The life of a Vajrayana Buddhist Nun
Section VIII - Traveling with Vajra Dakini
So the White Vajra Dakini came to me, and I began to meditate on her. She was wonderful, so kind and playful, and very beautiful. She came to me when I meditated at night, and showed me many worlds, and the beings in them. Some of them were funny - pink, and blue, and orange, and they looked like talking pillows, and plants, and fish. We would imagine them with feathers, with halos, wearing clothes, wearing masks, and shoes. I could change their colors, and their faces. Sometimes we would go to animal worlds, and we would talk to them and they would talk back to me. Mostly they were concerned with food, and sometimes with a comfortable place to sleep. They weren't good at playing games.
I am still young and not a woman, but she could make me grow up twenty years old, and I could change how I looked, and what I wore. She wore amazing things - great circles of bird feathers, tight fish scales, gloves, boots, and robes like empresses and queens might wear. I could wear them too - I dressed in stars and moons, and rippling water.
Sometimes she came while I was meditating with the other nuns, but it was embarrassing, because she would do funny things, and I would laugh. The abbess would glare at me, and afterwards tell me that I was an immature child, and it would be a long time before I would get a Dakini. If she only knew. I already had the nicest Dakini in the world!
She made life in that dull convent worthwhile. I asked her what to do if the abbess ever found out. She said,Oh, I suppose you can be honest with her if necessary, but she is such a killjoy. If she finds out, she will try to stop you from meditating - she thinks it must be grim and serious, or it should not be done.They gave me more work to do than the older nuns. I suppose it was because I was young and strong. I don't mind - I probably am stronger, and it is still less than I was used to. But it seems to say that they don't value me.
This would bother me, except the Vajra Dakini values me. She says that I am more fun than the nuns who have no sense of humor. I am getting used to traveling with her. We walk over rainbows, and roads of stars, and visit blue-green kingdoms under the water. She has taught me to fly by myself, and sometimes I lead when we fly over mountains and I dip over flowerbeds. She is my life, and both my dark cramped family house, and my dark large convent seem like dreams. They are so dull by comparison. I am glad I didn't marry some dull oaf who only wants to talk about taxes and drinking and wars. I wonder if I would have met the Dakini if I didn't come to the convent - I don't think so.
One day she said I should learn the kind of meditation that other nuns do. I said. "Fine, then the abbess would be happy." She said that they learn how to visualize spiritual things, and absorb spiritual energy from them. This was good because they could store spiritual energy like animals storing food for the winter, and they could use it when they needed it.
She said that I must see the universe as a vast ocean of spiritual energy, and that the many universes we had seen were all part of it. I could see that - especially the under-water worlds. The other worlds were under invisible water. All the invisible water had tiny dots of light and I must gather these. She said that certain words attracted these sparks of light, like bees go to flowers and honey, and that I must say these words over and over again to gather the sparks of invisible light.
I asked, "Is that why the abbess told me to say Tara's name over and over?"
She said,Indeed, but you won't get much light from her. She doesn't keep it for herself - she is always running around using it. If you want to gather light, you must concentrate on Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas who stay in paradises or in the Void light. I am white light, so you can get it from me but you should also meditate on Vajrasattva, who is a great diamond. Vajradhara is also powerful, and so is the Lord of the Flaming Jewel, Ratnapani, Bodhisattva of the Golden Buddha. They are both friends of mine. I think that I will introduce you.I agreed and I began the meditation.
But you must meditate on the diamond light, which is like a million suns bursting open. If it is hard for you to concentrate, think of lord Vajradhara who stands above the world, holding the vajra of creation. The light comes out from him. You should visualize him - he is more serious than I.
It was hard to meditate on light - every time I seemed to have it, it disappeared. It came when I wasn't looking, and it disappeared when I looked. I went into the worship room and looked at all the pictures of deities. I figured they were all like Vajra Dakini - they could take on any form they wanted, and these [pictures] were just examples for us.
She pointed out Vajrasattva, and Vajradhara and I thought they looked pretty similar. She said that I should see them inwardly - Vajrasattva was a great shining diamond with brightly colored rainbow light going out in all directions, while Vajradhara was more like the moon reflected on snow - cool, bright, like a quiet night, but strong and enduring.
I couldn't really see them but I pretended I could, and I talked to them, and told them how nice Vajra Dakini was, and how kind she was to take me traveling. Sometimes I could sense a smile but maybe I was imagining it.
