Virupa, Master of Dakinis
I, who live in spontaneous reality
Depend upon the Magnificent Symbol.
I, who exist in things as they are,
Without self, not thinking, not achieving,
Am saved from the pit of nihilism by existential self-awareness,
Am saved from an eternal heaven by absolute detachment.
I live in consummate pure delight and perfect awareness.
dakini master, was born in Bengal in the eastern province of Tripura, during the reign of
King Devapala. When still a young child, he entered the celebrated Buddhist monastic
academy of Somapuri. There he devoted his life to study and meditation with a thousand
other pious monks and received the initiation and empowerment of the dakini Vajra Varahi,
the Sow-Faced One.
Industriously, he recited her mantra twice ten million times
for twelve long years. And yet, nothing happened. Not once in all those twelve years did
he receive so much as a dream to indicate that he was making progress.
At last, Virupa became so disgusted with himself and his
apparently useless practice, that he threw his rosary into the latrine. Naturally, when
the time came for evening worship, he did not have his prayer beads. Suddenly, Vajra
Varahi herself appeared before him in a shining vision. She handed him an exquisitely
carved rosary and said: "Child of Happiness, why are you so troubled? Keep up your
practice, for you are blessed by me, If you would see clearly that things are neither this
nor that, you must let go your wandering, critical thoughts. Strip your mind of
Deeply inspired, Virupa renewed his practice of the spiritual
discipline of his dakini-guru for another twelve years, gaining the supreme realization of
As he had attained power over the duality of life and death,
he saw no contradiction in eating meat or drinking alcohol, although it was against the
rules of his order. One day he asked his servants for pigeon pie, whereupon they caught a
few of the pigeons that roosted in the eaves of the monastery, wrung their necks, and
prepared them for the table.
However, an elderly monk noticed that the pigeons had
disappeared. Shouting, "Let him who has the audacity to eat pigeons come forth,"
he ran to the great bell to call everyone to assembly.
"Surely none of us would do such an abominable
thing!" whispered the venerable monks in astonishment. But the abbot ordered a
cell-to-cell search. Before long they came to Virupa, sitting down with happy anticipation
to a meal of pigeon and wine. Outraged, the monks stripped him of his office and ordered
him to leave the monastery.
Virupa removed his habit and laid it with his begging bowl
before the image of the Buddha that he had worshiped for more than a quarter of a century,
and prostrated himself in homage before the image. Then he left by the monastery gate.
"Where are you going?" demanded the gatekeeper.
"I am told I no longer belong here. Therefore, I shall
follow whatever path is provided for me," he replied. All the monks of Somapuri
gathered at the gate as Virupa approached the broad lotus-filled lake that bordered the
At the water's edge, Virupa tested one of the lotus leaves
with his foot and saw that it did not sink beneath his weight. Then, miraculously, with
the Buddha's name upon his lips, he trod lightly from leaf to leaf until he reached the
Their hearts in their mouths, the monks of Somapuri stood
watching his amazing feat. Then, with great remorse, they prostrated themselves before
Virupa and, in humble devotion, begged him to return.
"Please explain to us why you killed our pigeons,"
"That was simply an illusion, like all temporal
phenomena," replied the master, and told his servants to bring him a few scraps of
pigeon wing. Taking the bits of feather and bone, he held them aloft. At a snap of his
fingers the pigeons were restored to life, and even more beautiful than before, they
soared into the heavens.
Virupa then left the monastery once and for all to become a
yogin. Wherever he went, awestruck witnesses told tales of his miraculous doings.
One of his first adventures occurred at the banks of the river
Ganges where Virupa beseeched Ganga Devi, the goddess of the river, to give him something
to eat and drink for he had traveled far. But she refused. Whereupon Virupa commanded the
waters to part and marched across to the other bank.
By the time he reached the nearby town of Kanasata he was
ravenous. Entering a tavern, he demanded a flagon of wine and a plate of rice, which he
devoured with gusto. Then he roared for more drink, then more and more, until he had drunk
the tavern dry. When the suspicious tavern keeper asked him to settle his bill, Virupa
offered her the sun in the sky. To seal his pledge, he took his phurba from his robes and
thrust this magical dagger exactly halfway between the light and the darkness, thus
transfixing the daystar so it could not continue on its course.
