini (karma mudra) or at least an imagined goddess (inana mudra), whom the yogi transforms in the course of events into a “nothing” using magic techniques. By the end the tantric master has completely robbed her of her independent existence, that is, to put it bluntly, she no longer exists. “She is the Yogini without a Self” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, pp. 218–219). Thus her name, Nairatmya, literally means ‘one who has no self, that is, non-substantial’ (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 219). The same concept is at work when, in another tantra, the “ultimate dakini” is visualized as a “zero-point” and experienced as “indivisible pleasure and emptiness” (Dowman, 1985, p. 74). Chögyam Trungpa sings of the highest “lady without being” in the following verses:

Always present, you do not exist ...
Without body, shapeless, divinity of the true.

(Trungpa, 1990, p. 40)

Only her bodilessness, her existential sacrifice and her dissolution into nothing allow the karma mudra to transmute into the maha mudra and gynergy to be distilled out of the yogini in order to construct the feminine ego of the adept with this “stuff”. “Relinquishing her form [as] a woman, she would assume that of her Lord” the Hevajra Tantra establishes at another point (Snellgrove, 1959, p. 91).

The maha mudra has, it is said, an “empty body” (Dalai Lama I, 1985, p. 170). What can be understood by this contradictory metaphor? In his commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra, Ngawang Dhargyey describes how the “empty body” can only be produced through the destruction of all the “material” elements of a physical, natural “body of appearance”. In contrast to such, “their bodies are composed simply of energy and consciousness” (Dhargyey, 1985, p. 131). The physical world, sensuality, matter and nature — considered feminine in not just Buddhism — thus become pure spirit in an irreconcilable opposition. But they are not completely destroyed in the process of their violent spiritualization, but rather “sublated” in the Hegelian sense, namely “negated” and “conserved” at the same time; they are — to make use of one of the favorite terms of the Buddhist evolutionary theorist, Ken Wilber — “integrated”. This guarantees that the creative feminine energies are not lost following the material “dissolution” of their bearers, and instead are available solely to the yogi as a precious elixir. A sacrifice of the feminine as an autonomous principle must therefore be regarded as the sine qua non for the universal power of the tantric master. These days this feminine sacrifice may only be performed entirely in the imagination. But this need not have always been the case.

“Eating” the gynergy:

But Vajrayana is concerned with more than the performance of a cosmic drama in which the feminine and its qualities are destroyed for metaphysical reasons. The tantric recognizes a majority of the feminine properties as extremely powerful. He therefore has not the slightest intention of destroying them as such. In contrast, he wishes to make the feminine forces his own. What he wants to destroy is solely the physical and mental bearer of gynergy — the real woman. For this reason, the “tantric female sacrifice” is of a different character to the cosmogonic sacrifice of the feminine of early Buddhism. It is based upon the ancient paradigm in which the energies of a creature are transferred to its killer. The maker of the sacrifice wants to absorb the vital substance of the offering, in many cases by consuming it after it has been slaughtered. Through this he not only “integrates” the qualities of the killed, but also believes he may outwit death, by feeding upon the body and soul of the sacrificial victim.

In this connection the observation that world wide the sacred sacrifice is contextually linked with food and eating, is of some interest. It is necessary to kill plants and animals in order to nourish oneself. The things killed are subsequently consumed and thus appear as a necessary condition for the maintenance and propagation of life. Eating increases strength, therefore it was important to literally incorporate the enemy. In cannibalism, the eater integrates the energies of those he has slaughtered. Since ancient humans made no basic distinction between physical, mental or spiritual processes, the same logic applied to the “eating” of nonbodily forces. One also ate souls, or prana, or the élan vital.

The Tibetans may practically be considered as a kind of cannibals. I was struck with this notion while witnessing the burial ceremony. All the cloths used in the burial go as a matter of course to the grave-diggers, though they hardly deserve this name, as their duty consists not in digging the grave but in chopping the flesh of the corpse and pounding the bones. Even priests give them help, for the pounding business is necessarily tedious and tiresome. Meanwhile the pounders have to take refreshment, and tea is drunk almost incessantly, for Tibetans are great tea-drinkers. The grave-diggers, or priests, prepare tea, or help themselves to baked flour, with their hands splashed over with a mash of human flesh and bones, for they never wash their hands before they prepare tea or take food, the most they do being to clap their hands, so as to get rid of the coarser fragments. And thus they take a good deal of minced human flesh, bones or brain, mixed with their tea or flour. They do so with perfect nonchalance; in fact, they have no idea whatever how really abominable and horrible their practice is, for they are accustomed to it. When I suggested that they might wash their hands before taking refreshment, they looked at me with an air of surprise. They scoffed at my suggestion, and even observed that eating with unwashed hands really added relish to food; besides, the spirit of the dead man would be satisfied when he saw them take fragments of his mortal remains with their food without aversion. It has been stated that the Tibetans are descendants of the Rākshasa tribe—a tribe of fiendish cannibals who used to feed on human flesh; and what I witnessed at the burial convinced me that, even at the present day, they retained the horrible habit of their ancestors.

-- Three Years in Tibet, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi
Site Admin
Posts: 36190
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:19 am


The Lamas reserve to themselves the exclusive right to act in "the Mystery-Play," with its manifestations of the gods and demons, by awe-inspiring masks, etc., while they relegate to lay actors the sacred dramas, illustrating the former births of Buddha and other saints, the Jatakas.

"The Mystery-Play of Tibet," the name by which the acted pageant of the Lamas is known to many Europeans, has been seen by several travellers in Tibet and adjoining Lamaist lands; but the plot and motive of the play seem never to have been very definitely ascertained, owing, doubtless, to the cumbrous details which so thickly overlay it, and the difficulty of finding competent interpreters of the plot, as well as the conflicting accounts current amongst the Lamas themselves in regard to its origin and meaning...

Originally it appears to have been a devil-dancing cult for exorcising malignant demons and human enemies, and associated with human sacrifice and, probably, cannibalism.

Afterwards, during the Buddhist era, the devil-dance, like that of the Ceylonese, was given a Buddhist dress, which was not difficult, as somewhat analogous displays representing the temptation of Buddha, seem to be found in Indian Buddhism, as seen in the annexed figure of a frieze from Gandhara...

The unsophisticated Tibetans still call the mystery-play the "Dance of the Red-Tiger Devil," a deity of the Bon or pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet. The original motive of the dance appears to have been to expel the old year with its demons of ill-luck, and to propitiate with human sacrifice and probably cannibalism the war-god and the guardian spirits, most of whom are demonified kings and heroes, in order to secure good-luck and triumph over enemies in the incoming year.

Human sacrifice seems undoubtedly to have been regularly practised in Tibet up till the dawn there of Buddhism in the seventh century A.D. The glimpses which we get of early Tibet through the pages of contemporary Chinese history, show, as Dr. Bushell translates, that "at the new year they (the Tibetans) sacrifice men or offer monkeys," and so late as the seventh century the annual rites in connection with the defence of their country were triennially accompanied by human sacrifice.

Actual cannibalism is, indeed, attributed to the early Tibetans, and the survival of certain customs lends strong colour to the probability of such a practice having been current up till about the middle ages. The Tibetans themselves claim descent from a man-eating ancestry, and they credit their wilder kinsmen and neighbours of the lower Tsang-po valley with anthrophagous habits even up to the present day.

Vestiges of cannibalism appear to be preserved in the mystery-play. And of similar character seems to be the common practice of eating a portion of the human skin covering the thigh-bone in preparing the bone trumpets, and also, probably, of like origin is the common Tibetan oath of affirmation, "By my father's and mother's flesh."

The Lamas... replaced the human victims by anthropomorphic effigies of dough, into which were inserted models of the larger organs, and also fluid red pigment to represent the blood. This substitution of dough images for the living sacrifices of the Bon rites is ascribed by tradition to St. Padma-sambhava in the second half of the eighth century A.D. And these sacrificial dough-images, of more or less elaborate kinds, now form an essential part of the Lamaist daily service of worship.

The Lamas also, as it seems to me, altered the motive of the play to hang upon it their own sacerdotal story for their own glorification and priestly gain. Retaining the festival with its Bacchanalian orgies for expelling the old year and ushering in good-luck for the new, they also retained the cutting-up of their enemies in effigy; but they made the plot represent the triumph of the Indian missionary monks (Acarya) under St. Padma-sambhava over the indigenous paganism with its hosts of malignant fiends and the black-hat devil-dancers, and also over the Chinese heretics.

The voracious man-eating devils of Tibet were mostly assimilated to the Sivaite type of fiend in mediaeval Indian Buddhism, with which they had so much in common. And the title was accordingly altered from tag-mar; "the (dance) of the red Tiger (devil)" to its homonym tag-mar (spelt drag-dmar), or "the red fierce ones." Thus Yama, the Death-king, and his minions form a most attractive feature of the play, for it is made to give the lay spectators a very realistic idea of the dreadful devils from whom the Lamas deliver them; and they are familiarized with the appearance of these demons who, according to the Lamas, beset the path along which the disembodied soul must hereafter pass to paradise.

As this tragedy is so intimately identified with Padma-sambhava, the founder of Lamaism, it is acted in its most gorgeous style on the birthday of that saint, namely, on the tenth day of the fifth Tibetan month.

But latterly both plot and date were again altered by the established church of Tibet, the Ge-lug-pa sect. This reformed sect, which dissociates itself as far as possible from St. Padmasambhava, who now is so intimately identified with the unreformed sects, transferred the festival from the end of the old Tibetan year, that is the eleventh month of the present style, to the end of its own year according to the new official year.

And it has also, in its version, altered the motive of the tragedy, so as to make it represent the assassination of the Julian of Lamaism (Lan-darma) by a Lama disguised as a Shamanist dancer, and this is followed by the restoration of the religion by the aid of Indian and Chinese monks, and the subsequent triumph of Lamaism, with its superior sorcery derived from Buddhist symbolism...

But even as thus adapted by the established church, the purest of all the Lamaist sects, the play still retains, as will be presently shown, the devil-dancing Shamanist features, as well as vestiges of human sacrifice, if not of actual cannibalism.

Let us first look at the mystery-play or tragedy as acted by the Lamas of the old school, at Himis, in Ladak, in Sikhim, Bhotan, etc., and afterwards refer to the versions as acted by the reformed and established church...

When acted at the end of the year it forms part of the ceremony called "The sacrificial body of the dead year," and is held on the last two or three days of the old year, from the 28th to the 30th of the twelfth month. As the performance is conducted at the Himis monastery, in Ladak, in a much grander style than was witnessed by me in Sikhim, and more in the style seen in Tibet, and as it has been there witnessed and described by several travellers," I shall take the Himis performance as the basis of my description, and amplify the descriptions of it where necessary.

As the day for the play draws near, the villagers flock in from the country-side; and on the morning of the day fixed for the performance, the people, decked in holiday attire, throng to the temple many hours before that fixed for the performance, to secure good points of view. Seats are provided and reserved only for the gentry and high officials and visitors. The king and other grandees have state boxes.

The performance is held al fresco in the courtyard of the temple (see the photograph on page 528). The orchestra is sometimes screened off from view, and the maskers assemble either in the temple or in yak-hair tents, and are treated to refreshments often, and soup between the acts.

A shrill bugle-call, from a trumpet made out of a human thigh-bone, notifies the commencement of the play.

The gongs and shawms strike up a wailing sort of air, which the musicians accompany by a low chant, and out come trooping a crowd of the pre-Lamaist black-mitred priests, clad in rich robes of China silk and brocade, and preceded by swingers of censers. They make the mystic sign of "The Three," and execute a stately dance to slow music.

Stretching out the right hand and left alternately, the leaders turn to the right, and the last in line to the left, both advancing and retiring towards each other several times, and, reforming the circle and making the sign of the Trident, they retire.

After these have gone out, then enter a troupe of the man-eating malignant demons, who, with their hordes, vex and harass humanity. They infest the air, the earth, the water, and are constantly seeking to destroy man, not unlike their better-known relative, who, "as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." These hordes of demons are intended to illustrate the endless oppression of man by the powers of evil, against whom he can of himself do nothing, but occasionally the exorcisms or prayers of some good Lama or incarnator may come to his assistance and shield him, but even then only after a fierce and doubtful contest between the saints and the devils. And only for a time, too, can this relief from persecution endure, for all the exorcisms of all the saints are of little avail to keep back the advancing hordes. The shrieking demons must close in upon the soul again...

"In their right hand they hold a bell or fan, and in their left a bowl cut out of a human skull, and round the edge of which are attached narrow streamers of silk and some plaited ends of hair. This ghastly ladle is called Bundah. Some of the maskers hold in the right hand a short stick, with red and blue streamers of silk; these and the spoons majestically waved about as they go round in their solemn dance had the most curious effect I ever saw."

To these monsters (now coerced by Buddhism) the Lamas offer a libation of beer, and some rice or mustard-seed, and to all the beings of the six classes, and especially including the demons, and the rice or seeds are thrown about freely; and each Lama present inwardly prays for the realization of his desire.

At a signal from the cymbals the large trumpets (eight or ten feet long) and the other instruments, pipes and drums, etc., and shrill whistling (with the fingers in the mouth), produce a deafening din to summon the noxious demons and the enemies. "The music became fast and furious, and troop after troop of different masks rushed on, some beating wooden tambourines, others swelling the din with rattles and bells. All of these masks were horrible, and the malice of infernal beings was well expressed on some of them. As they danced to the wild music with strange steps and gesticulations, they howled in savage chorus. . . . The solemn chanting ceased, and then rushed on the scene a crowd of wan shapes, almost naked, with but a few rags about them. . . . They wrung their hands despairingly, and rushed about in a confused way as if lost, starting from each other in terror when they met, sometimes feeling about them with their outstretched hands like blind men, and all the while whistling in long-drawn notes, which rose and fell like a strong wind on the hills, producing an indescribably dreary effect. These, I was told, represented the unfortunate souls of dead men which had been lost in space, and were vainly seeking their proper sphere through the darkness. . . . The variously masked figures of Spirits of Evil flocked in, troop after troop — oxen-headed and serpent-headed devils; three-eyed monsters with projecting fangs, their heads crowned with tiaras of human skulls; Lamas painted and masked to represent skeletons; dragon-faced fiends, naked save for tiger-skins about their loins, and many others. Sometimes they appeared to be taunting and terrifying the stray souls of men -- grim shapes who fled hither and thither among their tormentors, waving their arms and wailing miserably, souls who had not obtained Nirvana and yet who had no incarnation ...Then the demons were repelled again by holy men; but no sooner did these last exorcise one hideous band than other crowds came shrieking on. It was a hopeless conflict. . . . At one period of the ceremony a holy man . . . blessed a goblet of water by laying his hands on it and intoning some prayer or charm. Then he sprinkled the water in all directions, and the defeated demons stayed their shrieking, dancing, and infernal music, and gradually crept out of the arena, and no sound was heard for a time but the sweet singing of the holy choir. But the power of exorcism was evanescent, for the routed soon returned in howling shoals."

The superior effect of Buddhism over the indigenous Shamanism is now shown by the arrival on the scene of the Indian monk, Padma-sambhava, and his assistants, or his eight forms; or sometimes these are represented as Buddha himself, or the group of the "Seven Buddhas."

This scene is thus described: "The loud music suddenly ceased, and all the demons scampered off shrieking as if in fear, for a holy thing was approaching. To solemn chanting, low music and swinging of censers, a stately procession came through the porch of the temple and slowly descended the steps. Under a canopy, borne by attendants, walked a tall form in beautiful silk robes, wearing a large mask representing a benign and peaceful face. As he advanced, men and boys, dressed as abbots and acolytes of the church of Rome, prostrated themselves before him and addressed him with intoning and pleasing chanting. He was followed by six other masks, who were treated with similar respect. These seven deified beings drew themselves in a line on one side of the quadrangle and received the adoration of several processions of masked figures, some of abbots, and others beast-headed, or having the faces of devils."

These last are the demon-kings who have been coerced by Buddhism into becoming guardians and defensores fidei of that religion. And amongst the worshippers are the Pa-wo or "heroes" with green masks, surmounted by triangular red flags, and girdles, and anklets of bells; and the solemnity is relieved by a few Acaryas, or jesters, who play practical jokes, and salute the holy personages with mock respect.

The enemy of Tibet and of Lamaism is now represented in effigy, but before cutting it to pieces, it is used to convey to the people a vivid conception of the manner in which devils attack a corpse, and the necessity for priestly services of a quasi-Buddhist sort to guard it and its soul.

Some days previous to the commencement of the play, an image of a young lad is made out of dough, in most elaborate fashion, and as life-like as possible. Organs representing the heart, lungs, liver, brain, stomach, intestines, etc., are inserted into it, and the heart and large blood-vessels and limbs are filled with a red-coloured fluid to represent blood. And occasionally, I am informed on good authority, actual flesh from the corpses of criminals is inserted into the image used in this ceremony at the established church of Potala.

This effigy of the enemy is brought forth by the four cemetery-ghouls, and laid in the centre of the square, and freely stabbed by the weapons, and by the gestures and spells of the circling hosts of demons, as in the illustration here given.

The necromantic power of the Lamas is here shown much in the same way as in the Burmese sacred play at Arakan. On three signals with the cymbals, two Indian monks (Acaryas) come out of the monastery, and blow their horns and go through a series of droll antics, and are followed by two or more Lamas who draw around the effigy on the pavement of the quadrangle a magic triangle and retire. Then rush in the ghosts, death-demons, "figures painted black and white to simulate skeletons, some in chains, others bearing sickles or swords, engaged in a frantic dance around the corpse. They were apparently attempting to snatch it away or inflict some injury on it, but were deterred by the magic effect of the surrounding triangle and by the chanting and censer-swinging of several holy men in mitred and purple copes. . . .

"A more potent and very ugly fiend, with great horns on his head and huge lolling tongue, ran in, hovered threateningly over the corpse, and with a great sword slashed furiously about it, just failing by little more than a hair's-breadth to touch it with each sweep of the blade. He seemed as if he were about to overcome the opposing enchantment when a saint of still greater power than he now came to the rescue. The saint approached the corpse and threw a handful of flour on it, making mystic signs and muttering incantations. This appeared from his mask to be one of the incarnations of Buddha. He had more control over the evil spirits than any other who had yet contended with them. The skeletons, and also he that bore the great sword, grovelled before him, and with inarticulate and beast-like cries implored mercy. He yielded to their supplications, gave each one a little of the flour he carried with him, which the fiends ate gratefully, kneeling before him; and he also gave them to drink out of a vessel of holy water."

