Virupa, Master of Dakinis
I, who live in spontaneous reality
Depend upon the Magnificent Symbol.
I, who exist in things as they are,
Without self, not thinking, not achieving,
Am saved from the pit of nihilism by existential self-awareness,
Am saved from an eternal heaven by absolute detachment.
I live in consummate pure delight and perfect awareness.
Virupa, the dakini master, was born in Bengal in the eastern province of Tripura, during the reign of King Devapala. When still a young child, he entered the celebrated Buddhist monastic academy of Somapuri. There he devoted his life to study and meditation with a thousand other pious monks and received the initiation and empowerment of the dakini Vajra Varahi, the Sow-Faced One.
Industriously, he recited her mantra twice ten million times for twelve long years. And yet, nothing happened. Not once in all those twelve years did he receive so much as a dream to indicate that he was making progress.
At last, Virupa became so disgusted with himself and his apparently useless practice, that he threw his rosary into the latrine. Naturally, when the time came for evening worship, he did not have his prayer beads. Suddenly, Vajra Varahi herself appeared before him in a shining vision. She handed him an exquisitely carved rosary and said: "Child of Happiness, why are you so troubled? Keep up your practice, for you are blessed by me, If you would see clearly that things are neither this nor that, you must let go your wandering, critical thoughts. Strip your mind of illusion!"
Deeply inspired, Virupa renewed his practice of the spiritual discipline of his dakini-guru for another twelve years, gaining the supreme realization of mahamudra.
As he had attained power over the duality of life and death, he saw no contradiction in eating meat or drinking alcohol, although it was against the rules of his order. One day he asked his servants for pigeon pie, whereupon they caught a few of the pigeons that roosted in the eaves of the monastery, wrung their necks, and prepared them for the table.
However, an elderly monk noticed that the pigeons had disappeared. Shouting, "Let him who has the audacity to eat pigeons come forth," he ran to the great bell to call everyone to assembly.
"Surely none of us would do such an abominable thing!" whispered the venerable monks in astonishment. But the abbot ordered a cell-to-cell search. Before long they came to Virupa, sitting down with happy anticipation to a meal of pigeon and wine. Outraged, the monks stripped him of his office and ordered him to leave the monastery.
Virupa removed his habit and laid it with his begging bowl before the image of the Buddha that he had worshiped for more than a quarter of a century, and prostrated himself in homage before the image. Then he left by the monastery gate.
"Where are you going?" demanded the gatekeeper.
"I am told I no longer belong here. Therefore, I shall follow whatever path is provided for me," he replied. All the monks of Somapuri gathered at the gate as Virupa approached the broad lotus-filled lake that bordered the monastery.
At the water's edge, Virupa tested one of the lotus leaves with his foot and saw that it did not sink beneath his weight. Then, miraculously, with the Buddha's name upon his lips, he trod lightly from leaf to leaf until he reached the opposite shore.
Their hearts in their mouths, the monks of Somapuri stood watching his amazing feat. Then, with great remorse, they prostrated themselves before Virupa and, in humble devotion, begged him to return.
"Please explain to us why you killed our pigeons," they implored.
"That was simply an illusion, like all temporal phenomena," replied the master, and told his servants to bring him a few scraps of pigeon wing. Taking the bits of feather and bone, he held them aloft. At a snap of his fingers the pigeons were restored to life, and even more beautiful than before, they soared into the heavens.
Virupa then left the monastery once and for all to become a yogin. Wherever he went, awestruck witnesses told tales of his miraculous doings.
One of his first adventures occurred at the banks of the river Ganges where Virupa beseeched Ganga Devi, the goddess of the river, to give him something to eat and drink for he had traveled far. But she refused. Whereupon Virupa commanded the waters to part and marched across to the other bank.
By the time he reached the nearby town of Kanasata he was ravenous. Entering a tavern, he demanded a flagon of wine and a plate of rice, which he devoured with gusto. Then he roared for more drink, then more and more, until he had drunk the tavern dry. When the suspicious tavern keeper asked him to settle his bill, Virupa offered her the sun in the sky. To seal his pledge, he took his phurba from his robes and thrust this magical dagger exactly halfway between the light and the darkness, thus transfixing the daystar so it could not continue on its course.
For the next two and a half days the town of Kanasata was plagued with continual daylight and unremitting heat. The crops withered in the field, and even the river began to shrink from her banks. Virupa, however, continued to drink, consuming five hundred elephant loads of spirits.
By this time, the king himself was at his wit's end. As yet unaware of Virupa's presence, he commanded his minister to discover the cause of the endless, blinding sunlight, but his investigations were fruitless. Finally, the sun goddess herself appeared to the king in a dream, revealing that a siddha's debt to a woman in a tavern imprisoned her above his realm. To rid himself of this disaster, the king was forced to pay the debt. Thereupon, Virupa vanished and the sun moved once again across the heavens.