For the next two and a half days the town of Kanasata was
plagued with continual daylight and unremitting heat. The crops withered in the field, and
even the river began to shrink from her banks. Virupa, however, continued to drink,
consuming five hundred elephant loads of spirits.
By this time, the king himself was at his wit's end. As yet
unaware of Virupa's presence, he commanded his minister to discover the cause of the
endless, blinding sunlight, but his investigations were fruitless. Finally, the sun
goddess herself appeared to the king in a dream, revealing that a siddha's debt to a woman
in a tavern imprisoned her above his realm. To rid himself of this disaster, the king was
forced to pay the debt. Thereupon, Virupa vanished and the sun moved once again across the
Next, Virupa traveled to the country of Indra, which was ruled by
exceedingly devout Brahmins. They had built a massive stone image of Mahadeva, the Great
God Siva, which stood six hundred and eighty feet high. The keepers of the shrine demanded
that Virupa bow down before the image.
"How can an elder brother bow down to his junior?" scoffed
the master. The king of Indra, who had come to worship at the image, heard these words and
gave Virupa an ultimatum: "Bow down or die."
"It would be a sin for me to bow down to this
deity," Virupa insisted.
"Then let the sin be upon me!" said the king.
As soon as Virupa placed his palms together in homage, the
gigantic stone image cracked in two and a great voice shook the heavens, saying:
"Your word is my command!"
"Then swear your allegiance to the Buddha,"
"I hear and obey," roared the voice, and at once the
ruined colossus was miraculously restored.
The rich offerings that had been heaped at the feet of Siva
were now offered to Virupa. He summoned all the devotees of Lord Buddha and distributed
the offerings equally among them. So great was this bounty, that the people were sustained
through famine, flood, and pestilence for many, many years.
Virupa continued on his wanderings and came at last to the
town of Devikotta in eastern India. Unknown to the yogin, the people of this place had all
become flesh-eating ghouls.
On the road into town, in search of his morning meal, Virupa
encountered a pleasant-looking matron who offered to fill his bowl if he would accompany
her to her home. Thinking she must live nearby, he followed her as she turned off the main
road. But when the woman hurried on and on, and the track became narrower and more
overgrown, Virupa grew uneasy. He called out to the woman and asked if they were near
"You are very near the end of your journey," cried the
woman. And she turned upon him and transfixed him with her blood-red eyes. Held fast by
her spell, Virupa could not move so much as a finger to help himself as a menacing crowd
of ghouls materialized silently from the shadowy jungle and carried him off to the
Imprisoned within the moldering structure, Virupa found
himself in the company of a very young Brahmin boy. The lad had also been in search of
food that morning when he too had the misfortune to meet the same spellbinding fiend upon
the road. Now he and Virupa were about to become offerings themselves in some horrible
rite. They could hear blood-curdling howls and wild drumming outside as the ghouls whirled
in their dance of death.
The boy began to weep, but Virupa comforted him and told him
to sleep, all would be well by sunup. As the child's tears melted into dream, Virupa
blessed him with a powerful mantra of protection.
At moonrise, two brawny fiends came to fetch their tender
young victim. But try as they might, they were unable to move the sleeping child. He was
rooted to the earth. The yogin, however, was sleeping on a wooden plank, and the two thugs
just managed to lift it and carry him out to the circle of dancers.
Wakened by the drums, Virupa was still unable to move as they
plied him with liquor. He could only watch as the drunken ghouls worked themselves into a
frenzy, brandishing their ritual knives in readiness for slaughter.
But just as their blood-maddened screeches reached a
crescendo, Virupa burst into laughter. Surprised, but amused, the dancers laughed all the
louder, But their glee turned to horror when his terrible twelve-tone bellow -- the
laughter of Heruka -- began to drown out their hellish merriment. As his howls grew louder
and louder, the ghouls were convulsed with pain and clasped their hands to their ears.
When they implored him to stop, Virupa told them he would do so only if they vowed to
devote themselves to the teachings of the Buddha. When his deafening laughter rang out
again, the ghouls prostrated themselves before him and swore to do his bidding.
