Songs and Histories of the Eighty-four Buddhist Siddhas
The Legends of the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas (Grub thob brgyad bcu tsa bzhi’i lo rgyus) by Mondup Sherab orally dictated by Abhayadatta Sri (12th c.) and Vajra Songs: the Heart Realizations of the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas (Grub thob brgyad bcu rtogs pa’i snying po rdo rje’i lu) by Vira Prakash, translated by Keith Dowman with Bhaga Tulku Pema Tenzin; introduction and commentaries by Keith Dowman; cover and 20 line drawings by H. R. Downs; published by the State University of New York Press, Albany, NY., 1985, hardback and softback, 454 pages. Translated into German as Die Meister der Mahamudra, Diederichs, Munchen, 1991.
‘In Tibetan Buddhism, Mahamudra represents a perfected level of meditative realization: it is the inseparable union of wisdom and compassion, of emptiness and skilful means. These eight-four masters, some historical, some archetypal, accomplished this practice in India where they lived between the eighth and twelfth centuries. Leading unconventional lives, the siddhas include some of the greatest Buddhist teachers; Tilopa, Naropa and Saraha among then.Through many years of study, Keith Dowman has collected their songs of realization and the legends about them. In consultation with contemporary teachers he gives a commentary on each of the great adepts and culls from available sources what we know of their history.’
‘Dowman’s extensive Introduction traces the development of tantra and discusses the key concept of Mahamudra. In a lively and illuminating style, he unfolds the deeper understandings of mind that the text encodes. His treatment of the many parallels to contemporary psychology and experience makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of human nature.’
This book is a major work on the origins and practices of the mahamudra lineage of Vajrayana Buddhism, and is a great source of information and inspiration to anyone interested in the flowering of Northern Indian Buddhism and its subsequent adoption and development in Tibet.’ Robert Beer in The Middle Way.
1 The Mahasiddha Luipa, The Fish-Gut Eater
A wild dog with honey rubbed on its nose
Madly devours whatever it sees;
Give the Lama’s secret to a worldly fool
And his mind and the lineage burn out.
For a responsive man with knowledge of unborn reality
A mere glimpse of the Lama’s vision of pure light-form,
Destroys mental fiction like an elephant berserk
Rampaging through hostile ranks with a sword lashed to its trunk.
Long ago, in the island kingdom of Sri Lanka, a young prince ascended the throne of his fabulously wealthy father, The court astrologers had calculated that the kingdom must be given to the deceased king’s second son if it was to remain strong and its people content. In his palace, where the walls were plated with gold and silver and studded with pearls and precious stones, the young king ruled his two brothers and all the people of Sri Lanka. However, possessing nothing but contempt for wealth and power, his only desire was to escape his situation. When he first attempted to escape, his brothers and courtiers caught him and bound him in golden chains, but finally he succeeded in bribing his guards with gold and silver, and at night, disguised in rags, he escaped with a single attendant. He rewarded his faithful accomplice generously before leaving his island kingdom for Ramesvaram, where King Rama reigned, and there he exchanged his golden throne for a simple deer-skin and his couch of silks and satin for a bed of ashes. Thus he became a yogin.
The king- turned-yogin was handsome and charming, and he had no difficulty in begging his daily needs. Wandering the length of India, eventually he arrived in Vajrasana, where the Buddha Sakyamuni had achieved enlightenment, and there he attached himself to hospitable Dakinis, who transmitted to him their feminine insight. From Vajrasana he travelled to Pataliputra, the king’s capital on the River Ganges, where he subsisted on the alms he begged and slept in a cremation ground. Begging in the bazaar one market day, he paused at a house of pleasure, and his karma effected this fateful encounter with a courtesan, who was an incarnate, worldly Dakini. Gazing through him at the nature of his mind, the Dakini said, “Your four psychic centers and their energies are quite pure, but there is a pea-sized obscuration of royal pride in your heart.” And with that she poured some putrid food into his clay bowl and told him to be on his way. He threw the inedible slop into the gutter, whereupon the Dakinis, who had been watching him go, shouted after him angrily, “How can you attain nirvana if you’re still concerned about the purity of your food?”
The yogin was mortified. He realized that his critical and judgmental mind was still subtly active; he still perceived some things as intrinsically more desirable than others. He also understood that this propensity was the chief obstacle in his progress to Buddhahood. With this realization he went down to the River Ganges and began a twelve year sadhana to destroy his discursive thought-patterns and his prejudices and preconceptions. His practice was to eat the entrails of the fish that the fishermen disemboweled, to transform the fish-guts into the nectar of pure awareness by insight into the nature of things as emptiness.
The fisherwomen gave him his name, Luipa, which means Eater of Fish-guts. The practice which gave him his name also brought him power and realization. Luipa became a renowned Guru, and in the legends of Darikapa and Dengipa there is further mention of him.
It is appropriate that the first of the eighty-four legends should repeat the elements of the story of the first Buddha, Sakyamuni, in a tantric guise. Luipa is a king who renounces his throne for the sake of enlightenment. Like Sakyamuni he escaped in the night with a single attendant to become a yogin, and Sakyamuni, too, probably employed a deer-skin (krsnasara) as a mat, a throne, and a shawl. Deer-skins indicate renunciate status; the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara wears one around his torso. But Luipa was born into the kaliyuga when it was no longer possible to practice the fierce discipline and simple practices that Sakyamuni taught. In order to eradicate the subtle defilement that the Dakini indicated and to resolve the dualistic mental constructs that are the root cause of samsara, to attain freedom from samsara in this lifetime a radical short-cut method was required, and in Luipa’s case, as with many of the siddhas, a Dakini was at hand to provide it.
Luipa was a master of the mother-tantra, and his Gurus were Dakini Gurus, mundane Dakinis, embodiments of the female principle of awareness.’ The Dakinis who indicated his sadhana was a publican and whore-mistress, for liquor shops doubled as brothels. The “royal pride” she discerned in his heart can be rendered more precisely as “racial, caste and social discrimination,” and with her putrid food she pointed at a method which can best be described as the path of dung eating. Cultivate what is most foul and abhorrent, and consciousness is thereby stimulated to the point of transcendence; familiarize yourself with what is most disgusting and eventually it tastes no different from bread and butter. The result of this method is attainment of the awareness of sameness SS3 that is at the heart of all pride, all discrimination and prejudice, and transmutes these moral qualities, that are the mental equivalent of fish-guts, into emptiness. To elaborate the Dakini’s parting sally: so long as you fail to perceive the inherent reality of emptiness in every sensual stimulus, every state of mind, and every thought, you will remain in dualistic samsara, judging, criticizing and discriminating. To attain the non-duality of nirvana find the awareness of sameness in what is most revolting, and realize the one taste of all which is pure pleasure.
More light is shed on Luipa’s practice by considering what fish meant in his society. First, fish is the flesh of a sentient being and therefore anathema to the orthodox brahmin; but left-over fish-guts is fit only for dogs, the lowest life-form on the totem pole. Such a practice, if indeed Luipa performed a literal interpretation, would have made him unclean in the eyes of his former peers, untouchable and unapproachable. Self-abasement and humiliation is the corollary of “dung eating;” destroy every vestige of those associations with former birth, privilege and wealth, and in an existential pit discover what there is in human being that can inspire real pride, divine pride, that is inherent in all sentient beings. Second, fish is a symbol of spirituality and sense control, and Luipa’s Samvara sadhana, which is not described here, involves transformation of his universe into that of a god in his paradise, and attainment of control of his energies (prana) and thus of his senses.