Next, Virupa traveled to the country of Indra, which was ruled by exceedingly devout Brahmins. They had built a massive stone image of Mahadeva, the Great God Siva, which stood six hundred and eighty feet high. The keepers of the shrine demanded that Virupa bow down before the image.
"How can an elder brother bow down to his junior?" scoffed the master. The king of Indra, who had come to worship at the image, heard these words and gave Virupa an ultimatum: "Bow down or die."
"It would be a sin for me to bow down to this deity," Virupa insisted.
"Then let the sin be upon me!" said the king.
As soon as Virupa placed his palms together in homage, the gigantic stone image cracked in two and a great voice shook the heavens, saying: "Your word is my command!"
"Then swear your allegiance to the Buddha," commanded Virupa.
"I hear and obey," roared the voice, and at once the ruined colossus was miraculously restored.
The rich offerings that had been heaped at the feet of Siva were now offered to Virupa. He summoned all the devotees of Lord Buddha and distributed the offerings equally among them. So great was this bounty, that the people were sustained through famine, flood, and pestilence for many, many years.
Virupa continued on his wanderings and came at last to the town of Devikotta in eastern India. Unknown to the yogin, the people of this place had all become flesh-eating ghouls.
On the road into town, in search of his morning meal, Virupa encountered a pleasant-looking matron who offered to fill his bowl if he would accompany her to her home. Thinking she must live nearby, he followed her as she turned off the main road. But when the woman hurried on and on, and the track became narrower and more overgrown, Virupa grew uneasy. He called out to the woman and asked if they were near their destination.
"You are very near the end of your journey," cried the woman. And she turned upon him and transfixed him with her blood-red eyes. Held fast by her spell, Virupa could not move so much as a finger to help himself as a menacing crowd of ghouls materialized silently from the shadowy jungle and carried him off to the abandoned temple.
Imprisoned within the moldering structure, Virupa found himself in the company of a very young Brahmin boy. The lad had also been in search of food that morning when he too had the misfortune to meet the same spellbinding fiend upon the road. Now he and Virupa were about to become offerings themselves in some horrible rite. They could hear blood-curdling howls and wild drumming outside as the ghouls whirled in their dance of death.
The boy began to weep, but Virupa comforted him and told him to sleep, all would be well by sunup. As the child's tears melted into dream, Virupa blessed him with a powerful mantra of protection.
At moonrise, two brawny fiends came to fetch their tender young victim. But try as they might, they were unable to move the sleeping child. He was rooted to the earth. The yogin, however, was sleeping on a wooden plank, and the two thugs just managed to lift it and carry him out to the circle of dancers.
Wakened by the drums, Virupa was still unable to move as they plied him with liquor. He could only watch as the drunken ghouls worked themselves into a frenzy, brandishing their ritual knives in readiness for slaughter.
But just as their blood-maddened screeches reached a crescendo, Virupa burst into laughter. Surprised, but amused, the dancers laughed all the louder, But their glee turned to horror when his terrible twelve-tone bellow -- the laughter of Heruka -- began to drown out their hellish merriment. As his howls grew louder and louder, the ghouls were convulsed with pain and clasped their hands to their ears. When they implored him to stop, Virupa told them he would do so only if they vowed to devote themselves to the teachings of the Buddha. When his deafening laughter rang out again, the ghouls prostrated themselves before him and swore to do his bidding.
At this, Virupa rose. In his right hand, as if by magic, there appeared an enormous razor-sharp discus. Towering behind him stood the horrific presence of the Demon of the North. "Should you entertain the slightest thought of not renewing your pledge to the Buddha every day," said the master with a fiendish grin, "expect to lose a cup of blood each day you fall from the path. And should you turn away entirely from the Buddha's law and worship some other god, this discus will fly from the heavens and sever your head from your neck, and the Demon of the North will suck your veins dry."
The repentant ghouls groveled on the ground before Virupa to do him homage. The master then gave a mighty heave and the discus mounted into the night sky. The demon followed after, and both were transformed into glittering constellations.
Virupa then went on his way, journeying the length and breadth of India. When, many years later, he returned to Devikotta, it had become a peaceful town filled with devout Buddhists. To celebrate Virupa's return, Mahadeva, the Great God Siva, and Umadevi, his consort, devised a spectacular illusion in the yogin's honor.
As Virupa stood on the road, surveying the town, it doubled and tripled in size until it had become a magnificent city of half a million households. People poured from their homes to welcome Virupa with offerings, while from the Thirty-three Sensual Paradises and all the palaces of the gods there flowed an endless array of the most exquisite food for a huge feast of celebration.
And yet, the great dakini master was not to attain ultimate liberation until he had lived seven hundred years. But then, as the great discus hurled itself across the vastness of space, his labors at last completed. Virupa ascended to the Paradise of the Dakinis.