CRAB :: Vajrayogini
Boar-Headed Form, Vajravarahi
Typical image of Vajrayogini, also called Vajravarahi,
By now some of you will be wondering, "Don't all these Tibetan babes look the same, rather like exotic hookers milling around at a Cub Med promotion?" The same could be said for the Mahavidyas: apart from the nit-picking iconographic details, they all look more or less alike. Both dakinis and Mahavidyas are visual stereotypes of woman power, stock images of Shakti, the Divine Feminine. What after all is the value and relevance of these visualizations?
The Shakti Cluster is an 18-gauge explosion of the Divine Feminine, no matter how you visualize it. The images of the devatas—Mahavidyas (1-10) and Dakinis (11 - 15), with one sublime teacher (16), a dangerous guardian (17) and the lucid identity node of Gaia-Sophia herself (18)—derive from received material, the goddess lore of Hindu and Tibetan sources. They could be described as 18 channels of energy without reference to visual details of any kind, even the visualization of a female form.
These stereotypes come from the past, but the Shakti Cluster is not a product of the past. It cannot be traced from the past forward, though certain prefigurations of it can be found in the past. The Shakti Cluster is totally current, immediate, now. Some precedents in Indian and Tibetan religion point ahead to its current manifestation, one could say, but the Cluster is essentially novel, unique to this moment in historical time. I suggested in an introductory essay for Planetary Tantra that the visual images for the Cluster are like hostesses dressed in a standard costume who welcome participants to a convention. The Shakti cluster hostesses wear two kinds of attire: the Hindu kitsch costume with sari and jewels for the Mahavidyas, and the naked Dakini with the five-skull crown, flaying blade and skull-cup filled with blood or brains, ear and neck ornaments, necklace of severed heads, and waist girdle of bones.
I use these images to introduce the Shakti Cluster, but I do not insist in retaining them. The Cluster is an eruption in the religious imagination of the human species. As such, it initially reveals itself by pre-existing material. It draws upon the visualizations of the Divine Feminine tha exist in the storehouse of human imagination. But ultimately it is not confined to these images. It transcends and outgrows them, or will do so rapidly. I only insist on using these images for their suggestive power, and for the opportunity they present to learn certain attributes and qualities of Gaia Shakti, the feminine planetary power who is also called wisdom, Sophia. Once you become familiar with her frequencies, Shakti-Sophia installs herself in your imagination in the way that most suits you, and enhances your connection to her. In effect, Gaia configures herself into the imagination of each person on earth in a totally unique way. The Shakti Cluster not only prepares the individual for this configuration, it is the integral lode that frames and unifies all diverse first-hand mystical experiences of Gaia's presence.
The presiding devata for this lunar cycle is Vajrayogini, also known as Vajravarahi, the Adamantine Sow or Diamond Sow. Varahi (vah-RAH-hee) means sow, hog, or boar. Vajra means diamond, crystal, or adamantine. All these terms refer to something that is extremely hard. Represented as a boar-headed dakini or adamantine sow, Vajrayogini is rarely shown with a boar's head. Check her out on Google Images and you will be hard put to find one image of a boar-headed dakini, but these do exist, more usually as sculptures than thangkas or paintings. Human-like representations of Vajravahari include the animal motif in the form of small boar peeking out from the behind the right ear of the dakini (detail above).
The boar's head and the designation of adamantine sow refer to two distinct mystical experiences of supernatural power in the presence of the supreme Goddess, Devi, or Shakti. It is impossible to infer logically what these allusions mean, or work them out by an analysis of artistic and religious representation, etc; one has to undergo first-hand the experience that produced them. Both motifs refer to the experience of primordial luminosity, the radiance at the source of everything that exists, both mentally and materially. This is a mirroring radiance called in Shakta terminology vimarsha. It is said to be the mirror in which the supreme presence, Shiva, beholds itself.