This usually concludes one day's performance. On the following day adoration is paid to the Jina... And then occurs the ceremony of stabbing the enemy by the phurbu or mystic dagger.

Four ghouls bring in an object wrapped in a black cloth, and placing it on the ground, dance round it with intricate steps, then raising the cloth disclose a prone image of a man, which has been made in the manner previously described.

Then enter the demon-generals and kings, including the demon Tam-din, and they dance around the image. They are followed by the fiendesses, including the twelve Tan-ma, under Devi. These are followed by the black-hat devil-dancers, and these are, in the established church version, held to represent the Lama who assumed this disguise to assassinate king Lan-darma. The four guards now hold the door to prevent entry of any enemies or evil spirits. The black-hats dance round thrice and are succeeded by the god of Wealth, fiendesses, and butchers, the five great "kings," and their queens and ministers, also the state sorcerer of Na-ch'un, and his eight-fold attendants.

Then enters a fearful fiend named "The holy king of Religion," with the head of a bull, holding in his right hand a dagger with silk streamers, and in his left a human heart (in effigy) and a snare, attended by a retinue of fiends and fiendesses, bearing weapons and dressed in skins, human beings, tigers and leopards; and the last to enter are tiger-skin-clad warriors with bows and arrows...

The King-devil, surrounded by his fiendish hordes, dances and makes with dagger the gesture of "The Three"; he stabs the heart, arms and legs of the figure, and binds its feet by the snare. He then rings a bell, and seizing a sword, chops off the limbs and slits open the breast and extracts the bleeding heart, lungs and intestines.

A troupe of monsters, with the heads of deer and yaks, rush in and gore the remains and scatter the fragments with their horns and hands to the four directions.

Underling fiends now collect the fragments into a huge silver basin shaped like a skull, which four of them carry to the Demon-king in a pompous procession, in which the black-hat devil-dancers join. The Demon-king then seizes the bleeding fragments, and, eating a morsel, throws them up in the air, when they are caught and fought for by the other demons, who throw the pieces about in a frantic manner, and ultimately throwing them amongst the crowd, which now takes part in the orgie, and a general melee results, each one scrambling for morsels of the fragments, which some eat and others treasure as talismans against wounds, diseases and misfortunes….

A burnt sacrifice is now made by the Demon-king. He pours oil into a cauldron, under which a fire is lit, and when the oil is boiling, he ties to the end of a stick which he holds an image of a man made of paper, and he puts into the boiling oil a skull filled with a mixture of arak (rum), poison, and blood, and into this he puts the image; and when the image bursts into flame, he declares that all the injuries have been consumed.

This rite is followed by a procession to abandon a large three-headed image of dough, to the top of which many threads and streamers are tied. This procession of monks is preceded by the maskers, numbering several hundreds in the larger monasteries, clanging noisy cymbals and blowing thigh-bone trumpets, etc. The laity follow in the rear, brandishing guns and other weapons, and shouting "Drag-ge-pun c'am." And when the image is abandoned the crowd tear it to pieces and eagerly fight for the fragments, which are treasured as charms. A gun is then fired amid general shouts of joy, and the Lamas return to the temple for a celebration of worship.

-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism With Its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology, and in its Relation to Indian Buddhism, by Laurence Austine Waddell, M.B., F.L.S., F.R.G.S.

In the Vedas, this general “devouring logic” led to the conception that the gods nourished themselves from the life fluids of ritually slaughtered humans, just as mortals consume the bodies of animals for energy and nourishment. Thus, a critical-rational section of the Upanishads advises against such human sacrifices, since they do not advance individual enlightenment, but rather benefit only the blood-hungry supernatural beings.

Life and death imply one another in this logic, the one being a condition for the other. The whole circle of life was therefore a huge sacrificial feast, consisting of the mutual theft and absorption of energies, a great cosmic dog-eat-dog. Although early Buddhism gave vent to keen criticism of the Vedic rites, especially the slaughter of people and animals, the ancient sacrificial mindset resurfaces in tantric ritual life. The “devouring logic” of the Vedas also controls the Tantrayana. Incidentally, the word tantra is first found in the context of the Vedic sacrificial gnosis, where it means ‘sacrificial framework’ (Smith, 1989, p. 128).

Sacred cannibalism was always communion, holy union with the Spirit and the souls of the dead. It becomes Eucharistic communion when the sacrifice is a slaughtered god, whose followers eat of him at a supper. God and man are first one when the man or woman has eaten of the holy body and drunk the holy blood of his or her god. The same applies in the relation to the goddess. The tantric yogi unites with her not just in the sexual act, but above all through consuming her holy gynergy, the magical force of maya. Sometimes, as we shall see, he therefore drinks his partner’s menstrual blood. Only when the feminine blood also pulses in his own veins will he be complete, an androgyne, a lord of both sexes.

To gain the “gynergy” for himself, the yogi must “kill” the possessor of the vital feminine substances and then “incorporate” her. Such an act of violence does not necessarily imply the real murder of his mudra, it can also be performed symbolically. But a real ritual murder of a woman is by like measure not precluded, and it is not surprising that occasional references can be found in the Vajrayana texts which blatantly and unscrupulously demand the actual killing of a woman. In a commentary on the Hevajra Tantra, at a point where a lower-caste wisdom consort (dombi) is being addressed, states bluntly, “I kill you, O Dombi, I take your life!” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 159).

Sati or the sacred inaugural sacrifice:

In any case, in all the rituals of the Highest Tantra initiations a symbolic female sacrifice is set in scene. From numerous case studies in cultural and religious history we are aware that an “archaic first event”, an “inaugural sacred murder” may be hiding behind such symbolic stagings. This “original event”, in which a real wisdom consort was ritually killed, need in no sense be consciously acknowledged by the following generations and cult participants who only perform the sacrifice in their imaginations or as holy theater. As the French anthropologist René Girard convincingly argues in his essay on Violence and the Sacred, the original murderous deed is normally no longer fully recalled during later symbolic performances. But it can also not become totally forgotten. It is important that the violent origin of their sacrificial rite be shrouded in mystery for the cult participant. “To maintain its structural force, the inaugural violence must not make an appearance”, claims Girard (Girard, 1987, p. 458). Only thus can the participants experience that particular emotionally laden and ambivalent mixture of crime and mercy, guilt and atonement, violence and satisfaction, shuddering and repression which first lends the numinous aura of holiness to the cult events.

It thus seems appropriate to examine Tantric Buddhism for signs of such an “inaugural sacrifice”. In this connection, we would like to draw attention to a Shiva myth, which has nonetheless had an influence on the history of the Buddhist tantras.

In the mythical past, Sati was the consort of the god Shiva. When her father Daksa was planning a great sacrificial feast, he failed to invite his daughter and son-in-law. Unbidden, Sati nonetheless attended the feast and was deeply insulted by Daksa. Filled with shame and anger she threw herself upon the burning sacrificial altar and died. (In another version of the story she alone was invited and cremated herself when she heard that her spouse was barred from the feast.) Shiva, informed of the death of his wife, hurried at once to the scene of the tragedy and decapitated Daksa. He then took the body of his beloved Sati, laid her across his shoulders and began a funeral procession across all India. The other gods wanted to free him from the corpse and set about dismembering it, piece by piece, without Shiva noticing what they were doing.

The places where the fragments fell were destined to become holy sites known as Shakta pithas. There where Sati’s vulva came to land the most sacred location was established. In some texts there is talk of 24, in others of 108 pithas, the latter being the holy number of Buddhism. At Sati’s numerous graves cemeteries were set up forthwith, at which the people cremated their dead. Around these locations developed a many-sided, and as we shall see, extremely macabre death culture, which was nurtured by Tantrics of all schools (including the Buddhist variety).

In yet another version of the Sati legend, the corpse of Shiva’s wife contained a “small cog — a symbol of manifest time -, [which] destroyed the body of the goddess from the inside out. ... [It] was then dismembered into 84 fragments which fell to earth at the various holy sites of India” (Hutin, 1971, p. 67). This is indeed a remarkable variant on the story, since the number of famous Maha Siddhas (Grand Sorcerers), who in both the Buddhist and Hindu tradition introduced Tantrism to India as a new religious practice, is 84. These first Tantrics chose the Shakta pithas as the central locations for their rituals. Some of them, the Nath Siddhas, claimed Sati had sacrificed herself for them and had given them her blood. For this reason they clothed themselves in red robes (White, 1996, p. 195). Likewise, one of the many Indian cemetery legends tells how five of the Maha Siddhas emerged from the cremated corpse of a goddess named Adinatha (White, 1996, p. 296). It can be assumed that this is also a further variation on the Sati legend.

It is not clear from the tale whether the goddess committed a sacrificial suicide or whether she was the victim of a cruel murder. Sati’s voluntary leap into the flames seems to indicate the former; her systematic dismemberment the latter.
A “criminological” investigation of the case on the basis of the story alone, i.e., without reference to other considerations, is impossible, since the Sati legend must itself be regarded as an expression of the mystifying ambivalence which, according to René Girard, veils every inaugural sacrifice. All that is certain is that all of the originally Buddhist (!) Vajrayana’s significant cult locations were dedicated to the dismembered Hindu Sati.

Earlier, however, claims the Indologist D. C. Sircar, famous relics of the “great goddess” were said to be found at the Shakta pithas. At the heart of her cult stood the worship of her yoni (‘vagina’) (Sircar, 1973, p. 8). We can only concur with this opinion, yet we must also point out that the majority of the matriarchal cults of which we are aware also exhibited a phallic orientation. Here the phallus did not signalize a symbol of male dominance, but was instead a toy of the “great goddess”, with which she could sexual-magically manipulate men and herself obtain pleasure.

There are also prehistoric images that appear to purposefully combine male and female sexual characteristics, including Neolithic figurines said to have a "tall, phallic neck and head," which are described by feminist matriarchalists as "phallic goddesses." Feminist matriarchalists are quite careful to state that the presence of phallic features -- or even, in some cases, a phallus itself -- does not detract from the overwhelming femaleness of prehistoric anthropomorphic images. As Gimbutas explains, these images "do not represent a fusion of two sexes but rather an enhancement of the female with the mysterious life force inherent in the phallus." Impressively then, even what one might think to be the most obvious signifier of maleness -- the penis -- is assimilated to femaleness in some feminist matriarchalists' interpretation of prehistoric anthropomorphic images.

The most dramatic example of this assimilation is the feminist matriarchalist reading of Paleolithic "batons." The most popular of these batons has an honored place in feminist matriarchalist iconography, turning up frequently in the first pages or slides devoted to Paleolithic images of the goddess. In spite of its striking resemblance to a phallus, feminist matriarchalists label the Dolni vestonice baton an "abstract female with breasts," "shaft with breasts," or "ivory rod with breasts," and describe it as a "portable shrine," an image of "nurturance reduced to its stylized essence" (see Fig. 7.8). But as archaeologist Timothy Taylor declares, "it seems disingenuous to avoid the most obvious and straightforward interpretation" that these are "phallic objects." Indeed, some of them, at a length of six to eight inches, are hard to mistake for anything else (see Fig. 7.9).

Feminist matriarchalists also routinely take note of the existence of "breast pendants" or "breast beads" from Paleolithic Europe. Gimbutas describes these as an "abstract rendering of the female principle," composed solely of "two breasts at the base of a conical neck." This has long been the standard archaeological reading of these images, but archaeologist Alice Kehoe points out that the back of the pendant "exhibits a carefully carved projection through which is a hole," which Kehoe suspects "was designed for a suspension string." When hung on a string the "breast pendant" seems instead "to be an erect human penis and testicles" (see Fig. 7.10). Other objects are similarly ambiguous, their interpretation largely dependent on the angle from which they are viewed. For example, a "seated figure" from Late Neolithic Cyprus viewed from the back appears strikingly phallic. But the top view could be read as a vulva, and from the front or side, it resembles a seated figure with bent knees and tiny feet. Its sexual ambiguity could be an intentional statement of its artist, or, quite plausibly, it may be an artificial penis, equipped with a convenient handle (see Fig. 7. 11).

Feminist matriarchalists would object to this interpretation not so much because they find a prehistoric image of a phallus difficult to incorporate into their picture of goddess-oriented prehistory (we have seen that this is not the case), but because a dildo is not immediately apprehended as a sacred object. And for feminist matriarchalists, everything in prehistoric art -- and indeed all of prehistoric life -- is sacred, practically by definition. Feminist matriarchalists assert again and again that contemporary archaeologists fail to understand the meaning of prehistoric art because they cannot comprehend its religious nature. Were our ancestors so steeped in the sacred that every image they produced could not help but reveal their deepest values, the objects of their greatest reverence? Gimbutas, who seems to view every cup as a ritual vessel for pouring libations to the goddess, would probably say yes. But there is evidence to the contrary. Contemporary groups, known to us through the work of ethnographers, create decorative art, producing images that they insist have no sacred or ritual intent. In a particularly interesting case from the island of Madagascar, ethnographers tried for years to decipher the deep symbolic meaning of the low reliefs of geometrical patterns which the Zafimaniry people carve into the wooden shutters and posts of their homes. When asked, informants proved refractory, insisting that "they were pictures of nothing," that they were merely making "the wood beautiful."...

Feminist matriarchalists sometimes say that the palaces of Minoan Crete, like the temples of Malta, replicate the body of the goddess on a grand scale. The palaces are "sited on a north-south axis facing a conical hill and beyond that a horned mountain containing a cave." According to Mimi Lobell, "the valley was her encircling arms; the conical hill, her breast or nurturing function; the horned mountain, her 'lap' or cleft vulva, the Earth's active power, and the cave sanctuary, her birth-giving womb." The resemblance is something less than striking: breasts typically come in pairs and horned mountains sound more phallic than vaginal, the caves notwithstanding...

The misogyny evident in Greek literature permeated Greek society. Women in classical Athens were under the guardianship of one male or another for their entire lives. Married free-born women were confined to their houses -- actually to one portion of the house designated for women, the gynaecaeum. Fathers had the right to expose their newborn children, and more girls than boys were left to die in this manner. Heterosexual sex was understood as "an unequal transaction by which woman steals man's substance," and so men were better advised to have sexual relations with one another. As Eva Keuls sums up classical Athens: "In the case of a society dominated by men who sequester their wives and daughters, denigrate the female role in reproduction, erect monuments to male genitalia, have sex with the sons of their peers, sponsor public whorehouses, create a mythology of rape, and engage in rampant saber-rattling, it is not inappropriate to refer to a reign of the phallus."

-- The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future, by Cynthia Eller

We also think it important to note that the practices of Indian gynocentric cults were in no way exempt from sacrificial obsession. In contrast, there is a comprehensive literature which reports the horrible rites performed at the Shakta pithas in honor of the goddess Kali. Her followers bowed down before her as the “consumer of raw meat”, who was constantly hungry for human sacrifices. The individuals dedicated to her were first fed up until they were sufficiently plump to satisfy the goddess’s palate. On particular feast days the victims were decapitated in her copper temple (Sircar, 1973, p. 16).

Naturally we can only speculate that the “dismemberment of the goddess” in the Sati myth might be a masculine reaction to the original fragmentation of the masculine god by the gynocentric Kali. But this murderous reciprocity must not be seen purely as an act of revenge. In both cases it is a matter of the increased life energy which is to be achieved by the sacrifice of the opposite sex. In so doing, the “revolutionary” androcentric yogis made use of a similar ritual praxis and symbolism to the aggressive female followers of the earlier matriarchy, but with reversed premises. For example, the number 108, so central to Buddhism, is a reminder of the 108 names under which the great goddess was worshipped (Sircar, 1973, p. 25).

The fire sacrifice of the dakini:

The special feature of Greek sacrificial rites lay in the combination of burning and eating, of blood rite and fire altar. In pre-Buddhist, Vedic India rituals involving fire were also the most common form of sacrifice. Humans, animals, and plants were offered up to the gods on the altar of flame. Since every sacrifice was supposed to simulate among other things the dismemberment of the first human, Prajapati, it always concerned a “symbolic human sacrifice”, even when animal or plant substitutes were used.

At first the early Buddhists adopted a highly critical attitude towards such Vedic practices and rejected them outright, in stark opposition to Vajrayana later, in which they were to regain central significance. Even today, fire pujas are among the most frequent rituals of Tantric Buddhism. The origin of these Buddhist “flame masses” from the Vedas becomes obvious when it is noted that the Vedic fire god Agni appears in the Buddhist tantras as the “Consumer of Offerings”. This is even true of the Tibetans.
In this connection, Helmut von Glasenapp describes one of the final scenes from the large-scale Kalachakra ritual, which the Panchen Lama performed in Beijing 1932: A “woodpile was set alight and the fire god invited to take his place in the eight-leafed lotus which stood in the middle of the fireplace. Once he had been offered abundant sacrifices, Kalachakra was invited to come hither from his mandala and to become one with the fire god” (von Glasenapp, 1940, p. 142). Thus the time god and the fire unite.

Burning Dakinis

The symbolic burning of “sacrificial goddesses” is found in nearly every tantra. It represents every possible characteristic, from the human senses to various states of consciousness. The elements (fire, water, etc.) and individual bodily features are also imagined in the form of “sacrificial goddesses”. With the pronouncement of a powerful magic formula they all perish in the fire. In what is known as the Vajrayogini ritual, the pupil sacrifices several inana mudras to a red fire god who rides a goat. The chief goddess, Vajrayogini, appears here with “a red-colored body which shines with a brilliance like that of the fire of the aeon” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 443). In the Guhyasamaya Tantra the goddesses even fuse together in a fiery ball of light in order to then serve as a sacrifice to the Supreme Buddha. Here the adept also renders malignant women harmless through fire: “One makes the burnt offerings within a triangle. ... If one has done this three days long, concentrating upon the target of the women, then one can thus ward them off, even for the infinity of three eons” (Gäng, 1988, p. 225). A “burning woman” by the name of Candali plays such a significant role in the Kalachakra initiations that we devote an entire chapter to later. In this context we also examine the “ignition of feminine energy”, a central event along the sexual magic initiation path of Tantrism.