Time went on at the convent and I learned to sit quietly and not laugh, no matter how silly the Dakini was. I was there for six months, and then a year. I could sit with a straight face when she turned into a purple dancing yak, and when she sat on the abbess' head pretending to chop vegetables.
One day the abbess called me to her room. She said,You have been here a year, and see how we live. You must decide if you want to stay here, or return to the world. Dolma, our guard will escort you to the inn. I have had a message that the head of the monastery and his monks have come for you, and to do business here with other abbots, trade for food and salt, and then return. If you wish to stay, I will test your spiritual development, and if you are ready, you will be initiated. What are your plans?
I bowed my head, and said, "I will stay here." She said, "Very well. In that case, you need to take very little with you. Get ready, and you will go."
I went out with the strong woman Dolma, who carries a great staff. It did not take so long to reach the inn, perhaps half a day. I saw the old monk. He smiled at me, and I thought he was nicer than the abbess. Dolma grunted farewell, and returned to the convent. The innkeeper said that she had been an orphan, too unattractive for anyone to want, and the nuns took her in. They gave her a home when she had none. I could see why she felt loyal to them.
I wished I could live with the abbot in his monastery, but nuns cannot live with monks. It is a shame - I would like to introduce him to the Dakini, and then we could all go traveling. But perhaps he has his own Dakini.
He took me aside and asked me what my life was like there. He was surprised that I had not been initiated yet. I asked him if he could keep a secret and he nodded. So I told him about Vajra Dakini, and gathering light, and the invisible ocean, and trying to see Vajrasattva. He was very surprised - he said that Dakinis normally only come at initiation, and that this was special. I asked what I was supposed to do, since they would not initiate me. He shook his head, and said that many people on the spiritual path were blind to the miracles around them. But he congratulated me - he said he knew I would be on the fast path.
We ate, and then we set off for my parent's house.
I was so tired of being quiet in the convent that I chatted the whole way home, even when I almost hurt my leg. The abbot just smiled - he thought it was funny that I was to be a nun. He said that I was full of life, and that it was too bad there was no other path available for me. Perhaps I should be a wandering entertainer, and do plays in different towns.
I thought that sounded like fun, but most actors were men, except occasionally a dancer, and they had to be very good. He said that he and the monks were willing to go back with me to the convent in two weeks time, even though they really didn't have to go there. He would take other monks. He thought it was good for them to do some traveling, and he was a tough old buffalo. I thought of the Dakini and her yak dance, and smiled.
They left me off at my parents' house. My father was working at the forge in the back, and my mother was cleaning the house. They were happy to see me, and said that I had grown. Some of my sisters and brother were also there, and I told them about the convent, and what we did, and how it was dull, but I decided to stay there. I did not want to get married - I told them I would pray for them to be wealthy everyday, and the Buddha would listen to me because I was a nun. They would not need a marriage price for me, and could save their money for the other children. My father looked relieved at that. The abbot gave me a gift for my parents - a large block of tea, and they were happy. The abbess of the convent did not give me anything to bring.
I stayed for two weeks and played with my friends, and the animals. The horses were small and wide, and they always nuzzled against me. We had goats, and not many people did. The ox was never unfriendly, but he wasn't friendly either. I visited relatives and people I knew, and bade them farewell.
Soon it was time to return, and part of me was sorry to go. I liked my family. But my mother said that soon I would be a woman, which didn't sound very appealing, and that I could not live with them. So I hugged all the people and animals, and left to see the abbot.
On the way back to the convent, he wanted to know more about my experiences. I told him everything - even how silly the Dakini was. He smiled at the thought of a silly Dakini. He said she was playful only with special people. Usually, she was a guide to the worlds of the Buddhas who held a knife, and who chopped away the sinful parts of the self. This was very painful for people attached to those sins. Many people found Dakinis to be frightening.
I couldn't imagine Vajra Dakini as frightening - I loved her more than anybody else (except maybe the abbot, but he was so little and wrinkled up, and maybe my pets). Sometimes the shapes the Dakini took were pretty strange. And she did dress up in skulls and animal skins, and tiger teeth, but the next minute she would be in leaves and stars.
We traveled back, and the weather was very cold. There was a storm, and we took shelter in a cave behind some rocks. I could hear the wind whistling, and it was like the Dakini singing. There was snow, and I saw her standing on the snow in a white fur cap with a hood. All around her the snowflakes danced, and then she threw off the fur, and she was dressed in jagged pieces of ice, with a crown of ice that looked like jewels. She came to me through the storm, and put the ice crown on my head. She said, "Child and friend, you will dance as I do." Then, I fainted.
