Saturday, 11 August 2012

The story of the Lion-Faced Dakini (Sengdongma)

Maybe it is due to my affinity with Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) that I also feel deeply for the Lion-Faced Dakini (Sengdongma in Tibetan) very much.  This dakini and female Buddha is regarded as one of the principal wrathful manifestations of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche).  The Lion-Faced Dakini is also that of Atisha's teacher in his youth and that of the Dalai Lama incarnations in their pre-Dalai Lama life as Ratnadas. Her lion face demonstrates fearlessness and that all fierce emotions are turned into a constructive activity towards enlightenment. 

The Lion-faced Dakini is appropriate for clearing obstacles of the most pervasive and malignant kind, and cutting through the “three poisons” of mind. This ancient practice has been important in Tibetan Buddhism since the time of Padmasambhava.


Lion-Faced Dakini or Sengdongma
She is particularly focused on pacifying the destructive influence of the Mamos, the forces of disturbed “yin” or feminine demonic energies. The wanton destruction of the environment and degradation of human culture greatly stirs up and enrages these elemental forces. They retaliate with disease, epidemics, weather disturbances and calamaties on a major scale. This practice is one of the great antidotes for this critical time of the “five degenerations.” As a wrathful dakini, the Lion-Faced Dakini is also one of the Phramenma, a group of female deities from the Bardo Thodol, or ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’. 

At the time of Buddha Amitabha, many aeons even before Shakyamuni Buddha, there was a demon called Garab Wangchuk whose daughter was a lion-faced demoness called Tramen Sengdongma. She delighted in taking the lives of countless beings, and by harming practitioners she increased the negative forces in the world and undermined the Amitabha Buddha’s doctrine. 


All the buddhas gathered together and concluded that to tame her they would need to manifest an identical-looking being. The enlightened beings’ collective wisdom arose in the form of a wisdom being – the Lion-faced Dakini, empowered by all the Buddhas of the ten directions with their power and compassion to tame the demoness. The Dakini became far more powerful than the demoness, who then began to lose her strength. While the Dakini was in a deep samadhi of taming the maras, countless dakinis emanated from her and subdued all the demons. Tramen Sengdongma, now pacified, took an oath to serve the dharma and became a protector. The Lion-faced Dakini of Timeless Awareness represents the wisdom that enables one to clear away the negativity of one’s own mind, and through her practice one is imbued with spiritual power to gain mastery over samsara and nirvana. 

In the time of the 100-year lifespans, Buddha Shakyamuni appeared in the world and turned the wheel of dharma in many places such as Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Vulture’s Peak, and the charnel ground of Lanka, teaching on many levels including Vajrayana. He said that at that time it was as if the sun was in the center of the sky, and there was no darkness anywhere, but when the sun went down then the darkness of ignorance would arise. But Lord Buddha continued that there would be a method to dispel this ignorance, and so Vajrapani requested that Lord Buddha teach this method. Shakyamuni Buddha rested in the samadhi of taming the maras, and then taught the whole cycle of the Lion-faced Dakini. He taught in many different ways, and these transmissions were concealed by Vajrapani as treasures after he received them. 
Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava
750 years after Buddha’s Parinirvana, around Bodhgaya there was a king called Suraya Singha who invited 500 panditas - great practitioners and teachers of the Buddhadharma - and made offerings to them. At that time, the power of the Hindus was increasing, and they were destroying holy Buddhist teachings and institutes, so a debate between the Hindu and Buddhist panditas was arranged.  Suraya Singha and the panditas prayed single-pointedly to Guru Rinpoche for help and he then appeared and tamed the Hindu teachers through miracles. When the Hindus then started using black magic, Guru Rinpoche revealed the Lion-faced Dakini treasure hidden by Vajrapani, did the practice, and in removing all obstacles he defeated the Hindu panditas. 

Guru Rinpoche remained in Tibet for 111 years and in his 73rd year there he gave many teachings on the Eight Command Deities and also on the Lion-faced Dakini. The practice was transmitted to Yeshe Tsogyal, who is an emanation of the Lion-faced Dakini, and with her siddha of infallible memory, she recorded the text in dakini script and concealed it, to be revealed later by tertons. This particular treasure was revealed by Dudjom Lingpa, and kept secret for 44 years. When he felt it was the right time, he opened the practice, recorded it in human script and transmitted it to others. 

The practice of the Lion-faced Dakini is said to be a reliable source of protection when obstacles arise.... "Defilements attract the maras of hindrances and enemies just as a magnet attracts iron filings. When you clear away the negativity of your own poisons, there is nothing to attract the maras.” 

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