In Buddhist iconography, the tantric initiation goddesses, the dakinis are represented dancing within a fiery circle of flame. These are supernatural female beings encountered by the yogi on his initiatory journey who assist him in his spiritual development, but with whom he can also fall into serious conflict.
Translated, dakini means “sky-going one” or “woman who flies” or “sky dancer”. (Herrmann-Pfand, 1996, pp. 68, 38). In Buddhism the name appeared around 400 C.E.

The German Tibetologist Albert Grünwedel was his whole life obsessed with the idea that the “heaven/sky walkers” were once human “wisdom companions”, who, after they had been killed in a fire ritual, continued to function in the service of the tantric teachings as female spirit beings (genies). He saw in the dakinis the “souls of murdered mudras” banished by magic, and believed that after their sacrificial death they took to haunting as Buddhist ghosts (Grünwedel, 1933, p. 5). Why, he asked, do the dakinis always hold skull cups and cleavers in their hands in visual representations? Obviously, as can be read everywhere, to warn the initiands against the transient and deceptive world of samsara and to cut them off from it. But Grünwedel sees this in a completely different light: For him, just as the saints display the instruments of their martyrdom in Christian iconography, so too the tantric goddesses demonstrate their mortal passing with knives and skulls; like their European sisters, the witches, with whom they have so much in common, they are to be burnt at the stake (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 41) Grünwedel traces the origin of this female sacrifice back to the marked misogyny of the early phase of Buddhism: “The insults [thrown at] the woman sound dreadful. ... The body of the woman is a veritable cauldron of hell, the woman a magical form of the demons of destruction” (Grünwedel, 1924, vol. 2, p. 29).

One could well shrug at the speculations of this German Tibetologist and Asian researcher. As far as they are understood symbolically, they do not contradict tantric orthodoxy in the slightest, which even teaches the destruction of the “external” feminine as an article of faith. As we have seen, the sacrificial goddesses are burnt symbolically. Some tantras even explicitly confirm Grünwedel’s thesis that the dakinis were once “women of flesh and blood”, who were later transformed into “spirit beings” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 121). Thus she was sacrificed as a karma mudra, a human woman in order to then be transformed into an inana mudra, an imaginary woman. But the process did not end here, then the inana mudra still had an existence external to the adept. She also needed to be “sacrificed” in order to create the “inner woman”, the maha mudra. A passage from the Candamaharosana Tantra thus plainly urges the adept: “Threaten, threaten, kill, kill, slay slay all Dakinis!” (quoted by George, 1974, p. 64)

But what is the intent behind a fiery dakini sacrifice? The same as that behind all the other tantric rituals, namely the absorption of gynergy upon which to found the yogi’s omnipotence. Here the longed-for feminine elixir has its own specific names. The adept calls it the “heart blood of the dakini”, the “essence of the dakini’s heart”, the “life-heart of the dakini” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 342). “Via the ‘conversion’ the Dakinis become protectors of the religion, once they have surrendered their ‘life-heart’ to their conqueror”, a tantra text records (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 204).

This “surrender of the heart” can often be brutal. For example, a Tibetan story tells of how the yogini Magcig declares that she is willing for her breast to be slit open with a knife — whether in reality or just imagination remains unclear. Her heart was then taken out, “and whilst the red blood — drip, drip — flowed out”, laid in a skull bowl. Then the organ was consumed by five dakinis who were present. Following this dreadful heart operation Magcig had transformed herself into a dakini (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 164). As macabre as this story is, on the other hand it shows that the tantric female sacrifice need not necessarily be carried out against the will of woman to be sacrificed. In contrast, the yogini often surrenders her heart-blood voluntarily because she loves her master. Like Christ, she lets herself be crucified for love. But her guru may never let this love run free. He has a sacred duty to control the feelings of the heart, and the power to manipulate them.

In the dakini’s heart lies the secret of enlightenment and thus of universal power.
She is the “Queen of Hearts”, who — like Diana, Princess of Wales — must undergo a violent “sacrificial death” in order to then shine as the pure ideal of the monarchy (the “autocratic rule” of the yogis). Lama Govinda also makes reference to a fiery sacrificial apotheosis of the dakini when he proclaims in a vision that all feminine forces are concentrated in the sky walkers, “until focused on a point as if through a lens they kindle to a supreme heat and become the holy flame of inspiration which leads to perfect enlightenment” (Govinda, 1991, p. 231). It need not be said that here the inspiration and enlightenment of the male tantra master alone is meant and not that of his female sacrifice.


The “tantric female sacrifice” has found a sublime and many-layered expression in what is known as the “Vajrayogini rite”, which we would like to examine briefly because of its broad distribution among the Tibetan lamas. Vajrayogini is the most important female divine figure in the highest yogic practices of Tibetan Buddhism. The goddess is worshipped as, among other things, “Mistress of the World”, the “Mother of all Buddhas”, “Queen of the Dakinis”, and a “Powerful Possessor of Knowledge”. Her reverential cult is so unique in androcentric Lamaism that a closer examination has much to recommend it. In so doing we draw upon a document on Vajrayogini praxis by the Tibetan lama Kelsang Gyatso.

This tantric ritual, centered upon a principal female figure, begins like all others, with the pupil’s adoration of the guru. Seated upon two cushions which represent the sun and moon, the master holds a vajra and a bell in his hands, thus emphasizing his androgyny and transsexual power.

Vajra Yogini in the burning circle

External, internal, and secret sacrifices are made to him and his lineage. Above all this concerns many imagined “sacrificial goddesses” which emanate from the pupil’s breast and from there enter the teacher’s heart. Among these are the goddesses of beauty, music, flowers, and light. With the “secret sacrifices” the sadhaka pronounces the following: “And I offer most attractive illusory mudras, a host of messengers born from places, born from mantra, and spontaneously born, with tender bodies, skilled in the 64 arts of love” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 250).

In the Vajrayogini praxis a total of three types of symbolic female sacrifice are distinguished. Two of these consist in the offering of inana mudras, that is of “spirit women”, who are drawn from the pupil’s imagination. In the third sacrificial offering he presents his teacher with a real sexual partner (karma mudra) (Gyatso, 1991, p. 88).

Once all the women have been presented to the guru and he has absorbed their energies, the image of the Vajrayogini arises in his heart. Her body appears in red and glows like the “apocalyptic fire”. In her right hand she holds a knife with a vajra-shaped handle, in her left a skull bowl filled with blood. She carries a magic wand across her shoulders, the tip of which is adorned with three tiny human heads. She wears a crown formed out of five skulls. A further fifty severed heads are linked in a chain which swings around her neck. Beneath her feet the Hindu divinity Shiva and the red Kalarati crouch in pain.

Thereupon her image penetrates the pupil, and takes possession of him, transforming him into itself via an internalized iconographic dramaturgy. That the sadhaka now represents the female divinity is considered a great mystery. Thus the master now whispers into his ear, “Now you are entering into the lineage of all yoginis. You should not mention these holy secrets of all the yoginis to those who have not entered the mandala of all the yoginis or those who have no faith” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 355). With divine pride the pupil replies, “I am the Enjoyment Body of Vajrayogini!” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 57) or simply and directly says, “I am Vajrayogini!” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 57). Then, as a newly arisen goddess he comes to sit face-to-face with his guru. Whether the latter now enjoys sexual union with the sadhaka as Vajrayogini cannot be determined from the available texts.

At any rate we must regard this artificial goddess as a female mask, behind which hides the male sadhaka who has assumed her form. He can of course set this mask aside again. It is impressive just how vivid and unadorned the description of this reverse transformation of the “Vajrayogini pupil” into his original form is: “With the clarity of Vajrayogini”, he says in one ritual text, “I give up my breasts and develop a penis. In the perfect place in the center of my vagina the two walls transform into bell-like testicles and the stamen into the penis itself” (Gyatso, 1991, p. 293).

Other sex-change transfigurations are also known from Vajrayogini praxis. Thus, for example, the teacher can play the role of the goddess and let his pupil take on the male role. He can also divide himself into a dozen goddesses — yet it is always men (the guru or his pupils) who play the female roles.


The dreadful Chinnamunda (Chinnamastra) ritual also refers to a “tantric female sacrifice”. At the center of this ritual drama we find a goddess (Chinnamunda) who decapitates herself. Iconographically, she is depicted as follows: Chinnamunda stands upright with the cleaver with which she has just decapitated herself clenched in her right hand. On her left, raised palm she holds her own head. Three thick streams of blood spurt up from the stump of her neck. The middle one curves in an arc into the mouth of her severed head, the other two flow into the mouths of two further smaller goddesses who flank Chinnamunda. She usually tramples upon one or more pairs of lovers. This bloody cult is distributed in both Tantric Buddhism and Hinduism.

According to one pious tale of origin, Chinnamunda severs her own head because her two servants complain of a great hunger which she is unable to assuage. The decapitation was thus motivated by great compassion with two suffering beings. It nevertheless appears grotesque that an individual like Chinnamunda, in possession of such extraordinary magical powers, would be forced to feed her companions with her own blood, instead of conjuring up an opulent meal for them with a spell. According to another, metaphysical interpretation, the goddess wanted to draw attention to the unreality of all being with her self-destructive deed. Yet even this philosophical platitude can barely explain the horrible scenario, although one is accustomed to quite a deal from the tantras. Is it not therefore reasonable to see a merciless representation of a “tantric female sacrifice” in the Chinnamunda myth? Or are we here dealing with an ancient matriarchal cult in which the goddess gives a demonstration of her triune nature and her indestructibility via an in the end “ineffectual” act of self-destruction?

This gynocentric thesis is reminiscent of an analysis of the ritual by Elisabeth Anne Benard, in which she explains Chinnamunda and her two companions to be an emanation of the triune goddess (Benard, 1994, p. 75). [1]

Chinnamunda is in no sense the sole victim in this macabre horror story; rather, she also extracts her life energies from out of the erotic love between the two sexes, just like a Buddhist tantra master. Indeed, in her canonized iconographic form she dances about upon one or two pairs of lovers, who in some depictions are engaged in sexual congress. The Indologist David Kinsley thus sums up the events in a concise and revealing equation: “Chinnamasta [Chinnamunda] takes life and vigor from the copulating couple, then gives it away lavishly by cutting off her own head to feed her devotees” (Kinsley, 1986, p. 175). Thus, a “sacrificial couple” and the theft of their love energy are to be found at the outset of this so difficult to interpret blood rite.

Yet the mystery remains as to why this particular drama, with its three female protagonists, was adopted into Tantric Buddhist meditative practices. We can see only two possible explanations for this. Firstly, that it represents an attempt by Vajrayana to incorporate within its own system every sacrificial magic element, regardless how bizarre, and even if it originated among the followers of a matriarchal cult. By appropriating the absolutely foreign, the yogi all the more conspicuously demonstrates his omnipotence. Since he is convinced of his ability to — in the final instance — play all gender roles himself and since he also believes himself a lord over life and death, he thus also regards himself as the master of this Chinnamunda “female ritual”. The second possibility is that the self-sacrifice of the goddess functions as a veiled reference to the “tantric female sacrifice” performed by the yogi, which is nonetheless capable of being understood by the initiated. [2]


The broad distribution of human sacrifice in nearly all cultures of the world has for years occasioned a many-sided discussion among anthropologists and psychologists of the most varied persuasions as to the social function and meaning of the “sacrificium humanum”. In this, reference has repeatedly been made to the double-meaning of the sacrificial act, which simultaneously performs both a destructive and a regulative function in the social order. The classic example for this is the sacrifice of the so-called “scapegoat”. In this case, the members of a community make use of magical gestures and spells to transfer all of their faults and impurities onto one particular person who is then killed. Through the destruction of the victim the negative features of the society are also obliterated. The psychologist Otto Rank sees the motivation for such a transference magic in, finally, the individual’s fear of death. (quoted by Wilber, 1990, p. 176).

Another sacrificial gnosis, particularly predominant in matriarchal cults presupposes that fertility can be generated through subjecting a person to a violent death or bleeding them to death. Processes from the world of vegetative nature, in which plants die back every year in order to return in spring, are simulated. In this view, death and life stand in a necessary relation to one another; death brings forth life.

A relation between fertility and human sacrifice is also formed in the ancient Indian culture of the Vedas. The earth and the life it supports, the entire universe in fact, were formed, according to the Vedic myth of origin, by the independent self-dismemberment of the holy adamic figure Prajapati. His various limbs and organs formed the building blocks of our world. But these lay unlinked and randomly scattered until the priests (the Brahmans) came and wisely recombined them through the constant performance of sacrificial rites. Via the sacrifices, the Brahmans guaranteed that the cosmos remained stable, and that gave them enormous social power.

All these aspects may, at least in general, contribute to the “tantric female sacrifice”, but the central factors are the two elements already mentioned:

The destruction of the feminine as a symbol of the highest illusion (Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism)

The sacrifice of the woman in order to absorb her gynergy (Tantrayana).

Let us close this chapter by once again summing up why the female sacrifice is essential for the tantric rite: Everything which opposes a detachment from this world, which is characterized by suffering and death, all the obscuring of Maya, the entire deception of samsara is the shameful work of woman. Her liquidation as an autonomous entity brings to nothing this world of appearances of ours. In the tantric logic of inversion, only transcending the feminine can lead to enlightenment and liberation from the hell of rebirth. It alone promises eternal life. The yogi may thus call himself a “hero” (vira), because he had the courage and the high arts needed to absorb the most destructive and most base being in the universe within himself, in order not just to render it harmless but to also transform it into positive energy for the benefit of all beings.

This “superhuman” victory over the “female disaster” convinced the Tantrics that the seed for a radical inversion into the positive is also hidden in all other negative deeds, substances, and individuals. The impure, the evil, and the criminal are thus the raw material from which the Vajra master tries to distill the pure, the good, and the holy.



[1] Elisabeth Anne Benard would like to clearly distinguish her interpretation from an androcentric reading of the ritual. She openly admits her feminist intentions and celebrates Chinnamunda as both a female “solar deity” and a “triune moon goddess”. She thus accords her gynandric control over the two heavenly bodies and both genders.

[2] The Tibetan texts which describe the rite of Chinnamunda, see in it a symbol for the three energy channels, with which the yogi experiments in his mystical body. (We will discuss this in detail later.) Hence, the famous scholar Taranatha writes, “when the [female] ruler severs her head from her own neck with the cleaver held in her right hand, the three veins Avadhuti, Ida and Pingala are severed, and through this the flow of greed, hate, and delusion is cut off, for herself and for all beings” (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, pp. 263–264). This comparison is somewhat strained, however, since the inner energy channels are in fact sex-specific (Ida — masculine; Pingala — feminine; Avadhuti — androgyne) and for this reason could well present difficulties for a representation in the form of three women.
Site Admin
Posts: 36190
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:22 am


4. The Law of Inversion

Every type of passion (sexual pleasure, fits of rage, hate and loathing) which is normally considered taboo by Buddhist ethical standards, is activated and nurtured in Vajrayana with the goal of then transforming it into its opposite. The Buddhist monks, who are usually subject to a strict, puritanical-seeming set of rules, cultivate such “breaches of taboo” without restriction, once they have decided to follow the “Diamond Path”. Excesses and extravagances now count as part of their chosen lifestyle. Such acts are not simply permitted, but are prescribed outright, because according to tantric doctrine, evil can only be driven out by evil, greed by greed alone, and poison is the only cure for poison.

Suitably radical instructions can be found in the Hevajra Tantra: “A wise man ... should remove the filth of his mind by filth ... one must rise by that through which one falls”, or, more vividly, “As flatulence is cured by eating beans so that wind may expel wind, as a thorn in the foot can be removed by another thorn, and as a poison can be neutralized by poison, so sin can purge sin” (Walker, 1982, p. 34). For the same reason, the Kalachakra Tantra exhorts its pupils to commit the following: to kill, to lie, to steal, to break the marriage vows, to drink alcohol, to have sexual relations with lower-class girls (Broido, 1988, p. 71). A Tantric is freed from the chains of the wheel of life by precisely that which imprisons a normal person.

As a tantric saying puts it, “What binds the fool, liberates the wise” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 187), and another, more drastic passage emphasizes that, “the same deed for which a normal mortal would burn for a hundred million eons, through this same act an initiated yogi attains enlightenment” (Eliade, 1985, p. 272). According to this, every ritual is designed to catapult the initiand into a state beyond good and evil.

This spiritual necessity to encounter the forbidden, has essentially been justified via five arguments:

Firstly, through breaking a taboo for which there is often a high penalty, the adept confirms the core of the entire Buddhist philosophy: the emptiness (shunyata) of all appearances. “I am void, the world is void, all three worlds are void”, the Maha Siddha Tilopa triumphantly proclaims — therefore “neither sin nor virtue” exist (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 186). The shunyata principle thus provides a metaphysical legitimization for any conceivable “crime”, as it actually lacks any inherent existence.

A second argument follows from the emptiness, the “equivalence of all being”. Neither purity nor impurity, neither lust nor loathing, neither beauty nor ugliness exist. There is thus “no difference between food and offal, between fruit juice and blood, between vegetable sap and urine, between syrup and semen” (Walker, 1982, p.32). A fearless maha siddha justifies a serious misdeed of which he has been accused with the words: “Although medicine and poison create contrary effects, in their ultimate essence they are one; likewise negative qualities and aids on the path, one in essence, should not be differentiated” (quoted by Stevens, 1990, p. 69). Thus the yogi could with a clear conscience wander along ways on the far side of the dominant moral codex. “By the same evil acts that bring people into hell the one who uses the right means gains salvation, there is no doubt. All evil and virtue are said to have thought as their basis” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 174).

The third — somewhat ad hoc, but nonetheless frequent — justification for the “transgressions” of the Vajrayana consists in the Bodhisattva vow of Mahayana Buddhism, which requires that one aid and assist every creature until it attains enlightenment. Amazingly, this pious purpose can render holy the most evil means. “If”, we can read in one of the tantras, “for the good of all living beings or on account of the Buddha’s teaching one should slay living beings, one is untouched by sin. ... If for the good of living beings or from attachment for the Buddha’s interest, one seizes the wealth of others, one is not touched by sin”, and so forth (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 176). In the course of Tibetan history the Bodhisattva vow has, as we shall show in the second part of our study, legitimated numerous political and family-based murders, whereby the additional “clever” argument was also employed, that one had “freed” the murder victim from the world of appearances (samsara) and that he or she thus owed a debt of thanks to the murderer.

