Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

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Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:20 pm

Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Yidams are male or female Buddha-figures with which we bond our bodies, speech, and minds as a method for achieving enlightenment. We make the close bond (dam-tshig, Skt. samaya) by visualizing ourselves as the figures, making offerings, reciting mantras, and offering fire pujas.

Dakinis (mkha'-'gro-ma) and dakas (mkha'-'gro) are female and male figures, respectively, who represent and help to increase our experience of blissful awareness of voidness. During a sadhana, we imagine emanating them as so-called offering goddesses and gods, making the various offerings to the Buddhas, all limited beings, and, in Gelug, to ourselves as Buddha-figures. In anuttarayoga practice, we also imagine them on critical points of our subtle energy-systems.

Another name for dakas is viras (dpa'-bo, spiritual heroes), and other names for dakinis are virinis (dpa'-mo, spiritual heroines) and yoginis (rnal-'byor-ma). Often, the terms dakinis and yoginis are used loosely to refer to female practitioners and to all female figures in a mandala. Occasionally, dakinis may also serve as yidams in whose forms we visualize ourselves, such as Vajrayogini (rDo-rje rnal-'byor-ma).

Dharma protectors (chos-skyong, Skt. dharmapala) are male or female figures who help ward off interference to our practice. On the deepest level, they represent our blissful awareness of voidness in strong energetic forms - the best protection against interference. With ourselves as Buddha-figures, we visualize certain protectors in each direction around or inside our mandalas.

In specific yidam practices, we also invite certain other types of Dharma protectors - such as Mahakala (dGon-po) or Palden Lhamo (dPal-ldan lha-mo, Skt. Shridevi) - into our mandalas to make offerings to them and to give them instructions to assist us in our enlightening activities. Many of this last type of protectors were originally powerful spirits, either clutching ghosts (yi-dags, hungry ghost) or divine beings (lha, gods) of non-Buddhist traditions. Some were harmful and others were simply guardians of mountain tops or local regions. Great masters of the past have tamed them and made them swear oaths to protect the Buddhist Dharma and its practitioners.

As Buddha-figures, we are like masters and the Dharma protectors we deploy are like our fierce guard dogs. Unless we have the strength to control them and to feed them regularly, they may turn against us. Thus, the Dharma protector practices in which we invite specific ones into our mandalas are extremely advanced, not for beginners. Engagement in their practices normally requires receiving specific subsequent permissions (jenangs) for them.

Dharma protector practices include elaborate "fulfill and restore" rituals (bskang-gso), in which we, as Buddha-figures, remind the protectors to fulfill the oaths that they promised and restore our close bonds with them by making special offerings. Another common ritual is the golden libation (gser-skyems), in which we offer alcohol or black tea to the protectors, but without tasting it ourselves. We may also simply invite the protectors into our mandalas to make offerings, especially of tormas, and to make requests (gsol-'debs). In the West, people informally call all these practices "protector pujas".

To create an even closer bond with a Dharma protector, we may also do a protector retreat in which we recite the associated mantras hundreds of thousands of times and offer a concluding fire puja.

As Buddha-figures, we may invoke certain Dharma protectors, such as Palden Lhamo, to assist in making prognostications (mo, thugs-dam) with dice or rosary beads. Completion of a protector retreat is required for such practice.

Certain Dharma protectors in certain Tibetan Buddhist traditions may also serve as yidams, such as Mahakala in the Kagyu tradition. Mostly, however, we do not visualize ourselves as Dharma protectors.

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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:39 pm

A very useful overview.

Have you pasted it in twice?