The abbot woke me, and the snowstorm stopped, and I told him about her, and he nodded. We continued to the convent, and he left the monks at the inn, and he walked with me to the convent.
He went in to talk with the abbess, and I could hear raised voices. After he left, the abbess called me in. She said,The abbot demands that we initiate you. I prefer to wait, but he said that he had a dream revelation by his tutelary deity, who said you must be initiated immediately. It is not good for monks to command nuns, but sometimes they do, and can threaten us with the loss of village offerings, and the condemnation of high lamas. I do this against my will.
I asked, "Why is it against your will? The abbot said that many monks and nuns are initiated young."
She said,Those are for the ones who deserve it - whose parents give wealthy donations to the order, or have noble blood, or can help their sisters. You are poor, and can do nothing - you do not deserve initiation. But I am forced.So she went grudgingly to prepare the ceremony. I was shocked - what did money have to do with Buddhas? The abbot said she was very dedicated when she was young, and worked very hard as a nun, but it seemed that she had not grown spiritually as she aged. He said it was more like she went backwards. But he didn't know of any other convents within several weeks of walking.
So later on in the afternoon, the lights were brightly lit, and I came into the worship room. The abbot was going to do the initiation himself. Sometimes abbots came to observe, but it was rare that they performed the ceremony.
Everybody chanted for a long time. I knew some of the chants, and I took refuge within the tradition, and with my chosen Dakini, and Bodhisattva. He knew I would like Vajra Dakini for my Dakini, and I vowed to worship her, and place my faith in her. She came by and stuck her tongue out at the abbess. Then she put on a high hat and a coat with long tails hanging down, and her legs were bare with strange shoes with high heels. She lay upon the altar like a cat. I didn't say anything.
Then the abbot asked me to choose a Bodhisattva. Had I felt closeness to any? The Dakini said, "Choose Vajradhara", and I did. The abbess objected saying that was too advanced. The abbot said I was naturally advanced, and chanted the link with Vajradhara. I vowed to obey him, and depend on him. The abbess would not participate in the chanting, and at the end shrieked, "I forbid her to meditate upon him - he is my deity, and she cannot have him! I hereby cancel this ceremony!"
The abbot said, "It has been performed, you cannot cancel it." The abbess said, "I forbid her to meditate upon him. Girl, if you meditate upon Vajradhara, you must leave this convent, and never come back. That is my word."
The abbot bade her come into the next room, and I heard raised voices once again. They lasted for a long time. Both eventually came out looking unhappy. The abbot said, "You have been ritually linked with Vajradhara, and Vajra Dakini, but the abbess will not allow you to meditate upon him. She does not have ritual power, but she does have power over the nun's style of meditation here. I am afraid that you must obey her."
We walked out of the room, and I said, "Well I never really saw Vajradhara anyway. So it is no great loss. I can meditate upon Vajra Dakini, but who will be my Bodhisattva?"
He said,The abbess has acted badly towards you - you cannot be initiated into another Bodhisattva. But Vajra Dakini will probably help you. You will have to follow Vajradhara, later in this life, or perhaps in another life. I don't know what is the matter with that woman - she acts as if she is jealous of you. But you never told her of your experiences. Perhaps she misses having children as some women do, and she has come to hate you as the child she could never have.
At any rate, I will try to find out about other convents. You must try to live here as best you can, and that may not be easy.
But you already have a Dakini who can help you inwardly. So your worldly locale doesn't matter. All things can be solved in the Buddha worlds.
The ritual and disruption caused no end of disturbance and gossip within the convent. People never really talked much, but I heard whispers as I never did before. Only a few of younger ones sympathized with me. As far as I could tell, the older ones thought that the abbess knew some horrible secret about me, and that is why she had wished to deny me initiation.
I tried to ignore them, and do my work, and meditate on the Dakini. She was sympathetic, and said that it was unlikely that the abbess had ever seen Vajradhara - he really would have her standing on her head in penance for her pride. She said the initiation was only a formality - she could get me in touch with any Bodhisattva I chose. I figured that but I wasn't in a rush towards any particular Bodhisattva.
So I worked and meditated with the other the nuns when they met. One day the abbess called me in. She said,You had no right to any initiation, but certainly not to Vajradhara. You are a poor, and stupid, and immature girl. I want you to renounce any intention of ever meditating on Vajradhara, or I will expel you from this convent. You must swear this very minute.