The fourth argument, which was also widespread in other magical cultures, is familiar to us from homeopathy, and states: similia similibus curantur (‘like cures like’). In this healing practice one usually works with tiny quantities, major sins can thus be expiated by more minor transgressions.

The fifth and final argument attempts to persuade us that enlightenment per se arises through the radical inversion of its opposite and that there is absolutely no other possible way to break free of the chains of samsara. Here, the tantric logic of inversion has become a dogma which no longer tolerates other paths to enlightenment. In this light, we can read in the Guhyasamaja Tantra that “the most lowly-born, flute-makers and so forth, such [people] who constantly have murder alone in mind, attain perfection via this highest way” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 128). Yes, in some texts an outright proportionality exists between the magnitude of the “crime” and the speed with which the spiritual “liberation” occurs.

However, this tantric logic of inversion contains a dangerous paradox. On the one hand, Vajrayana stands not just in radical opposition to “social” norms, but likewise also to the original fundamental rules of its own Buddhist system.
Thus, it must constantly fear accusations and persecution from its religious brethren. On the other there is the danger mentioned by Friedrich Nietzsche, that anyone who too often looks monsters in the face can themselves become a monster. Sadly, history — especially that of Tibet — teaches us how many tantra masters were not able to rid themselves of the demons that they summoned. We shall trace this fate in the second part of our study.

The twilight language

In order to keep hidden from the public all the offensive things which are implicated by the required breaches of taboo, some tantra texts make use of a so-called “twilight language” (samdhya-bhasa). This has the function of veiling references to taboo substances, private bodily parts, and illegal deeds in poetic words, so that they cannot be recognized by the uninitiated. For example, one says “lotus” and means “vagina”, or employs the term “enlightenment consciousness” (bodhicitta) for sperm, or the word “sun” (surya) for menstrual blood. Such a list of synonyms can be extended indefinitely.

It would, however, be hasty to presume that the potential of the tantric twilight language is exhausted by the employment of euphemistic expressions for sexual events in order to avoid stirring up offense in the world at large. In keeping with the magical world view of Tantrism, an equivalence or interdependence is often posited between the chosen “poetic” denotation and its counterpart in “reality”. Thus, as we shall later see, the male seed does indeed effect enlightenment consciousness (bodhicitta) when it is ritually consumed, and the vagina does in fact transform itself through meditative imagination into a lotus.

Of course, in such a metaphoric twilight everything is possible! Since, in contrast to the extensive commentaries, the taboo violations are often explicitly and unashamedly discussed in the original tantric texts, modern textual exegetes have often turned the tables. For example, in the unsavory horror scenes which are recounted here, the German lama Govinda sees warning signs which act as a deterrent to impudent intruders into the mysteries. To prevent unauthorized persons entering paradise, it is depicted as a slaughterhouse. But this imputed circumscription of the beautiful with the horrible contradicts the sense of the tantras, the intention of which is precisely to be sought in the transformation of the base into the sublime and thus the deliberate confrontation with the abominations of this world.

The scenarios which are presented in the following pages are indeed so abnormal that the hair of the early Western scholars stood on end when they first translated the tantric texts from Tibetan or Sanskrit. E. Burnouf was dismayed: “One hesitates to reproduce such hateful and humiliating teachings”, he wrote in the year 1844 (von Glasenapp, 1940, p. 167). Almost a century later, even world famous Tibetologists like Giuseppe Tucci or David Snellgrove admitted that they had simply omitted certain passages from their translated versions because of the horrors described therein, even though they thus abrogated their scholarly responsibilities (Walker, 1982, p. 121). Today, in the age of unlimited information, any resistance to the display of formerly taboo pictures is rapidly evaporating. Thus, in some modern translation one is openly confronted with all the “crimes and sexual deviations” in the tantras.

Sexual desire:

Let us begin anew with the topic of sex. This is the axis around which all of Tantrism revolves. We have already spoken at length about why women were regarded as the greatest obstacle along the masculine path to enlightenment. Because the woman represents the feared gateway to rebirth, because she produces the world of illusion, because she steals the forces of the man — the origins of evil lie within her. Accordingly, to touch a woman was also the most serious breach of taboo for a Buddhist from the pre-tantric phase. The severity of the transgression was multiplied if it came to sexual intercourse.

But precisely because most extreme estrangement from enlightenment is inherent to the “daughters of Mara”, because they are considered the greatest obstacle for a man and barricade the realm of freedom, according to the tantric “law of inversion” they are for any adept the most important touchstone on the initiation path. He who understands how to gain mastery over women also understands how to control all of creation, as it is represented by him. On account of this paradox, sexual union enjoys absolute priority in Vajrayana. All other ritual acts, no matter how bizarre they may appear, are derived from this sexual magic origin.

Actually, the same tantric postulate — that the overcoming of an opposite pole should be considered more valuable and meritorious the more abnormal characteristics it exhibits — must also be valid for sexuality:. According to the “law of inversion”, the more gloomy, repulsive, aggressive and perverse a woman is, the more suitable she must be to serve as a sexual partner in the rituals. But the preference of the yogis for especially young and attractive girls (which we mention above) seems to contradict this postulated ugliness.

Incidentally, the Kalachakra Tantra is itself aware of this contradiction, but is unable to resolve it. Thus the third book of the Time Tantra has the following suggestions to make: “Terrible women, furious, stuck-up, money-hungry, quarrelsome...are to be avoided” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 121). But then, a few pages later, we find precisely the opposite: “A woman, who has abandoned herself to a lust for life, who takes delight in human blood ... is to be revered by the yogi” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 146). The fourth book deals with the “law of inversion” directly, and in verse 207 describes the karma mudra as a “gnarled hetaera”. Directly after this follows the argument as to why a goddess must be hiding behind the face of the hetaera, since for the yogi, “gold [can] be worth the same as copper, a jewel from the crown of a god the same as a sliver of glass, if unheard of masculine force can be received through the loving donations of trained hetaeras ...” (Grünwedel, Kalacakra IV, p. 209) — that is, the highest masculine can be won from the basest feminine.

In this light, the Chakrasamvara Tantra recommends erotic praxis with haughty, moody, proud, dominant, wild, and untamable women, and the yogini Laksminkara urges the reader to revere a woman who is “mutilated and misshapen” (Gäng, 1988, p. 59). The Maha Siddha Tilopa also adhered strictly to the tantric politics of inversion and copulated with a woman, who bore the “eighteen marks of ugliness”, whatever they may be. His pupil Naropa followed in his footsteps and was initiated by an “ugly leprous old crone”. The later’s successor, Marpa, received his initiation at the hands of a “foul-smelling ‘funeral-place dakini’ ... with long emaciated breasts and huge sex organs of offensive odor” (Walker, 1982, p. 75).

Whilst the ugly “love partners” threaten at the outset the way to salvation and the life of an adept, at the end of the tantric process of inversion they shine like fairy-tale beauties, who have been transformed from toads into princesses. Thus, after the transmutation, a “jackal jaws” has become the “dakini of wisdom”; a “lion’s gob” the honourable “Buddha dakini” with “a bluish complexion and a radiant smile”; a “beak-face” a “jewel dakini” with a “pretty, white face” and so forth (Stevens, 1990, p. 97). All these charming creatures are under the complete control of their guru, who through the conquest of the demonic woman has attained the qualification of sorcerer and now calls the tune for the transformed demonesses.

For readily understandable reasons the fact remains that in the sexual magic practices a preference is shown for working with young and attractive girls. But even for this a paradoxical explanation is offered: Due to their attractiveness the virgins are far more dangerous for the yogi than an old hag. The chances that he lose his emotional and sexual self-control in such a relationship are thus many times higher. This means that attractive women present him with an even greater challenge than do the ugly.

The tantras are more consistent when applying the “law of inversion” to the social class of the female partners than they are with regard to age and beauty. Women from lower castes are not just recommendable, but rather appear to be downright necessary for the performance of certain rituals. The Kalachakra Tantra lists female gardeners, butchers, potters, whores, and needle-workers among its recommendations (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, pp. 130, 131). In other texts there is talk of female pig-herds, actresses, dancers, singers, washerwomen, barmaids, weavers and similar. “Courtesans are also favored”, writes the Tibet researcher Matthias Hermanns, “since the more lecherous, depraved, dirty, morally repugnant and dissolute they are, the better suited they are to their role” (Hermanns, 1975, p. 191). This appraisal is in accord with the call of the Tantric Anangavajra to accept any mudra, whatever nature she may have, since “everything having its existence in the ultimate non-dual substance, nothing can be harmful for yoga; and therefore the yogin should enjoy everything to his heart’s content without the least fear or hesitation” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 184).

Time and again, so-called candalis are mentioned as the Tantric’s sexual partners. These are girls from the lowest caste, who eke out a meager living with all manner of work around the crematoria. It is evident from a commentary upon the Hevajra Tantra that among other things they offered themselves to the vagrant yogis for the latter’s sexual practices (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 168). For an orthodox Hindu such creatures were considered untouchable. If even the shadow of a candali fell upon a Hindu, the disastrous consequences were life-long for the latter.

Since it annulled the strict prescriptions of the Hindu caste system with its rituals, a fundamentally social revolutionary attitude has been ascribed to Tantric Buddhism. In particular, modern feminists accredit it with this (Shaw, 1994, p. 62). But, aside from the obvious fact that women from the lower classes are more readily available as sexual partners, here too the “law of inversion” is considered decisive for the choice to be made. The social inferiority of the woman increases the “antinomism” of the tantric rituals. “It is the symbol of the ‘washerwoman’ and the ‘courtesan’ [which are] of decisive significance”, we may read in a book by Mircea Eliade, “and we must familiarize ourselves with the fact that, in accordance with the tantric doctrine of the identity of opposites, the ‘most noble and valuable’ is precisely [to be found] hidden within the ‘basest and most banal’” (Eliade, 1985, p. 261, note 204).

Likewise, when women from the higher castes (Brahmans, ‘warriors’, or rich business people) are on the Tantric’s wish list, especially when they are married, the law of inversion functions here as well, since a rigid taboo is broken through the employment of a wife from the upper classes — an indicator for the boundless power of the yogi.

The incest taboo:

There is indisputable evidence from archaic societies for the violation of the incest prohibition: there is hardly a tantra of the higher class in which sexual intercourse with one’s own mother or daughter, with aunts or sisters-in-law is not encouraged. Here too the German lama Govinda emphatically protests against taking the texts literally. It would be downright ridiculous to think “that Tantric Buddhists really did encourage incest and sexual deviations (Govinda, 1991, p. 113). Mother, sister, daughter and so on stood for the four elements, egomania, or something similar.

But such symbolic assignments do not necessarily contradict the possibility of an incestuous praxis, which is in fact found not just in the Tibet of old, but also in totally independent cultures scattered all around the world. Here too, it remains valid that the yogi, who is as a matter of principle interested in a fundamental violation of proscriptions, must really long for an incestuous relationship. There is also no lack of historical reports. We present the curse of a puritanically minded lama from the 16th century, who addressed the excesses of his libertine colleagues as follows: “In executing the rites of sexual union the people copulate without regard to blood relations ... You are more impure than dogs and pigs. As you have offered the pure gods feces, urine, sperm and blood, you will be reborn in the swamp of rotten cadavers” (Paz, 1984, p.95).

Eating and drinking impure substances:

A central role in the rites is played by the tantric meal. It is absolutely forbidden for Buddhist monks to eat meat or drink alcohol. This taboo is also deliberately broken by Vajrayana adepts. To make the transgression more radical, the consumption of types of meat which are generally considered “forbidden” in Indian society is desired: elephant meat, horsemeat, dogflesh, beef, and human flesh. The latter goes under the name of maha mamsa, the ‘great flesh’. It usually came from the dead, and is a “meat of those who died due to their own karma, who were killed in battle due to evil karma or due to their own fault”, Pundarika writes in his traditional Kalachakra commentary, and goes on to add that it is sensible to consume this substance in pill form (Newman, 1987, p. 266). Small amounts of tit are also recommended in a modern text on the Kalachakra Tantra as well (Dhargyey, 1985, p. 25). There are recipes which distinguish between the various body parts and demand the consumption of brain, liver, lungs, intestines, testes and so forth for particular ceremonies.

The five taboo types of meat are granted a sacramental character. Within them are concentrated the energies of the highest Buddhas, who are able to appear through the “law of inversion”. The texts thus speak of the “five ambrosias” or “five nectars”. Other impure “foods” have also been assigned to the five Dhyani Buddhas. Ratnasambhava is associated with blood, Amitabha with semen, Amoghasiddhi with human flesh, Aksobhya with urine, Vairocana with excrement (Wayman, 1973, p. 116).

The Candamaharosana Tantra lists with relish the particular substances which are offered to the adept by his wisdom consort during the sexual magic rituals and which he must swallow: excrement, urine, saliva, leftovers from between her teeth, lipstick, dish-water, vomit, the wash water which remains after her anus has been cleaned (George, 1974, pp. 73, 78, 79) Those who “make the excrement and urine their food, will be truly happy”, promises the Guhyasamaja Tantra (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 134). In the Hevajra Tantra the adept must drink the menstrual blood of his mudra out of a skull bowl (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 98). But rotten fish, sewer water, canine feces, corpse fat, the excrement of the dead, sanitary napkins as well as all conceivable “intoxicating drinks” are also consumed (Walker, 1982, pp. 80–84).

There exists a strict commandment that the practicing yogi may not feel any disgust in consuming these impure substances. “One should never feel disgusted by excrement, urine, semen or blood” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 266). Fundamentally, “he must eat and drink whatever he obtains and he should not hold any notions regarding likes and dislikes” (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 67).

But it is not just in the tantric rites, in Tibetan medicine as well all manner of human and animal excretions are employed for healing purposes. The excrement and urine of higher lamas are sought-after medicines. Processed into pills and offered for sale, they once played -and now play once more — a significant role in the business activities of Tibetan and exile-Tibetan monasteries. Naturally, the highest prices are paid for the excretions of the supreme hierarch, the Dalai Lama. There is a report on the young Fourteenth god-king’s sojourn in Beijing (in 1954) which recounts how His Holiness’s excrement was collected daily in a golden pot in order to then be sent to Lhasa and processed into a medication there (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 22). Even if this source came from the Chinese camp, it can be given credence without further ado, since corresponding practices were common throughout the entire country.


In a brilliant essay on Tantrism, the Mexican essayist and poet Octavio Paz drew attention to the fact that the great fondness of the Mexicans for skeletons and skulls could be found nowhere else in the world except in the Buddhist ritual practices of the Tibetans and Nepalese. The difference lies in the fact that in Mexico the death figures are regarded as a mockery of life and the living, whilst in Tantrism they are “horrific and obscene” (Paz, 1984, p. 94). This connection between death and sexuality is indeed a popular leitmotiv in Tibetan art. In scroll images the tantric couples are appropriately equipped with skull bowls and cleavers, wear necklaces of severed heads and trample around upon corpses whilst holding one another in the embrace of sexual union.

A general, indeed dominant necrophiliac strain in Tibetan culture cannot be overlooked. Fokke Sierksma’s work includes a description of a meditation cell in which a lama had been immured. It was decorated with human hair, skin and bones, which were probably supplied by the dismemberers of corpses. Strung on a line were a number of dried female breasts. The eating bowl of the immured monk was not the usual human skull, but was also made from the cured skin of a woman’s breast (Sierksma, 1966, p. 189).

Such macabre ambiences can be dismissed as marginal excesses, which is indeed what they are in the full sweep of Tibetan culture. But they nonetheless stand in a deep meaningful and symbolic connection with the paradoxical philosophy of Tantrism, of Buddhism in general even, which since its beginnings recommended as exercises meditation upon corpses in the various stages of decomposition in order to recognize the transience of all being. Alone the early Buddhist contempt for life, which locked the gateway to nirvana, is sufficient to understand the regular fascination with the morbid, the macabre and the decay of the body which characterizes Lamaism. Crematoria, charnel fields, cemeteries, funeral pyres, graves, but also places where a murder was carried out or a bloody battle was fought are considered, in accord with the “law of inversion”, to be especially suitable locations for the performance of the tantric rites with a wisdom consort.

The sacred art of Tibet also revels in macabre subjects. In illustrations of the wrathful deities of the Tibetan pantheon, their hellish radiation is transferred to the landscape and the heavens and transform everything into a nature morte in the truest sense of the word. Black whirlwinds and greenish poisonous vapors sweep across infertile plains. Deep red rods of lightning flash through the night and rent clouds, ridden by witches, rage across a pitch black sky. Pieces of corpses are scattered everywhere, and are gnawed at by all manner of repulsive beasts of prey.

In order to explain the morbidity of Tibetan monastic culture, the Dutch cultural psychologist Fokke Sierksma makes reference to Sigmund Freud’s concept of a “death wish” (thanatos). Interestingly, a comparison to Buddhism occurs to the famous psychoanalyst when describing the structure of the necrophiliac urge, which he attributes to, among other things, the “nirvana principle”. This he understand to be a general desire for inactivity, rest, resolution, and death, which is claimed to be innate to all life. But in addition to this, since Freud, the death wish also exhibits a concrete sadistic and masochistic component. Both attitudes are expressions of aggression, the one directed outwards (sadism), the other directed inwardly (masochism).

Ritual murder:

The most aggressive form of the externalized death wish is murder. It remains as the final taboo violation within the tantric scheme to still be examined. The ritual killing of people to appease the gods is a sacred deed in many religions. In no sense do such ritual sacrifices belong to the past, rather they still play a role today, for example in the tantric Kali cults of India. Even children are offered up to the cruel goddess on her bloody altars (Time, August 1997, p. 18). Among the Buddhist, in particular Tibetan Tantrics, such acts of violence are not so well-known. We must therefore very carefully pose the question of whether a ritual murder can here too be a part of the cult activity.

It is certain at least that all the texts of the Highest Tantra class verbally call for murder. The adept who seeks refuge in the Dhyani Buddha Akshobya meditates upon the various forms of hate up to and including aggressive killing. Of course, in this case too, a taboo violation is to be transformed in accordance with the “law of inversion” into its opposite, the attainment of eternal life. Thus, when the Guhyasamaja Tantra requires of the adept that “he should kill all sentient beings with this secret thunderbolt” (Wayman, 1977, p. 309), then — according to doctrine — this should occur so as to free them from suffering.