In my recovery of the Gnostic myth of the fallen goddess, I described the Aeon Sophia as a torrent of living luminosity. In part, the Aeon becomes materialized, morphed into the sensorial elements of earth, air, fire, and water, but in part she remains in her original form of immaterial luminosity, the Organic Light. I proposed to call the Organic Light her primary substance body, and the earth her planetary body. Doing so, I closely followed Shakta and Shaivite teachings on the primordial mirroring light of vimarsha. Shaktas, or devotees of the Wisdom Goddess, call the Aeon Sophia the Adya Shakti, "supreme foundational feminine power." The power is a presence, or, said otherwise, you can be present to that power. Immediate, first-hand encounter with that power reveals that it has two qualities, hard and soft. There is a hard, diamond-like light which has the movement of streaming rainwater in it, and a soft white luminosity, the Organic Light that permeates matter. The Diamond Light is beyond material expression, but the Organic Light wells up within materiality. It permeates solid mass.
None of what I am saying here is abstract or theoretical. All of it can be experienced first-hand, and confirmation of these experiences will be found throughout Hindu Shakta teachings, in Kashmiri Shaivism, and in Tibetan Tantra.
The boar motif refers to direct experience of the Diamond Light, and the mother sow motif refers to the experience of the Organic Light—as far as I can tell. That, at least, is my best guess for the derivation of these terms. The boar shown emerging from the right ear of Vajrayogini may also also allude to the peculiar sound heard when in deep immersion with Primordial Light: a boring (no pun intended) or odd gurgling and tunnelling effect which a psychonaut friend of mine described as happening when you "get right down into her exhaust pipes." Each of the five Diamond Sky Dakinis surrounding VV correlates to a sense faculty: Vajrayogini to the sense of hearing.
As for the mother sow imagery, it recalls the Gnostic effigy of Diana of Ephesus:
As I noted in Gnostic Gallery Two, pictorial and statuary representations of the Organic Light are extremely rare. But this one is unmistakable. It must be derived from direct experience: upon contemplating the Organic Light, one often feels like one is suckling on milky teats. The luminosity spirals toward you in immense, pearly vortices or majestically swirling cones that recall seashells but also bulging breasts. You can actually taste the OL on your lips. This is not solely my impression, but one that has been reported by other psychonauts of my acquaintance.
So, there are two impressions of Primordial Light, vimarsha, the mirror in which pure consciousness without subject or object beholds itself. "Vajrayogini is inarguably the supreme goddess of the Highest Yoga Tantra," writes Miranda Shaw in Buddhist Goddesses of India. Well, obviously she is, because her attributes refer directly to the ultimate mystical experience of Primordial Light in its hard and soft modalities, both. She is, let's say, the guardian and intercessor of that Light. To put it otherwise, this dakini commands the presence of that sublime luminosity and "distributes" it in the mindstream—or more precisely, in the field of open attention, pure beholding. She holds your attention to it. That is a supreme yogic power, indeed.
Shaw also says of Vajrayogini: "Her dance is total freedom." To behold directly the medium in which the universe is mirrored is the freedom of enlightenment. But this Diamond Sky Dakini does not merely hold attention to that state, she also reaches into the unenlightened state and taps human passion in ways more immediate, and more excruciating intimate, than any other devata. Miranda Shaw:
This paragraph contains the leading motifs for attunement to dakini instruction under the Vajrayogini shift. Some of the highest art of Tantra can be learned on this shift. The style of Vajrayogini is swift and ruthless, almost rapacious in how she clears away illusion and single-self fixations. She blazes through the staked-out territory of the ego like no other devata, I would say. She affords moments of breathtaking freedom. Where Bagalamukhi will spin you around an obstacle, so that what in one instant blocks you is in the next instant behind you, Vajrayogini will simply blow it up in your face. She releases mind and emotions in astounding moments of total freedom.
Anything is game for Vajrayogini's act of release:
She will bare her fangs. When she does, truth will out. As the supreme guardian and tutelary diety of the Highest Yoga Tantra (the eighth stage, just one short of Atiyoga), she is a sublime liberator. Bagalamukhi releases us from obstacles to self-realization. Vajrayogini releases us from self-referentiality (as Shaw notes, above). I prefer the term self-involvement. (See below, Highlights of the Vajrayogini shift.)
