Himalayan Art Resources

Indian Adept: Lawapa

Lawapa: the Black Blanket Clad Yogin

When the king of Kankarama died he chose his eldest son to be his successor. Because of the prince's great virtue, the kingdom immediately entered a period of great prosperity once he was crowned. Before long, all of the eighty four thousand households of his country ate off golden plates.

Despite his great accumulation of wealth, the young king was troubled by the absence of his mother of whom he had not seen since his father died. When he asked his courtiers where she was they explained that she was in mourning. Finally, after two years, she returned to the royal court and although her son was overjoyed to see her, she was crying uncontrollably and he was concerned. When he asked what was troubling her she responded that she did not want to see him engaged in the wretched business of government and that he should renounce his throne.

The king agreed and abdicated his throne to his brother. He took up residence in a monastery with a retinue of three hundred monks. Never the less, his mother once again appeared before him in tears and proclaimed that even though he was now a monk he was still living like a king. She stated that he ought to leave the monastery and move into the jungle to live a life as an ascetic. Once again he did as his mother advised and took residence under a tree in the wilderness.

Due to his reputation, the local villagers supplied him generously with more than he needed to survive. Never the less, his mother once again approached him in tears and stated that even though he was now living as an ascetic, he still had far too much comfort and support for a holy man. She instructed him to give up all his possessions and wander the lands. Continuing to do as his mother wished, he gave away his silver bath basin, discarded his fine robes, and began to wander. Before he had gotten far, his mother appeared in the sky above him and he recognized for the first time that she was a powerful Dakini. She gave him Chakrasamvara initiation and taught him how to meditate. Upon completion of this instruction she promptly disappeared and he continued on his path. He wandered from town to town for twelve years, sleeping in cremation grounds and practicing meditation. He became a great master.

The master eventually took residence in a cave in the area of Karabir. The local Dakini witches of this region became aware of his presence and were displeased, immediately forming plans to distract him from his meditation practice. One day while walking to a nearby town wearing only a woolen blanket, the Dakini witches accosted him. They asked him to entrust them with his blanket while he was in the town and he could not refuse.

The Dakini witches took the blanket back to their dwelling and formed a council. They concluded that since all of a master's possessions hold power that they should eat the blanket. They divided it up and each swallowed one piece, throwing one remaining fragment into their fire. When he returned from the town and the witches refused to give him back his property, he became angry and resolved to take the matter to the king in protest. He asked the king why he was not able to protect his subjects from thieving witches and in turn the king summoned the witches and demanded that they give the blanket back. They Dakini's simply pleaded that it was no longer in their possession.

The master returned to his cave and continued to meditate but his conflict with the Dakini-witches continued. On one occasion they tried to dry up the spring in his cave but the master commanded an earth goddess to send him water. He finally saw an opportunity to stop the witches when he found out that their equally mean-spirited sisters were coming into the region to visit them. Upon their arrival, the master magically turned them all into sheep and when their leader pleaded for him to restore them to their original form, he shaved their fleeces so that when they became human again their heads were shaved. Despite being upset and shamed, this did not curb the witches devious plotting. They attempted to kill the master by rolling a large boulder onto his head. The master threatened that if they did not vow to cease their evil ways that he would turn them permanently into horses. Fearful of his power, the Dakini-witches took refuge in the Buddha and vowed to protect his word. Upon taking their vows, every one of them were instantly purified and they each vomited up the piece of the blanket that they had swallowed. The master sewed the pieces back together but when he was done, the blanket was slightly smaller. He became known as Lawapa, master of the blanket, and he spent the rest of his life in service of others, teaching many students and setting them on the Buddhist path.

Monty McKeever 3-2006