It is further seen as an honorable deed to “deliver” the world from people of whom a yogi knows that they will in future commit nasty crimes. Thus Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, in his childhood killed a boy whose future abominable deeds he foresaw.

Maha Siddha Virupa and an impaled human

But it is not just pure compassion or a transformatory intent which lies behind the already mentioned calls to murder in the tantras, above all not when they are directed at the enemies of Buddhism. As, for example, in the rites of the Hevajra Tantra: “After having announced the intention to the guru and accomplished beings”, it says there, “perform with mercy the rite of killing of one who is a non-believer of the teachings of the Buddha and the detractors of the gurus and Buddhas. One should emanate such a person, visualizing his form as being upside-down, vomiting blood, trembling and with hair in disarray. Imagine a blazing needle entering his back. Then by envisioning the seed-syllable of the Fire element in his heart he is killed instantly” (quoted by Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 276). The Guhyasamaja Tantra also offers instructions on how to — as in voodoo magic — create images of the opponent and inflict “murderous” injuries upon these, which then actually occur in reality: “One draws a man or a woman in chalk or charcoal or similar. One projects an ax in the hand. Then one projects the way in which the throat is slit” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 225). At another point the enemy is bewitched, poisoned, enslaved, or paralyzed. Corresponding sentences are to be found in the Kalachakra Tantra. There too the adept is urged to murder a being which has violated the Buddhist teachings. The text requires, however, that this be carried out with compassion (Dalai Lama XIV, 1985, p. 349).

The destruction of opponents via magical means is part of the basic training of any tantric adept. For example, we learn from the Hevajra Tantra a magic spell with the help of which all the soldiers of an enemy army can be decapitated at one stroke (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 30). There we can also find how to produce a blazing fever in the enemy’s body and let it be vaporized (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 31). Such magical killing practices were — as we shall show –in no sense marginal to Tibetan religious history, rather they gained entry to the broad-scale politics of the Dalai Lamas.

The destructive rage does not even shy away from titans, gods, or Buddhas. In contrast, through the destruction of the highest beings the Tantric absorbs their power and becomes an arch-god. Even here things sometimes take a sadistic turn, as for example in the Guhyasamaja Tantra, where the murder of a Buddha is demanded: “One douses him in blood, one douses him in water, one douses him in excrement and urine, one turns him over, stamps on his member, then one makes use of the King of Wrath. If this is completed eight hundred times then even a Buddha is certain to disintegrate” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 219).

In order to effectively perform this Buddha murder, the yogi invokes an entire pandemonium, whose grotesque appearance could have been modeled on a work by Hieronymus Bosch: “He projects the threat of demons, manifold, raw, horrible, hardened by rage. Through this even the diamond bearer [the Highest Buddha] dies. He projects how he is eaten by owls, crows, by rutting vultures with long beaks. Thus even the Buddha is destroyed with certainty. A black snake, extremely brutish, which makes the fearful be afraid. ... It rears up, higher than the forehead. Consumed by this snake even the Buddha is destroyed with certainty. One lets the the perils and torments of all beings in the ten directions descend upon the enemy. This is the best. The is the supreme type of invocation” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 230). This can be strengthened with the following aggressive mantra: “Om, throttle, throttle, stand, stand, bind, bind, slay, slay, burn, burn, bellow, bellow, blast, blast the leader of all adversity, prince of the great horde, bring the life to an end” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 230).

We encounter a particularly interesting murder fantasy in the deliberate staging of the Oedipus drama which a passage from the Candamaharosana Tantra requires. The adept should slay Aksobhya, his Buddha father, with a sword, give his mother, Mamaki, the flesh of the murdered father to eat and have sexual intercourse with her afterwards (George, 1974, p. 59; Filliozat, 1991, p. 430).

Within the spectrum of Buddhist/tantric killing practices, the deliberately staged “suicide” of the “sevenfold born” represents a specialty. We are dealing here with a person who has been reincarnated seven times and displays exceptional qualities of character. He speaks with a pleasant voice, observes with beautiful eyes and possesses a fine-smelling and glowing body which casts seven shadows. He never becomes angry and his mind is constantly filled with infinite compassion. Consuming the flesh of such a wonderful person has the greatest magical effects.

Hence, the Tantric should offer a “sevenfold born” veneration with flowers and ask him to act in the interests of all suffering beings. Thereupon — it says in the relevant texts — he will without hesitation surrender his own life. Afterwards pills are to be made from his flesh, the consumption of which grant among other things the siddhis (powers) of ‘sky-walking’. Such pills are in fact still being distributed today. The heart-blood is especially sought after, and the skull of the killed blessed one also possesses magical powers (Farrow and Menon, 1992, p. 142).

When one considers the suicide request made to the “sevenfold born”, the cynical structure of the tantric system becomes especially clear. His flesh is so yearned-for because he exhibits that innocence which the Tantric on account of his contamination with all the base elements of the world of appearances no longer possesses. The “sevenfold born” is the complete opposite of an adept, who has had dealings with the dark forces of the demonic. In order to transform himself through the blissful flesh of an innocent, the yogi requests such a one to deliberately sacrifice himself. And the higher being is so kind that it actually responds to this request and afterwards makes his dead body available for sacred consumption.

The mystery of the eucharist, in which the body and blood of Christ is divided among his believers springs so readily to mind that it is not impossible that the tantric consumption of a “sevenfold born” represents a Buddhist paraphrase of the Christian Last Supper. (The tantras appeared in the 4th century C.E. at the earliest.) But such self-sacrificial scenes can also be found already in Mahayana Buddhism. In the Sutra of Perfected Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses a description can be found of how the Bodhisattva Sadaprarudita dismembers his own body in order to worship his teacher. Firstly he slits both his arms so that the blood pours out. Then he slices the flesh from his legs and finally breaks his own bones so as to be able to also offer the marrow as a gift. Whatever opinion one has of such ecstatic acts of self-dismemberment, in Mahayana they always demonstrate the heroic deed of an ethically superior being who wishes to help others. In contrast, the cynical sacrifice of the “sevenfold born” demonstrates the exploitation of a noble and selfless sentiment to serve the power interests of the Tantric. In the face of such base motives, the Tibet researcher David Snellgrove with some justification doubts the sevenfold incarnated’s imputed preparedness to be sacrificed: “Did one track him down and wait for him to die or did one hasten the process? All these tantras give so many fierce rites with the object of slaying, that the second alternative might not seem unlikely ...” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 161).
Site Admin
Posts: 36190
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:22 am


Symbol and reality:

Taking Snellgrove’s suspicion as our starting point, the question arises as to whether the ritual murder of a person is intended to be real or just symbolic in the tantric scripts. Among Western interpreters of the tantras opinions are divided. Early researchers such as Austine Waddell or Albert Grünwedel presumed a literal interpretation of the rituals described in the texts and were dismayed by them. Among contemporary authors, especially those who are themselves Buddhists, the “crimes” of Vajrayana are usually played down as allegorical metaphors, as Michael M. Broido or Anagarika Govinda do in their publications, for example. This toned-down point of view is, for readily understandable reasons, today thankfully adopted by Tibetan lamas teaching everywhere in the Western world. It liberates the gurus from tiresome confrontations with the ethical norms of the cultures in which they have settled after their flight from Tibet. They too now see themselves called to transform the offensive shady sides of the tantras into friendly bright sides: “Human flesh” for example is to be understood as referring to the own imperfect self which the yogi “consumes” in a figurative sense through his sacred practices. “To kill” means to rob dualistic thought patterns of their life in order to recreate the original unity with the universe, and so forth. But despite such euphemisms an unpleasant taste remains, since the statements of the tantras are so unequivocal and clear.

It is at any rate a fact that the entire tantric ritual schema does not get by without dead body parts and makes generous use of them. The sacred objects employed consist of human organs, flesh, and bones. Normally these are found at and collected from the public crematoria in India or the charnel fields of Tibet.

But there are indications which must be taken seriously that up until this century Tibetans have had to surrender their lives for ritualistic reasons. The (fourteenth-century) Blue Annals, a seminal document in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, already reports upon how in Tibet the so-called “18 robber-monks” slaughtered men and women for their tantric ceremonies (Blue Annals, 1995, p. 697). The Englishman Sir Charles Bell visited a stupa on the Bhutan-Tibet border in which the ritually killed body of an eight-year-old boy and a girl of the same age were found (Bell, 1927, p. 80). Attestations of human sacrifice in the Himalayas recorded by the American anthropologist Robert Ekvall date from the 1950s (Ekvall, 1964, pp. 165–166, 169, 172).

In their criticism of lamaism, the Chinese make frequent and emphatic reference to such ritual killing practices, which were still widespread at the time of the so-called “liberation” of the country, that is until the end of the 1950s. According to them, in the year 1948 21individuals were murdered by state sacrificial priests from Lhasa as part of a ritual of enemy destruction, because their organs were required as magical ingredients (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 29). Rather than dismissing such statements in advance as evil communist propaganda, the original spirit of the tantra texts would seem to afford that they be investigated conscientiously and without prejudice.

The morbid ritual objects on display in the Tibetan Revolutions Museum established by the Chinese in Lhasa, certainly teach us something about horror: prepared skulls, mummified hands, rosaries made of human bones, ten trumpets made from the thigh bones of 16-year-old girls, and so on. Among the museum’s exhibits is also a document which bears the seal of the (Thirteenth or Fourteenth?) Dalai Lama in which he demands the contribution of human heads, blood, flesh, fat, intestines, and right hands, likewise the skins of children, the menstrual blood of a widow, and stones with which human skulls had been staved in, for the “strengthening of holy order” (Epstein, 1983, p.138). Further, a small parcel of severed and prepared male sexual organs which are needed to conduct certain rituals can also be seen there, as well as the charred body of a young woman who was burned as a witch. If the tantra texts did not themselves mention such macabre requisites, it would never occur to one to take this demonstration of religious violence seriously.

That the Chinese with their accusations of tantric excesses cannot be all that false, is demonstrated by the relatively recent brutal murder of three lamas, which deeply shook the exile-Tibetan community in Dharamsala. On 4 February 1997, the murdered bodies of the 70-year-old lama Lobsang Gyatso, head of the Buddhist-dialectical school, and two of his pupils were found just a few yards from the residence of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. The murderers had repeatedly stabbed their victims with a knife, had slit their throats and according to press reports had partially skinned their corpses (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1997, no. 158, p. 10). All the observers and commentators on the case were of the unanimous opinion that this was a case of ritual murder. In the second part of our analysis we examine in detail the real and symbolic background and political implications of the events of 4 February.

At any rate, the supreme demands which a yogi must make of himself in order to expose a “crime” which he “really” commits as an illusion speaks for the likelihood of the actual staging of a killing during a tantric ritual. In the final instance the conception that everything is only an illusion and has no independent existence leads to an indifference as to whether a murder is real or “just” allegorical. From this point of view everything in the world of Vajrayana is both “real” and “symbolic”. “We touch symbols, when we think we are touching bodies and material objects”, writes Octavio Paz with regard to Tantrism, “And vice versa: according to the law of reversibility all symbols are real and touchable, ideas and even nothingness has a taste. It makes no difference whether the crime is real or symbolic: Reality and symbol fuse, and in fusing they dissolve” (Paz, 1984, pp. 91–92).

Concurrence with the demonic:

The excesses of Tantrism are legitimated by the claim that the yogi is capable of transforming evil into good via his spiritual techniques. This inordinate attempt nonetheless give rise to apprehensions as to whether the adept does in fact have the strength to resist all the temptations of the “devil”? Indeed, the “law of inversion” always leads in the first phase to a “concurrence with the demonic” and regards contact with the “devil” as a proper admission test for the path of enlightenment. No other current in any of the world religions thus ranks the demons and their retinue so highly as in Vajrayana.

The image packed iconography of Tibet literally teems with terrible deities (herukas) and red henchmen. When one dares, one’s gaze is met by disfigured faces, hate-filled grimaces, bloodshot eyes, protruding canines. Twisted sneers leave one trembling — at once both terrible and wonderful, as in an oriental fairy-tale. Surrounded by ravens and owls, embraced by snakes and animal skins, the male and female monster gods carry battle-axes, swords, pikes and other murderous cult symbols in their hands, ready at any moment to cut their opponent into a thousand pieces.

The so-called “books of the dead” and other ritual text are also storehouses for all manner of zombies, people-eaters, ghosts, ghouls, furies and fiends. In the Guhyasamaja Tantra the concurrence of the Buddhas with the demonic and evil is elevated to an explicit part of the program: “They constantly eat blood and scraps of flesh ... They drink treachery like milk ... skulls, bones, smokehouses, oil and fat bring great joy” (quoted by Gäng, 1988, pp. 259–260). In this document the Buddhist gods give free rein to their aggressive destructive fantasies: “Hack to pieces, hack to pieces, sever, sever, strike, strike, burn, burn” they urge the initands with furious voices (quoted by Gäng, 1988, p. 220). One could almost believe oneself to be confronted with primordial chaos. Such horror visions are not just encountered by the tantric adept. They also, in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, appear to every normal person, sometimes during a lifetime on earth, but after death inevitably. Upon dying every deceased person must, unless he is already enlightened, progress through a limbo (Bardo) in which bands of devils sadistically torment him and attempt to pull the wool over his eyes. As in the Christian Middle Ages, the Tibetan monks’ fantasies also revel in unbearable images of hell. It is said that not even a Bodhisattva is permitted to help a person out of the hell of Vajra (Trungpa, 1992, p. 68).

Here too we would like to come up with a lengthier description, in order to draw attention to the anachronistic-excruciating world view of Tantric Buddhism: “The souls are boiled in great cauldrons, inserted into iron caskets surrounded by flames, plunge into icy water and caves of ice, wade through rivers of fire or swamps filled with poisonous adders. Some are sawed to pieces by demonic henchmen, others plucked at with glowing tongs, gnawed by vermin, or wander lost through a forest with a foliage of razor sharp daggers and swords. The tongues of those who blasphemed against the teaching grow as big as a field and the devils plow upon them. The hypocrites are crushed beneath huge loads of holy books and towering piles of relics” (Bleichsteiner, 1937, p. 224). There are a total of 18 different hells, one more dreadful than the next. Above all, the most brutal punishments are reserved for those “sinners” who have contravened the rules of Vajrayana. They can wait for their “head and heart [to] burst” (Henss, 1985, p. 46).

A glance at old Tibetan criminal law reveals that such visions of fear and horror also achieved some access to social reality. Its methods of torture and devious forms of punishment were in no way inferior to the Chinese cruelties now denounced everywhere: for example, both hands of thieves were mutilated by being locked into salt-filled leather pouches. The amputation of limbs and bloody floggings on the public squares of Lhasa, deliberately staged freezing to death, shackling, the fitting of a yoke and many other “medieval” torments were to be found in the penal code until well into the 20th century. Western travelers report with horror and loathing of the dark and damp dungeons of the Potala, the official residence of the Dalai Lamas.

This clear familiarity with the spectacle of hell in a religion which bears the banners of love and kindness, peace and compassion is shocking for an outsider. It is only the paradoxicalness of the tantras and the Madhyamika philosophy (the doctrine of the ‘emptiness’ of all being) which allows the rapid interplay between heaven and hell which characterizes Tibetan culture. Every lama will answer that, “since everything is pure illusion, that must also be the case for the world of demons”, should one ask him about the devilish ghosts. He will indicate that it is the ethical task of Buddhism to free people from this world of horrors. But only when one has courageously looked the demon in the eye, can he be exposed as illusory or as a ghostly figure thrown up by one’s own consciousness.

Nevertheless, that the obsessive and continuous preoccupation with the terrible is motivated by such therapeutic intentions and philosophical speculations is difficult to comprehend. The demonic is accorded a disturbingly high intrinsic value in Tibetan culture, which influences all social spheres and possesses a seamless tradition. When Padmasambhava converted Tibet to Buddhism in the eighth century, the sagas recount that he was opposed by numerous native male and female devils, against all of whom he was victorious thanks to his skills in magic. But despite his victory he never killed them, and instead forced them to swear to serve Buddhism as protective spirits (dharmapalas) in future.

Why, we have to ask ourselves, was this horde of demons snorting with rage not transformed via the tantric “law of inversion” into a collection of peace-loving and graceful beings? Would it not have been sensible for them to have abandoned their aggressive character in order to lead a peaceful and dispassionate life in the manner of the Buddha Shakyamuni? The opposite was the case — the newly “acquired” Buddhist protective gods (dharmapalas) had not just the chance but also the duty to live out their innate aggressiveness to the full. This was even multiplied, but was no longer directed at orthodox Buddhists and instead acted to crush the “enemies of the teaching”. The atavistic pandemonium of the pre-Buddhist Land of Snows survived as a powerful faction within the tantric pantheon and, since horror in general exercises a greater power of fascination than a “boring” vision of peace, deeply determined Tibetan cultural life.

Many Tibetans — among them, as we shall later see, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama — still believe themselves to be constantly threatened by demonic powers, and are kept busy holding back the dark forces with the help of magic, supplicatory prayers, and liturgical techniques, but also recruiting them for their own ends, all of which incidentally provides a considerable source of income for the professional exorcists among the lamas. Directly alongside this underworldly abyss — at least in the imagination — a mystic citadel of pure peace and eternal rest rises up, of which there is much talk in the sacred writings. Both visions — that of horror and that of bliss — complement one another and are in Tantrism linked in a “theological” causal relationship which says that heaven may only be entered after one has journeyed through hell.

In his psychoanalytical study of Tibetan culture, Fokke Sierksma conjectures that the chronic fear of demonic attacks was spread by the lamas to help maintain their power and, further to this, is blended with a sadomasochistic delight in the macabre and aggressive. The enjoyment of cruelty widespread among the monks is legitimated by, among other things, the fact that — as can be read in the tantra texts — even the Highest Buddhas can assume the forms of cruel gods (herukas) to then, bellowing and full of hate, smash everything to pieces.

These days a smile is raised by the observations of the Briton Austine Waddells, who, in his famous book published in 1899, The Buddhism in Tibet, drew attention to the general fear which then dominated every aspect of religious life in Tibet: “The priests must be constantly called in to appease the menacing devils, whose ravenous appetite is only sharpened by the food given to stay it” (quoted by Sierksma, 1966, p. 164). However, Waddell’s images of horror were confirmed a number of decades later by the Tibetologist Guiseppe Tucci, whose scholarly credibility cannot be doubted: “The entire spiritual life of the Tibetans”, Tucci writes, “is defined by a permanent attitude of defense, by a constant effort to appease and propitiate the powers whom he fears” (Grunfeld, 1996, p. 26).