Observation: I am writing these notes on Friday, June 26: day 4 of the Vajrayogini shift. Last night on the terrace of my house in Andalucia, I observed with a tantric friend the sunset crescent that signals her shift. Already, just two days into the shift, I had a flash of dakini instruction that completed a teaching I received back in March during the Chinnamasta shift. I was unable to report on Chinnamasta's instruction, and have not do so yet, due to the extremely startling, novel, and radical nature of that instruction. Interestingly, there is a self-decapitating form of Vajrayogini which mirrors the act of Chinamasta. I believe this is because this Mahavidya and this Diamond Sky Dakini are in complicity to impart the ultimate principle or law of Kala Tantra for this age. This principle has never been stated before. It is not a lost secret, but a cosmic principle that is perpetually rediscovered in a different way each time. It is a revelation of Gaia Awakening unique to this moment in time, right now.
With the flash instruction of Vajrayogini, I can finally say what Tantra is, what the word actually will come to mean in Gaian terms, relative to the actual biophysics of the planet. This disclosure is astounding to me, and may well be so to others. We'll see about that. This definition of Tantra comes straight from Vajrayogini, through my instruction. And it carries the mark of her delivery: to startle the mind and blaze through whatever averts human awareness from the awareness of total freedom.
I will present this definition of "The Tantric Law of XXX" in a three-hour interview on the American radio show Coast-to-Coast AM, scheduled for thursday, July 2 at 11 PM Pacific Coast Time.
Highlights of the Vajrayogini shift (added ):
I prefer the term self-involvement to self-referentiality. This is the primary fixation of narcissism, the terminal psychic disease that goes pandemic at the end of Kali Yuga. Self-involvement is exclusive preoccupation with what affects a person, with no regard whatsoever for what affects others. Meaning, no regard for how the self-involved person affects others, or even how the other person is affected by anything at all. Many behaviors blatantly demonstrate this kind of callous self-involvement. Normally, we just call such behavior selfish, self-centered acts or attitudes. For instance, a supposed friend shows no concern for the death of your cat. Trivial example, which could be multiplied into the thousands. Then there are non-trivial examples: someone you know and love shows no concern for what you seek to achieve in life. That friend is only interested in how you affect him or her. Self-involvement is the basis of using and abusing, controlling and manipulating others so that they only affect us as we wish them to.
I like the term self-involvement because it indicates that a selfish person is involved or enmeshed in something that prevents them from involvement with others. In a healthy state of affairs, we human beings get involved with each other. We may handle it badly and make mistakes, or get over-involved, but the basic willingness to reach out and be other-involved is sane and rewarding. Love is involvement with the life of another. Over-involvement is called codependency, and this is also rampant in our times. But over-involved codependency always happens because of an initial self-involvement that is not seen or admitted. People are codependent because they selfishly think that it will pay off, it will serve their self-involvement and self-centered neediness in one way or another. The codependent gives away self in order to gain something for self—a rotten bargain for all concerned. So the two behaviors are intricately related, and may enforce each other.
Some individualis, however, can strongly resist codependency: their self-involvement is so deep and intricate that they can't engage enough with another person to develop or express codependent attitudes. Extreme self-involvement produces behavior that isolates the self-involved person and desolates others who try to reach that person. Isolation is the greatest social and emotional plague of our time. It is a clear symptom of the global virus of narcissism. Narcissism I define as excessive self-concern based on the lack of a genuine sense of self. Without a genuine sense of self, you cannot relate honestly and openly to others and you sink into a black hole of self-concern. Such is the essential paradox of narcissism.
So how does Vajrayogini come into all this? I would guess that she is the devata who operates most deeply in the territory of self-involvement, because the moment of enlightenment brings total liberation from self-involvement. Direct realization of shunyata, Void, comes in the awareness that no single thing or being stands alone. You and I exist only in relation, involved with and reflected by others. And the other is not merely you, over there, although it is a mirroring of you. In the liberating voidness of enlightened awareness, you only exist in the immanent flux of relationship. Voidness is not emptiness, but absolute contingency. It is impossible to mirror anything if you are totally self-involved. You can look into the eyes, say, of a kitten and see nothing, no other thing or being or awareness.