I said, "Why don't you like me? You seemed friendly when I first came. What happened?"
She looked angrily at me and said, "You have been seeing deities, haven't you? I once saw one hovering over you in meditation, and you were both talking mentally. How dare a mere chit of a girl have experience that the rest of us have suffered for? You don't deserve it and I forbid you from having them."
She was angry with me because she knew about the Dakini, and she was jealous. I said, "I don't lie. I saw the Yogini who brought me here, and Vajra Dakini who is my initiated guide. This should not be wrong."
She said, "You will swear to never meditate on Vajradhara, or you will leave."
I said, "For how long do you require this?"
She said, "For the rest of your life. He is mine and you cannot have him. I don't know what evil magic you use, but you will not seduce him. He is beyond your power." I said, "I am not a magician, and surely a Bodhisattva is more powerful than a little girl. But I will swear to make you happy. I never saw him."
She said, "And you never will. And because you have already been initiated into one Bodhisattva, you cannot have another. That ought to stop your vanity, thinking that you are better than we are." She was red [with anger].
She said, "It is only for nuns that deserve it. You deserve nothing but being a servant - which is how I will address you from now on. It will keep you from the sin of pride. Now go and wash the pots."
Actually there wasn't much difference in being a nun and a servant, except that I did a little more work. I was just amazed at her anger towards me, for no good reason. It seemed mean for her to deny me initiation, and a Bodhisattva. An abbess is supposed to be compassionate, like the Buddha himself.
When the other nuns heard her call me a servant, they were confused. Some shook their heads at the abbess' behavior, and a few also started calling me a servant. I obeyed them outwardly, but inwardly I ignored them. It was not a nice game.
Vajra Dakini said that it was good - bad treatment makes people use up bad karma. I would have been willing to keep the karma a little longer, but I had no choice.
So life went on. I stayed there with my new status, and I spent my time in meditation happily. I became a woman, and one of the younger nuns, Lozen Ma, told me what to do about it. Really life there was pretty dreary, and I still didn't have any pets. I was there for perhaps another year when a group of lamas came to visit. Dolma barred the door, and the abbess tested them on their knowledge of Buddhist texts. When she was satisfied that they were really Buddhist lamas, she let them in and took them to the worship room.
She addressed me as a servant before them, and I took their extra clothing and bags, and put them off in a corner. They asked how she had gotten such a young servant, and she said that I was a young sinner on whom she had taken pity - I was not virtuous like the nuns.
I was angry at this - It was a lie and she knew it. I was led here by the abbot and the Yogini and the Dakini, but why?
The younger lamas quoted scripture, and the abbess and the nuns listened. The oldest lama said he wanted me to serve him and bring him food - he was tired from his trip. So the abbess told me that scripture was too advanced for me, and that I should serve the lama. I got food for him, and took it to his room for visitors, which was far away. Dolma stayed with her staff to guard the nuns just in case.
The old lama took the food and said, "Wait girl, you are no servant. What is your situation here?"
I told him about the Yogini, and the abbot, and the Dakini, and how the abbess had disrupted the ritual, and had forbidden me to meditate. His forehead became more and more furrowed. He said, "We are not here by accident. The abbot told me about the situation, and asked if we could come. Let me ask you some questions."
He asked about the Dakini, and the worlds we visited, and the invisible water, and how I understood liberation. I wasn't sure about some of the questions - I asked if I could ask the Dakini for help. He said, "No, I am testing you, not her - you must answer from your own experience." So I did as best I could.
Then he said, "The abbot was right - your experiences are extraordinary. They would be rare for a person four times your age, but in one so young, I have only seen such experiences in reincarnations of high lamas, and embodied Dakinis and Yoginis. Are you any of them?"
I said, "I don't think so. I grew up poor, and nobody ever treated me as a deity. In fact, I am a servant, but I respect lamas and Yoginis."
He said,"Your abbess is part of the Old Tradition, and we outrank her. I thought the abbot was right in his initiations, and we have been figuring out what to do with you. We have found a small convent where this friction with the abbess will end. You will go there."
I said, "I don't know if the abbess will be more happy to be rid of me, or unhappy to lose a servant."
He said, "It doesn't matter what she thinks. She must listen to us." He dismissed me and I went back to the nuns, who were asking questions about the discourse. They were happy to see visitors.
Then the lamas asked to speak with the abbess and I heard her voice raised, but they did not raise their voices. She yelled at them, but I could not really understand what was going on.