It may be worth amending: 'by visualising the Yidam in front of us or by visualising ourselves as the figures'

I would also add that the main purpose of a Dharmapala is to protect the Dharma. I've known people treat them as some kind of personal guardian angel that will rescue them from all kinds of personal dangers. If they do, it will only be in order to protect your contribution to the spread of the Dharma.
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby conebeckham » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:46 pm

I think the topic of Dharma Protectors is huge, really....and probably not a good topic for public discussion. But we can say there are two basic levels of Dharma Protectors--mundane, and supramundane.
As for Supramundane Dharma Protectors, they not only protect the dharma, they also can protect the practitioner, from outer as well as inner obstacles...but they do more than that...they are, after all, fully enlightened Buddhas, and can function in all the ways a Buddha can...
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:04 pm

Oh I hope it's not a repeat! :emb:
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:06 pm

conebeckham wrote:I think the topic of Dharma Protectors is huge, really....and probably not a good topic for public discussion. But we can say there are two basic levels of Dharma Protectors--mundane, and supramundane.
As for Supramundane Dharma Protectors, they not only protect the dharma, they also can protect the practitioner, from outer as well as inner obstacles...but they do more than that...they are, after all, fully enlightened Buddhas, and can function in all the ways a Buddha can...


Indeed. Any action which furthers the Dharma is possible, including personal protection. I was just looking at the wider motivation behind it.

In the case of Mahakala, as you say, he can also be a Yidam, and has his place in the Hindu pantheon as well.

I'm a bity shaky on the history, but I don't recall Mahakala needing to be bound. Maybe more akin to the position of Vajrapani?
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:08 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote:Oh I hope it's not a repeat! :emb:


The same text appears twice in the OP. ;)
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby conebeckham » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:20 pm

I'm a bity shaky on the history, but I don't recall Mahakala needing to be bound. Maybe more akin to the position of Vajrapani?


There are many different Mahakalas, but in general they are emanations.
For example, Mahakala ChagZhipa, Four-Armed form, is Chakrasamvara.
Mahakala Panjaranatha is Hevajra.
Mahakala Chagdrupa is Avalokiteshvara.
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:26 pm

Yeshe wrote:
Ngawang Drolma wrote:Oh I hope it's not a repeat! :emb:


The same text appears twice in the OP. ;)


Thank you, it's fixed :namaste:
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:26 pm

conebeckham wrote:
I'm a bity shaky on the history, but I don't recall Mahakala needing to be bound. Maybe more akin to the position of Vajrapani?


There are many different Mahakalas, but in general they are emanations.
For example, Mahakala ChagZhipa, Four-Armed form, is Chakrasamvara.
Mahakala Panjaranatha is Hevajra.
Mahakala Chagdrupa is Avalokiteshvara.


Yes, my guru uses the 6 Armed Mahakala, quite common for Gelugs.

I heard once that there are 75 different Mahakalas and I even have a mask and pendant of one with 7 skulls on the crown instead of 5, but that's me drifting off-topic, so I'll stop hogging the thread.

Thanks for the info. We're really fortunate to have your presence here . :)
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby conebeckham » Wed Feb 23, 2011 11:36 pm

There are probably countless Mahakalas and Mahakalis, actually....
:smile:

Geluk practice came from Khedrup Khyungpo Naljor, and the Shangpa Kagyu transmission--Tsong Khapa incorporated that protector into his transmission. Gelukpa practice of Hayagriva also came from the Shangpa, from Lama Kyergangpa who was the 3rd in the line of Shangpa transmission.

In general, Six Arm Mahakala is the most widespread of Mahakala practices--Shangpa teachings and transmissions are practiced in some form, in Sakya, Karma Kagyu and other Dakpo Kagyu lineages, Gelukpa, and some Nyingma lineages, as well...though the practices may differ a little bit, and their incorporation into the other lineages may take on different degrees of "absorption," for lack of a better word. The Shangpa version has it's own special practices that, as far as I know, have not been incorporated into some other lineage transmissions. There are terma lineages as well....and Thangtong Gyalpo is integral to the Shangpa transmission, too.....there are 13 Mahakala "empowerments" in the Shangpa alone. Aside from Black Six Armed form, there's the White six armed, one faced form, pretty popular with various lineages as well.
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Wed Feb 23, 2011 11:53 pm

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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby conebeckham » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:20 am

.....As for the number 75, this is actually the number of "secondary retinue" of Mahakala Chagdrupa. They are often confused for emanations of Mahakala, because they are called "gonpo" (protector). They include the directional gaurdians, the "planets," and wordly guardians, and Bhairavs......
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby plwk » Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:24 am

Image

Aww...no bling bling? :tongue:
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:33 am

Haha, not this time :)
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Adamantine » Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:54 am

conebeckham wrote:
I'm a bity shaky on the history, but I don't recall Mahakala needing to be bound. Maybe more akin to the position of Vajrapani?


