Himalayan Art Resources

Essay: Dakini (Nyingma)

Dakini Main Page

In the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, a Dakini is a term generally used to describe a female deity or enlightened being. The word "Dakini" is believed to be pre-Sanskrit in origin. In Tibetan language the translated word is "Khadroma," which translates to "sky walker" or "sky flier." Dakinis are often described as semi-peaceful and semi-wrathful in appearance, although they can be in any appearance, simple, complex, peaceful, wrathful or animal headed. Often depicted as dancing, symbolizing the dynamic nature of reality, they can appear in any posture or stance. They can also be found depicted in union with male deities, symbolizing the integration of wisdom and skillful means.

Dakinis take on a variety of different roles in Nyingma practice. They are seen as manifestations of the wisdom of the enlightened mind and are invoked through various meditation practices, visualizations, and rituals. Dakinis are regarded as messengers, bestowing blessings and transmitting profound teachings to practitioners. They are considered to be particularly accessible and compassionate, providing swift aid to those who sincerely engage with their practice. They are associated with the transformative power of the feminine principle and are regarded as guides and protectors on the spiritual path.

In summary, in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, Dakinis at the highest level are revered as enlightened female beings embodying wisdom, compassion, and transformative energy. They are regarded as guides, protectors, and bestowers of blessings on the spiritual path, and they play an integral role in Vajrayana practices and meditations. However, observing the many and varied roles of the Dakini it becomes very apparent that they have a unique function, unknown in the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, by serving as an overarching organizational structure or scheme for all aspects of Nyingma tantric practice, iconographic hierarchy, and for structuring the profound levels of spiritual attainment (similar to the use of the term 'Bardo').

Shinzo Shiratori 6-2023