The Measure of Compassion
How she does it is really fascinating, I find. She uses pleasure and passion to break the self out of its self-involvement. Passion, even grand passion, is the most effective tool in her kit. A grand passion will break someone free of self-involvement, when nothing else will. The nature of passion is to surge and expand, to reach out endlessly. This is also the tonality or dynamic signature of the CRAB. This small, amorphous constellation has the look and feel of a spiral nebula that expands before your eyes.
The unity of desire and compassion is Vajrayogini's leading instruction. The desire to please another person, for instance, is a force sure to undo self-involvement.
This teaching means that the way you express and live out your desire shows how your compassion really works. Compassion is the ability to feel how another is affected, either by what you do, or by anything at all. Feeling what the other feels is not feeling for them (there's codependency) but with them: com- means "with"; or even better, through them. You can hurt someone and still feel compassion for them as long as you recognize what they feel in being hurt. Compassion is not a state where you are beyond hurting or harming anyone, either intentionally or otherwise. It is the attitude of total responsibility toward how you affect others. But it is not responsibility for what others do with that affect. How they receive or manage it. That is their responsibility.
Compassion in Kalika terms is not an altruistic or transpersonal approach to life: it is desideristic, desire-based. The obvious objection to the pleasure-based or hedonistic ethos of Kala Tantra is this: if you just do what you desire, and what pleases you alone, you will selfishly ignore others and how you affect them. But the Kalika teaching is, you can do no good for others, no matter what you think you're doing for them, unless your compassion comes straight out of your desire.
For instance, suppose I desire to live in a chalet on Lake Geneva and spend my time jet-skiing. That desire, as I enact it witnessed by those others whom my action affects, is the measure of my compassion for others. There is not much compassion in someone who desires to jetski on Lake Geneva. Obviously. If I desire to live in a huge house like the ones owned by movie stars, that desire is the measure of my compassion for humanity. The size of the desire for my own comfort and luxury is the measure of my compassion. How much room is there for compassion when the desire for self-pampering is so huge, reflected in the size of the house? Granted, people who pamper themselves on that scale turn around and do good things, support charities, take on causes in the name of compassion, and so forth. In this way such folks often say they are rendering back for the excess and privilege they enjoy. But no act of compensation is truly compassionate. Compassion is totally gratuitous, as independent of results and rewards as it is of primary conditions such as having it materially better than others in life. Privilege and luxury are not occasions for compassion. But then neither are poverty and deprivation. There is no occasion for compassion except reaching toward others and taking responsibility to recognize and admit how you affect them, positively or negatively.
Traditionally, in Buddhism, compassion is all about suffering. We hear endlessly about the compassionate regard and actions of the Buddhas in response to the suffering of all sentient beings. But in Kala Tantra, suffering is not the touchstone of compassion: desire is. And since desire naturally seeks pleasure, seeks to please itself, pleasure is the test of compassion. The way you find pleasure shows your compassion, not what you do to alleviate the suffering of others—unless that gives you pleasure. Kalikas maintain that by seeking their highest pleasure they will do more to alleviate the suffering of others then if they take it on as a mission. That mission, expressed in the Bodhisattva Vow, is totally passe and pointless at the close of Kali Yuga. It's ridiculous to strive for the liberation of all sentient beings from suffering. Try liberating just one sentient being, if that;s you true bent. But the Kalika says: Just do what pleases you the most, and IF you really have compassion for others, your pleasure itself will have a liberating and alleviating affect.
For a Kalika, intent on liberation through desire rather than from it, all human transactions of a genuine and honest nature are negotiated on the basis of shared pleasure.
This is not dakini instruction, just my modest understanding of the teaching on the unity of desire and compassion that comes from Vajrayogini.
jll: 26 June 2009 Andalucia
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.