Then she came out to me and looked at me with hatred. I thought perhaps she would hit me. She said, "These lamas want a servant and have chosen you. I have said that you were unworthy but they would not listen. They demanded that you leave with everything you came with."
This bothered her - I think that she wanted my bedding. I told her I would leave when they wished to which was the next morning. She did not curse me but told me it was cold outside, and I might well freeze, or fall off the trail. The next morning I took my bedding as robes, and left with the lamas. I bade the nuns farewell, but most of them would not speak to me. A few wished me luck and the Buddha's blessings. The abbess turned her back on me.
The lamas were nice, though they were well educated, and sometimes their discussions confused me. I could not talk about Buddha incarnations and writers of books. I wished they could talk about something where I could join in the conversation.
We trudged on long hard paths, and ducked under crags and into caves when storms came. We walked for many weeks and I felt like some kind of pack animal, doomed to eternal walking. But the lamas were kind and told me stories about Buddhas who came to earth to fight evil, and bring knowledge. I liked them better than the nuns, who never wanted to talk to me.
I asked about their lives before they were lamas. Some did not want to talk about this but others were willing to say a little. Some came from wealthy families who had many sons, and some had grown children and wives who died. Some just felt they could do the most good there.
We passed many high mountains and the lamas said there were Buddhas and gods on top of them. They said that some dark and ugly mountains had demons on them but they were rare. I looked at the mountains we passed, and wondered who lived on each. I wondered if Vajra Dakini had a mountain.
Eventually we reached a high mountain and started climbing. We reached areas that were like bare rock with tiny footholds, and climbed like slow heavy-laden monkeys. I was afraid that I would fall many times. But the lamas encouraged me and each other.
At the top was a large white building made of stone and wood. Its outside was plain. There was a large bell of dark metal, and one of the lamas rang it hitting it with his staff. An old woman came to the door and asked what we wanted. They said they had a girl who was a nun and needed to live with women. She looked at the lamas, and then invited them in. She did not test them like the abbess.
Here, they were dressed in black robes. The woman who was the head of the convent came out, and she looked strong - like she could walk the distance we had and not even be tired. The oldest lama took her aside and talked for a long time. They offered us hot tea and pieces of bread, and I was starving and ate everything they gave me (though is it always polite to leave crumbs for hungry ghosts, and I always do when I am not so hungry myself).
The woman who was the head came out with the old lama, and welcomed the monks to stay overnight. They had a separate visitor's house, and a good area for fire, and sleeping. She told me to stay, and escorted the lamas to the guesthouse.
Then she came back and said, "I know you have told the lama your story - now tell it to me." I did, and she nodded as I spoke. She said,You know that that convent was once famous for its living statues, and pictures. That must be how you contacted Vajra Dakini. Perhaps that is why you needed to spend time there. While the abbess sounds like a spiteful woman, maybe it was the only place you could meet the Dakini. Was your guide worth your abbess?
I said, "Vajra Dakini was more important than anything - I mostly ignored the abbess."
She said, "Well, you might want to stay here. There aren't many convents around and many of them are for women escaping unhappy marriages. But here we are sincere about the spiritual path, and it sounds like you are too."
I said, "Do you want me to be a servant?" She said, "No, here all people are equal and all are parts of the Buddha mind - relax." She said that the place was called the Yogini's Nest, because it was so high up that even the birds rarely came here. She thought it was auspicious that I had been led by a Yogini, since their foundress was an embodied Yogini. I asked if she had a bird's head, but she said, "Only inwardly."
Her name was Golden Smiling Moon and I thought that that was a nice name. She said, "Your Garden seems to have some poisonous weeds, but here we will encourage you to blossom. Little Shining Light, come and meet the other nuns."
The place was much smaller - there were less than twenty nuns and [they were] less suspicious. Moon said, "People here are pious Buddhists, and we have never had a nun attacked. We live in peace and prayer for the people below. They send us food twice a month, and we make lucky charms for them." The other nuns exclaimed at how young I was, but Moon said how the Yoginis had wanted me early. They smiled and seemed nicer than the nuns at the last place. Of course, it looked good at the beginning too.
I told the lamas that I would stay, and they blessed me. Then they left me at my new home.
To continue with the life of Chen Ma, click on the link below :
Introduction | The Bhairava or Spiritual Guide | Lives of Spiritual Weakness | Lives of Spiritual Awakening | Conclusion
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