There is no need for us to rely solely on Western interpreters in order to demonstrate Tantrism’s demonic orientation; rather we can form an impression for ourselves. Even a fleeting examination of the violent tantric iconography confirms that horror is a determining element of the doctrine. Why do the “divine” demons on the thangkas only very seldom take to the field against one another but rather almost exclusively mow down men, women, and children? What motivates the “peace-loving” Dalai Lama to choose as his principal protective goddess a maniacal woman by the name of Palden Lhamo, who rides day and night through a boiling sea of blood? The fearsome goddess is seated upon a saddle which she herself personally crafted from the skin of her own son. She murdered him in cold blood because he refused to follow in the footsteps of his converted mother and become a Buddhist. Why — we must also ask ourselves — has the militant war god Begtse been so highly revered for centuries in the Tibetan monasteries of all sects?

One might believe that this “familiarity with the demonic” would by the end of the 20th century have changed among the exile Tibetans, who are praised for their “open-mindedness”. Unfortunately, many events of which we come to speak of in the second part of our study, but most especially the recent and already mentioned ritual murders of 4 February 1997 in Dharamsala, illustrate that the gates of hell are by no means bolted shut. According to reports so far, the perpetrators were acting on behalf of the aggressive protective spirit, Dorje Shugden. Even the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has attributed to this dharmapala (protective deity) the power to threaten his life and to bewitch him by magical means.

If horror is acceptable, then death is cheap. It is true that in Tantrism death is considered to be a state of consciousness which can be surmounted, but in Tibetan culture (which also incorporates non-tantric elements) like the demons it has also achieved a thriving “life of its own” and enjoys general cult worship. There — as we shall often come to show — it stands at the center of numerous macabre rites. Sigmund Freud’s problematic formulation, that “the goal of all life is death” can in our view be prefaced to Lamaism as its leitmotiv.

The aggression of the divine couple:

Does this iconography of horror also apply to the divine couple who are worshipped at the heart of the tantric rituals? On the basis of the already described apotheosis of mystic sexual love as the suspension of all opposites, as a creative polarity, as the origin of language, the gods, time, of compassion, emptiness, and of the white light we ought to assume that the primal couple radiate peace, harmony, concord, and joy. In fact there are such blissful illustrations of the love of god and goddess in Tantrism. In this connection the primal Buddha, Samantabhadra, highly revered in the Nyingmapa school, deserves special mention; naked he sits in the meditative posture without any ritual objects in his hands, embracing his similarly unclothed partner, Samantabhadri. This pure nakedness of the loving couple demonstrates a powerful vision, which breaks through the otherwise usual patriarchal relation of dominance which prevails between the sexes. All other images of the Buddhas with their consorts express an androcentric gesture of dominance through the symbolic objects assigned to them. [1]

The implements of the deity Kalachakra and his consort Vishvamata

Peaceful images of the divine couple are, however, exceptional within the Highest Tantras and in no way the rule. The majority of the yab–yum representations are of the Heruka type, that is, they show couples in furious, destructive and violent positions. Above all the Buddha Hevajra and his consort Nairatmya. Surrounded by eight “burning” dakinis he performs a bizarre dance of hell and is so intoxicated by his killing instinct that he holds a skull bowl in each of his sixteen hands, in which gods, humans, and animals are to be found as victims. In her right hand Nairatmya threateningly swings a cleaver. Raktiamari, Yamantaka, Cakrasamvara, Vajrakila or whatever names the clusters of pairs from the other tantras may have, all of them exhibit the same striking mixture of aggressiveness, thanatos, and erotic love.

Likewise, the time god, Kalachakra, is of the heruka type. His wildness is underlined by his vampire-like canines and his hair which stands on end. The tiger pelt draped around his hips also signalizes his aggressive character. Two of his four faces are not peaceful, but instead express greed and wrath. But above all his destructive attitude is emphasized by the symbols which the “Lord of Time” holds in his twenty-four hands. Of these, six are of a peaceful nature and eighteen are warlike. Among the latter are the vajra, vajra hook, sword, trident, cleaver, damaru (a drum made from two skull bowls), kapala (a vessel made out of a human skull), khatvanga (a type of scepter, the tip of which is decorated with three severed human heads), ax, discus, switch, shield, ankusha (elephant hook), arrow, bow, sling, prayer beads made from human bones as well as the severed heads of Brahma. The peaceable symbols are: a jewel, lotus, white conch shell, triratna (triple jewel), and fire, so long it is not used destructively. Finally, there is the bell.

His consort, Vishvamata, also fails to make a pacifist impression. Of the eight symbolic objects which she holds in her eight hands, six are aggressive or morbid, and only two, the lotus and the triple jewel, signify happiness and well-being. Among her magical defense weapons are the cleaver, vajra hook, a drum made from human skulls, skull bowls filled with hot blood, and prayer beads made out of human bones. To signalize that she is under the control of the androcentric principle, each of her four heads bears a crown consisting of a small figure who represents the male Dhyani Buddha, Vajrasattva. As far as the facial expressions of the time goddess can be deciphered, above all they express sexual greed.

Both principal deities, Kalachakra and Vishvamata, stand joined in union in the so-called at-ease stance, which is supposed to indicate their preparedness for battle and willingness to attack. The foundation is composed of four cushions. Two of these symbolize the sun and moon, the other two the imaginary planets, Rahu and Kaligni. Rahu is believed to swallow both of the former heavenly bodies and plays a role within the Kalachakra rituals which is just as prominent as that of Kaligni, the apocalyptic fire which destroys the world with flame. The two planets thus have an extremely aggressive and destructive nature. Beneath the feet of the time couple two Hindu gods are typically shown being trampled, the red love god Kama and the white terror god Rudra. Their two partners, Rati and Uma, try in vain to rescue them.

Consequently, the entire scenario of the Kalachakra Tantra is warlike, provocative, morbid, and hot-tempered. In examining its iconography, one constantly has the feeling of being witness to a massacre. It is no help against this when the many commentaries stress again and again that aggressive ritual objects, combative body postures, expressions of rage, and wrathful deeds are necessary in order to surmount obstacles which block the individual’s path to enlightenment. Nor, in light of the pathological compulsiveness with which the Tantric attempts to drive out horror with horror, is the affirmation convincing, that Buddha’s wrath is compensated for by Buddha’s love and that all this cruelty is for the benefit of all suffering beings.

The aggressiveness of both partners in the tantras remains a puzzle. To our knowledge it is not openly discussed anywhere, but rather accepted mutely. In the Highest Tantras we can all but assume the principle that the loving couple as the wrathful- warlike and turbulent element finds its counterpoint in a peaceful and unmoving Buddha in meditative posture. In the light of this tantric iconography one has the impression that the vajra master prefers a hot and aggressive sexuality with which to effect the transformation of erotic love into power. Perhaps the Dutch psychologist, Fokke Sierksma, did not lie so wide of the mark when he described the tantric performance as “sadomasochistic”, whereby the sadistic role is primarily played by the man, whilst the woman exhibits both compulsions together. At any rate, the energy set free by “hot sex” appears to be an especially sought-after substance for the yogis’ “alchemic” transformative games, which we will come to examine in more detail later in the course of our study.

The poetry and beauty of mystic sexual love is far more often (even if not at all consistently) expressed in the words of the Highest Tantra texts, than in the visual representations of a morbid tantric eroticism. This does not fit together somehow. Since at the end of the sexual magic rituals the masculine principle alone remains, the verbal praise of the goddess, beauty and love could also be manipulative, designed to conjure up the devotion of a woman. Bearing in mind that the method (upaya) of the yogis can also be translated as “trick”, we may not exclude such a possibility.

Western criticism:

In the light of the unconcealed potential for violence and manifest obsessions with power within Tantric Buddhism it is incomprehensible that the idea has spread, even among many Western authors and a huge public too, that Vajrayana is a religious practice which exclusively promotes peace. This seems all the more misled since the whole system in no way denies its own destructiveness and draws its entire power from the exploitation of extremes. In the face of such inconsistencies, some keen interpreters of the tantras project the violent Buddhist fantasies outwards, by making Hinduism and the West responsible for aggression and hunger for power.

For example, the Tibetologist of German origins, Herbert Guenther (born 1917), who has been engaged in an attempt to win philosophical respectability for Vajrayana in Europe and America since the 60s, sharply attacks the Western and Hindu cultures: “this purely Hinduistic power mentality, so similar to the Western dominance psychology, was generalized and applied to all forms of Tantrism by writers who did not see or, due to their being steeped so much in dominance psychology, could not understand that the desire to realize Being is not the same as the craving for power” (Guenther, 1976, p. 64). The sacred eroticism of Buddhism is completely misunderstood in the west and interpreted as sexual pleasure and exploitation. “The use of sexuality as a tool of power destroys its function”, this author tells us and continues, “Buddhist Tantrism dispenses with the idea of power, in which it sees a remnant of subjectivistic philosophy, and even goes beyond mere pleasure to the enjoyment of being and of enlightenment unattainable without woman” (Guenther, 1976, 66).

Anagarika Govinda (1898-1985), also a German converted to Buddhism whose original name was Ernst Lothar Hoffmann and who believed himself to be a reincarnation of the German romantic Novalis, made even greater efforts to deny a claim to power in Tibetan Buddhism. He even attempted, with — when one considers the print run of his books — obviously great success, to cleanse Vajrayana of its sacred sexuality and present it as a pure, spiritual school of wisdom.

Govinda also gives the Hindus the blame for everything bad about the tantras. Shakti — the German lama says — mean power. “United with Shakti, be full of power!”, it says in a Hindu tantra (Govinda, 1984, p. 106). “The concept of Shakti, of divine power,” — the author continues — “plays absolutely no role in Buddhism. Whilst in tantric Hinduism the concept of power lies at the center of concern” (Govinda, 1984, p. 105). Further, we are told, the Tibetan yogi is free of all sexual and power fantasies. He attains union exclusively with the “eternal feminine”, the symbol for “emotion, love, heart, and compassion”. “In this state there is no longer anything ‘sexual’ in the time-honored sense of the word ...” (Govinda, 1984, p. 111).

Yet the feminist critique of Vajrayana, which Miranda Shaw presented in her book on “Women in Tantric Buddhism” published in 1994, appears even more odd. With reference to Herbert Guenther she also judges the interpretation of authors who reveal Tantrism to be a sexual and spiritual exploitation of the woman, to be a maneuver of “western dominance psychology”. These “androcentric” scholars reiterate a prejudice embedded deeply within western culture, which says that men are always active, women in contrast passive victims; men are power conscious, women are powerless; men are molded by intellect, women by emotion. It was suggested that women did not posses the capacity to practice tantric Yoga (Shaw, 1994, p. 9).

It is no surprise that the “militant Tantric” Miranda Shaw argues thus, then from the first to the last line of her committed book she tries to bring the proof that women were in no way inferior to the great gurus and Maha Siddhas. The apparently meager number of “yoginis” to be found in the history of Vajrayana, compared that is to the literally countless assembly of tantric masters, are built up by the author into a spiritual, female super-elite. The women from the founding phase of Tantrism — we learn here — did not just work together with their male partners as equals, rather they were far superior to them in their knowledge of mysteries. They are the actual “masters” and Tantric Buddhism owes its very existence to them. This radical feminist attempt to interpret Tantrism as an originally matriarchal cult event, is however, not entirely unjustified. Let us briefly trace its footsteps.

Once upon a time, the many cultures of this world were all part of the gynocratic age...For five thousand years or more, the gynocratic age had flowered in peace and productivity.

In 1972, Steinem was a voice in the wilderness with her talk of a past gynocratic age; only a handful of feminists had even broached the topic. The second wave of feminism was young then, but for most feminists the patriarchy was old, unimaginably old.

Too old, some would say. The patriarchy is younger now, thanks to growing feminist acceptance of the idea that human society was matriarchal -- or at least "woman-centered" and goddess-worshipping -- from the Paleolithic era, 1.5 to 2 million years ago, until sometime around 3000 BCE. There are almost as many versions of this story as there are storytellers...

For those with ears to hear it, the noise the theory of matriarchal prehistory makes as we move into a new millennium is deafening...

[In the] early 1980s, when I was in graduate school doing research on feminist goddess-worship, [I encountered it again]. I heard the theory constantly then, from everyone I interviewed, and in virtually every book I read that came out of the feminist spirituality movement...

[T]he existence of prehistoric matriarchies meant everything to the women I met through my study of feminist spirituality. In both conversation and literature, I heard the evangelical tone of the converted: the theory of prehistoric matriarchy gave these individuals an understanding of how we came to this juncture in human history and what we could hope for in the future. It underwrote their politics, their ritual, their thealogy (or understanding of the goddess), and indeed, their entire worldview...

Here was a myth that, however recently created, wielded tremendous psychological and spiritual power...

I was intrigued with the idea of female rule or female "centeredness" in society. It was a reversal that had a sweet taste of power and revenge. More positively, it allowed me to imagine myself and other women as people whose biological sex did not immediately make the idea of their leadership, creativity, or autonomy either ridiculous or suspect. It provided a vocabulary for dreaming of utopia, and a license to claim that it was not mere fantasy, but a dream rooted in an ancient reality...

But if I was intrigued with the newness and power of the myth, and with its bold gender reversals, I was at least as impressed by the fact that anyone took it seriously as history. Poking holes in the "evidence" for this myth was, to rely on cliche, like shooting fish in a barrel. After a long day of research in the library, I could go out with friends and entertain them with the latest argument I'd read for matriarchal prehistory, made up entirely -- I pointed out -- of a highly ideological reading of a couple of prehistoric artifacts accompanied by some dubious anthropology, perhaps a little astrology, and a fatuous premise ... or two or three.

When I picked up my research on feminist spirituality again in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I got to know many women involved in the movement, and I felt largely sympathetic toward their struggles to create a more female-friendly religion. But I continued to be appalled by the sheer credulousness they demonstrated toward their very dubious version of what happened in Western prehistory. The evidence available to us regarding gender relations in prehistory is sketchy and ambiguous, and always subject to the interpretation of biased individuals. But even with these limitations, what evidence we do have from prehistory cannot support the weight laid upon it by the matriarchal thesis...

I have been a close observer of the myth of matriarchal prehistory for fifteen years now and have watched as it has moved from its somewhat parochial home in the feminist spirituality movement out into the feminist and cultural mainstream. But I haven't been able to cheer at the myth's increasing acceptance. My irritation with the historical claims made by the myth's partisans masks a deeper discontent with the myth's assumptions. There is a theory of sex and gender embedded in the myth of matriarchal prehistory, and it is neither original nor revolutionary. Women are defined quite narrowly as those who give birth and nurture, who identify themselves in terms of their relationships, and who are closely allied with the body, nature, and sex -- usually for unavoidable reasons of their biological makeup. This image of women is drastically revalued in feminist matriarchal myth, such that it is not a mark of shame or subordination, but of pride and power. But this image is nevertheless quite conventional and, at least up until now, it has done an excellent job of serving patriarchal interests.

Indeed, the myth of matriarchal prehistory is not a feminist creation, in spite of the aggressively feminist spin it has carried over the past twenty-five years. Since the myth was revived from classical Greek sources in 1861 by Johann Jakob Bachofen, it has had -- at best -- a very mixed record where feminism is concerned. The majority of men who championed the myth of matriarchal prehistory during its first century (and they have mostly been men) have regarded patriarchy as an evolutionary advance over prehistoric matriarchies, in spite of some lingering nostalgia for women's equality or beneficent rule. Feminists of the latter half of the twentieth century are not the first to find in the myth of matriarchal prehistory a manifesto for feminist social change, but this has not been the dominant meaning attached to the myth of matriarchal prehistory, only the most recent...

Why then take the time and trouble to critique this myth, especially since it means running the risk of splitting feminist ranks, which are thin enough as it is? Simply put, it is my feminist movement too, and when I see it going down a road which, however inviting, looks like the wrong way to me, I feel an obligation to speak up. Whatever positive effects this myth has on individual women, they must be balanced against the historical and archaeological evidence the myth ignores or misinterprets and the sexist assumptions it leaves undisturbed. The myth of matriarchal prehistory postures as "documented fact," as "to date the most scientifically plausible account of the available information." These claims can be -- and will be here -- shown to be false. Relying on matriarchal myth in the face of the evidence that challenges its veracity leaves feminists open to charges of vacuousness and irrelevance that we cannot afford to court. And the gendered stereotypes upon which matriarchal myth rests persistently work to flatten out differences among women; to exaggerate differences between women and men; and to hand women an identity that is symbolic, timeless, and archetypal, instead of giving them the freedom to craft identities that suit their individual temperaments, skills, preferences, and moral and political commitments...

The enemies of feminism have long posed issues of patriarchy and sexism in pseudoscientific and historical terms. It is not in feminist interests to join them at this game, especially when it is so (relatively) easy to undermine the ground rules...

Discovering -- or more to the point, inventing -- prehistoric ages in which women and men lived in harmony and equality is a burden that feminists need not, and should not bear. Clinging to shopworn notions of gender and promoting a demonstrably fictional past can only hurt us over the long run as we work to create a future that helps all women, children, and men flourish.

-- The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future, by Cynthia Eller



[1] In the usual yab–yum representation of the Dhyani Buddhas, the male Buddha figure always crosses both of his arms behind the back of his wisdom consort, forming what is known as the Vajrahumkara gesture. At the same time he holds a vajra (the supreme symbol of masculinity) in his right hand, and a gantha (the supreme symbol of femininity) in his left. The symbolic possession of both ritual objects identifies him as the lord of both sexes. He is the androgyne and the prajna is a part of his self.
Site Admin
Posts: 36190
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Postby admin » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:25 am

5. Pure Shaktism, Tantric Feminism, and Alchemy:

In order to understand the “theological” intentions of Vajrayana and its iconography and psychology, it is of great value to draw a comparison to the matriarchal and gynocentric goddess cults of India. The high tensions and explosive forces in the sexual magic scenarios of the tantras can only be explained in the light of the conflicting manner in which the two cultural currents treat the dynamic between the sexes. To our knowledge there is no culture where the sexes have as theocratic systems given rise to such sophisticated and complex power struggles as in India — up to and including the present day.