At this, Virupa rose. In his right hand, as if by magic, there
appeared an enormous razor-sharp discus. Towering behind him stood the horrific presence
of the Demon of the North. "Should you entertain the slightest thought of not
renewing your pledge to the Buddha every day," said the master with a fiendish grin,
"expect to lose a cup of blood each day you fall from the path. And should you turn
away entirely from the Buddha's law and worship some other god, this discus will fly from
the heavens and sever your head from your neck, and the Demon of the North will suck your
The repentant ghouls groveled on the ground before Virupa to
do him homage. The master then gave a mighty heave and the discus mounted into the night
sky. The demon followed after, and both were transformed into glittering constellations.
Virupa then went on his way, journeying the length and breadth
of India. When, many years later, he returned to Devikotta, it had become a peaceful town
filled with devout Buddhists. To celebrate Virupa's return, Mahadeva, the Great God Siva,
and Umadevi, his consort, devised a spectacular illusion in the yogin's honor.
As Virupa stood on the road, surveying the town, it doubled
and tripled in size until it had become a magnificent city of half a million households.
People poured from their homes to welcome Virupa with offerings, while from the
Thirty-three Sensual Paradises and all the palaces of the gods there flowed an endless
array of the most exquisite food for a huge feast of celebration.
And yet, the great dakini master was not to attain ultimate
liberation until he had lived seven hundred years. But then, as the great discus hurled
itself across the vastness of space, his labors at last completed. Virupa ascended to the
Paradise of the Dakinis.
Kukkuripa, The Dog Lover
Where conscious effort and striving are present
The Buddha is absent,
Thus, ritual and offerings are futile.
Within the peak experience of the guru's grace
The Buddha is present,
But will the fortunate recipient see it?
In Kapilavastu there lived a Brahmin named Kukkuripa. Puzzling over the problems of
existence, he came to place his trust in the Tantra, and in time chose the path of
renunciation. He began his itinerant career by begging his way slowly toward the caves of
One day, on the road to the next town, he heard a soft whining
in the underbrush. When he investigated, he found a young dog so starved she could no
longer stand. Moved to pity, he picked her up and carried her with him on his long
journey, sharing the contents of his begging bowl, and watching with delight as she began
to grow strong and healthy.
By the time they arrived in Lumbini, Kukkuripa had become so
accustomed to her affectionate, good-natured company that he could not imagine living
without her. And so he searched for an empty cave large enough for them both. Every day,
when he went out begging, she would stand guard, waiting patiently for his return.
So deeply involved was Kukkuripa in the continuous recitation
of his mantra, that twelve years passed as quickly as one. Almost without realizing it,
the yogin attained the magical powers of prescience and divine insight. But the gods of
the Thirty-three Sensual Heavens had taken notice. in fact, they were so impressed that
they invited him to celebrate his achievements by visiting their paradise. Flattered, and
amazed at their attentions, he accepted the invitation and embarked upon a ceaseless round
of self-indulgent feasting and pleasure.
On earth, his faithful dog waited patiently for her master to
return. Although she had to root around for whatever she could find to eat, she never
strayed far from the cave. And, in truth, she was not forgotten. Despite his luxurious
existence, Kukkuripa sorely missed his loving companion. Again and again he told the gods
that he needed to return to the cave to care for her.
But his heavenly hosts urged him to stay, saying: "How
can you even think about returning to a dog in a dark cave when you are enjoying our good
favor and every luxury and comfort we can offer? Don't be so foolish --remain with us
here." Time and time again, Kukkuripa allowed himself to be persuaded.
But one day when he looked down from the Thirty-three Heavens,
he realized that his loyal dog was pining for him - her eyes were sad, her tail drooped,
and she was so thin he could see her ribs. Kukkuripa's heart ached for her. Then and there
he descended from paradise to rejoin her in the cave.
The dog leaped and pranced with joy when she caught sight of
her beloved master. But no sooner did he sit down and begin to scratch her favorite spot,
just behind the ears, than she vanished from sight! There before him, wreathed in a cloud
of glory, stood a radiantly beautiful Dakini.
"Well done!" she cried. "Well done! You have
proved your worth by overcoming temptation. Now that you have returned, supreme power is
yours. You have learned that the mundane power of the gods is delusory, for they still
retain the notion of self. Theirs is the realm of fallible pleasure. But now your
Dakini can grant you supreme realization -- immaculate pleasure without end."
Then she taught him how to achieve the symbolic union of
skillful means and perfect insight. As an irreversible, infallible vision of immutability
arose in his mindstream, he did indeed attain the state of supreme realization.
