I find Dakinis very interesting. There are both enlightened and mundane Dakinis and both tend to be cruel, sexual, and very powerful. The only difference is that enlightened Dakinis have your best interest at heart, although they tend to be caustic about it (Luipa). People like Khambala ran afoul of mundane Dakinis. Also, when the founder of the Shangpa Kagyu (I forget his name at the moment) first met Niguma, she didn't act like he expected and so he had a terrifying moment where he thought she was mundane and expected her to eat him.
Are enlightened Dakinis simply Dakinis who attained Enlightenment or something more? If it's the former, why are they so important?
Excellent post Lionel, I will be watching this thread.
I'm pretty much fascinated by the topic for the reasons you've stated. There's monograph by the scholar Judith Simmer-Brown entitled Dakini's Warm Breathe
which touches on the subject mentioned and the ambivalent nature of the dakini in Indo-Tibetan lore.
I tried scrounging around all the EA sources and the bits I could find emanate out of the Japanese Buddhist tradition. Following on Chinese precedents, Dakinis tend to be conflated/merged with the lore/myths regarding 狐狸精 huli jing/kitsune/fox spirits.
Most prominent bit I saw was the part regarding the worship of 荼枳尼天 / Dakini-ten, who is more an individual deity than a representation of dakinis as a class of entity. Of the top of my head, I believe the Japanese Emperor Go-toba attempted to invoke her aid against the Kamakura shogunate - although if memory serves me correct he was a patron of Tachikawa-ryu.
There is a commentary on the Mahavairocana (written by Yi Xing i think), which goes into some detail about Dakini-lore. I dimly recall that its been pretty much of the same - dangerous, mystical, "eat-you" mentality...servants of Mahakala..or was it Kali?
Well as you can guess/see, there's a lot about dakinis everywhere. So this thread is an attempt to try and get back to the source of it all. Although in terms of "source" i get pointed in three different directions!
Ron Davidson, i guess from the perspective of Western academia, mentions in Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History
that the word "dakini" (here separating from our understanding of enlightened and mundane dakinis) was a referrent to well...as i said before.. "Witches."
Maybe "shamanesses" would be a better word? In any event, he pegs Bengal/Assam which crosses into that whole Kamakhya bit i said above.