There are many different Mahakalas, but in general they are emanations.
For example, Mahakala ChagZhipa, Four-Armed form, is Chakrasamvara.
Mahakala Panjaranatha is Hevajra.
Mahakala Chagdrupa is Avalokiteshvara.



My understanding is that Mahakalas are a class of being (of the 8 classes of gods and demons), so the protectors with this form are generally emanations of enlightened beings that have taken that form mainly to subdue that class of being and protect practitioners from provocations from that class of being. . . By doing the puja it is a way for us to communicate with that class of being. . .
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:21 am

It is best not to speak of specific details of ones protector practices (like what your protector practices are) because if an "enemy" recognises "your" protector practice then it loses its capacity to protect. It's like running around and shooting off ones mouth about their home security system: what time the guards patrol the premises, what and where the power source is, if it's an infra red or motion detecting system, etc... At some point this info may reach the ears of the thieves planning to break into your home and they will know exactly how to deal with your security system.

Essentially you have "destroyed" the capacity of the security system to protect you. In pre-occupation Tibet, where black magic was a common as asprin, this was really important for the practitioners safety (even their physical safety).

One of my lamas gave me a protector practice and when I asked him when I should practice it he said:
"Never!"
I was like: "Well why the **** did you give it to me?"
His answer?
"When you served in the army (we have conscription here in Greece) did you ever have to patrol, stocktake and clean warehouses full of various weapons?"
"Of course."
"And did you ever use any of those weapons?"
"No."
"Did you even see the weapons in the boxes?"
"No."
"You just pulled them out, dusted them off, counted the boxes and put them back in storage?"
"Yes."
"Well that's what you are going to do with this practice!"
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby udawa » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:02 pm

Dharmapala means “guardian of the teaching.” The function of the dharmapala is to protect the practitioner from deception and sidetracks. If the practitioner ventures onto dangerous ground, unhealthy for his progress on the path, the dharmapala principle pulls him back violently. As the practitioner becomes more closely identified with the teaching, the energy of the dharmapalas begins to fall under his control. A student cannot, however, come in contact with his dharmapala principle until his guru has brought him into relationship with his yidam.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Visual Dharma 1975


Probably all that needs to be said.
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:37 pm

udawa wrote:Dharmapala means “guardian of the teaching.” The function of the dharmapala is to protect the practitioner from deception and sidetracks. If the practitioner ventures onto dangerous ground, unhealthy for his progress on the path, the dharmapala principle pulls him back violently. As the practitioner becomes more closely identified with the teaching, the energy of the dharmapalas begins to fall under his control. A student cannot, however, come in contact with his dharmapala principle until his guru has brought him into relationship with his yidam.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Visual Dharma 1975


Probably all that needs to be said.
Hhhhmmmmmmm! that is interesting! The question that arises in my mind is if one needs a yidam in order to "contact their dharmapala principle" then why does learning and practicing protector practices (normally) precede yidam practices?
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Yidams, Dakinis, and Dharma Protectors

Postby conebeckham » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:22 pm

Hhhhmmmmmmm! that is interesting! The question that arises in my mind is if one needs a yidam in order to "contact their dharmapala principle" then why does learning and practicing protector practices (normally) precede yidam practices?


There are different levels of "practice" regarding the protectors, at least the supramundane ones.
Often, students are given "torma offering rituals" or "Solkha" Praises for the protectors early on...but it's not until one "completes" yidam practice that one approaches the actual practice of the protectors. In three year retreats, for instance, the daily Protector practice is done as a group, but individual intensive practice of the protectors always comes after the yidam practices.

At the beginning level, one asks for help, and makes offerings, but later on the relationship with supramundane protectors changes.
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