Renowned as Guru Kukkuripa, the Dog Lover, he returned to
Kapilavastu, where he lived a long life of selfless service. And in due time, he ascended
to the Paradise of the Dakinis with a vast entourage of disciples.
Ghantapa, The Celibate Monk
To evoke blessings in oneself,
Bind tight the three psychic channels
Of the lalana, rasana, and the avadhuti.
To gain realization in oneself
Attend to three things -
The guidance of the guru,
The nature of the mind,
The purity of phenomena.
Ghantapa was the son of the king of Nalanda, but he renounced the throne and became a
famed and learned monk at the monastic academy. Years later, dissatisfied, seeking, he
renounced the monastic life and became a wandering yogin. In his travels he met the guru
Darikapa and was initiated into the Samvara mandala.
Following the instructions of his guru, Ghantapa traveled to
Pataliputra, where King Devapala ruled over three million one hundred thousand
house-holds. The monk took up residence under a spreading tree just where the edge of the
royal city met the jungle. There, he begged alms and practiced his sadhana.
King Devapala was himself a pious and devout man. For many
years he had welcomed innumerable monks and yogins within the borders of his kingdom, but
despite his charitable works, he still felt that he had not accumulated enough merit for
his next rebirths. This troubled his mind to such an extent that his wife asked him if he
was ailing, should she call the court physician?
He confided his spiritual difficulties to her and asked her
advice. His wife thought for a moment, and then clapped her hands in delight. "It is
the workings of karma that you have told me this today, for I have just learned that a
great saint and strict observer of moral conduct has arrived in our kingdom. He has just
placed his mat under a tree on the outskirts of town."
"But, my dear," objected the king, "I have
already patronized any number of holy men, and my mind is still troubled."
"This one is different," insisted the queen. "I
feel it in my bones. The important thing now is to get him to take up residence in the
palace. Surely his daily guidance will help you achieve the highest state. Since he is a
man who possesses nothing but his robes and a few necessities and must beg his daily food,
let us offer him a magnificent feast in his honor." Carried away by this idea, she
began to compose the menu -- "eighty-four main dishes of the rarest curries; fourteen
kinds of the most delectable sweetmeats; wine of the finest grapes and the five kinds of
beverage. It will be a feast fit for the gods themselves. He surely cannot refuse our
The king was the most generous of men, and this idea appealed
to him greatly. The following morning he sent his servants to invite Ghantapa to the
palace. But to everyone's surprise, the master refused the invitation, and the emissaries
The next day, the king went in person to the master's tree,
accompanied by a great retinue. Prostrating himself before Ghantapa, the king made the
most eloquent plea for him to come to the palace.
"I gave you my answer yesterday," said Ghantapa.
"Why did you bother to come?"
"To offer you my charity and to show you how much faith I
place in your holy presence," replied the king.
"Your kingdom is filled with vice," said Ghantapa
sharply. "I will not come."
The king was stung by these words -- had he not lived the most
exemplary of lives? Nevertheless, he persisted. "I beg your indulgence. Please come
to the palace and live with us for one year."
Again Ghantapa refused. The king bargained for a visit of six
months, then three months, then two weeks, and finally one hour.
"Never, never, never," said Ghantapa adamantly.
"Every movement you make, every action you take, every thought you think, every word
you say is sin filled. Keep your feasts and your earthly delights. I want none of
Every day thereafter for forty days the king returned to
Ghantapa's tree to repeat his invitation to the palace. And every day for forty days
Finally, their pride wounded to the quick, the king and queen
grew to hate Ghantapa. And where they once would hear only good spoken of him, now they
wished to hear only evil tales.
Hate burning in his heart, the king had this decree broadcast
to the four corners of his kingdom: "Whoever can prove that this boastful monk's
virtue and chastity are merely sham will gain half my kingdom and one hundred weight in
This bit of royal pique chanced to fall upon the ears of one
Darima, a fabled courtesan who resided in Pataliputra. Now Darima was the most cunning
whore who ever lived, and when she heard the proclamation she saw her chance for great
wealth and power.
In her finest clothes, accompanied by a retinue of servants,
she went to the palace and requested an audience with the king.
"Your majesty," she said, "your deepest desire
is soon to be fulfilled. I have not the slightest doubt of my ability to cause the
downfall of this troublesome monk."
"Then do your utmost," replied the king, who was
himself much taken with her beauty and intelligence. But Darima was even wilier than the
king had supposed. It was not herself she planned to offer to the monk. Oh, no. She had
another surprise up her silken sleeve. Darima had a twelve-year-old daughter, a virgin
whose radiantly beautiful face, seductive gait, sweet intelligent speech, voluptuous hips,
and shapely breasts caused the sun to halt in its path whenever it caught sight of her. it
was her daughter's amazing combination of sensual beauty and pristine purity that Darima
counted upon to ensnare the monk.
So saying, Darima went to visit Ghantapa every morning at dawn
for ten days. Each day she prostrated herself before him and walked round about him in
reverential circles. For nine days she said nothing, offered him nothing but her devotion.
On the tenth day she begged, "Please allow me to be your patron during the summer
Ghantapa refused her as he had refused the king. But Darima
returned again and again each sunup for a month as the clouds began to gather in the sky.
She pleaded to be allowed to serve him -- all she offered was the hospitality of her
estate. Finally, seeing no harm, Ghantapa agreed.
Returning to her establishment, Darima was beside herself with
glee. She decided to celebrate her coming success and invited all her friends and patrons
to a great feast. That night as she made merry, she constantly sang a little song to
herself under her breath:
With sex as her unfailing weapon
A woman's deceits fulfill her desires.
Guile such as mine can seduce the world,
A monk for all his holiness is only a man!
When the rains came, Ghantapa retreated to a little hut Darima
had constructed for him at the far edge of her property where the jungle bordered the
road. Warily, the monk insisted that only male servants bring his food. Darima said she
would humbly agree to his every wish. And for the first two weeks she sent waiters with
simple meals of rice and cool spring water.
On the fifteenth day, she had a luscious feast prepared. And
calling her daughter to her rooms, she dressed her in all the silks and jewels of a
princess. Then she sent her to wait upon the master with a train of fifty servants bearing
trays of delicacies. The men were to carry the dishes to the edge of the clearing where
the master's shelter stood and then return, leaving the heavenly scented food and the
exquisite virgin before him.
"Who are you?" Ghantapa asked suspiciously when he
caught sight of this vision. "I am here to serve you today," said the beautiful
girl, her voice and manner sweetly seductive. "The waiters had more pressing
Offering him this dainty and that, she managed to linger until
the afternoon storm clouds arose. "You must leave now!" Ghantapa ordered
"Oh, please, holy sir," she said, peering worriedly
at the sky. "I see clouds of five different colors. There will surely be a downpour
any moment. And this is the only shelter for miles."
As if on cue, thunder crashed in the heavens and the rain
swept down in torrents. Grudgingly, the monk agreed to share his hut if she kept her
Not until sunset did the storm let up, during which time she
plied the unsuspecting monk with shy smiles and tender blushes.
But this had no effect upon him. When the rain stopped he
ordered her to return home.
"Good, sir," she said trembling, her eyes wide with
fear, "surely you will not send me out after dark on the road alone. There are
robbers and footpads who will surely slit my throat for the jewels I wear."
Knowing her fears were not unfounded, Ghantapa gave her
permission to sleep outside the hut. But during the night she became frightened by the
unfamiliar surroundings. In a sweet, plaintive voice she begged for his protection. With a
sigh of resignation, Ghantapa allowed her to come inside once again.
The hut was very tiny. The sleepers were very restless.
Inevitably, their bodies touched. Then their limbs intertwined. Before long, they had
passed through the four levels of joy and traversed the path of liberation to its ultimate
In six previous lives this very same girl had been the monk's
downfall. Six times she had caused him to break his vow. But that was before his mind had
become purified, before he had lost the yes and no, the subjective-objective duality of
clouded eyes. But in this life, such defilements had long since dissolved into the
infinite expanse of emptiness, and he had gained the true path.
In the morning he asked the girl to remain with him and she
agreed. They became yogin and consort. And because of her service to him for six lives,
the defilements of Ghantapa's consort's mind were also purified.
One year later, their child was born.
During this time the king grew impatient for his triumph over
the saintly monk. And he sent message after message to Darima demanding to know whether
she had made any progress. But the canny courtesan knew how to bide her time. For three
years her replies to the king were an artful combination of evasiveness and tantalizing
promises of success.
Her spies kept her informed of all that went on in the little
hut with its three occupants. Finally, Darima felt the time had come to go to the king and
tell him that sweet revenge was now surely his.
The king was overjoyed, his outraged sense of morality would
soon be assuaged and that holier-than-thou monk would get his comeuppance. "Send word
to your daughter and the monk," said the king, "that I will come to visit them
in three days' time."
When they heard the news, the girl was very fearful of the
people's scorn and abuse, and she worried about the safety of her child. Ghantapa asked
her whether she wanted to stay and face them down, or leave Pataliputra and take shelter
in another land. She begged him to flee with her, and he agreed.
On the appointed day, the king gathered all the people of his
realm to witness the monk's degradation. Mounting his gorgeously caparisoned elephant, he
rode at the head of the jeering, gleeful parade of the faithful toward the yogin's hut.
Meanwhile, Ghantapa and his consort made preparations to
leave. The monk hid the child inside his robe, took a jug of liquor under his arm, and set
out with his wife, who was carrying their few household possessions.
Alas, they failed to hear the oncoming mob, and as they
rounded a bend in the road, they came face to face with the king and the multitude.
Tasting the sweetness of revenge, the king looked down on the
fleeing pair from the grand height of his royal elephant. "What are you carrying, and
what is that hidden under your robe?" he demanded in a voice like thunder. "Who
is this girl, and why is she in your company?"
Ghantapa halted in the middle of the road. He looked the king
straight in the eye and, in a voice twice as loud, replied, "I'm carrying a jug of
The crowd gasped.
Opening his robe, he held up the child. "I have my son
under my robe,"
The crowd began to turn ugly.
"And this is my consort," he said, putting his arm
around the girl.
At this, the crowd began to shout imprecations at the little
family and call for every manner of punishment. But the king held up his hand for silence.
"So," said the king, savoring every moment,
"the monk who refused to come to my palace because I was a sinful man has a whore's
daughter as a lover with whom he has produced a bastard child, and to top it all off - he
"I am without fault," replied Ghantapa calmly.
"Why do you insult me?"
Again, the king repeated his accusation. And again the crowd
began to make catcalls. Finally, Ghantapa hurled both his son and the jug of liquor onto
the ground. This so frightened the earth goddess that she trembled with fear. The ground
gaped open and a geyser of water spurted forth.
The child was instantly transformed into a thunderbolt and the
jug of liquor into a bell. Whereupon the yogin, bearing thunderbolt and bell, levitated
with his consort into the sky, where they became the deities Samvara and Vajra Varahi
joined in father-mother union. They hovered over the heads of the king and the multitude
as the waters rose higher and higher.
"We take refuge in the master!" screamed the
drowning people. But Ghantapa remained adamant in his samadhi of immutable wrath.
As death seemed imminent, and all were on the point of
drowning, the Bodhisattva of Compassion suddenly appeared. Avalokitesvara placed his holy
foot over the source of the flood and the waters immediately flowed backward into the
Everyone was saved. Prostrating themselves in the mud -- even
the king -- they all begged Ghantapa for forgiveness. As if by magic, a stone image of the
Bodhisattva appeared where his foot had trod. It remains there to this very day, and a
spring of the purest water gushes forth to a height of six feet right next to the statue's
Still hovering above the penitent assemblage, Ghantapa said:
"Moral concepts practiced without understanding can be the greatest of obstacles to
fulfilling the Bodhisattva's vow of uncompromising compassion. Do not cultivate virtue and
renounce vice. Rather, learn to accept all things as they arise. Penetrate the essence of
each experience until you have achieved the one taste." And then he sang them this
While medicine heals and poison kills,
Their ultimate essence is the same.
Both positive and negative qualities
Are aids on the path --
The sage rejects nothing.
Yet the unrealized fool
Five times poisoned
Is lost forever in samsara.
At this, the king and all his people were illuminated. Like
clouds before a brisk wind, their self-righteousness and petty prejudice vanished, and
faith was born in the lotus center of each heart.
Ghantapa came to be known as "The Bearer of the
Bell," and his fame rang out to all the corners of the earth. Possessing the glorious
power and virtue of a Buddha, the yogin ascended into the Paradise of the Dakinis with his