Heinrich von Glasenapp calls pure Shaktism the contrary counter-force to androcentric Buddhism: “pure, hundred-percent Shaktism is the teaching of all those sects which regard Durga or one of her forms as the mistress of the world” (von Glasenapp, 1940, p. 123). Durga, that is just another name for the goddess Kali. She is worshipped by her followers as the highest universal deity. All other gods, whether masculine or feminine, emerge from her. She has both pleasant and horrific characteristics, but the dark and cruel traits predominate. She is traditionally linked to a destructive, man-destroying sexuality. She epitomizes forbidden sex, destructive rage, and death. Terror and madness count among her characteristics and it is believed her out and out destructiveness will one day reduce the world to rubble. Our era, which Hindus and Buddhists equally consider to be the “dark” one, and which is rushing headlong and inevitably towards its downfall, bears the name of this fearsome goddess — Kali yuga.

Kali appears to her believers as Shakti, that is as feminine energy in the form of a universal female divinity. In her omnipotence “she includes both the spiritual and the material principles and can therefore be understood to contain both the soul and nature ... The feminine principle creates the cosmos in combination with the masculine principle -– though the masculine is always of secondary importance and subordinate to the feminine principle...” — reports the tantra researcher Agehananda Bharati (Bharati, 1977, p. 174).

Here the androcentric Wheel of Time has been rotated 180 degrees and Tantrism’s patriarchal pattern of dominance has been reinterpreted matriarchally. Instead of shaven-headed monks or long-haired Maha Siddhas, women now celebrate as “priestesses and female shamans”. The omnipotent divinity now reveals itself to be a woman. “Thus the followers of the Shakti school justify their appellation by the belief that god is a woman and it ought to be the aim of all to become a woman” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 109) — writes Bhattacharyya in his history of the tantric currents.


More even than the ignorance of paternity or the centrality of motherhood in prehistoric cultures, feminist matriarchalists feel that the prevalence of goddess worship in prehistory confirms the gynocentric nature of these societies. As Judy Mann puts it, "if the goddess is female, then females are goddesses." [27]

Several facts confound this interpretation of prehistoric goddess worship. The first is that feminist matriarchalists almost always posit a form of goddess monotheism for prehistory -- though it is rarely called that [28] -- and what evidence we have seems to cut the other way. Goddess monotheism has not been documented any place on the globe. Historical religions, from classical antiquity to the present day, are home to many different goddesses if they include female deities at all. In classical Greece, for example, the various goddesses had diverse roles and functions. The Greeks did not regard them as "aspects of a unitary goddess." [29]

Another troubling fact about goddesses as we know them ethnographically and historically is that they do not always resemble the image that feminist matriarchalists stipulate for prehistoric cultures: the loving mother, the giver and taker of life, the embodiment of the natural world. Some goddesses are incredibly violent -- and not in a way that suggests the benevolent function of watching over the natural cycles of death and rebirth. For example, an Ugaritic text from 1400 BCE Canaan says of the goddess Anat: "She is filled with joy as she plunges her knees in the blood of heroes." The Sumerian Inanna is also a goddess of war, and, significantly, neither she nor Anat is portrayed as a mother. Shitala, worshipped today in Bengal, "tempts fallible persons, and especially mischievous children, with irresistible delicacies, which then break out on their bodies as horrifying and fatal poxes." [30]

More troublesome than these deviations from the feminist matriarchalist ideal is the fact that goddesses are often known to support patriarchal social customs. Goddesses may have nothing whatsoever to do with women's religious needs, representing instead men's fantasies of "the Eternal Mother, the devoted mate, the loving mistress," or even the fearful nature of women's power (should it be allowed to wriggle out from under strict male control). [31] Goddesses may be strongly, if ambivalently, distinguished from human women, and the differences between the two repeatedly emphasized: that is, goddesses "accentuate what womanhood is not" as often as they reflect a culture's notion of what women are. In her research on goddess worship in India, Cynthia Humes has noted that devotees see important commonalities between goddesses and human women, especially related to their "natural maternal instincts." But devotees also report that there is "an unbridgeable chasm between goddesses and human women, since female bodies are irremediably permeated by evil and pollution." As one male pilgrim told Humes, "the difference between the Goddess and women is like the difference between the stone you worship and the rock on which you defecate." [32] Goddess worship has been reported for societies rife with misogyny, and at times goddesses even seem to provide justification for beliefs and practices that are antiwoman. Contrariwise, the worship of male gods can coincide with relatively greater power for women. [33] There is simply no one-to-one relationship between goddess worship and high status for women.

Feminist matriarchalists do not deny the phenomenon of patriarchal goddess worship; they suggest that it was pioneered by the Kurgan invaders. But what they are proposing for prehistory is something different: goddess worship that is culturewide, exclusive, and consistently supportive of women's power and independence. They thereby put themselves in the very difficult position of arguing for a type of goddess worship that has never been seen, either historically or ethnographically.

The fallback option for feminist matriarchalists is to insist that all the historic and ethnographic knowledge we have cannot tell us for certain what prehistory was like. If a worldwide patriarchal revolution occurred before scribes or ethnographers could (or would) accurately record what preceded it, then prehistory could be a world unto itself, not interpretable in terms of the cultures that followed. This is, however, a very drastic thesis. And as calamitous as the patriarchal revolution is taken to be by feminist matriarchalists, it is rarely seen in terms this grandiose. So the usual tack is to simply keep insisting that there is an important equation between the worship of goddesses and an enhanced status for women, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Feminist matriarchalists are basically going on instinct in believing goddesses to be positively related to the status of women -- and instinct, in this case, does not prove to be a very good guide. They note that male dominance is correlated in recent history with the veneration of a male god or gods and assume that the obverse must also be true because it "seems logical." They imaginatively place themselves in cultures that worship goddesses and cannot believe that "with such a powerful role-model," girls and women would not "naturally consider it their right and duty to fully participate in society and to take the lead in government and religion." Their own experience suggests that this must be true, since they have themselves been empowered by the presence of the goddess in their lives. As Sue Monk Kidd enthuses about the goddess, "believe me, there is no way this word, this symbol, can be used to hush women up or get them back in line [her emphasis]." [34]

In fact, so passionate is the desire to believe that goddess worship benefits women that feminist matriarchalists frequently see such benefits in unlikely places. For example, though Jennifer and Roger Woolger admit that for women in Athens "there was little choice between being a homebound matron, a hetaera or high-class prostitute, or a slave," they nevertheless argue that "the mere existence of the various cults to goddesses as individual as Aphrodite, Artemis, Demeter, and Athena provided many rich possibilities for women's psychic and spiritual life, many more than were later retained in Christianity or Judaism." Likewise, Gerda Lerner argues that "no matter how degraded and commodified the reproductive and sexual power of women was in real life, her essential equality could not be banished from thought and feeling as long as the goddesses lived and were believed to rule human life." This is a peculiar way of assessing women's status. Women's self-esteem, secured through the worship of something female, may be a valuable commodity under harsh patriarchal conditions, but this is not remotely akin to the amelioration of those conditions via goddess worship. "Free" women in classical Greece were lifelong legal minors who were mostly forbidden to leave their homes and who were not even their husbands' preferred sexual partners. What exactly is the point of celebrating this ancient culture's goddess worship and contrasting it to our own culture's lack of the feminine divine? [35]

Feminist matriarchalists sometimes retreat to the argument that such societies were "less male-centered than those which worshipped ... an omnipotent male deity, exclusively," even if they were not absolutely female-centered. [36] But some scholars of religion argue precisely the opposite of this thesis. Indeed, this is what a Marxist analysis of religion would predict: goddess worship would compensate women for what they lack in real economic and social power and would serve to keep women from rebelling against their actual low status. In examining the veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico, Ena Campbell notes that although Guadalupe "has eclipsed all other male and female religious figures in Mexico," she is worshipped more by men than women and is used in recompense for women's "actual position in the social scheme." Comparing data from Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, Campbell concludes that "mother goddess worship seems to stand in inverse relationship with high secular female status." [37] Thus, far from being a sign of special respect accorded to women, goddess worship would, in the absence of other evidence, be expected to correlate with a poor state of affairs for women.

It seems more likely that goddess worship can coexist with various degrees of status for women, high or low. Certainly, ethnography has not uncovered a consistent pattern. In The Status of Women in Preindustrial Societies, anthropologist Martin King Whyte attempted to uncover the determinants of women's status. Of the items he investigates having to do with religion, only one of them -- equally elaborate funerals for women and men, as opposed to women having none or less elaborate ones than men -- is shown to correlate with women's status at all, and that only weakly. The others, including "sex of gods and spirits," "sex of mythical founders," "sex of shamans," "sex of witches," and "religious ceremony participation" all vary independently of other markers of the status of women (such as menstrual taboos, husbands' authority over wives, and property ownership). [38] It seems that people can worship gods or goddesses, have priests or priestesses, remember ancestresses or ancestors, without it having any particular effect on how ordinary women are treated. There is no warrant for the feminist matriarchalist assumption that prehistoric goddess worship, insofar as it existed, conferred greater respect upon women or insulated them from misogyny or subordination to men.

-- The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future, by Cynthia Eller

The gynocentric male sacrifice:

According to one widely distributed view, the matriarchal element and goddess cult are believed to have been predominant for centuries in Indian society and can still now be discovered in folk culture (Bhattacharya, 1982, p. 116, note 41; Tiwari 1985). The native inhabitants of the first pre-Aryan agricultural societies were followers of the “great goddess”. Ritual objects from excavations of the ancient towns of Mohenjodaro and Harappa (c. 2500 B.C.E.) indicate that matriarchal cults were practiced there. Astounding parallels to the Babylonian goddesses of the Fertile Crescent have been drawn.


Do the many female figurines at Indus sites justify the belief that the worship of a "mother Goddess" was prevalent then? One of India's most distinguished archaeologists offers a contrary viewpoint in this deeply informed, multi-faceted analysis of these figurines. She starts by noting that they are not nearly as prevalent as people may assume, but rather "as the exclusive–or near-exclusive–product of the activities of just two cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro" (p. 19). She also considers the important point made by Sharri R. Clark in her recent book The Social Lives of Figurines – Recontextualizing the Third–Millennium–BC Terracotta Figurines from Harappa that there is no solid evidence -– other than preconceptions -– that Indus female figurines are thought of as "Mother Goddesses," and picks up the thread of others who have also suggested more prosaic uses for these figurines. Ratnagar regards this labelling of objects as "cultic" objects [e.g. "Mother Goddesses"] as "a simplistic solution to the complex task of archaeological interpretation" (p. 9).

-- The Magic in the Image: Women in Clay at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, by

Only following the violent intrusion of patriarchal pastoral peoples from the north (around 1500 B.C.E.) was the native religion of India systematically displaced. From now on the Aryan caste system with its sacrificial priests (Brahmans) and warriors (Kshatriyas) at its peak determined social religious politics. Nor did the first phase of Buddhism show any essential change in the androcentric pattern. At the time of the Maurya and Gupta periods (around 300 C.E.) this experienced a decisive transformation. The ascetic doctrine of early Buddhism (Hinayana) gave way to the ideal of the compassionate Bodhisattva (Mahayana). Hinduism’s colorful lineage of gods developed — often represented as great mythical couples. But the archeologists have also excavated numerous clay figures from this epoch, which depict the Great Mother deity. Her figure even appears on coins. The submerged “feminine principle” of the earliest times thus reappeared between the third and seventh centuries C.E. in India.

Starting among the rural population it gained access to even the highest strata. “ The mass strength behind it,” Bhattacharyya informs us, “placed goddesses by the side of gods of all religions, but even by doing so the entire emotion centering round the Female Principle could not be channelised. So the need was felt for a new religion, entirely female dominated, a religion in which even the great gods like Visnu or Shiva would remain subordinated to the goddess. This new religion came to be known as Shaktism” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 207).

The Buddhists were also not in a position to remain completely untouched by this renaissance of ancient female cults. This can be detected, for example, in the famous collection of poems, Therigatha, where Buddhist nuns sing of their liberation from the slavery of everyday family life. But there was never a real emancipation movement of female Buddhists. In contrast the followers of the Buddha Shakyamuni were successful in their epochal attempt to gain control of the “new women”, through integration and manipulation, without needing to combat or suppress the emergent “woman power” directly: the monks discovered Vajrayana.

There is much to be said for the suggestion the tantric practices, or at least similar rites, were originally part of the cult of worship of the great goddess, which in contrast to early Buddhism had a completely free and open attitude towards sexuality. This is also admitted implicitly by the Buddhist yogis when they project all the forces of the universes into a female archetype. Since they were convinced they possessed a technique (upaya) which in the final instance placed absolute power over the goddess in their hands, they could maintain this apparent omnipotence of the feminine without risk. One almost has the impression that they deliberately adopted the omnipotent matriarchal image.

Yet as soon as women actually grasped for power, this was seen by all the androcentric cults of India as a great disaster and much feared. The woman then appears as a bestial horror god or a bloodthirsty tigress who kills her lover, performs bizarre dances upon his corpse or places the still-aroused penis of the dead in her vulva. She is depicted as a being with a gaping maw and bloody canines. Numerous variants of such macabre portraits are known. In the light of such images of horror the fears of the men were thoroughly justified and man-destroying cult sacrifices were then no rarity in the vicinity of the black Kali.

Myth as Charter

Granted that feminist matriarchalists are making some unwarranted leaps in interpreting myth as history, this still does not rule out the basic premise that myth could in fact be encoding a history of patriarchal revolution. Certainly some of the Greek myths to which feminist matriarchalists appeal offer a clear account of the imposition of male dominance on formerly free (or freer) women. And classical Greece is not the only place such myths are found. These myths of former female dominance are found around the globe. They are full of local details, but they contain some interesting similarities. The most common pattern is that certain powerful and/or magical ceremonial objects (hats, flutes, trumpets, masks) were originally owned or created by women, and possessing them gave women greater social power. Eventually, men confiscated these objects and withheld them from women and, as a result, women's social status is lower to this day.

A good example of such a myth comes from the Selk'nam of Tierra del Fuego. The Selk'nam were a hunting and fishing people, mostly undisturbed by outsiders until white colonization of their land began in 1880. According to Selk'nam myth, women originally "ruled over men without mercy." The men did all the hunting, but also all the child-tending and domestic work, while the women met in private in the Hain, a large hut where they lived apart from the men, to deliberate on and resolve important social matters. Despite the men being physically larger and armed with hunting weapons, the women kept them subjugated by impersonating demons and spirits. In these disguises they visited the village during ceremonies, frightening and punishing men who threatened to get out of line. The women periodically ordered the men to deliver meat to them to satiate the demons' voracious appetites. The men did as they were told, and the women feasted on the meat and laughed "with malice at the men's incredible naivete and stupidity."

Things continued in this manner until one day Sun, a male culture hero, spied on two young women as they practiced the parts they would play in the ceremony. When Sun reported the women's secret back to the men, they responded by immediately attacking and killing the women. (Men who could not bear to kill their own daughters or wives asked other men to kill them for them.) Only the youngest girls and infants were spared. In order to prevent these girls from growing up to revive the rule of women, the men hatched a plan: they would live in the Hain apart from the women, and they would periodically impersonate demons and spirits to scare the women into submission -- not a very original plan, to be sure, but a time-tested one.

Feminist matriarchalists hold that these myths of former female dominance, like all "legends that won't die," contain a "race-memory."  They would not be so widespread, they argue, if there weren't some historical basis for them. The primary competing explanation for these cross-cultural myths of women's former dominance is that they are a "social charter" for male dominance.

The idea of myth as "charter" was first proposed by anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in the 1920s. Interested in the functions of myth, Malinowski claimed that for any group myth could be understood as a collection of narratives that dictate belief, define ritual, and act "as the chart of their social order and the pattern of their moral behaviour." Malinowski suggested that myth tends to promote the status quo, since its function "is to strengthen tradition and endow it with a greater value and prestige by tracing it back to a higher, better, more supernatural reality of initial events." Such mythic charters are said to operate especially in areas of sociological strain, such as significant differences in status or power. Gender disparities certainly fit in this category, and indeed Malinowski drew special attention to them:" Nothing is more familiar to the native than the different occupations of the male and female sex," Malinowski wrote. "There is nothing to be explained about it. But though familiar, such differences are at times irksome, unpleasant, or at least limiting, and there is the need to justify them, to vouch for their antiquity and reality, in short to buttress their validity."

This theory seems ready-made to account for cross-cultural myths of women's former dominance. The aim of the myth is to justify the present state of affairs: in this case, male dominance. If women had power before -- especially if they misused it, as they frequently did -- then it is only fair that men should have it now, these myths seem to say. The myth-as-charter view suggests that myths of women's former dominance merely "mystify the inevitable inequities of any social order and ... win the consent of those over whom power is exercised, thereby obviating the need for the direct coercive use of force and transforming simple power into 'legitimate' authority." In short, "ideology masquerades as aetiology."

That these myths of women's former dominance are working to justify male dominance is often quite plain in the contexts in which they are deployed. When the Selk'nam congregate for the Hain festival which celebrates the male takeover, women are terrorized by men dressed as deities and demons. As anthropologist Anne McKaye Chapman reports, "women whose behaviour has not conformed to the model of subservient wife" are singled out by these demons: their huts are shaken, their hearths stirred up, their belongings dragged out of their huts or thrown at them; they may even be beaten and stabbed with a stick. And in at least some of the groups that hold a myth of women's former dominance, the men self-consciously use the myth to retain their power. For example, male informants from a tribe in Papua New Guinea have told anthropologists that without their myth and the sacred flutes associated with it, the women "would laugh at us and we men would lose all authority over them, they would no longer cook for us nor rear our pigs." Marie Reay, speaking of a group that credits women with inventing marriage during a time of female dominance, notes that the men "admit freely that they wish women to think that marriage was the women's own idea so that they may become reconciled to an institution in which all the advantage lies with the men."

Classicists who have concerned themselves with ancient Greek myths of women's former dominance tend to interpret them in this same way, as justifications for male dominance which are "didactic rather than historical." Even in antiquity, there was some dispute about whether Amazons were fictional or historical. Today most scholars are agreed that Amazons existed strictly in myth, and that legends about them served as morality tales teaching that women's rule is dangerous and unnatural. Amazon societies are constructed as a reversal of Greek practices, an "antitype to the patriarchal social order that the Greeks identified with civilization." They display what the world would be like in the absence of patriarchal gender norms, and it is a frightening place.

