Dakini is a goddess who awakens us to our wisdom and compassion. Dakini shows us deep dimensions of the goddess within, and the sacred feminine.
DAKINIS AND THE MODERN WORLD
In these times of climate change and the urgent need to shift the way we live, some of my best companions and guides have been Tibetan Dakinis. They are friends and role models; they gave me ways to practice so I embody their wise love.
They are so powerfully present in my life, they seem almost like my human friends. They are goddesses; not the sort you worship, and have to propitiate, like Greek gods. They are meditation deities; the texts say they are ‘your own mind in the form of the deity’.
My mother brought me up on the Greek myths. She said the Greek gods and goddesses were the forces of nature: the sea, the winds. They were also the forces of human passion. When there was thunder and lightning, mother said, ‘that’s Zeus and Hera having a fight.’ They weren’t so different to my mother and father when they fought.
I knew the ancient Greeks worshiped these
gods and feared their displeasure. Even if you did something good, they might turn you into a worm, they were so unpredictable and subject to jealousy and spite.
Fortunately I was not an ancient Greek, and I didn’t have to believe in them in this terrifying way. I could love them as archetypes, images emerging from the depths of the human psyche. I talked to them as if they were human, and identified with them, especially Diana the Huntress, goddess of the moon. She was lonely and mysterious, which is what I felt like as a teenager.
All the passions that ripped me apart where expressed by those gods of nature. That they were forces of nature, added a grandeur and sense of universal significance to my personal life, which often felt so small and desperate. The problem was, although they represented some kind of wisdom, I couldn’t admire their behaviour. I needed better role models if I was going to become wise myself.
When I first met the Tibetan deities, they felt familiar to me. They too were images emerging from the depth of the human psyche. However, they were enlightened. Perhaps they were too goody-two-shoes to be much help to me, still wracked by conflicting emotions as I was. White Tara looked so sweet and feminine. That wasn’t me.
When I met my special friend the red dancer, aha! somebody more like me: laughing and growling, passionate, sometimes ferocious and not easy. And she was enlightened too! What kind of enlightenment was this? Perhaps if she could do it I could do it too.
Gradually I met even more ferocious deities, and began to realise that they transformed the raw passions of the Greeks into enlightened wisdom. My father brought me up on Freud, so I already had experience of how much wisdom could be found in raw passions. Now these deities could take me further. I was up for the ride.
After a while, I appreciated that White Tara is a great deal more than a little sweetie. Her profound peace is just as powerful as a noisy storm.
I felt my depth, or subconscious as Freud called it, as a great power in my being. These universal images, not my personal ones, emerging from the collective unconscious, carried a power which almost made them like living beings – like Cinderella or the Sleeping Beauty. It was not quite so obvious how the Tibetan deities represented natural forces like the sea or the moon; however to me the collective unconscious is a natural force too. There was not much difference in my mind, having been brought up in the New Zealand bush, next to the wild windy Wellington harbour.
As I learned to meditate on these deities, I experienced the transformation process in my own depth.
A big part of the practice is to imagine your self as the deity. You become her, and explore what it feels like to be an enlightened being. Green Tara for example is a deity of compassionate skilful action. It’s a big work to explore what that feels like, the state of being from which we act skilfully to help, whatever comes up in our daily life.
People talk of the goddess within. Here was a practice where I could experience the goddess within in specific detail. I sought out a whole
range of goddesses, and they all developed different aspects of my psyche.
At our dinner table every day, my family discusses how we could make the world better. My father reckoned if all world leaders had Freudian analysis, we would have no war. My mother reckoned if women ruled the world, we would have no war. We were also very conscious of environmental degradation and climate change. My brother and I have spent our lives continuing to do whatever we can. He works in the outer world, presently promoting supergrids of alternative energy.
My work is around the deep culture change I believe we need, in order to create a sustainable future on this planet for us all. I work at the community level, with eco-villages and transition towns, and to me that’s connected to deep inner work, both meditation and many other kinds.
How do the Dakinis help with that? They’re involved along with me, at my side all the time. They are role models very different to our Western heroes and heroines. To me they represent the kind of women and men we could be, in a cooperative life-affirming culture, deeply connected with the earth and mother nature. Everything they teach about how to live is what we need, to treat each other and other creatures with respect and care.
In my efforts to understand what we need to do, I found the ecofeminists drew on ancient archaeological records to help them imagine how we can live more in harmony with nature, valuing women and children as well as men. Whether or not they were right about how it used to be, their vision can help us in our present pickle. It crossed my mind to wonder whether the Dakinis of Tibet might hail from those ancient times. Perhaps that’s one reason they are useful to us now.
The Dakinis not only teach me to be a wise compassionate woman, while still being my wild cantankerous self. They also light the way to a life-affirming way of life that could help us maintain a living world into the future.