Our legend is the only source to assert that Luipa was born in Sri Lanka, to which the text’s Singhaladvipa must refer. But there were several kingdoms in the sub-continent called Singhaladvipa, one contiguous to Oddiyana which other sources give as Luipa’s birth place. In Bu ston’s account, Luipa was son of King Lalitacandra of 0ddiyana. When the prince encountered Savaripa, Saraha’s disciple, he was immensely impressed by this siddha and begged him for instruction. He received initiation into the Samvara-tantra. The initial part of his sadhana was completed when he joined a circle of twenty-four Dakas and Dakinis in a rite of offering in a cremation ground which climaxed in consumption of the corpse of a sage. With a final blessing from his Guru he left Oddiyana and began a mendicant sadhu existence. That period ended when, feeling the need for sustained one-pointed meditation practice, he sat down to meditate beside a pile of fish-guts by the banks of the River Ganges in Bengal (Bangala), where he remained until he had attained mahamudra-siddhi. His subsequent encounter with the king and minister who became Darikapa and Dengipa portray Luipa as an outrageously honest and fearless exploiter of personal power, and also an adept wielder of the apt phrase bearing tantric truth. Consistent with this facility with words, the Sakya school’s account of Luipa’s life asserts that he was a scribe (kayastha) at the court of the Maharaja of Bharendra, Dharmapala. Begging alms at Dharmapala’s palace Savaripa recognized the scribe Luipa as a suitable recipient of his Samvara lineage; his extraordinary talent was evident in the versified letters he wrote to the king’s correspondents, a task requiring acute, one-pointed concentration. Taranatha’s account differs significantly from Bu ston’s in that Luipa was a scribe to the King of Oddiyana, and was initiated into Vajra Varahi’s mandala.
The most significant piece of information in these legends is that Luipa worked at the court of the Maharaja of Bharendra, Dharmapala. The only king who had the right to call himself Maharaja of this kingdom was the great Pala Emperor Dharmapala, who gained it by right of conquest. Since the Sakya legends have been given the greatest historiographical credence of all the siddhas’ legends, it is tempting to accept this crucial identification and place Luipa as a younger contemporary of Dharmapala (AD 770-810). If Luipa was initiated in his youth at the end of the eighth century or the beginning of the ninth, his Guru Savaripa’s lifetime can be calculated, together with the dates of Darikapa and Dengipa, and also Dombi Heruka (4) who Luipa taught.’ Kilapa (73) may also have been his disciple. 9 But if Luipa was born in the eighth century he cannot be identified with Minapa/Macchendranath, an identification that has been attempted due to several coincidences: the stem of both their names means “fish;” they are both associated with Sri Lanka and Bengal; they both conceived yogini-tantra lineages (Luipa – Samvara; Minapa -Yogini-kaula), and they are both known as adi-guru, Whereas Minapa was the originator of nath saiva lineages, from which he gained his adi-guru status, Luipa has no Hindu associations, although his sadhana has a sakta ethos.
Luipa’s first place in the eighty-four legends could reflect the belief of the narrator, or the translator, that Luipa was First Guru (adi-guru) of the Mahamudra-siddhas in either time or status. The other claimant to this title is Saraha. Regarding time, Luipa was born after Saraha, but although Luipa’s Guru was Saraha’s disciple, their lifetimes probably overlapped. Regarding status and personal power, whereas Saraha’s reputation lies to a large extent in his literary genius, Luipa’s name evokes a sense of the siddha’s tremendous integrity and commitment, the samaya that creates the personal power demonstrated in his legends. Both Saraha and Luipa were originators of Samvara-tantra lineages, but it was Luipa who received the title of Guhyapati, Master of Secrets, to add to his status of adi-guru in the lineage that practiced the Samvara-tantra according to the method of Luipa; he received direct transmission from the Dakini Vajra Varahi. If Luipa obtained his original Samvara revelation in Oddiyana, the home of several of the mother-tantras, he would have been one of the siddhas responsible for propagating this tantra in Eastern India. But whatever the tantra’s provenance, Luipa became the great exemplar of what Saraha preached, as confirmed in his own few doha songs, and his sadhana became the inspiration and example for some of the greatest names amongst the mahasiddhas: Kambala, Ghantapa, Indrabhuti, Jalandhara, Krsnacarya, Tilopa and Naropa were all initiates into the Samvara-tantra according to the method of Luipa. Marpa Dopa transmitted the tantra to Tibet, where it has remained the principal yidam practice of the Kahgyu school until today.
Although the Tibetan translator rendered “Luipa” as The Fishgut Eater (Nya Ito zhabs), the root of the word is probably Old Bengali lohita, a type of fish, and Luipa is thus synonymous with Minapa and Macchendra/Matsyendra. Luhipa, Lohipa, Luyipa, Loyipa, are variants of the name.
4 The Mahasiddha Dombipa, The Tiger-Rider
The philosopher’s stone
Turns iron into gold;
The innate power of the Great Jewel
Converts passion into pure awareness.
Dombipa was a king of Magadha. He was initiated by the Guru Virupa into the mandala of the Buddha-deity Hevajra. Through practice of the meditation rites of Hevajra he experienced the deity’s reality and attained his realization and magical power.
The enlightened king regarded his subjects as a father treats his only son, but his people had no idea that their king was an initiate of the mysteries. However, they all agreed that he was an honest man with an innate propensity to treat his subjects kindly.
The king conceived a scheme to drive fear and want from his kingdom. He summoned his minister, charging him in this way: “Our country is plagued by thieves and bandits, and due to past neglect our karma has burdened us with much poverty. To protect it from fear and want, cast a great bronze bell and hang it from the branch of a strong tree. Whenever you see danger or poverty, strike the bell.” The minister fulfilled the king’s command, and while the king reigned. Magadha was free of crime, famine, plague and poverty.
Some time later a wandering band of minstrels arrived in the city to sing and dance for the king. One of the minstrels had a twelve year-old daughter, an innocent virgin untainted by the sordid world about her. She was utterly charming, with a fair complexion and classical features, and to glance at her was to fall in love. She had all the qualities of a padmini, a lotus child, the rarest and most desirable of all girls. The king decided to take this girl for his spiritual consort, and in secret he commanded the gypsy to give her to him.
“You are the great king of Magadha,” the man replied. “You rule eight hundred thousand households in such luxury and style that you are left completely ignorant of the other side of life. We are low caste wretches, reviled and shunned by all. How could you even think of such a thing?”
The king insisted. He gave the minstrel the girl’s weight in gold and took her to serve as his mystic consort. For many years he kept her hidden, but in the twelfth year her existence became known. “The king is consorting with an outcast woman,” was the rumor that spread like wild-fire across the kingdom, and despite his previous benevolence the king’s conduct was not tolerated by the establishment. He was forced to abdicate. Entrusting his kingdom to his son and ministers he departed for the jungle with his low-caste mistress, and in an idyllic hermitage in solitude they continued practicing their tantric yoga for a further twelve years.
Meanwhile the kingdom was misgoverned. The quality of life diminished as virtue ebbed to a low level. A council agreed to request the old king to return to govern, and a delegation was sent into the jungle to find him. When they eventually found the hermitage, from a distance they saw the king sitting under a tree while his consort walked upon lotus leaves to the middle of a pond, where she drew cool nectar from a depth of fifteen fathoms before returning to offer it to her lord. The watchers were amazed, and returned immediately to the city to report what they had seen. Then another delegation was sent with the people’s invitation. and the king accepted it, agreeing to return.
The king, in union with his consort, came riding out of the jungle on the back of a pregnant tigress, brandishing a deadly snake as a whip. After the people had overcome their fear and astonishment they begged him to take up the reigns of government again.
“I have lost my own caste status by consorting with an outcast woman,” the king told them. “It is not proper for me to resume my original position. However, since death ends all distinctions, burn us. In our rebirth we will have been absolved.”
A great pyre of cow-head sandalwood was constructed, and after the king and his consort had mounted it, it was fired. The huge pyre burned for seven days, and when it was cool enough to approach, the people caught sight of the two of them shimmering, as if covered in dew drops, in the spontaneously arisen illusory form of the Buddha-deity Hevajra in union with his consort, in the heart of a fully-blown lotus. At this point the last vestiges of doubt were removed from the minds of the men of Magadha, and they began to call their king the master Dombipa, which means Lord of the Dombi.
Stepping out of the fire the king addressed the ministers and all of his people of the four castes. “If you emulate me, I shall stay to govern you. If you will not help yourselves, I shall not remain to govern you.”
The people were shocked, and remonstrated, saying, “How is that possible?” “How can we give up our homes and families?” “We are not yogins!”
Then the king addressed them again. “Political power is of little benefit and the retribution is great. Those who wield authority can do little good, and more often than not the damage that flows from their actions leads to misery for all in the long run. My kingdom is the kingdom of truth!”
He spoke, and in that instant of immortality he arrived in the Dakini’s Paradise, where he remains for the sake of perfect awareness and pure delight.
In India it is universally believed that the sound of a bell has the power to exorcise demons and to purify the mind; a bell is always sounded before entering a temple. The bell that Dombipa had erected was multifunctional: it called prudent attention to thieves and approaching natural disasters, for example; it exorcised the area of any demons responsible for plague and famine; and by purifying the minds of the populace it improved their karma; the all pervasive sound of the bell is also an auditory symbol of female wisdom and emptiness. After this initial anecdote illustrating the king’s benevolence, the bulk of Dombipa’s legend concerns his sexual sadhana and caste problems.
Inter-caste miscegenation was forbidden for the twice-born castes, and the penalty for breaking this taboo was loss of caste, which meant social ostracism. But the evident anti-caste bias of Buddhism in general, and Tantra in particular, does not manifest as social rebellion and zeal to reform society – unless ordination and initiation into an outcast sect is viewed as an anti-caste act – as everybody recognized caste as an immutable, divine dispensation. Rather, for the tantrika, the mind-set, preconceptions and prejudices of caste- consciousness, comprise a paradigm of the social conditioning that must be eradicated if Buddhahood is to be achieved. just as we can lose our racial prejudice by marrying a partner belonging to another race, the siddhas took consorts from outcast communities to cultivate the awareness of nondiscrimination. Further, in the same way that pride is destroyed by entering into the essence of humiliation, passion dissolves by cultivating sexual desire in the framework of a fulfillment yoga and penetrating its essence. It should be said that the popularity of Dombi, Sabara and Candala consorts depended to some extent upon availability. No matter what the original caste status of a bone-garlanded yogin, few women of high caste would be associated with him. The Dombis were wandering minstrels and musicians. The age of Dombipa’s consort, twelve, signifies maturity, or perfection; sixteen is the actual age when a girl is ripe according to the Kamasutra, which places padmini at the top of a fourfold classification of the ideal girl’s physical attributes. Mudra is the term used to describe Dombipa’s “mystic consort.” On the sensual plane she is the “other body”, the karma-mudra, employed in sexual yoga. On the non-dual, ultimate level she is the jnana-mudra, the “seal of awareness” stamped upon every experience of body, speech and mind.
Dombipa’s consort was Vajra Varahi to his own Hevajra (although another source calls her Cinta, the sahaja-yogini of Hevajra’s retinue). The precise nature of their jungle meditation is omitted, but probably it was the yoga of uniting pleasure and emptiness. Practicing a form of coitus interruptus and retention of semen, the energy generated is sublimated, vitalizing the psycho-organism’s focal points of energy, raising the level of sensual pleasure to the point where dualistic functions of mind are overwhelmed and the non-dual pure awareness of the Buddha shines through. The kundalini rises from the sexual cakra, through the four levels of joy and the four higher cakras, to consummate Buddhahood in the fontanelle center (see p. 217).
The vignette of Dombipa’s purification by fire is a common enough motif in tantric legend (e.g. Padmasambhava’s burning with Mandarava); fire may indicate the fierce passion that is transmuted into pure awareness by meditation upon its essential nature as mind pure in itself; imperviousness to fire indicates a yogin’s control of the elements and may signify that his body has become immaterial, in his own vision, like a rainbow body; the halo that surrounds the wrathful deities in Tibetan iconography is the fire of wisdom that burns away the veils of thought and emotion. The “cow-head” sandalwood of the pyre upon which they were burnt is a highly scented, sacred wood usually employed for carving images and anointing saints.
It is interesting to consider the implications of Dombipa’s final judgement upon political involvement. In his early years as an enlightened king like Lilapa, he used his situation to fulfill the Bodhisattva Vow of selfless service, and, like the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, he took upon himself the misfortunes of beings and the negative karma of wielding authority and power. Finally, however, when his people plead incapacity to emulate the master he refuses to rule them and dissolves into the Dakini’s Paradise. We may infer from this that the renunciate yogin s path is ultimately superior to living in the world – if the choice is possible. In the same key, Dombipa could have claimed that he never indulged in sexual pleasure, his practice with his consort being a highly ascetic practice in which transcendence of sexual involvement was the path to mahamudra-siddhi.
Taranatha’s extensive account of Dombipa’s life begins in Tripura, in Assam, where Virupa was born (see p. 50). Dombi was the king (or a lord) of Tripura. His account is substantially the same as our legend until Dombi returns to his kingdom at the insistence of his people. After teaching his own people he wandered afar with his consort, demonstrating his magical power for the benefit of others. In Radha he flew across the city mounted on his tiger, threatening the king and citizens with venomous snakes, forcing them to take refuge in the Buddha (thus the descriptive epithet Tiger-Rider). In Karnataka, in South India, he taught five hundred yogins and yoginis in a cremation ground, and all except one, who violated the samaya, gained siddhi. Also in the South, he coerced a people who built sacrificial mounds of animals’ hearts as offering to renounce animal sacrifice.
Taranatha lists Dombipa’s ten disciples: amongst them are Alalavajra, Garbaripa, Jayasri, and Rahulavajra. G(h)arbaripa has been identified with Dharmapa (48). Vilasyavajra and Krsnacarya are also given as Dombipa’s disciples, but evidence of the Guru’s relationships with all these disciples is sparse. Virupa was undoubtedly Dombi’s Guru, but it appears that Luipa also taught him. Far less probable are the references in all but one of the texts of the legends that make Krsnacarya his Guru, although Dombi would have been alive to meet Krsnacarya. There is room for some confusion in identifying Dombipa’s lineage as there was a second Dombipa of less importance, who was a disciple of Naropa and Vyadhalipa (see p. 285) and taught Virupa the Younger and Kusalibhadra the Younger Atisa and ‘Brog mi.
Dombipa is better known as Dombi Heruka. “Dombipa” means Lord of the Dombi, Dombi being his outcast consort’s caste name. Heruka is both the name of a form of Samvara and Hevajra, and also an epithet of a siddha who embodies those deities’ qualities; since Dombi is Hevajra, according to our legend, the name is most fitting. Dombi Heruka wrote few works, but some of significance. His Sri-sahaja-siddhi is an oft-quoted short form of the Hevajratantra; he revealed the Kurukulla-kalpa and Aralli-tantra. He also wrote an Ekavira-sadhana. Most of his writing concerned the mother-tantra, and he is to be considered an important exemplar of woman worship (str-puja). He must have been born in the second part of the eighth century and lived a long life through the first half of the ninth.
7 The Siddha Kankaripa, The Lovelorn Widower
My Dakini-woman, my queen, my lady!
The visible form of my pure awareness,
Form not separate from me, nor yet a part of me,
The phenomenal appearance of empty space:
She is beyond compare and beyond words.
In Magadha there once lived a householder of low caste. He married a girl of his own social status and settled down. He was not an immoral man, but caring not a whit for the virtuous life that leads to spiritual freedom, after tasting the delights of connubial bliss he became obsessed with sensual pleasure. He experienced peaks of undreamed ecstasy. However, while he was still more than content with his lot, believing that this world alone could fulfill all his desires, his beloved wife came to her appointed time and died. He carried her corpse to the cremation ground, and there he broke down and lost himself in sorrow. His mind and will paralyzed, he was unable to tear himself away from his beloved’s corpse. It was in this state of despair that an enlightened yogin found him and asked him what was wrong.
“Can’t you see the state I’m in, yogin?” he cried. “The loss of my wife is the end of this glorious life for me. It’s as if I’ve just had my eyes torn out. No one on earth can suffer more than this.”
“All life ends in death; every meeting ends in parting; all compounded things eventually disintegrate. Everyone in this samsaric world suffers; suffering is the nature of this wheel of existence. So why grieve? Why guard this corpse that’s no different from a lump of stony clay? Why don’t you practice Dharma and eliminate pain?”
“If there is a way out of the confusion of this existence, please show me, yogin,” the bereaved man begged.
“The Guru’s instruction is the way out,” the yogin told him.
“Then please give it to me.”
The yogin initiated him and empowered him in the precepts relating to the insubstantial seed-essence that has neither center nor circumference. Then teaching him how to meditate, the heartbroken lover was instructed to avoid thinking about his dead wife, but to visualize her as a Dakinis, as indivisible pleasure and emptiness, without substance and without self. Thus he entered into meditation, and after six years had passed all thought of his dead wife as a woman of flesh and blood had become a state of pleasure and emptiness. The clouds in his mind dissolved, and the experience of the clear light of pure pleasure arose within him. just like the poison dhatura leaving the mind and taking with it all hallucination and delusion, the poison of bewilderment and unknowing left his being, and he saw the reality of unalterable truth,
The sudra householder of Magadha gained mahamudra-siddhi and became known to the world as Kankaripa. He taught the Buddha’s Word to many beings in Magadha before rising into the Dakinis’s Paradise.
This straightforward story well illustrates how ordinary men are transformed into yogins out of which mahasiddhas are made, by spontaneously taking advantage of the opportunity that arises in the “bardo” experienced in the aftermath of disaster. The disaster of the premature death of a partner around whom one’s world is built is an excellent paradigm, but many kinds of mini-disaster plunge one into the same intermediate state of high receptivity, devoid of preconceptions, ready for anything, a state metaphorically described as “a cremation ground,” where metanoia is possible – an earth-bound hedonist enters and a sky-bound divine madman exits. The radical distinction between the pleasure of sexual consummation and the pure pleasure of union with the Dakini is made clear here.
Kankaripa was instructed to meditate upon the anthropomorphic representation of the ultimate reality he describes in his rare song of realization. Remove the attachment to one’s mundane consort, the attachment that is reinforced by expendable thought and memory, and what remains is a relationship directly analogous to the ultimate two-in-one union of empty space and pure awareness; the Dakini is thus both a woman and “the visible form of pure awareness,” and the Dakini’s dance is both the play in male-female rapport and the continuous metamorphosis of phenomenal appearances. The Awareness Dakinis is so called because her form is inseparable from the pure awareness of the naths out of which she manifests. “The insubstantial seed-essence that has neither center nor circumference,” the name of the initiatory precepts Kankiripa received, is a description of the ultimate Dakini visualized as a zeropoint, the cosmic egg containing the potential, and also the everchanging actuality, of the universe; another lineage calls it “the indestructible sole seed:” this point-instant of pure awareness has, in common with a single point of light in a hologram, the capacity to contain within it the entire interdependent creation. This Dakini is a union of pure pleasure and emptiness; she is not only present in, but actually is every moment of sensual perception.
Dhatura is a powerful hallucinogen otherwise known as Jimson Weed or Thorn Apple. The active parts of the thorny fruit variety create amazingly credible hallucinations in which the subject can lose himself. It is used by devotees of Siva in their sadhanas, and as an offering; but to my knowledge it is not employed in Tibetan Tantra.
The Tibetan form of this siddha’s name, Keng rus zhabs, indicates that Kankalapada (rather than Kankaripa, Kankalipa or Konkalipa) is the correct form. Kankala (and Keng rus) means “skeleton,” a synonym of Kapalika and Kapala, according to the Skandha Purana, where the Kankala sect is given as one of the five saiva sects that lead to liberation. Thus Kankala would appear to be a saiva name.
The variant forms of Kankaripa’s birthplace, Grahura and Maghahura, suggest that either Magadha, ancient S. Bihar, or Gauda, could be the correct form (see 7 and 11).
17 The Mahasiddha Kanhapa (Krsnacarya), The Dark Siddha
Zealously practice generosity and moral conduct,
But you cannot attain siddhi supreme without a Guru
No more than drive a chariot without wheels.
The wide-winged vulture, innately skilled,
Glides high in the sky, ranging far away,
And the Guru’s potent precepts absorbed
The karmically-destined yogin is content.
Born in the town of Somapuri Kanhapa, also known as Krsnacarya, was the son of a scribe. He took ordination in the great monastic academy of Somapuri, built by King Dharmapala. He was initiated into the mandala of the Deity Hevajra by his Guru Jalandhara.
Kanhapa practiced his sadhana for twelve years and was rewarded by a vision of Hevajra with his retinue while the earth trembled beneath him. This experience inflated his pride, but a Dakini appeared and warned him against any idea that this vision was anything but a preliminary sign on the path, assuring him that he had not yet realized ultimate truth. Kanhapa continued his solitary practice, but one day, wishing to test himself, he placed his foot upon a rock and left his footprint in it. The Dakini appeared again, entreating him to return to his meditation seat. Again, sometime later, he awoke from his samadhi and found himself floating in space one cubit from the ground, and again the Dakini appeared, warning him of pride of achievement and pointing to his meditation seat. Finally it happened that he rose up with seven canopies floating above his head and seven damaru skull-drums spontaneously sounding in the sky around him.
“I have reached my goal,” he told his disciples. “We will go to the barbarian island of Lankapuri to convert the inhabitants.”
He set out for the city of Lankapuri on the island of Sri Lanka with a retinue of three thousand disciples. At the shore of the sea dividing the island from the mainland, wishing to impress his disciples and also the people of Sri Lanka, he left his attendants and began the crossing walking on the water.
“Even my Guru lacks this gift!” he thought to himself – and he sank into the sea. The current washed him ashore, and he found himself looking up at his Guru, Jalandhara, who was floating in the sky above him.
“Where are you going, Kanhapa?” asked his Guru. “What’s the matter?”
“I was going to the barbarian island of Sri Lanka to save the people from the pitfalls of samsara, ” Kanhapa replied meekly. “But on the way it occurred to me that my power was superior to yours, and the result was that I lost the power I had, and I sank into the sea.”
“You do no one any good like that,” Jalandhara commented. “You should go to my country of Pataliputra, where the beneficent King Dharmapala reigns, and there look for a pupil of mine who is a weaver. Obey him implicitly, and you will attain the ultimate truth, which you have not yet understood.”
Kanhapa set out and, obeying his Guru, he found that his powers were restored. The canopies and damarus re-appeared in the sky, and he could walk upon water and leave footprints in rock. When he arrived at Pataliputra he left his three thousand disciples outside the city and went in search of the weaver. Walking down the main street of the town where the weavers had their shops, one by one he broke the threads of their looms with his gaze. As each began to retie his threads manually he knew he had to look further for his teacher. At the end of the street, on the outskirts of town, however, he found a weaver whose thread spontaneously re-wound itself, and he knew that he need look no further. Prostrating before this man, and circumambulating him, Kanhapa then besought him to teach the ultimate truth.
“Do you promise to obey me in all things?” inquired the weaver.
“I do,” Kanhapa responded.
Then they walked together to the cremation ground, where they found a fresh corpse. “Can you cat the flesh of the corpse?” the weaver asked.
Kanhapa knelt down, took out his knife, and began to sever a piece of flesh.
“Not like that!” said the weaver with contempt, “Like this!” And he transformed himself into a wolf, leapt upon the corpse, and began to tear at it ravenously. Once more a human being he said, “You can only eat human flesh when you can transform yourself in that way.”
Then continuing his instruction, he defecated and offered one oi the three pieces of his feces to his pupil. “Eat it!” he ordered.
“People will ridicule me if I do it,” Kanhapa protested. “I shan’t do it!”
Then the weaver ate one piece, the celestial gods ate another, and the third was carried off by the naga serpents to the nether world
After they had arrived back in the city the weaver bought five penny worth of food and alcohol. “Now call your disciples and we’ll celebrate a communal ganacakra feast,” he ordered.
Kanhapa did as he was told thinking, “There’s not enough food there for even one man. How is he going to feed us all?”
When the communicants were assembled the weaver blessed the offerings and filled the bowls with rice, sweetmeats and every kind of delicacy. The feast lasted for seven days, and still the offerings had not all been consumed. “There is no end to this,” Kanhapa eventually thought in disgust. “I am going,” and he threw away his left overs as an offering to the hungry ghosts, called to his disciples, and walked off.
The weaver shouted after them:
Ah, you miserable children!
You are destroying yourselves!
You are the kind of yogins
Who separate the emptiness of perfect insight
From the active compassion of life!
What will you gain by running away?
Canopies and damarus are small achievements
Meditate and realize the nature of reality!
Kanhapa did not want to listen. He walked on, and travelled to the land of Bhadhokora, which was four hundred and fifty miles east of Somapuri. He stopped, finally, on the outskirts of the city, where he saw a young girl sitting beneath a lichee tree laden with fruit.
“Give me some fruit,” he said to the girl.
“I will not,” she replied.
The yogin was not to be denied, and he plucked the fruit from the tree with his powerful gaze. The girl sent each fruit back to the tree with an equally powerful look. Kanhapa was suddenly angry, and he cursed the girl with a maledictory mantra so that she fell writhing on the ground, bleeding from her limbs.
An indignant crowd gathered, “Buddhists are supposed to be kind,” they muttered, “but this yogin is a killer!”
Kanhapa recollected himself when he heard these words, and feeling compassion for the girl he removed the curse. But he was now vulnerable to the curse that she called down upon him, and he fell down vomiting and excreting blood in an acute state of mortal anguish. He called the Dakini Bhande to him, and asked her to go to Sri Parvata Mountain in the south to bring the herbs that could cure him.
The Dakini departed, covering the six months’ journey to Sri Parvata in seven days. She soon found the herbs required and turned back to Bengal. On the last day of the return journey she passed an old crone weeping by the wayside, and failing to recognize the seductress who had cursed her master, she stopped to ask the cause of her distress.
“Isn’t the death of the Lord Kanhapa sufficient cause to weep?” moaned the crone.
In despair Bhande threw the vital medicine away, only to find Kanhapa still critically ill, awaiting his cure. When he asked for the herbs she could only stammer her tale of deception.
Kanhapa had seven days to teach his disciples before finally leaving his karmically-matured body for the Dakini’s Paradise. He taught them the sadhana called The Severed-headed Vajra Varahi.
After her master’s death the Dakini Bhande sought the girl whose malediction had caused it. She searched the heavens above, the netherworld below, and the human world in between. Eventually she found her hiding in a sambhila tree. She dragged her out of it and cursed her with a spell from which she never recovered.
Kanhapa’s story is the only legend that can be described as a cautionary tale. The other siddhas who failed to attain the ultimate mahamudra-siddhi – Goraksa, Caurangi, Khadgapa, among others – were treated very kindly by the narrator, but Mahapa, who performed a Hevajra sadhana and was recognized by the people as a Buddhist yogin, was heavily censured. He refused to listen to his Dakini advisor; he committed the cardinal sin of disobeying his Guru, the weaver; he was conceited and hasty; he was governed by anger and pride: he came to a nasty end. The weaver attributed his failings to his incomplete meditation; he had not united insight and skillful means. In practical terms, although he may have attained prolonged periods of insight into emptiness in the controlled situation of trance, during his application of skillful means in an uncontrolled situation, when impediments such as inflated discursive thought and strong emotion arose, he lacked the perception of emptiness that would dissolve these obstacles. Thus, when he was provoked by the Dakini under the lichee tree, instead of donning a wrathful mask while maintaining the inner equilibrium and detachment that accompanies an understanding of all phenomena as empty colored space, he was overcome by anger, and his belated contrition, which he could have reserved for a meditation of atonement, led to his death. Insight and skillful means are said to be like the wings of a bird; with only one wing, a bird cannot fly. As to emotion, so to thought; if his arrogant thoughts dissolved immediately they arose due to his perception of their emptiness, he would not have fallen. If he had been able to experience the sensual feast of the ganacakra as emptiness, his appetite would have been limitless. If he had really eradicated his conditioned prejudice and preconceptions and gained the awareness of sameness, he could have eaten his Guru’s excrement. If he had been free of a sense of ego, he could have transformed himself into a wolf and eaten human flesh. Kanhapa exemplifies the common phenomenon of the meditator who experiences the highest heavens in his meditative trance, who may have realized the emptiness of all things, and can even arise from his meditation seat and remain in samddhi; but when called upon to act, the realization achieved in meditation vanishes. Likewise, when conditions are favorable he can demonstrate siddhi and fulfill his vow to assist all sentient beings, but when the ultimate insight is necessary to dissolve obstacles, due to vestiges of belief in “self’ it is not available. Only siddhas have constant realization of the ultimate reality and live their daily lives with insight and skillful means united.
Three Dakinis feature in this legend; every Dakinis has the potential to function as a guide or assistant to liberation. The first Dakinis, who Kanhapa chose eventually to ignore, may have been a human embodiment or a sambhogakaya emanation. The Dakini under the fruit tree was a mundane Dakinis whose positive potential Kanhapa never discovered because she touched his ego, provoking him to compete and, fatally attached, he stirred in her a wrath that soon killed him. Clearly it is very difficult to penetrate to the emptiness of a mundane Dakini when she shows the heavy and black side of her ambiguous nature; but if that is achieved she becomes a most loyal ally, guide and savioress. The third Dakinis, Bhande (or Bandhe), is his trustworthy friend who performed superhuman feats out of her devotion ~o him. Her name could mean “Buddhist Nun” (bandhd) or “Skull” (Mandha), which would associate her with the kapalikas. Kanhapa had a male disciple called Bhandepada (32), but it was a Bhadrapda (24) who sought the murderous Bahuri, found her in a tree in Devikotta and slew her, according to Taranatha.
Only in this legend are the practices of flesh-eating, dung-eating and (by implication) a literally performed ganacakra-puja mentioned. In these so-called left-handed (vamacara) practices there is an element of William Blake’s “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom,” but more than that, it is in the basest impurity, in depravity and the lowest forms of life, and in tamasic food and drink, in the outcaste whore, the kapalika ascetic, excrement, corpses, alcohol, drugs, fish and meat, that the ultimate truth becomes accessible. Finding purity in impurity through the experience of the one taste of all things, the ultimate sameness of all phenomena, which is emptiness, is realized. At the heart of depravity and corruption is the seed of innocence, unconditioned mind, which turns the wheel full circle and unites polarities. The seed grows into the flower of liberated bodhisattvic activities like a lotus growing out of the slime of a lake bottom: no slime, no lotus. The image of the lotus is basic and ubiquitous in tantric sadhana.
The stereotype of the flesh-eating, copulating, dung-eating tantrika is the kapalika ascetic, who consciously seeks the bottom of the pit of samsara to find his way to nirvana. The great poet and singer Kanhapa sings of the perfected kapalika in some of his many caryapada songs, and even identifies himself as a kapalika. His Guru Jalandhara was acknowledged as one of their great Gurus, but it is unlikely that Kanhapa himself actually took the Great Vow (mahavrata) and performed gross kapalika rites. Although he sings, “0 Dombi, I shall keep company with thee, and it is for this purpose that I have become a Kapali without aversion…. I am the Kapali and thou art the Dombi. For thee I have put on a garland of bones . . .” he also sings the subtle metaphysical equations of the sahajiyas, and one is tempted to think that the Kapali (or kapalika) is for him a state of mind, and that he never practiced the literal interpretation. He sings of an uncompromising non-dual reality in which there is only empty space, and, simply by recognizing that, mahamudra-siddhi is attained. He rejects the intellectual approach, mantra and visualization, brahmin ritual, the kapalika’s attachment to tantric appearances and conventions, and he sings of the real kapalika as the ideal sahaja-siddha who has shaken off all prejudices and partiality, all preconceptions and doctrine, and realized “the ultimate principle of emptiness that arises spontaneously with every movement of the mind.”
Kanhapa is also a founder of nath lineages. Compared to others of the Five Naths he is not of primary importance, but the nath tradition is rich in anecdote concerning him. His status is defined by a story of Gorakhnath and Minanath giving a feast at which each selects his own dish. Kanhapa chose cooked snakes and scorpions and was hooted from the feast. It is said that he was the son of the fisherman Kinwar, who caught Minapa’s leviathan. The Kanipa, one of the twelve main panths, recognize him as adi-guru, as also the Augars, who perform twelve years of sadhana before initiation and lastly the Sepala, lesser, snake-charming yogins. It is as if he was patron-saint of the second-class naths. But he maintained a close relationship with Ja1andhara, his Guru, whom he rescued from inhumation.
“The Black One,” “The Dark One,” are names referring to skin color, not to moral quality. They are epithets given to dark-skinned aboriginals (adivasis), or nick-names given to a yogin of any caste. origin with a dark complexion. Different languages and dialects produced different forms of the name: Krsna, Kanhapa, Kahnapa, Kahnupa, Kanupa, Kanapa, Kanipa, etc., all translated into Tibetan as Nag po pa. Compounded with acarya (pandita or adept), Krsnacarya, Krsnacarin, Krsnacari, may become just Caryapa; in Tibetan the Nag po spyod pa pa becomes simply sPyod pa pa. Since Tantra was a path that appealed to the outcaste tribals there must have been many Krsnas down the centuries. But apart from the nath siddha mentioned above, we are concerned principally with the two Kamacaryas of the tenth century who were probably Guru and disciple, and who are confounded in our legend. Jalandhara was the Guru of the Father, Son and nath Kanhapas. The Father-Guru was an acarya, and it is likely that this Krsnacarya was responsible for most of the hundred and fifty works under this name, or variants, found in the Tenjur. It is uncertain whether the Father or the Son composed and sung the caryapada songs. The Son, who may have been the nath, could have sung “I am a Kapali free from aversion.” But certainly the Son is associated with dance and small ritual drums known as damarus. Taranatha tells the story of the Son practicing the Samvara-tantra at Nalanda being induced by a goddess to go to Kamarupa in Assam to gain the power of wealth (vasu-siddhi). In Kamarupa he found a chest containing an ornamented damaru, and the moment he picked it up his feet left the ground in dance. Whenever he played loudly five hundred siddha yogins and yoginis appeared and danced with him. This Kanhapa was an adept in the mother-tantra, and chronologically he was a contemporary of the nath founders. But was there another mahasiddha Kanha of this period? In Nepal a Lord Krsna taught Dza-Ham, and a brahmin Krsna taught Marpa Dopa. A later Krsna, also called Balin (Balinacarya), a disciple of Naropa, taught the Tibetans the Guhyasamaja-tantra.
As Father and Son Kanhapa are confounded in the Tibetan lineages it is almost impossible to relate the many disciples to their respective Gurus. Mekhala and Kanakhala (66 and 67), Kantali (69), Bhadrapa (24), and Kapalapa (72) received Hevajra initiation from a Kanhapa. Kugalibhadra and Vijayapada with their contemporary Guhyapada (Bhadrapa, who also received Kalacakra from a Krsna) were links in Kanhapa’s Samvara lineage. Bhandepa (32) received the Guhyasamaja. Mahipa and Dharmapa (36 and 37) were also Kanhapa’s disciples; and Tilopa (22) received Luipa’s Samvara method from a Mahapa. Carpati (64) and Kapalapa (72) were affiliated with the naths, but the most renowned disciples of the nath Kanhapa were Gopicand and Bhatrnath, who even Taranatha acknowledges.
18 The Mahasiddha Aryadeva (Karnaripa), The One-Eyed
All Buddhas Past, present and future, have one essence;
Intuiting this essence you know your own mind’s nature;
Let go, and relax into unstructured reality,
And with constant relaxation you are a yogin.
Aryadeva was miraculously born on the pollen-bed of a lotus flower. As soon as he was of age he was ordained in the academy of Sri Nalanda, and eventually he became the abbot there. He was then the preceptor of one thousand monks and the instructor of numerous scholars, but he had not realized his own perfect potential. In order to gain ultimate knowledge he resolved to find the Great Guru Nagarjuna, whose extraordinary powers and virtue had inspired his profound respect.
He left Nalanda and set off for the South. On the way, on the banks of a broad lake, he met the Bodhisattva Manjusri in the guise of a fisherman, and after bowing down to him and presenting offerings he asked him where Nagarjuna could be found. The fisherman told him that the master was living in a nearby jungle, preparing an alchemical potion that vouchsafed immortality. Aryadeva followed his directions and discovered Nagarjuna collecting the ingredients for his elixir. He prostrated before the master and begged for instruction. Nagarjuna gave him initiation into the mandala of Guhyasamaja, precepts to practice and permission to stay with him and practice his sadhana.
It became these two masters’ habit to go to the town near their jungle hermitage to beg for food. Now while Nagarjuna found great difficulty in begging anything at all, Aryadeva would return to the hermitage laden with all kinds of good things.
“You are being provided for by lustful women,” Nagarjuna told his disciple. “Your food is therefore unwholesome. In the future you will eat only what you can lift on the end of a pin. Enough of these feasts on banana-leaf dishes!”
Aryadeva obeyed his Guru, eating only the single grains of rice that he could lift with a pin. But the women of the town prepared barley-cakes covered with sweetmeat for him, so that he could eat well without breaking the prohibition. He took the cakes to his Guru, who ate them hungrily. When he reported how he had obtained them, he was ordered to remain in the hut in the jungle. Aryadeva obeyed, but this time a tree-nymph brought him delicacies, and she even neglected to cover up her resplendent naked form while she sat and talked. The food she gave him he took to his Guru, along with descriptions of the tree-nymph. Nagarjuna went to the tree in which the nymph lived and called to her; the nymph appeared, showing her head, but modestly refusing to expose herself fully.
“Why do you show yourself to my disciple but not to me?” he asked her with chagrin.
“Your disciple is utterly free from passion,” replied the nymph, “but in you there is still a trace of lust to be eradicated.”
It was at this time that Nagarjuna gave Aryadeva his name, Sublime God.
When Nagarjuna’s elixir of eternal youth was prepared, he anointed his tongue with a few drops and gaveAryadeva the bowl to do the same. Aryadeva threw the entire bowl against a tree, which immediately broke into leaf.
“If you waste my elixir like that,” Nagirjuna protested, “then you must replace it.”
Aryadeva took a bucket of water, urinated into it, stirred it with a twig and gave it to his Guru.
“This is too much,” said Nagarjuna. His disciple splashed half the bucket’s contents over another tree, which also came into bloom. Nagarjuna then said, “Now you know that your realization is mature, do not stay in samsara!”
At these words Aryadeva floated up into the sky in exaltation. But at that moment Aryadeva was approached by a woman who had been following him from place to place for some time. She prostrated before him, giving him honor and worship.
“What do you want, woman?” Aryadeva asked her. “Why have you been following me?”
“I need one of your eyes,” the woman replied. “I have been following you because I must have one of your eyes.”
Aryadeva plucked out his right eye and gave it to her. Thereafter he was known as Aryadeva the One-Eyed (Karnaripa).
Aryadeva had followed the instructions of his Guru implicitly and the obscurations of his mind had been eradicated, so that merely by hearing his Guru say that he was liberated he was so, and he levitated to the height of seven palm trees. Thereafter, floating in the sky, he taught the Buddha’s message to all beings, bringing their minds to maturity. Finally, turning himself upside down, showing the soles of his feet to the sky, he placed his palms together in adoration and prostrated to his Guru. As he reversed himself the gods showered flowers down upon him, and he vanished.
The thread running through this legend is a sense of Aryadeva’s humility and modesty. “Lotus-born” Bodhisattvas are born enlightened and they need only go through the motions of learning, both mundane and spiritual, before they recognize their status as Buddhas. There seems to be no other point to the rather obscure anecdote concerning the distribution of Nagarjuna’s elixir than to demonstrate Aryadeva’s enlightenment and his ignorance of this fact. The unawareness of his spiritual status, which Aryadeva showed even in Nalanda, is evidence of maturity on the path. “He who calls himself a Buddha is certainly an imperfect student,” says Virupa in one of his dohas. Aryadeva’s stream of non-dual perception seems to have been free even of the occasional hiccough that allows an objective thought about oneself to slip in and undermine one’s power. Insofar as evolution on the path implies a progressive loss of the ego identity that poses questions such as “Who am I?” and “Am I enlightened yet?” the initial diligent striving and fervent aspiration necessary to enter the path gradually dissolves and with it the notion that there is any such attainable state as “liberation,” “enlightenment” and “Buddhahood.” Thus Aryadeva needed a Guru to tell him that he had achieved all that there was to achieve, which is to say, the recognition of his original condition as nirvana. The metaphysics of sadhana can be conceived as a sacred dream that derives its validity from the power to take the initiate out of his samsaric condition only to return him to his starting point free of all mental obscurations and emotional defilements.
Aryadeva’s state of innocence and purity was an irresistible attraction to women. This must have arisen from his inability to conceive of women as external objects, particularly as sexual objects. Nagarjuna, still not entirely free of lust, had spent twelve years propitiating female elementals; Aryadeva attracted female spirits to serve him without any effort whatsoever. His disinterest in the tree nymph induced her to display herself to him unsolicited. The woman who followed him may also have intuited Aryadeva’s condition, but she wanted to exploit it. In another Tibetan account of this episode the woman was a saiva tantrika who needed the eye for a reason similar to the brahmin’s need for Nagarjuna’s head; she required the eye of a learned monk to complete the prerequisites for attainment of siddhi. She may have been a kapalika.
Nagarjuna’s alchemical sadhana is called “the alchemy of mercury.” Nagarjuna was one of the foremost rasayana siddhas (see p. 120), and greatness in this yoga can be defined as the initiate’s ability to apply the alchemical process at every level of his being. Thus in the alchemy of mercury, on the physical plane a material substance, a herbal or mineral panacea, is produced that will bestow immortality (or transmute base metal to gold, according to the alchemist’s precepts). On the level of the subtle body, by a hathayoga technique analogous to the process of creating the actual alchemical substance, that is to say, through control of the psychic energies that correspond to the “mica” (abhra) in the “seed” of the divine woman, and control of the creative seed (bodhicitta) of the divine man, an immortal, subtle body is created that is capable of the sensual pleasure and mental abilities of the gross physical body. Finally, on the absolute level, “a body of light” identical to the naths is realized, and this is immortal in the sense that it is beyond creation and destruction and beyond birth and death. To attain this final level is to attain mahamudra-siddhi. To attain the immortal subtle body, as do the naths of the legends, is to attain mundane siddhi or magical powers. By such a crude delineation of the metaphysics of rasayana it can be seen how the alchemy of mercury is compatible with other siddha-yogas, such as the techniques of the creative and fulfillment processes of meditation.
The two great Nagarjunas each had a disciple called Aryadeva, but the Aryadevas are confounded inextricably just like the Nagarjunas. These Gurus and disciples are referred to as Fathers and Sons. Both Aryadevas were their Gurus’ principal lineage holder (although Nagabodhi is a rival to the later Aryadeva); both were prolific writers, both elucidating the works of their masters. The early Aryadeva gained immortal fame by elaborating Nagarjuna’s metaphysics and applying its ramifications to the practice of the Bodhisattva; his best known treatise, the Catuhsataka, explained for the first time how the Bodhisattva should act in the light of madhyamika insight. As to the eighth-ninth century Aryadeva, it is notable that he wrote nothing on rasayana; it was the tenth century Nagarjuna who was the rasayana-siddha; the Catuspitha-tantra appears to have been his sphere of practice and commentary.
Taranatha’s following story of Aryadeva concerns the second century mahayana philosopher, but has added, tantric elements, Aryadeva was born from a lotus in the pleasure garden of the King of Sri Lanka. He abdicated after reaching the throne and took ordination. He completed study of the Tripitaka, and on pilgrimage to India he met Nagarjuna and sat at his feet on Sri Parvata Mountain (at Srisailam), receiving mahayana teaching besides rasayana instruction, and he attained magical powers. After Nagarjuna’s death Aryadeva built many monasteries in the South. He remained there until he was called by a message attached to the neck of a crow that had emanated from the heart of a self-manifest image of Mahakala at Nalanda, begging him to go North and defeat a brahmin tantrika called “The Evil One Difficult to Subdue”. (According to Bu ston this brahmin was the great poet Matrceta – ca. AD 160 – who composed many beautiful Buddhist verses after his conversion.) On the journey he was waylaid by a woman who required his eye for use in her sadhana. Then “with the help of a shameless layman, a cat, and a jar of black oil, he subdued a sister pandita, a parrot, and chalk of the brahmins. He encircled the place of contest with the brahmin with mantra, and tattered rags, etc., so that Mahadeva could not enter into the heart of his opponent.” Aryadeva defeated this brahmin, arrested him and imprisoned him in a temple where in a sutra he read a prediction of his own conversion and accordingly converted to Buddhism. Aryadeva then sang the oft-quoted stanza: “Siva has three eyes but cannot see the truth; Indra has a thousand eyes but is spiritually blind; but Aryadeva, with only one eye, can see the true nature of the entire three realms of existence.” Aryadeva’s one eye is, of course, the third eye of non-dual awareness.
Aryadeva has one Guru, Nagarjuna. His principal disciple, and his regent and lineage-holder, was a Rahula whom he taught at Nalanda and in the South (see p. 255). Udhili, who he taught to fly by an alchemical method (see 71), was also his disciple. Aryadeva, who lived in the late tenth century, is also known as Vairaginath or Kanheri, which may be synonymous with Karnari; Vairagi is also the name of a nath siddha disciple of Gorakhnath.
39 The Siddha Babhaha, The Free Lover
Pleasure! pleasure! unconditional pleasure!
Unconditional desireless pleasure!
Every thought-form perceived as pleasure!
0 what unattainable secret pleasure!
Babhaha, Prince of Dhanjur, was intoxicated by the thrills of sensual pleasure. One day he spoke with a wise yogin who had come begging at the palace. The yogin inspired faith in him, and he asked for precepts to assist him in his sexual practice.
“Consummation, the samaya, is the fountain of all mystical experience; the Guru is the source of all success,” were the precepts the yogin gave him. He then bestowed the initiation that transfers grace upon the prince, and instructed him in the fulfillment yoga technique of psychic channels, vital energies and seed essence:
In the lotus mandala of your partner,
A superior consort,
Mingle your white seed
With her ocean of red seed.
Then absorb, raise and diffuse the elixir
And your ecstacy will never end.
Then to raise the pleasure beyond pleasure
Visualize it inseparable from emptiness.
After twelve years of profound experience in this technique, the prince found that the obscurations of his vision had vanished, and he gained siddhi. He sang:
As the king of geese
Separates water from milk
The Guru’s precepts
Draw up the ambrosial elixir
He served his disciples well before eventually attaining bodily the Dakini’s Paradise.
Babhaha is taught the fulfillment process technique called Eternal Delight in the Six Yogas of Naropa. The same result can be achieved with or without a partner, using someone else’s body or using one’s own body.109 The practice for the celibate yogin is described in Nalinapa’s legend (40), and such use of sexual energy is considered more desirable in the Tibetan tradition. But the well known axiom “No mahamudra without karma-mudra,” where the female consort is the karma-mudra, and the central place that this yoga holds amongst the fulfillment stage topics, indicates its significance. The tradition defines “the superior consort” in physical terms, employing the criteria of the Indian science of erotics, as explained in texts such as the Kamasutra: the padmini is the best partner. Regarding the yoga itself, psychic channels carry the vital energies that consist of seed-essence; and the essence of the yoga is the skill in controlling the subtle energies. First, energy is sent downward to the sexual center; second, with perfect control, male and female energy is intermingled under the power of retention; third, the elixir of pleasure and emptiness united is raised, like a goose drawing water out of milk, up the central channel; and fourth, it is diffused throughout the psycho-organism by the constantly bifurcating “capillary” channels. With the withdrawal of “pleasure and emptiness indivisible” up the central channel, the four levels of joy are experienced at the four main cakras, and by saturation of the body-mind, eternal delight is achieved, and ultimately rainbow body is possible. The technical description of the technique should not obscure the sine qua non of a “spiritual relationship” between the yogin and his consort. Although the female body is being used as a source of “nectar,” without a totally open, empathetic and responsive relationship, the yoga will fail. Further, desirelessness is the key to success, and insofar as such a state cannot be attained by striving, the pleasure that results from consummation is “unattainable.” Finally, as Babhaha’s Guru implies at the beginning, this practice is physically and mentally dangerous and requires a skillful guide. The samaya he mentions can be interpreted in several ways, all of them equally vital: it may be maintaining the relative vows and commitments of the vajrayana, or of this specific practice; it may be the samaya, the body, speech and mind union, of Guru and Dakini where Vajrayogini is the Dakini; or it may be the fully empathetic responsiveness of yogin and yogini in their sexual encounter.
The meaning of Babhaha can only be inferred from the Tibetan translation “He who draws water from milk” (T. Chu las ‘o ma len), referring to the yogin’s ability to suck up the essential female bodhicitta from the intermingling of nectars in the bhaga mandala into the central channel. There is an eastern belief that geese have the facility of sucking out water from milk, thus keeping the milkman honest. Babhaha, which could be onomatopoeic, is also spelled Bhalaha, Bhamva, Babhahi, Baha and Bapabhati. His home town of Dhanjur is unidentified, as is his Guru.