It is not just the Amazons to whom the ancient Greeks attributed an unnatural level of power for women. The Egyptians, the Lycians, the Lemnians, and others are all credited with this "barbaric" arrangement. Indeed, the ancient Greeks show a preoccupation with the rule of women not unlike that found in tribal New Guinea or South America. A myth such as that of the naming of Athens clearly "justifies the lowly estate of women in society" and pins it squarely on women, who voted the wrong way and thus earned their lot in society.

In general, feminist matriarchalists have no trouble believing that myths of women's former dominance, whether from ancient Greece or contemporary New Guinea, are used to keep women down. To this extent, they are in agreement with their critics. The key difference is that feminist matriarchalists believe that the myth is not only a charter, but also a history, a belief their critics do not share. "We don't fear something that doesn't exist, something that never happened, something that never could happen," reasons Phyllis Chesler. But we fear all sorts of things that don't exist (monsters, dragons, and the like) or that haven't happened (extraterrestrial invasions, all-out nuclear war). Some of our fears are reasonable, others are not, but the relevant factor in whether or not we find things frightening is not their prior, documented existence. It seems perfectly plausible that men could find the rule of women frightening even if women have never ruled; perhaps especially because women have never ruled and how they would behave is therefore unknown. Men have ample reason to fear that the desire for revenge would run high if the tables were ever turned and women took power. Myths of women's former dominance -- which have in fact been invented exclusively by men, as far as we can tell -- could well exist only to quell men's anxieties about their social position.

Feminist matriarchalist interpretations of ancient myth are rather transparently driven by ideology. Mythical evidence can by its nature be given various incommensurable interpretations. In this case, it provides no real support for the proposed prehistoric patriarchal revolution, though it does offer a fertile field for imagination. In contrast, linguistic, archaeological, and genetic evidence offer some support for the theory of Indo-European invasions from the steppes in the fifth and fourth millennia BCE. It is not implausible that the people and concepts that spread out from the Russian steppes into neighboring lands were patriarchal, patrilineal, and warlike. But as previous chapters have shown, it is likewise not implausible that the peoples who came in contact with them were already as patriarchal, patrilineal, and warlike as their enemies. Neither is there any positive evidence that the Kurgans from the Russian steppes were an exceptionally brutal, supremely patriarchal people. Their stock of weaponry, as it has been uncovered archaeologically, does not dwarf that of Neolithic peoples to the south, nor do Kurgan skeletons give unusual evidence of violence toward women. Therefore an Indo-European military conquest -- if one occurred, which is by no means certain -- cannot be assumed to count as the birth of patriarchy.

-- The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future, by Cynthia Eller

The religious studies scholar Doniger O’Flaherty traces them all back to the archetypal ritual of an insect, which bears the name of “preying mantis”. This large locust bites off the head of the smaller male during copulation and then consumes it with relish (O’Flaherty, 1982, p. 81). Although the tales do not say that the goddess rips off the head of her lover with her teeth, she does decapitate him with a saber.

Such female cults are supposed to imitate vegetative events in nature. Just as the plants germinate, sprout, blossom, bear fruit and then die back to arise anew from seed, so death appeared to them to be a necessary aspect of life and the precondition for a rebirth. When the ancient cosmocentric mother goddess donates fertility, she demands in return bloody sacrifices. It was mostly animals and humans of male gender who had to surrender their lives to preserve and propagate the plant, animal and human kingdoms (Herrmann-Pfand, 1992, p. 102; Neumann, 1949, p. 55). It is not said, however, whether this vegetative orientation to the cult was the sole motive or whether there was not also a bloody demonstration of power within a religiously motivated struggle between the sexes involved.

The cruel rites of Kali in no way belong to the past. As the Indian press currently reports, in recent times more and more incidents of human sacrifice to the goddess have accumulated, in which it is primarily children who are offered up. The ancient and universal myth of the Earth Mother, who consumes her own progeny and fattens herself with their corpses, who greedily laps up the blood-seed of humans and animals, who lures life into her abyss and dark hole in order to destroy it, is actually celebrating a renaissance in contemporary India (Neumann, 1989, pp. 148–149).

The vajra and the double-headed ax:

Initially, men may have reacted with fear and then with protestation to such bloody matriarchal rites, as we can conclude from many patriarchal founding myths. Perhaps some kind of masculine anxiety neurosis, derived from long forgotten and suppressed struggles with matriarchy, lies hidden behind the seemingly pathological overemphasis accorded to the vajra and thus the “phallus” in Tantric Buddhism?

In a cultural history of the “diamond scepter” (vajra), the Tibetologist Siegbert Hummel mentions that the vajra was worshipped both in Vedic India and among the Greeks as a lightning symbol. The symbol entered Buddhism via the Hellenistic influence on the art of Gandhara. The current form only evolved over the course of centuries. Formerly, the vajra more resembled a “double-headed ax with lightning-like radiance” (Hummel, 1954, pp. 123ff.).

Hummel, who has also examined matriarchal influences on Tibetan culture in other works, surmises that the symbol had a Cretan gynocentric origin. But let us quote him directly: “Vajra” and “double-headed ax” presuppose “images of the Cretan mother deity, who carries a double-headed ax, as not just a sign but also an embodiment of her sovereignty and power as well as a magical instrument, a privilege, incidentally, which male deities significantly did not receive” (Hummel, 1954, p. 123). The Minoan cult object is said to have been used as a weapon with which the sacred bull was slaughtered.

This bovine blood ritual, which according to reports and myths of antiquity was widely distributed among the matriarchal cults of the Near East, brings the ancient male sacrifice into the discussion once more. Then the bull is considered a historically more recent substitute for the husband of the tribal queen, who herself was supposed to be the incarnation of a goddess. Following the expiry of his period in office, the priestesses sacrificed him and soaked the soil with his royal blood in order to generate fertility.

Aside from this, it is highly likely that ancient castration were linked with the double-headed ax (Hummel, 1954, pp. 123ff.). At any rate, the almighty Cybele bore this sharp implement as her emblem of power. Classical authors report with horror how the fanatical priests of this Phrygian mother-goddess let themselves be ritually emasculated or performed the mutilation themselves. “Cybelis” is said to be a translation of “double-headed ax” (Alexiou, n.d., p. 92).

If we accept Hummel’s account of the origin of the vajra as the man-destroying scepter of the great goddess, then the excessive reverence with which the Tantric Buddhists treat the “thunderbolt” becomes more comprehensible: The ax, which once felled or mutilated man has now become his most-feared magical weapon, with which he graphically demonstrates his victory over the great goddess.

In the vajra, the “diamond scepter”, “thunderbolt” or “phallus”, the androcentric control of the world is symbolized. It represents the superiority of the masculine spirit over the feminine nature. “The vajra”, Lama Govinda writes, “became ... the quintessence of supreme spiritual, a power which nothing can withstand and which is itself unassailable and invincible: just as a diamond, the hardest of all substances, can cut to pieces all other substances without itself being cut by anything else” (Govinda, 1991, p. 65). In order to demonstrate this omnipotence of absolute masculinity, there arose within “Vajrayana” the linguistic obsession which links all the events and protagonists of the tantric rituals to the word vajra.

It is not just the objects which are ceremonially sacrificed, like vajra-incense, vajra-shells, vajra-lamps, vajra-perfumes, vajra-flowers, vajra-flags, vajra-dresses and so forth which bear the Sanskrit name of the “diamond scepter”, but also all the ritual activities such as vajra-music, vajra-dance, vajra-motion, vajra-gestures. “The whole of this system pivots upon the idea of the vajra, which is the supreme ideal, but at the same time environs the initiate from his first steps. Everything which concerns the mystique training bears this name. The water of the preliminary purification, the pot that contains it, the sacred formula to repeat over it ... all is vajra” (Carelli, 1941, p. 6).

Even the symbol of supreme femininity, the “emptiness” (shunyata), is not spared its application. “The vajra represents the active principle,” writes Snellgrove, “the means towards enlightenment and the means of conversion, while the bell represents Perfection of Wisdom, known as the Void (sunyata). In the state of union, however, the vajra comprehends both these coefficients of enlightenment, the means and the wisdom” (Snellgrove, 1987, vol. 1, p. 131). “Shunyata”, we can read in Dasgupta, “which is firm, substantial, indivisible and impenetrable, incapable of being burnt and imperishable, is called Vajra... Vajra ... is the void and in Vajrayana everything is Vajra” (Dasgupta, 1974, pp. 77, 72).

Vajra and the “bell” (gantha) count as the two most important ritual objects in Tantrism. But here too the masculine “thunderbolt” has achieved supremacy. This is most graphically expressed in the symbolic construction of the feminine “bell”. In order to display its subordinacy to the masculine principle, it always possesses a handle in the form of a half vajra. One will also not find a gantha, which does not have numerous tiny “diamond scepters”, i.e., “phalluses”, engraved on its outer edge. The bell, visible and much-praised symbol of the feminine, is thus also under the hegemony of the “thunderbolt”.

The gesture of dominance with which the tantric master seals his consort during the sexual act is called the Vajrahumkara mudra: he crosses both hands behind the back of his partner, with the vajra held in his right hand, and the gantha in the left. The symbolic content of this gesture can only be the following: the yogi as androgyne is lord over both sexual energies, the masculine (symbolized by the vajra) and the feminine (symbolized by the gantha). In encircling ("sealing”) his wisdom consort with the androgyne gesture, he wishes to express that she is a part of his self, or rather, that he has absorbed her as his maha mudra ("inner woman”).

The dakini:

Among the noisy retinue of Kali can, in Hindu accounts, be found a cluster of lesser female demons known as dakinis. As we have already seen, these also play an indispensable role in the salvational practices of Buddhist Tantrism. The “sky walkers” -- as their name can be translated — are less a female species of angel; rather, they are primarily a subordinate class of female devils. Since they originally belonged to the Kali milieu, their historically more recent transformation into a Buddhist support unit must surely provide some interesting insights into the early history of Tantrism and its relation to the gynocentric cults.

The dakinis have a preference for hanging around crematoria. Their favorite fare is human flesh, which they use for magical purposes in their rituals. They visit sickness upon women, men, and children, especially fever, obsessions, consumption, and sterility. Like the European witches they fly through the air and assume the most varied animal forms. They thus torment those around them as cats, poisonous snakes, lionesses and bitches. They are reviled as “noise-makers, women who take away, hissers, and flesh-eaters”. As vampires, they suck up fresh blood and ritually consume menstrual discharge — their own or that of others. Like the Greek harpies, with whom they have much else in common, they devour afterbirth and feed themselves from corpses. They have a great predilection and craving for the male seed. These horror-women can even consume the breath of a living person (O’Flaherty, 1982, p. 237).

Their terrible appearance is described in a biography of the great Tibetan deliverer of salvation, Padmasambhava: some ride upon lions with their hair let out and carry skulls in their hands as signs of victory; others perch upon the backs of birds and let out shrill shrieks; the bodies of yet others are topped by ten faces and ten mouths with which they devour human hearts; a further group vomit up dogs and wolves; They generate lightning, and descend upon their victims with a thunderclap. “The trace of a third eye upon her forehead [can be found], they have long clawlike finger-nails, and a black heart in her vagina” (Stevens, 1990, p. 73). Ritual curved knives, with which they dismember corpses; a skull bowl out of which they slurp all sorts of blood; a small two-ended drum prepared from the brain-pans of two children, with which she summons her companions and a scepter, upon which three skulls are skewered, — are all considered part of a dakini’s standard equipment.

Sculpture of a Dakini

The dakinis normally only reveal themselves to the Tantric — either as human women in flesh and blood or as dream figures, or as ghosts. In the bardo state, the time between death and rebirth, however, they encounter everyone who has died in order to carry out their horrific sacrifices. The Tibetan Book of the Dead also calls them gauris and many individuals among them are named: Ghasmari, Candali, Nari, Pukkasi and so forth. They ride upon buffaloes, wolves, jackals and lions; wear the most varied human bones as jewelry; clasp banners of children’s skin in their hands; their baldachins are made of human skin; they play their horrible melodies upon the hip bones of a Brahman girl from which they have fashioned flutes; as scepter one grasps the corpse of an infant, another rips the head of a man off and consumes it. With this dreadful display the “sky walkers” want to induce the spirit of the dead person to seek out in fear the protective womb of a human woman so as to be reborn. But should he courageously resist the frightful images, then he becomes freed from the “Wheel of Life” and is permitted to enter nirvana.

Consequently, the tantras urge that every adept procure for himself the arts and cunning of Cakrasamvara, the first Buddhist dakini subduer, in order to conquer and bind these female fiends, as he can only experience enlightenment by subjugating the demonesses. He then becomes lord over the feminine in general, precisely because this opposed him in its most terrible form as a death-goddess and he did not yield to it.

But the process has more than just a psychological dimension. Since the dakinis come from the army of the black Kali, for patriarchal Tantrism her subjugation is also a “theocratic” act. With every victory over a “sky walker” the gynocentric cult of the great black goddess is symbolically overpowered by the androcentric power of the Buddha.

The methods employed in this act of conquest are often brutal. When the Maha Siddha Tilopa met the queen of the dakinis in her palace in the form of an attractive and graceful girl (a witch’s illusion), he did not let the demoness pull the wool over his eyes. He tore the clothes from her body and raped her (Sierksma, 1966, p. 112). In the Guhyasamaja Tantra the masculine Hauptgottheit draws the dakinis to him with skewers and diamond hooks which “shine like scorching flames”. We have already mentioned Albert Grünwedel’s surmise above, that the “sky walkers” were originally real women who were transformed into pliant spiritual beings via a “tantric fire sacrifice”. The possibility cannot be excluded that the reason they suffered their fiery “witches’ fate” was that before their “Buddhization” they offered their services to the terrible Kali as priestesses.

Whilst it is true, as the Tibetan historian Buston tells us, that the demonesses were subjugated by the tantric divinity Cakrasamvara and converted to Buddhism, their cruelty was only partially overcome by the conversion. Actually, from this point on, there are two types of dakini and it is not uncommon that the two represent contrary aspects of a single “sky walker”. The dark, repulsive form is joined by a figure of light, an ethereal dancing fairy, a smiling virgin. This goodly part took over the role of the inana mudra for the yogi, the amiable spiritual woman and transcendent bearer of knowledge. In the next chapter we discuss in more detail how such a division of dakinis into evil witches and good fairies represents a primary event in tantric (and alchemic) control techniques.

Thus the evil party among the dakinis did not need to surrender their pre-Buddhist terrors, and unlike the bloody Erinyes from the Greek sagas, did not transform themselves into peace-loving pillars of the state like the Eumenides. Rather, the horror dakinis offered their destructive arts in the service of the new Buddhist doctrine. They continued to play a role as forms in which the death-mother and her former mistress, Kali, whom an adept needed to subdue, could appear. Their terrible emergence has become a downright essential, albeit mortally dangerous, stretch to be traversed upon the path of tantric enlightenment. Only at the end of a successful initiation do the “demonesses” appear in the form of “female angels”.

For Lama Govinda, however, who constantly attempts to exorcise all “witches’ dances” out of Tibetan Buddhism, their light form is the only truth: for him, the dakini represents that element of the “ethereal realm” which we are unable to perceive with our senses, since the Tibetan name for the sky walker, Khadoma, is said to have this meaning (Govinda, 1984, p. 228). The European lama explains the Khadomas to be “meditative geniuses”, “impulses of inspiration, which transform natural force into creative genius” (Govinda, 1984, p. 228) — in brief, they operate as the muses of the yogis. Govinda’s view is not all that incorrect, but he describes only the result of a many –layered and very complicated process, in which the demonic dakini is transformed via the “tantric female sacrifice” described above into a soft and ethereal “sky walker”.

Kali as conquered time goddess:

Now is it just the wild former retinue of Kali which is subdued in Buddhist Tantrism, or is the dark goddess herself conquered? The Tibet researcher, Austine Waddell, has concluded on the basis of an illustration of the time god, Kalachakra, and his consort, Vishvamata, that we are dealing here with a representation of the Highest Buddha in union with the Hindu horror goddess Kali, who together do the devil’s work (Waddell, 1934, p. 131). These days, his interpretation is considered amusing, and is often cited as a warning example of Western ignorance and arrogance. But in our view Waddell is absolutely correct, and he is able to help us understand the mystery hidden at the heart of the Kalachakra Tantra.

For the entire post-Vedic Indian culture (i.e., for both Hinduism and Buddhism), the goddess Kali represents the horror mother of our decadent last days, which bear her name as the Kali yuga. Therefore, she is the “mistress of history”. More comprehensively — she is considered to be the personification of manifest time (kala) itself. In translation, the word kali means both the feminine form of ‘time’ and also the color ‘black’. As such, for Hinduism the goddess symbolized the apocalyptic “black hole” into which the entire material universe vanishes at the end of time. The closer we draw to the end of a cosmic cycle, the thicker the “darkness” becomes.

Her male counterpole and Buddhist challenger, Kalachakra, attempts — one could conclude from Waddell’s interpretation — to wrench the “Wheel of Time” from her, in order to himself become “Lord of History” and establish a worldwide androcentric Buddhocracy. In the current and the coming eon he wants that he and he alone has control over time. It is thus a matter of which of the two sexes controls the evolution of the complete polar universe — she as goddess or he as god? When the tantric master as the representative of the time god on earth succeeds in conquering the goddess Kali, then he has — according to tantric logic — cleared the way on his path to exclusive patriarchal world domination.

Aggression toward one another is thus the basis of the relation between the two gender-pretenders to the “time throne”. But the Buddhist Kalachakra god appears to proceed more cleverly than his Hindu opponent, Kali Vishvamata. Using magic techniques he understands how to goad the aggressive sexuality of the goddess and nonetheless bring it under his control.

We shall later see that it is also his intention to destroy the existing universe, which bears the name Kali yuga. For this reason he is extremely interested in the destructive aspects of time (kali) or, respectively, in the destructive power of the goddess, who can crush all forms of existence beneath her. “What is Kalachakrayana?”, a contemporary tantra commentator asks, and answers revealingly, “The word kala means time, death and destruction. Kalachakra is the wheel of destruction” (Dasgupta, 1974, p. 65).
Site Admin
Posts: 36190
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Religion and Cults

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests